Grace Fulfills the Law
“So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature” (v. 16).- Galatians 4:21–5:26
Paul’s seventh argument against the Judaizers is this: If the law is kept as a way of salvation, it produces only death and destruction because of its curse. Thus, the Judaizers really destroy the law by misusing it. On the other hand, on the basis of grace we keep the law. Thus, the way to magnify the law is to use it properly, not as a way of salvation but as a guide to holy living. The Spirit, not the law, gives life, and life yields obedience to the law (Galatians 5:13ff.).
Paul begins by saying that we are free from the law as a slave-master, but not free to sin (5:13). True moral freedom means loving God and loving one’s neighbor as oneself. Those who do not love show that they are not free and are still slaves of sin (vv. 14–15).
Paul goes on to say that if we live by the Spirit, we will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. This sounds at first as if Paul is saying something mystical: Just yield to the Spirit and you will float along doing good and never sinning. This is not at all what he means. Being led by the Spirit means doing certain things and not doing other things, and it is the law that shows us what these are. It is the law that shows what loving our neighbor entails. Thus, the Spirit-led person is the person who studies the Bible and obeys it, not as a means of salvation but in a spirit of gratitude and out of a desire for holiness.
One of the major problems in Christianity has always been “antinomianism.” It is still a great problem today. We hear from some teachers that it is possible to have Christ as Savior but not as Lord, as if we could chop God in half and have a relationship with only half of Jesus. The outer fringe of this heresy teaches that it does not matter how you live so long as you claim the promise of salvation. This is not the teaching of the New Testament. Paul lists a whole catalogue of sins in Galatians 5:19–21, and then says that “those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
A mere profession of faith does not get you into heaven. What is required is a continuing relationship with God, the sovereign Savior of men. That relationship means bowing the knee and serving Him because He has saved you.
Some nominal “believers” are professors of faith only. All who claim to be in Christ must also be possessors of faith. Read slowly and carefully the two lists of Galatians 5:19–23. Where do you need help? Pray through each of the sins and blessings listed. Examine yourself, and ask God to grant His Spirit to transform your life.
Passages for Further Study