Also includes Galatians 5:16-25.
After we believe in Christ, the Bible says our character is to be transformed. How does this happen? Listen to this lesson to learn that this cannot be done by human effort but only when we walk in dependence on God the Holy Spirit. Learn what is necessary for this to occur and see how it involves learning God’s Word. Be challenged to concentrate on the footsteps the Holy Spirit sets before us on a daily basis.
Walking by the Spirit
2 Peter 1:8–9
2 Peter Lesson #024
November 21, 2019
Dr. Robert L. Dean, Jr.
“Father, we thank You for today. We thank You for this week and the opportunity to serve You, to grow, to mature as believers, to continue to study Your Word, to continue to reflect upon the way Your Word impacts our life and changes our thinking, helping us to understand You more and to learn to love You more as we walk by means of God the Holy Spirit.
“Father, we’re thankful that we have this time to study Your Word. We’re thankful for a nation that recognizes the freedom that we have to study Your Word, to freely proclaim the truth of Your Word.
“Father, in the face of all this circus in Washington we know that You will oversee these things in Your sovereignty. We pray that the truth will come out and that there would be more light and less heat. We know that the only thing that will really cure the divisions in this nation is for people to humble themselves under Your mighty hand and for there to be a return to submission to the authority of You and Your Word.
“Father, we know that only You can cause that to happen and bring that about. Father, we pray for us tonight that we might be able to focus on Your Word, be reminded of many truths that are foundational to our spiritual life, and that this might strengthen and encourage us in our walk with You. We pray in Christ’s name. Amen.”
Open your Bibles now to Philippians 1. We’ll get there eventually, but I want to review just a little bit as we’re going forward in our study in 2 Peter. We have come to the 2 Peter 1:8–9, specifically in verse 8 which talks about not being barren, spiritually barren, or unfruitful.
This follows the exhortation in 2 Peter 1:5–7 where a series of Christian virtues are emphasized that are all manifested in our spiritual lives as we grow and as we walk with the Lord. In verse 8 Peter says, “If these things …” It’s talking about these virtues which is not an exhaustive list, but just another list like Galatians 5:16–25 that has a list of the fruit of the Spirit. They overlap in a couple of categories and this is the fruit that the Holy Spirit produces in our life as I pointed out in the previous lesson.
Fruit is often misunderstood to be something quantifiable in terms of how many people we’ve witnessed to, how much money we’ve given, how many people come to church, how many people are in Sunday School classes, and all of these kinds of things.
The focus in the Scripture is on character transformation which comes only because of the Holy Spirit. The Christian life is a supernatural way of life. It is based on the supernatural power of God the Holy Spirit who transforms us and on the supernatural power of the Word of God because it is truth.
Jesus prayed before He went to the Cross, “Sanctify them in truth; Thy word is truth.” It is the Word of God that transforms us under the ministry of God, the Holy Spirit. We’re going to focus on that.
If we’re walking by the Spirit then we won’t be barren, that is, non-productive. We won’t be lazy. We won’t be just living life in futility. This is then qualified by the phrase, “In the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” because that is foundational.
We’ll get into that in more detail by next time. Tonight I want to finish up what I’ve been covering the last two lessons on what is necessary to produce fruit.
2 Peter 1:8, “For if these things are yours and abound, you will be—that should be translated you are—neither barren”—and that has the idea of not being idle or lazy or unproductive nor unfruitful. That is not true concerning the character qualities of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Romans 6:21–22 tells us that fruit is a character quality. It is addressed to believers and says, “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed?” There it’s focusing on the character that was in these believers when they were unbelievers. “What fruit did you have”—what was your life like, what was your character like? And the end result of that was death.
Now this isn’t spiritual death. This isn’t eternal death. This is a death-like existence for the believer. The end of anything that is not energized by God, which is not the result of a believer who is regenerate and walking by the Spirit in the Church Age, is producing that which is carnal or temporal death. That’s one of the categories of death.
James says that if faith does not have works it is a dead faith. People misunderstand that and think it means a non-existent faith, but to be dead it has to have previously been alive. That means he’s talking to believers all the way through the James’ Epistle. He addresses those who are his “beloved brethren”. What he’s challenging them to have is a productive faith, not a non-productive faith.
If you have faith without works, what good is that James asks? It is a dead faith. It is a nonproductive faith. It is the same carnal fruit or works that we have in Romans 6:21. Then in Romans 6:22 he says, “But now having been set free from sin,—that’s true for every believer—and having become slaves of God”—that’s true for every believer from the instant of salvation we’re no longer positionally slaves to sin, but we’re positionally slaves to God and slaves to righteousness. Unfortunately, a lot of believers still act and want to act as if they’re slaves to sin. They are like the Israelites in the wilderness, and they want to go back to the slavery of Egypt.
That’s why Paul is reminding us that we have been set free from sin and we have become slaves of God who “have our fruit to holiness, and the end is everlasting life.” That is toward sanctification. They already have eternal life in terms of spending eternity in Heaven because they’re justified. That was the topic in Romans 3, 4, and 5. Now he’s talking about how believers are to live.
In Romans 6 believers have passed from justification in Romans 3, 4, and 5 to sanctification. Everyone misunderstands the concept here. In all kinds of memory-verse packets and things like that people memorize Romans 6:23, “For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ, our Lord.”
They use that as a salvation verse. It’s not a salvation verse in the context. It’s talking about living the Christian life. If you continue to sin and to let sin reign in your mortal bodies as Paul puts it earlier in Romans 6, then the result is death, a death-like existence, and living a non-productive life, living like an unbeliever.
But if you turn back to God and confess sin and walk by the Spirit, then you will experience that richness of life. This is the same thing we talked about in Psalm 32 and Psalm 51 when David had not confessed his sin. It was a miserable life. His bones ached. He was depressed. He was not living the life God intended for him. It was a death-like existence. But once he confessed sin, then he experienced the joy of his forgiveness as we studied Tuesday night in Psalm 32. That’s the difference.
This is talking about the death-like existence of the disobedient believer who has not confessed sin. The fruit here talks about the character quality, the production of the spiritual life of each believer.
We’re looking at four or five passages. Abiding in Christ is John 15:1–8. Walking in the light, Ephesians 5:8; 1 John 1:7, which is how far we got last time. Tonight we’ll start with Philippians 1:10 and also go into Galatians 5:16 and following.
In each of these what we see are certain statement made that are the prerequisites, the primary conditions for producing fruit. In John 15 we see that it was to abide in Christ. If you don’t abide in Christ, there’s no fruit. In Ephesians 5:9, it was walking in the light.
That means that walking in the light and abiding in Christ are roughly synonymous. In Philippians 1:11 we’ll see how that relates to walking in the light. Then we’ll come to Galatians 5:22–23 which lists the fruit of the Spirit and that’s the result of walking by the Spirit back in Galatians 5:16. We’ll get through that tonight.
The problem is defining fruit. What you have in what is called the lordship salvation camp is works salvation, whether it’s overt or covert. By overt I mean it’s those who say you have to believe in Jesus plus there’s something else. You have to believe in Jesus and be baptized. You have to believe in Jesus and do good works. You have to believe in Jesus and change your life.
They are adding something to the gospel at the beginning. Lordship salvation grew out of the fifth point in the five points of Calvinism. Remember, Calvinism is the acronym, T-U-L-I-P. The last point, P stands for perseverance. Within Calvinism there were those who understood perseverance in two different ways.
One way, which is the way that Lewis Sperry Chafer of Dallas Seminary understood it, along with many others was that Christ would persevere in keeping us safe. But there was another very strong branch, which is still a very strong branch of Calvinism, which teaches that the believer must persevere in obedience. You won’t know until the very end of your life if you have truly been obedient and persevered until the very end.
One of the saddest stories I ever heard which I heard about maybe seventeen or eighteen years ago was when a very well-known Presbyterian pastor and theologian by the name of James Montgomery Boyce was nearing the end of his life. He was very, very ill in the hospital. They expected the Lord to take Him home at any time. Around that same time, another believer, R.C. Sproul who you may have heard on the radio, who went to be with the Lord where he knows the truth now.
Sproul was conducting one of his many, many large Bible conferences. He’s a very strong 5-point Calvinist. R.C. Sproul gave an update on Boyce’s health and then said we need to pray that Dr. Boyce will not turn his back on the Lord, but will persevere until the end so he’ll have that certainty of salvation. Under their system salvation is not ultimately based on the grace promise of God in the gospel, but it’s based on slipping works into the back door. Those folks would say that yes, you’re saved by grace through faith, but real faith, genuine faith, saving faith, will have the evidence that goes with it. They believe you can tell by the fruit whether or not someone is saved.
That’s not what the Bible teaches. As the Gospel of John says over 95 times, salvation is based simply, only on believing in Jesus. Not believing and persevering. Not even repenting and believing. Repentance is not a word that is ever used in the Gospel of John. So if you think someone can be saved by simply reading the Gospel of John and you then believe that they must repent, then you have a contradiction. The Bible teaches we are saved by faith alone. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.”
Truth is quantified by a large number of Christians in many different ways. That’s just among some like the TULIP crowd, but there’s another crowd. Do y’all remember the other flower crowd? It’s “Daisy theology”. That’s the theology of the Armenian camp. “He loves me. He loves me not. He loves me. He loves me not.” They don’t know from one day to the next if they’ve committed some sin.
Did y’all ever see the Babylon Bee? They have some great little satires. There was one earlier this week that was a news reporter of some name, John Smith, or something that said, “Christian left to go to work in Los Angeles traffic and immediately lost his salvation as he entered into the south-bound lane of I-10.” I thought that really made a point.
So often Armenians have to change the definition of sin or otherwise you’re just sort of being saved and being re-saved and re-saved hour after hour. And if you’re in Houston traffic or Los Angeles traffic, that may be from one minute to the next.
Fruit is not the quantifiable overt things such as how many people got saved or how much money you gave. Fruit is not the necessary evidence of salvation. It is the evidence of sanctification. It is the evidence of our Christian growth and our Christian life, but not the necessary evidence of being a regenerate believer.
We’re looking at these elements and what we have seen is that in each of these there is a specific condition that is stated that is necessary to produce fruit. In John 15:4, Jesus says, “The branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in Him.”
In John 15:5, He says, “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit.”
Here the condition is abiding in Christ.
Slides 11 and 12
It’s the sole condition to produce fruit. Other passages mention walking in the light and walking by the Spirit. These are just looking at basically the same thing from different vantage points. They all come together.
Slides 13 and 14
We’ve seen that. We looked at Ephesians 5 last time. We talked about walking in the light and that that goes along with being filled by means of the Spirit. I connected the results of being filled by the Spirit and it’s not the Spirit filling you. You’re a believer in Christ in the Church Age. You can’t get any more of the Holy Spirit than what you have. You’re not being filled with more and more and more of the Holy Spirit.
You hear people pray for more of God’s Spirit. That’s blasphemy. We never get more of the Spirit. The grammar here isn’t saying that you’re filled with the content of the Spirit, but you’re filled with something by the Spirit. It doesn’t tell you what the content is in this passage. That’s not Paul’s point.
The results as we saw was genuine biblical worship, singing songs and hymns and spiritual sings. Also, it’s gratitude, giving thanks to the Lord, and submitting to one another, having right relationships within marriage and the home.
In Colossians 3:16, we saw that the command isn’t to be filled by means of the Spirit, but the command is to let the Word of Christ dwell richly in you. The results of that are the same as the filling by means of the Spirit. Those work together. The Spirit fills us with the Word of God. That’s the content we’re filled with. The Spirit is the means. That’s the role of God the Holy Spirit in our sanctification.
We then looked at 1 John 1:5. The command here is to walk in the light, similar to what we saw in Ephesians 5:7–8. We are light and now we are to walk as light.
In summary last time I said that from Ephesians we learn that we are children of light. That’s our position. That’s our identity in Christ. That’s who we are adopted into this new royal family. That’s our position.
Second, we learn that we are to walk as children of light.
From 1 John we learn that God is pure light. Third, He’s righteousness, justice, and truth. Fourth, we learned that His character is incompatible with darkness.
Fifth, we cannot walk in darkness and enjoy a partnership and life with God. We are to walk in the light.
The sixth thing we saw comparing these passages is the necessary conditions for producing the fruit of the Spirit or the fruit of the light (there’s a textual problem there in Ephesians 5) is walking in the light, which means to enjoy the active partnership.
KOINONIA is a word that means fellowship or partnership. It involves people being together, actively joined together toward some goal. So we enjoy an active partnership in our life with God.
Seventh, walking in the light is also characterized by being filled in our souls with the Word of Christ which dwells … The word that is used there in Colossians 3 means it makes its home in us. It’s from the root OIKEO, making a home or dwelling.
The eighth point, abiding in John 15 is the condition for fruit. Walking in the Spirit or the light is the condition for fruit in Ephesians 5.
Now we come to Philippians 1:9–11. You probably looked at that and said “Where do you get light there”? I’ll show you. Paul says, “And this I pray that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment.”
This is a priority in Paul’s prayer. It’s our love he’s discussing. That is the ultimate application, sort of what we might say is “the end application”. Jesus said, “A new command I give to you that you love one another and by this—your love for one another—will all men know that you are My disciples.”
This is what is evident in a maturing believer, that our love will abound more and more in knowledge and discernment. That tells us right away that the love Paul is talking about is not an emotion. Emotion has nothing to do with knowledge and discernment.
What I want to point out here is the word that is used for knowledge is EPIGNOSIS.
You’ve heard a lot about this word over the years and it is something more than just knowledge, GNOSIS. We’ll talk more about this next time. It shifts its meaning.
The problem that some people have had is that they think that every time you see the words GNOSIS or EPIGNOSIS it always means the same thing, that’s it’s technical language. It’s not technical language. These words have a range of meaning like many words.
Some words, like LOGOS, are technical, but other words are words that are used a little bit more in a technical sense in some passages. What I’ll show you next time is that when you break down Paul’s use of GNOSIS and EPIGNOSIS he uses it in different ways in different periods of his life.
Before the Prison Epistles, Paul used it in two or three different ways. In the Prison Epistles—not used in Philemon—but in Philippians, Ephesians, and Colossians, it’s used basically the same way and that is what I have here on the screen, and in 2 Peter it has the emphasis on a knowledge that is directed toward application.
It’s not just theoretical knowledge. It is knowledge that is targeted toward specific application so it goes beyond simple GNOSIS. Now GNOSIS can also have that meaning. The words overlap so that’s what makes it a little bit difficult to understand.
It is with knowledge and discernment. Discernment is application of the Word of God to specific situations in life.
We come to verse 10 and we get the purpose. The purpose is “that you may approve the things that are excellent”. One of the things we see in the Christian life is that we have a lot of decisions to make. In most cases, most of us are not making decisions between that which is evil and that which is good.
Most of us are confused with priorities and we’re trying to make decisions between what’s good and what’s excellent. That’s the challenge in the Christian life. As we develop in our knowledge of the Word, walking by the Spirit, then in this sense of EPIGNOSIS used here and in Ephesians and 2 Peter, knowledge is targeted towards application.
“In knowledge and all discernment for the purpose of approving the things that are excellent”—evaluating our choices so that we move in the direction of excellence and not in the direction of just mere acceptability or mere mediocrity. “That you may approve the things that are excellent that you may be sincere.”
First, there is the growth in knowledge, EPIGNOSIS, which produces discernment. That leads to being able to make good decisions in choosing that which is excellent. That, then, leads to the next level, which is “that you may be sincere and without offense to the day of Christ.”
The word for sincere is a compound word, EILIKRINES. The second part, KRINES, comes from the root meaning to judge, to evaluate. But the first part comes from the root HELIOS, which is the sun, the source of light. When light is shed upon decisions then you can make wise decisions. This is where walking in the light comes to play in this.
One of the lexicons I examined says that sincerity here has to do with one who reflects light. It may not fit what we’re quite saying here, but it’s not somebody who is sincere and believes so certainly in the goodness of whatever they’re doing. It is the idea that they have been exposed to the light. As a result of that, because they’ve been walking in the light, they are able to make wise judgments.
That’s what a sincere person is here. Someone who has been making wise judgments because their thinking has been enlightened from the Word of God. It has enlightened their soul. It has illuminated their soul and they are making wise decisions based on the Word of God.
This sort of connects the importance of walking in the light. Light, as I pointed out last time, has different senses. It’s used in different ways metaphorically in Scripture. One is to emphasize purity, righteousness, and truth. The other is to emphasize illumination and revelation.
In Philippians 1:11 it says all in one sentence (so it’s a little complicated to put all the parts together), “Being filled …” That’s translated with a present tense. I know what the translators may have been thinking, that it’s emphasizing the present results of a completed past action. So they translated it with a present tense. But that often communicates to people it’s a present ongoing action. It’s a perfect participle, which also indicates completed action. In this structure it would be a causal participle because they’re able to approve the things that are excellent because they have already been filled with “the fruit of righteousness.”
As they walk in the light of God’s Word, they have growth in knowledge and discernment. That gives them the scale of values to be able to approve that which is excellent as opposed to that which is merely good or acceptable. This leads to a character development of sincerity, which is that they have this ability because they’ve been enlightened to make those wise decisions and it comes from a character transformation towards righteousness.
They’ve already been filled with the fruit of righteousness which are “by Christ Jesus, [which are] to the glory and praise of God.” That gives us a good understanding again of fruit as character transformation, building morality, not simple morality, but a biblical or spiritual morality. It’s spiritual virtue. That’s what Peter is talking about in 2 Peter when he says “adding to your faith virtue”. It is a spiritual virtue.
We always have to be careful when we think of morality in the Christian life. A lot of unbelievers can produce morality. Morality is for every person. We want people to be moral people. What the Bible is talking about is something beyond morality.
It is talking about that which the Holy Spirit produces in our lives. It is a supernatural character transformation that goes beyond basic morality to the spiritual virtues of the Christian life.
Now I want to go back and look at our foundational passage on fruit which is in Galatians 5:16–25 where we have the key verses on the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22–23.
We have to understand the context. The last time we were in Ephesians I started off talking about walking in the light and I said we had these various commands for walking. I took us all the way back to the first chapter of Paul’s prayers there to the fact that as unbelievers we walked in darkness.
Then I traced this theme of walking all the way through Ephesians which helps us to understand. Paul doesn’t come out of left field with the phrase “walk in the light”. There’s a context. He builds. He sets the stage. He takes his time.
In Galatians 5:16 Paul speaks under divine inspiration which is God speaking to us through Paul, “Walk in the Spirit and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” That’s a strong statement in the second half of that verse. The idea is that when we are walking in the Spirit, we shall not! That’s a very strong statement. He is saying that it’s impossible to walk by the Spirit and fulfill the lusts of the flesh.
“For the flesh lusts against the Spirit …” There’s a war going on inside each one of us. The flesh is a term for the sin nature, which is housed in our DNA. It was acquired as a result of Adam’s original sin. Every human being comes into this world with a sin nature, which is a capacity for sin and an inclination for disobedience to God.
“For the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another.” In other words, what he’s saying there is that they are opposed to one another. It’s either one or the other. In certain Christian models of the spiritual life that you will find, such as the Reformed model, the Armenian model, or other models such as the Roman Catholic model, they have people doing things from mixed motives. So it’s partly good and partly bad, and partly spiritual and partly not.
That is not what this is saying. It is saying the Spirit is contrary to the flesh so you can’t do the things that you wish. It’s one or the other. I don’t know if you’ve ever had the opportunity to go into a deep cavern or deep tunnel. I remember as a kid at Camp Peniel there are caverns near there called Long Horn Caverns. They took us way down and you come into this large open area and then they turn the lights off for a few moments. It is pitch black darkness.
I’ve had the same thing done in Carlsbad Caverns and other places like that. There is not any light. Then the guide will strike a match. One small match and all of a sudden you can see everything. It’s no longer dark. It’s amazing how just one very small light in absolute darkness like that will illuminate everything.
That’s the idea here. You’re either in darkness or you’re in light. There’s no mixing of the two. Once you strike that match, you’re not in darkness anymore. You can look around and see. These are not things that you can blend together. It’s the Spirit against the flesh. They’re contrary to one another. Then he describes the work of the sin nature.
Then he comes back to the fruit of the Spirit. It’s the singular word fruit. It’s not the fruits of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love …”
Why does Paul start with love? He starts with love because in Galatians 5:14 you have the introductory command for this section which is to love your neighbor as yourself. So, he’s talking about love. In order to love your neighbor as yourself you have to a) walk by the Spirit and then God the Holy Spirit will produce b) the fruit of the Spirit, which starts with love. That’s why he’s beginning with love as the first characteristic.
Then he lists those characteristics. This is the fruit. It’s “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”. Now self-control is listed in the virtues in 2 Peter 2 which we have studied, as well as love is.
Then he says, “Against those there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Why is Paul saying they have crucified the flesh there? This is the same thing he says in Romans 6:3–6. There he says, “We’ve been crucified—identified with Him—and his death, burial, and resurrection.”
There’s a positional thing that happens when we’re saved and that is the sin nature in this language is “crucified”. It’s positionally dead in terms of its authority over us. It’s still there. It still influences us. It’s up to our volition whether or not we’re going to follow its influence.
He’s reminding them that those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh. The sin nature is no longer the sole dictator in your life. You are now in Christ. You are a new creature in Christ. That sin nature has been crucified with its passions and desires.
Let’s go back and look at it. Paul says in Galatians 5:16, “Walk in the Spirit—we’ll see that means walk by means of the Spirit—and you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” What’s interesting when we get into this is that this fits the context of the whole Epistle of Galatians. So we’re just going to walk our way through Galatians just a little bit.
This section begins in Galatians 3 so think about the whole epistle to Galatians. The first two chapters go together and then chapters 3 through 6 go together. Galatians 1 and 2 deal with the legalism of justification because Paul had a problem in that after he first went to the churches in Galatia, there were a group called Judaizers, believers with a Pharisaic background who were still holding on the Mosaic Law as an additional means of salvation and justification.
They were saying that yes, it’s good to believe in Jesus. You need to do that. But if you really want all of salvation and to be truly justified, you have to follow the Mosaic Law. In Galatians 1 and 2 Paul is dealing with the legalism at salvation. Then they would say that if you really want to experience the Christian life, you also have to follow the Law.
That’s what the second part of Galatians is all about. Galatians 3–6 is where Paul was correcting the error of legalism in the spiritual life. We see that in the first part where Paul just really, really blasts them. He says in Galatians 1:6, “I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you by the grace of Christ, to a different gospel.”
By that he means a gospel of a different kind, a works-based gospel. And he just blasts them for that. Then he goes through chapter 1 and chapter 2 and it gets down to Galatians 2:16. Here is his great statement on justification. It starts off with the participle “knowing”, but it should be understood as a causal participle meaning “because you know something”.
“Because we know that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but by faith in Christ Jesus.” That’s a big “but” right there. It’s either the works of the Law or it’s faith in Jesus Christ. It’s one or the other. It’s not both. It’s not a little bit of one and a little bit of the other. This is a stark contrast that says we’re justified by faith in Jesus Christ.
Then he goes on to say, “Even we have believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law.” Now he’s not saying that we should be lawless or that we should be immoral. He’s just saying that the works of the Law have nothing to do with justification. Obeying the Law will not make you justified in the sight of God.
We are justified only by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law. Then he hits it again, “For by the works of the Law no flesh shall be justified.” That’s about as strong a statement as you can make excluding works from salvation.
He brings his discussion there to a close at the end of Galatians 2. Then in Galatians 3 he changes to the problem of legalism in the spiritual life. He begins again not with words that will win them as his friends. He didn’t read Carnegie’s book on How to Win Friends and Influence People. He says, “Oh, foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you that you should not obey the truth?”
If you’re not obeying the truth, then he’s just saying you’re deceptive and you’re liars. He says, “That you should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed among you as crucified.” You clearly understood the gospel and now you’re not obeying it.
Then in Galatians 3:2 he says, “This only I want to learn from you: Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by the hearing of faith?” He’s saying to go back to when he came, and you heard me explain the gospel. At that time, I taught you about who Jesus Christ was as the promised and prophesied Messiah of the Old Testament. I gave you the Old Testament examples—many of them came out of a Jewish background—that Abraham was justified by faith; he believed God and God imputed it to him as righteousness in Genesis 15:6.
He said he taught them all of those things and at the time they trusted in Christ, they received the Spirit. God the Holy Spirit came and permanently indwelt you. “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or did you receive the Spirit by the hearing of faith?”
The answer to that is simple. They received the Spirit by responding to the gospel by believing in Jesus Christ as their Savior. Now he’s going to expand on that.
The statement he makes in Galatians 3:2 is comparable to 2 Corinthians 5:7 that says, “we walk by faith, and not by sight” and Colossians 2:6 says, “As you therefore have received Christ Jesus the Lord,—how did they receive Him?—by the hearing of faith.”
Faith is the basis for living the spiritual life, not by the works of the Law.
The next verse, Galatians 3:3 asks, “Are you so foolish?—That’s the second time he’s said this so he’s really irritated with them. They were probably glad to hear from him—Having begun in the Spirit, are you now being made perfect by the flesh?” I want you to notice the words I’ve underlined there. He uses the word Spirit for the Holy Spirit. He uses the word for being made perfect and he uses the word for flesh. You don’t find those three words together again until you get to the passage we started with, Galatians 5:16.
Everything between Galatians 3:3 and Galatians 5:16 is parenthetical. Before Paul can really get to the answer and the issue he raises in Galatians 3:3, he has to go through this lengthy explanation. I know some of you think I take a long time getting to the point sometimes. I’m not even close to Paul.
If Paul were going to tell you how to brush your teeth, he would start with Genesis 1:26–27 with the creation of man and that God designed your teeth a certain way. Then he would move on to talking about the Fall and how that now there’s corruption so you’re going to get cavities and all these other things and then he would go from there and start talking about your responsibility. Because you’re a sinner you failed in your responsibility and your cavities in your teeth are just a sign of your total depravity. Maybe three hours later he would get around to actually telling you how to get a toothbrush and actually brush your teeth. So don’t complain about me. I try to get there a lot faster than that.
What Paul is doing here is he’s laying the groundwork. All of the information between Galatians 3:3 and 5:16 is that groundwork. In Galatians 5:16 we have the term Spirit for the Holy Spirit. That phrase translated “being made perfect” in Galatians 3:3 is the compound word EPITELEO. TELEO is the root verb there, so he’s added a prepositional prefix here that intensifies it.
Like EPIGNOSIS, the EPI intensifies the GNOSIS. Galatians 5:16 uses the word TELEO, the root word. So there’s a certain parallelism there between the two. GNOSIS is a big, broad concept and as a subcategory of GNOSIS you have EPIGNOSIS. It’s the same thing here. TELEO is the broad word and EPITELEO is a subcategory. You have these same words and then the word flesh for the sin nature.
A well-known commentator for Galatians has said, “The main point of Paul’s rhetorical question here, however, has to do with the incongruity of beginning one’s Christian life on one basis (“with the Spirit”) and then shifting somewhere in progress to another basis (“by human effort”).
“What Paul wants his converts to see is that the Christian life is one that starts, is maintained, and comes to culmination only through dependence on the activity of God’s Spirit.” That is a profound statement. It starts, it continues, it develops, and it comes to its conclusion only on the basis of dependence on God’s Spirit. That’s the key point. That is said by Richard Longenecker.
What we see in all of Galatians are two categories. There’s a contrast between living or walking by the Spirit and legalism of the flesh. We have a contrast between Grace and Law. We have a contrast between Faith and Works. We have a contrast between Freedom and Slavery. And we have a contrast between the Spirit and the Flesh. These are all mutually exclusive. It’s one or the other.
There was a radio Bible teacher in Dallas who would teach you didn’t need to confess your sins. He said you were automatically cleansed of everything as soon as you were saved and he taught, and both you and I know some people who have been influenced by him negatively, that they didn’t need to confess sin. He said that whenever you prayed, or witnessed, or read your Bible, you had mixed motives for this. So, some of it was good and some if it wasn’t. They’re blurring that.
I’m telling you this is a major problem in most of Christianity. They’re really treating the spiritual life as a life of morality and it’s not. It’s a life of spirituality to be energized by God the Holy Spirit.
Let’s move on here. First, everything the unbeliever does derives from his position in bondage to the sin nature and proceeds from the sin nature. Everything! Even his very best. Giving to charity. Helping people. Being a wonderful parent. Being a good employee. Everything that an unbeliever does comes from the only nature that he has, which is the sin nature. That’s Isaiah 64:6, “All of our works of righteousness are as filthy rags.” That’s ALL of our works of righteousness. Romans 6:6, 17, and 18 all speak of the bondage of the unbeliever to the sin nature.
Second, the unbeliever can live a moral, ethical life. Therefore, third, simple human morality may be the product of the sin nature. Just because someone is moral doesn’t mean they’re living the Christian life. A believer, also, can live a moral life in the power of the flesh, in the power of the sin nature. It has nothing to do with God the Holy Spirit.
Only a supernatural source can produce the virtues and Christ-like character unique to the Christian life. You can’t pull yourself up by your own spiritual bootstraps. It’s got to be one hundred percent the Holy Spirit.
Slides 39 and 40
So Galatians 5:14, which introduces this whole section says, “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ ”. Paul is using that as sort of a summary for all the spiritual life, going back to what I quoted earlier in John 13:34 and 35, that we have this new commandment to love one another.
Notice the difference. In Galatians 5:14 you’re to love your neighbor as yourself.
But in John you’re to love one another, which refers to other believers, as Christ loved you. Loving your neighbor like yourself is something even as unbeliever can try to do. But loving others as Christ loved you is totally different. That’s a much higher standard. Christ is the One who gave His life for us. That’s a much higher standard than loving your neighbor as yourself.
When we get into Galatians 5:16 we have the command to “walk by the Spirit”. In Galatians 5:18 we have the phrase to be “led by the Spirit”. When you’re walking by the Spirit, you’re following the Spirit. He’s the leader; we’re the follower. When we walk by means of the Spirit the command is given to us as a metaphor for living our life. He’s the One leading us. He’s taking us in a direction. He’s taking us down a path as it were.
Then we get to the phrase “living by the Spirit” and “walking by the Spirit” in Galatians 5:25. There the word STOICHEO is the Greek word for walk. In Galatians 5:16 it’s PERIPATEO, but it shifts to the idea of following in the footsteps of someone, following step by step.
If you’re following in someone’s footsteps, or you’re going down a path and there are stepping stones, such as a path that has been laid down in front of you, that path that is laid down by the Holy Spirit for us is the Word of God. We follow the Holy Spirit by the path that He’s leading us down, which is laid down by the Word of God. So by obeying God’s Word in dependence on the Holy Spirit, that’s what pulls together for the spiritual life.
This takes us back to what Paul’s problem with the Galatian believers was. He says they started in the Spirit and now they’re trying to be made complete by the flesh. They’re no longer being led by the Spirit. They’re no longer walking by the Spirit. They’re no longer following step-by-step behind the Spirit. They’re trying to do it on their own. They’ve shifted subtly to a life of morality instead of a life of spirituality.
Slides 43 and 44
Walking is a present active imperative. That means it should characterize your life. A present imperative simply means this should be the standard operating procedure for your spiritual life. An aorist imperative would have the idea of making it a priority. So, in one Book he may use an aorist and in another he may use a present. It depends on the context and why he’s stating the command.
“Walking by the Spirit, you shall not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.” Walking involves a step-by-step procedure. Walking involves a step-by-step concentration. I got a great illustration of this years ago and I’ve never found a better one. I had gone to speak for three nights at a church in Poughkeepsie, New York back years and years ago. The pastor was picking me up outside the hotel and I was running a little bit late. I came down the elevator, the doors opened, and I was just about to rush out. They were having some sort of seniors’ convention and the hallway was filled with people. There was no place to go.
Everyone was walking with a walker. I was getting ready to teach on this passage that night. God was giving me an illustration. I was watching all these seniors go by with their walkers and they have to really think about what they’re doing. If you’re walking with a walker, it’s very easy to lose your balance or to fall down. You have to pay attention. It is a step-by-step procedure. You can’t get your eyes ten feet ahead of you and be thinking of something else like you do when we don’t have to walk in dependence upon a walker.
So it’s that concentration and step-by-step procedure following the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us the specific how-to’s in the Scripture and it’s always directed toward a goal.
In Galatians 5:16 Paul says, “Walk by means of the Spirit.” It emphasizes dependence. We are to be dependent upon the Spirit. We can’t do it without dependence upon Him. You can only do it with dependence upon Him.
Then comes that next phrase, “You shall not fulfill …” The “shall not” is really important in the Greek. It’s a double negative. In English a double negative is wrong, but there are two different words used for negatives in Greek. When you combine them together with a subjunctive mood verb it has the idea of stating something that is impossible. That’s what you have here.
If you’re walking by the Spirit, if you’re on that walker and you’re going step-by-step and you’re focused and concentrated on depending on that walker, you can’t fall down. Wait a minute, I fall down all the time, I sin. Well, that’s because you get your eyes off the walker. As soon as you take your eyes off the walker, then you fall. Then when you’re falling, that’s when you are going under the control of the sin nature.
I love Dr. Stan Toussaint. He was a great professor, got to be a good friend, and went to be with the Lord a couple of years ago. Dr. Toussaint wrote, “In Galatians 5:16 Paul commands the believer to walk by means of the Spirit. This imperative is followed by OU ME with the subjunctive, which is an emphatic negation used here as a strong promise. The flesh and Spirit are so contrary to one another that a walk by the Spirit automatically excludes a fulfillment of the baser desires.”
“In this entire epistle two alternatives are set before Paul’s Christian readers. Either they may walk under law or under grace. These same two choices are open in Galatians 5:16–23. A walk under law necessitates a walk by means of the flesh. At the same time a life lived in the grace system automatically involves faith and the Holy Spirit. It is for this reason that the contrast here is between the flesh and the Spirit; they are the two driving forces in each of the two systems of law and grace.”
That’s almost a whole Bible class just pulling out all the goodies in that statement. Dr. Toussaint had polio when he was a little kid and he was from a little town called Hinckley, Minnesota. None of us who ever had him will ever forget where Hinckley, Minnesota was.
Slides 50 and 51
Galatians 5:16, “You will not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” What does fulfill mean? Bring to completion, the lust of the flesh. You won’t let the sin nature take control. You have to stop walking by the Spirit first and then the default position is that your sin nature takes over. It’s the idea it will be impossible to bring to completion the lusts of the flesh.
What we’ve seen here is 1) A believer either abides or not; either walks by the Spirit or according to the flesh. 2) Both walking by means of the Spirit and abiding in Christ emphasize divine dependency as the sole basis for producing fruit. You can’t do it on your own. We can’t make ourselves spiritual. We can’t produce the character of Christ in our lives. It can only be done through the Spirit of God and the Word of God.
3) Both walking by means of the Spirit and abiding in Christ express an intimacy and the means of maintaining fellowship with the divine Person, which is not present when the believer is not abiding or walking. God the Holy Spirit is present in the sense that He indwells us, but He’s not positively active in producing maturity when we’re walking by the flesh.
When we’re walking by the flesh, He’s actively involved in convicting us and telling us to confess sin, get back in fellowship, and turn around.
Thus it must be concluded that abiding in Christ and walking by the Spirit express overlapping or parallel concepts that are facets of the same dependency, which is the key to spiritual growth. They’re talking about the same thing.
We see the results. The works of the flesh are described in Galatians 5:19–21. That’s not an exhaustive list. Those who live with that characteristic are those who at the very end will not inherit the kingdom of God. That doesn’t mean they won’t be saved. It means they’re going to be among those believers at the Judgment Seat of Christ who see all their works burned up, but they enter Heaven, yet as through fire.
In contrast are those that have the fruit of the Spirit where God the Holy Spirit, transforms their life. “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” It is transforming our character to mirror the character of Christ.
The conclusion which I’ve already talked about is that “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” Let us follow in the footsteps that God the Holy Spirit sets down in front of us. Walking step-by-step following the Word of God.
When we look at John 15, Galatians 5:16–26, and Ephesians 5 we see the similarities. There’s a command in John 15 to abide in Christ and the result is that you have fruit, more fruit, or much fruit.
In Galatians 5:16 we’re to walk by means of the Spirit. The result is the fruit of the Spirit.
In Ephesians 5 we’re to walk in the light, walk as children of light and the result is fruit.
That’s the key to not having a barren and idle life. You can’t be idle is you’re in Bible class and listening to the Word of God every day and internalizing it.
Many years ago, Dr. Chafer wrote this. I ran across this quote. I can’t remember where I got it, but it was probably in his book He That is Spiritual. He said, “By various terms the Bible teaches that there are two classes of Christians: those who ‘abide in Christ,’ and those who ‘abide not’; those who are ‘walking in the light,’ and those who ‘walk in darkness’; those who ‘walk by the Spirit,’ and those who ‘walk as men’; those who ‘walk in newness of life,’ and those who ‘walk after the flesh’; those who have the Spirit ‘in’ and ‘upon’ them, and those who have the Spirit ‘in’ them but not ‘upon’ them; those who are ‘spiritual’ and those who are ‘carnal’; those who are ‘filled with the Spirit,’ and those who are not. All this has to do with the quality of daily life of saved people and is in no way a contrast between the saved and the unsaved.”
That governed the teaching of the spiritual life at Dallas Seminary from its founding in the early 1920s up through the 1970s. Today, if you get the NET Bible, you will turn to 1 John 2:4 there’s a footnote about abiding. All of those notes in that Bible were written by men who were in the New Testament Department at Dallas Seminary about twenty years ago.
There they say, “The Greek verb MENO is commonly translated into contemporary English as ‘remain’ or ‘abide,’ but both of these translations have some problems. 1) ‘Abide’ has become in some circles almost a ‘technical term’ for some sort of special intimate fellowship or close relationship between the Christian and God.” They just said Lewis Sperry Chafer was full of beans. You’re wrong. This is absolutely terrible.
They’re saying just the opposite of what Dr. Chafer, Dr. Walvoord, Dr. Ryrie, Dr. Pentecost, and Dr. Toussaint taught. They turned their back on the heritage of Dallas Seminary. For these people, they go on to say that every believer abides. They say that according to Dallas Seminary one may speak of Christians who are abiding and Christians not abiding.
“It’s accurate to say the word indicates a close, intimate (and permanent) relationship [see, they’re making it equivalent to believing] between the believer and God. However, it is very important to note that for the author of the Gospel of John and the Johannine Epistles, every genuine Christian has this type of relationship with God.” That’s pure “lordship” garbage.
I just wanted to throw that out so you’d see how bad things have gotten. It’s gotten much worse at DTS and many other schools. There are very few places that continue to teach a consistent view of the spiritual life based upon what Paul is teaching in Galatians, Ephesians, and Philippians, and John is teaching in both the Gospel of John in the Upper Room Discourse and in 1 John.
We either abide or we don’t abide. To say that every true believer abides—notice that phrase “true believer”. No where do you find the Scriptures qualifying belief with any adjectives. But they do it. That’s just pure arrogance and false teaching. That’s what 2 Peter is all about—exposing the false teachers.
“Father, thank You for Your grace, Your goodness in providing perfect salvation for us, for providing the Holy Spirit who indwells us, and a spiritual life that is based upon a walk by the Spirit. It’s up to us to either walk by the Spirit or not. To abide in Christ or not. Walk in the light or not.
“Challenge us with the truth of Your Word. We need to keep short accounts and confession and also we need to keep our eyes focused on You so our life is lived in dependence upon God the Holy Spirit and Your Word. We pray this in Christ’s name. Amen.”