B. Live in the Spirit, not in the Flesh (5:13–26)

iv. The Fruit of the Spirit (5:22–23)

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

22. From stern and unambiguous warning Paul turns to that which is much more positive: that which grows organically from the work of the Spirit, replacing the rotten tree of the flesh and its evil works with something healthy, sound, fruitful and beautiful.

The list is not comprehensive. Where is hope, for example? Where is humility? Like Paul’s list of the works of the flesh, this list of virtues is not comprehensive. Rather, it promotes characteristic qualities of those who have opened their hearts to God, and their minds to his message, and their lives to his work.

The first and greatest fruit is love, for it is the es­sence of God himself. “God is love” in Himself, and seeing our hopelessness and helplessness, reached out to us in love, sending His Son into the world to save the world (cf 1 John 4:8–11; John 3:16). “The love of Christ constrains us,” Paul would later say (2 Cor 5:14): and what an extraordinary personal transformation is summed up in that statement! It is the hallmark of genuine disciples (John 13:34–35). An ecclesia without love is no longer an ecclesia worthy of the name, the Lord warned the cham­pions of orthodoxy at Ephesus: and its light will be removed (Rev 2:1–7). When all other spiritual qualities are subsumed in glory, when faith is real­ized and hope is fulfilled, love will remain: “The greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13).

Then there is “joy”, the irrepressible delight in God, what He has done for us, is doing, and will yet do: so that even in great suffering and fierce persecu­tion and personal tragedy we can know that Christ lives, that we live, and will live, together with him; that God is working for us (John 15:11; 16:22). Paul follows with the “peace” of Christ, his gift to us, the certainty that from his resurrection all else follows, that we stand in grace, and can look forward with confidence to the glory of God (Rom 5:1–2). It does not mean that we will avoid great wrestlings and difficult challenges; but we can be sure that God is “for us”, and that in all things God works for the good of those who love Him, and who are called according to His purpose (Rom 8:28). With this assurance “the peace of God” will keep our hearts and minds through Jesus Christ our Lord (Phil 4:7).

Paul continues with three qualities that define our relationships with those about us: “longsuffer­ing”, the large, broad, deep quality of patience with the many small faults and irritations and inefficien­cies of people and life, even under sustained provo­cation; “gentleness”, or “kindness”, which calls for sensitivity and thoughtfulness and care, ruling out the brusque, the rude, the insensitive, the callous; and “goodness,” reaching out to others to do good.

Paul finishes with “faith” or “faithfulness”, loyalty to family members and friends, commitment to brothers and sisters in Christ, integrity in business and work, faithfulness above all to God and Christ; “meekness”, the spirit of Christ (2 Cor 10:1), the spirit that does not berate someone for their fail­ings or their foolish ideas, but works patiently and constructively to make them spiritually stronger (cf 1 Cor 4:21; Gal 6:1; 2 Tim 2:25); and “temperance”, self-control or self-mastery, the ability to refuse the impulses of the flesh to anger, lust, greed, and pride.

“Against such there is no law:” we should have expected a much more enthusiastic statement here; but Paul uses a curious figure, the litotes. The under­stated negative is intended to catch our attention. What he means us to understand is that there is all the permission, all the encouragement in the world, to manifest these qualities to the full. And if the world were full of such qualities, what a different place it would be!

v. Crucify the Flesh, Live in the Spirit (5:24–26)

24And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

24. The ugly works of the flesh ought to play no part in our lives, for “they that are Christ’s”, those who have been bought with his blood and who now belong to him, should have “crucified the flesh”. Born again by the Spirit, they have died with Christ and risen with him to new life, a rebirth outwardly expressed in their baptism. The passions and desires of the old life ought to be excluded by their over­whelming love for God and their fellows, their joy, their peace – the harvest of the Spirit which Paul has already painted in the previous verses.

25. Life in the Spirit is not a matter of theory or ritual. It is not simply a new status. It must be a practical matter of daily life, a walking with God that shows itself in a completely new way of living, informed by God’s message and guided by his will.

26. Paul finishes with a plea to abandon those behaviours that were proving so disruptive to fel­lowship in Galatia: “Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.” To seek the praise of God rather than the empty glory of human acclaim; to seek the good of others rather than to live in a hostile climate character­ised by provocation and irritation; to promote the strengths, the good works, and the achievements of others, and to rejoice in their success, rather than sliding into envy – these are the behaviours that promote ecclesial peace, spiritual development, and mutual love and care. May God guide us to seek the one, and give the other no place in our midst.

C. The Law of Christ (6:1–10)

It is a mistake to think that, because the law of Moses is now laid aside as something which has been fulfilled, as something treasured and sacred, but no longer needed, that believers are under no

law at all. Christ has a law, morally far-reaching and eternally binding. His servants must obey this new commandment; although it is no new commandment, John tells us, but an old com­mandment, which we had from the beginning. It is the law of love: to love God with all our heart, soul, mind, and strength, and our neighbour as ourselves.

As Paul continues his exhortation, he spells out the application of this law. “Ye which are spiritual” are counselled to recover the fallen, to help others to carry their burdens, to support teachers, and to reach out to meet the needs of all the people God brings across their path. This is sowing to the Spirit, Paul tells us, and the Spirit’s bountiful harvest is everlasting life.

i. Restore the Fallen in Meekness (6:1)

1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.

1. Paul begins with advice for restoring those “discovered in some sin” (NET). “Ye which are spiritual,” says Paul – not because they are a spir­itual elite, but to remind them of the qualities on which they should be drawing when they respond to sinners. These are the qualities of Christ, and of God. They are genuinely spiritual to the extent that they are taught, inspired, guided, and empowered by God. They should therefore respond to sinners in love, with a desire to “restore” them – to heal their brokenness and mend the breaches in their faith and obedience and help them on their way stronger and wiser than before.

This is not how his opponents would handle such situations. To the Judaist, the fallen and the burdened were simply weak people who knew bet­ter, but lacked the rigorous self-discipline to avoid sin and the spiritual strength to obey the Law in its entirety. Their problems were theirs alone. They were object lessons, to be denounced and exposed and punished publicly – like the woman caught in adultery (John 8:3–5).

But Paul calls for “a spirit of gentleness” (ESV), one of the Spirit’s fruits. This is a sharp contrast to the pride and harshness sometimes brought to the process of restoration. These qualities are not only counter-productive, but sinful; and as Paul reminds, they are also foolishly over-confident and short‑sighted: “considering thyself,” he cautions, “lest thou also be tempted;” “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor 10:12 ESV).

ii. Bear One Another’s Burdens (6:2–5)

2 Bear ye one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. 3 For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself. 4 But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another. 5 For every man shall bear his own burden.

2. From the struggle with temptation and sin, Paul moves on to the burdens of life. We fulfil the law of Christ by helping others to carry their bur­dens, in the spirit of the Servant who has “borne our griefs, and carried our sorrows” (Isa 53:4): “We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Rom 15:1).

3. Let nobody think himself to be above concern for the needs of the people around him, and simple acts of service: “If a man think himself to be some­thing, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself”. If it was good enough for the Lord Jesus, it is certainly good enough for us.

4. And so Paul issues a challenge to all of us: “Let every man prove his own work.” To prove work is to put it to the proof, to “examine” it (NET), to weigh it, to test it, to assay it like gold to determine its genuineness and value.

And if we were to do this conscientiously, objectively, humbly, what would we find? That we are nothing: that God is everything: that we have done nothing of great moment: that we are what we are because God has made us what we are, and that we have done what we have done because God has enabled us to do it.

We will miss Paul’s meaning in the latter half of the verse if we do not realise that he is speaking ironically. If we are honest in our self-evaluation we will find no reason to boast in ourselves at all, let alone any reason to compare ourselves boastfully with others. As he would later say to the boastful Corinthians, “Who maketh thee to differ from another? And what hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if thou didst receive it, why dost thou glory, as if thou hadst not received it?” (1 Cor 4:7). It is all of God.

5. Still less can we justify ourselves by measur­ing our strengths against the weaknesses of others: “There can be no shifting of personal responsibil­ity; a man cannot feel himself approved because he, like the Pharisee, thinks himself different from other men. At last every man gives account of his own stewardship” (J Carter). The Son of man will not weigh us against the achievements or failings of our fellows. He will have mercy on us; and we must show the same mercy to each other.

The use of the word “burden” by the KJV makes these verses more confusing than they need to be. In v2, the word translated “burden” is the Gk baros, a heavy load. In v5, the word is phortion, the pack carried by a marching soldier. The baros of life can be crushing – that is why we need to help each other “bear the load”. But the phortion of Christ is “light” (Matt 11:30) when we walk and serve with him: “Paul’s lesson is simple: Help your brother with his heavy burdens, but carry your own light ones cheerfully!” (G Booker).

Christ is not a hard and unreasonable master, but a lord whom the opportunity to serve is a joy. When we serve him in this spirit, we shall come to the day of judgment not with fear, but with antici­pation and gladness.

iii. Support Teachers (6:6)

6 Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.

6. Paul continues with another instance of the principle of loving exchange. The word translated “communicate” is the Gk koinōneō, which gener­ally means “to have fellowship”, but often carries a financial sense (eg Rom 12:13; 15:27; Phil 4:15), as does its related noun koinōnia (Rom 15:26; 2 Cor 8:4; 9:13).

In the first century it would have been very dif­ficult to purchase a handwritten copy of one book of the Scriptures, let alone find the time to study and teach its meaning. Most were illiterate, and unable even to read. Teachers were critically important for the growth of the young ecclesias in faith and obe­dience, just as they are today. But without financial support from the ecclesia, they would have been unable to function so Paul insisted on this (cf also 1 Cor 9:4–12; 2 Cor 11:7–9; 1 Thess 2:6,9; 1 Tim 5:17–18), though he rarely accepted financial help himself. Teachers should diligently teach “all good things”, and those who are taught should share “all good things” with them.