This week and next is our final two lessons on the Holy Spirit series. The elders have suggested some more topics for future lessons, and I hope to begin in April looking at what God teaches us about prayer, which follows our Holy Spirit study nicely.
Today let’s look at what Galatians says about the Holy Spirit, which features most prominently the fruit of the Spirit. In order to lead up to that, it helps to see the context of this teaching by a brief overview of this Galatian letter.
This is the only letter of Paul addressed specifically to a region of churches. Galatia was not a town, but more like a large county or state. Paul had planted churches there on His first missionary journey recorded in Acts 13. These churches were a mix of Jews and Gentiles. Evidently Paul was followed by some Jewish teachers who tried to convince these Christians that unless they kept the Laws of Moses, particularly circumcision and dietary laws, they would not be saved. Paul attacks that teaching calling it a different gospel and basically saying that those who teach it should be accursed.
So what’s happening? Well, as Peter states in Acts 10, Jews were legally not to eat in the house of a Gentile. In fact, Paul tells us in Galatians that even the Apostle Peter fell for this false teaching, at least in practice. Look at 2:11-16. The gospel is for everyone, Jew or Gentile. The Law divided Jews and Gentiles, but Jesus Christ united us all into one body, one church, through one sacrifice, one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one Holy Spirit. Look at 2:19-20, 3:26-29.
This false gospel was a major issue. It threatened to divide and destroy the unity of the church.
Just a cursory look at the letter to the Galatians reveals that at least some of these Galatians were falling for this false gospel. Mind you, these are Christians who had the Holy Spirit, but needed guidance from an Apostle’s instructions too. It is clear from scripture, both here and in 1 Corinthians, that those with Holy Spirit powers were not all always following the Holy Spirit’s leading. Two basic dangers arose for these Galatians:
1. Some were turning to the Law of Moses as a means of salvation. This is the major issue this letter addresses and receives most of Paul’s attention and instruction.
2. Some were tempted to return to the fleshly lusts thinking God’s grace in Christ allowed them freedom in the flesh. Paul tells them not to turn that freedom into an opportunity for the flesh. (5:13)
In this Galatian letter, the Apostle Paul admonishes these Christians to avoid both turning to the Law for salvation, and turning their freedom in Christ into a license for sin. He shows them how the Holy Spirit’s work is involved in helping them overcome both. So…
Let’s run through the 12 verses that mention the Holy Spirit to see this, and then finish with the fruit of the Spirit.
Chapter 3:2,3,5, Do we receive the Holy Spirit through the Law? No. Through fleshly lusts? No! How? By hearing the gospel with faith. Now v. 13-14 God has paid an awesome price to prepare you and me to receive His Holy Spirit!
Chapter 4:6, To understand this verse, look at the context of it. Listen to 3:26-27, now 4:6-7. Isn’t that beautiful! What a glorious God we serve! Yet, as Holy Spirit filled people, we are different from those without Him, and we can expect to be misunderstood and mistreated in this world. Look at verse 29.
Chapter 5:5,16,17,18,22,25 Here is the classic appearance of the fruit of the Spirit. What we discover is that these beautiful characteristics are all expressions of the person of the Holy Spirit Himself. These describe Him. He who lives in us wants to express these through us and will do so as we submit to Him and follow His lead instead of the passions of our flesh. Like Jesus said to Peter, “The Spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak.” It takes cooperation on our part to follow the Spirit and resist, and even crucify our fleshly passions and desires. Then we find one final mention of the Spirit…
Chapter 6:8 Who do we sow to please? This decision determines your destiny. As Moses said, “Choose life!” You will not find support for this decision from the world. Instead, you will often find misunderstanding, mocking and scorn. These are reactions of the evil spirit working within the sons of disobedience, (see Eph. 2:1-2). Do not grow weary of well doing, in the end you will reap a great reward. Be like Jesus and see the joy on the other side of the cross. Hebrews 12:2-3. Remember also, if you do not follow the Spirit, you will lose everything.
So… Final words:
We have seen in our study on the Holy Spirit that He does not drag us, He leads us. We continue to be able to choose whether we will submit to Him or resist and grieve Him. We also see that for those who seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness and fix their eyes on Jesus, the Holy Spirit transforms us into the likeness of Christ and glorifies the Father and the Son through us.