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New Wine for the End Times
Law vs. Grace in Galatians
In Romans, we learned many doctrinal truths about law and grace. The law was needed to teach us the nature of sin. But we are saved by faith, not by doing works of self-righteousness. You can either be a slave to righteousness or a slave to sin. We learned that living under grace is a way of life, and that we can still be living under the law even today. Believers who are still slaves to sin are living under the law. Living under grace is being filled with the Holy Spirit, to do the works the Father has for us to do. When we are filled with the Holy Spirit, we cannot sin because God is in us, and God cannot sin.
This is a letter written in response to teachers who were saying that you must observe self-righteousness works of the law in addition to having faith in Christ. They were saying that you must be circumcised and observe certain religious festivals. Paul reacts very strongly against this teaching, saying that faith in anything other than Christ alone effectively nullifies one's faith in Christ.
Galatians 1 Paul, an apostle (not from men, neither through man, but through Jesus Christ, and God the Father, who raised him from the dead), (2) and all the brothers who are with me, to the assemblies of Galatia: (3) Grace to you and peace from God the Father, and our Lord Jesus Christ, (4) who gave himself for our sins, that he might deliver us out of this present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father-- (5) to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
In the next few verses below, Paul moves quickly from his greeting, getting straight to the point of the letter. There is only one gospel, which is the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul is astonished that after such a short period of time, the people are listening to another gospel, other than the one which had been preached by Paul.
Today, many have observed that there seems to be a difference between the gospel of Paul and the gospel of Jesus Christ. It would seem that Paul would be the first to disagree. Paul says there is only one gospel, and it's the gospel of Jesus Christ. Paul may be placing more emphasis on certain aspects of the gospel. But there is only one gospel.
Some will argue that they are interpreting the gospel of Jesus through the "lens" of Paul. Stated another way, they reinterpret the words of Jesus in the light of Paul. And yet these same dispensational theologians say we should not reinterpret the Old Testament in the light of the New Testament. We should interpret the New Testament in context of the Old Testament.
In the same way, I would argue that we should interpret the words of Paul in the context of the words of Jesus. The words of Jesus were taught in a very plain and easy to understand language. The words of Paul, being a Pharisee, were taught more from a perspective of doctrine, which can be more difficult to understand. In other words, if Paul's commentary about Jesus seems to be in contradiction to the simple words of Jesus, we much assume that we are interpreting Paul's complex doctrine incorrectly. Our interpretation of Paul's doctrine must be validated by the simple words of Jesus.
(6) I marvel that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ to a different "good news"; (7) and there isn't another "good news." Only there are some who trouble you, and want to pervert the Good News of Christ. (8) But even though we, or an angel from heaven, should preach to you any "good news" other than that which we preached to you, let him be cursed. (9) As we have said before, so I now say again: if any man preaches to you any "good news" other than that which you received, let him be cursed.
Did Jesus ever preach strict observance of the Sabbath, or observing certain festivals, or even the need for circumcision? No, Jesus taught to us to "believe on him" for eternal life. Jesus taught us to have faith in Him who could walk on water and command the waves to be still. And Jesus also taught us to obey his commandments and to do the will (works) of the Father. So as long as Paul's gospel is understood that we must do the works of the Father in order to inherit the kingdom, there is no conflict between the gospel of Paul and that of Jesus.
The false teachers Paul is attacking are not preaching faith in Christ alone. Doing the commands of Christ is the same as living by faith in Christ alone. But doing acts of self-righteousness to make one appear to be conforming to the teachings of the Pharisees and teachers of the law is to compromise against a pure faith in Christ. Thus, you are living under the law and not under grace. This allows sin to return and one becomes a slave to sin instead of righteousness. Paul severely curses the ones who are teaching this false gospel.
(10) For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? For if I were still pleasing men, I wouldn't be a servant of Christ. (11) But I make known to you, brothers, concerning the Good News which was preached by me, that it is not according to man. (12) For neither did I receive it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came to me through revelation of Jesus Christ.
Notice that Paul is not just a believer in Christ. He is a servant of Christ. Paul does the works of Christ. I don't think Paul would consider one who is not a servant of Christ to really be a true believer in Christ. Those who are truly servants of Christ will inherit eternal life because they live under God's grace.
(13) For you have heard of my way of living in time past in the Jews' religion, how that beyond measure I persecuted the assembly of God, and ravaged it. (14) I advanced in the Jews' religion beyond many of my own age among my countrymen, being more exceedingly zealous for the traditions of my fathers. (15) But when it was the good pleasure of God, who separated me from my mother's womb, and called me through his grace, (16) to reveal his Son in me, that I might preach him among the Gentiles, I didn't immediately confer with flesh and blood, (17) nor did I go up to Jerusalem to those who were apostles before me, but I went away into Arabia. Then I returned to Damascus. (18) Then after three years I went up to Jerusalem to visit Peter, and stayed with him fifteen days. (19) But of the other apostles I saw no one, except James, the Lord's brother. (20) Now about the things which I write to you, behold, before God, I'm not lying. (21) Then I came to the regions of Syria and Cilicia. (22) I was still unknown by face to the assemblies of Judea which were in Christ, (23) but they only heard: "He who once persecuted us now preaches the faith that he once tried to destroy." (24) And they glorified God in me.
Paul is addressing his own credentials as an apostle and thus as one who has Christ's authority to take this strong position against other teachers who proclaim Christ. Paul even brings up the time when he confronted Peter about this very issue. Should Gentiles who profess faith in Christ be required to be circumcised and observe religious festivals? No, after being corrected by Paul, Peter agrees that faith in Christ is all that is required for believers in Christ. Anything else brings one back under slavery to the law which in turn becomes slavery to sin.
Galatians 2 Then after a period of fourteen years I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, taking Titus also with me. (2) I went up by revelation, and I laid before them the Good News which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately before those who were respected, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain. (3) But not even Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised. (4) This was because of the false brothers secretly brought in, who stole in to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage; (5) to whom we gave no place in the way of subjection, not for an hour, that the truth of the Good News might continue with you. (6) But from those who were reputed to be important (whatever they were, it makes no difference to me; God doesn't show partiality to man)--they, I say, who were respected imparted nothing to me, (7) but to the contrary, when they saw that I had been entrusted with the Good News for the uncircumcision, even as Peter with the Good News for the circumcision (8) (for he who appointed Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision appointed me also to the Gentiles); (9) and when they perceived the grace that was given to me, James and Cephas and John, they who were reputed to be pillars, gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship, that we should go to the Gentiles, and they to the circumcision. (10) They only asked us to remember the poor--which very thing I was also zealous to do. (11) But when Peter came to Antioch, I resisted him to his face, because he stood condemned.
Peter had been given a vision of unclean food coming down from heaven, and being told to eat. This taught Peter that he can eat with the Gentiles because no food is unclean when you are in Christ. But apparently some people came from James and Peter backed off and no longer ate with the Gentiles. Paul considers this to be hypocrisy and publicly confronts Peter about the problem.
(12) For before some people came from James, he ate with the Gentiles. But when they came, he drew back and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. (13) And the rest of the Jews joined him in his hypocrisy; so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy. (14) But when I saw that they didn't walk uprightly according to the truth of the Good News, I said to Peter before them all, "If you, being a Jew, live as the Gentiles do, and not as the Jews do, why do you compel the Gentiles to live as the Jews do? (15) "We, being Jews by nature, and not Gentile sinners, (16) yet knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, even we believed in Christ Jesus, that we might be justified by faith in Christ, and not by the works of the law, because no flesh will be justified by the works of the law.
Jesus died for our sins. No amount of ritual work, or following customs, will atone for any sin. We can live in our own culture without confusing that culture with Christ's atonement. But we should not impose such culture or rituals upon others simply because they are part of our own culture. Doing so would strongly imply to others of different cultures that following such rituals is necessary for salvation.
That is exactly what these false teachers were doing in the church of the Galatians. They were imposing their own customs upon the Gentile believers, making them believe that circumcision and other Jewish customs are needed for salvation. Anything that we teach which detracts from faith in Jesus Christ alone is false teaching.
This reminds us of the parable of the wise and wicked servant, discussed in section 6.2 of this book. The wicked servant distorts Christ's teaching for his own selfish benefit. Those who have been given an undeniable understanding of God’s revelations, yet in their hardened hearts reject Christ’s lordship over their lives, commit the unpardonable sin. They will not be resurrected when Christ returns. It’s all about a hardened heart so that you no longer hear Christ’s voice. The wicked servant knew his Master was coming. Yet he beat his fellow servants. Something along these lines may be what Paul believes is happening to the Galatians.
(17) But if, while we sought to be justified in Christ, we ourselves also were found sinners, is Christ a servant of sin? Certainly not! (18) For if I build up again those things which I destroyed, I prove myself a law-breaker. (19) For I, through the law, died to the law, that I might live to God. (20) I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no longer I that live, but Christ living in me. That life which I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself up for me. (21) I don't make void the grace of God. For if righteousness is through the law, then Christ died for nothing!"
Paul speaks against living under the law. Paul says that it is no longer I who live, but Christ is living in me. This means Paul is doing the works that Christ would have done if Christ were in Paul's place. Paul is living for Christ, doing the works that Christ would have him do. That is what it means to live under grace instead of the law. So again, Paul is preaching against these false teachers who are trying to bring the customs of the law to the Gentile believers.
Galatians 3 Foolish Galatians, who has bewitched you not to obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ was openly set forth among you as crucified? (2) I just want to learn this from you. Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the law, or by hearing of faith?
When the Galatians were filled with the Holy Spirit, they had the mindset of Christ. They were excited about living as Christ would want them to live. This means turning from sin and obeying the commandments of the Father, to do the good works that the Father has for them to do. Such a Spirit does not think about self, but only about doing the will of the Father.
Then, these false teachers start imposing religious requirements on the Galatians. These religious requirements have the effect of turning their minds away from helping others to matters of self. They are no longer being led by the Spirit. They are no longer filled with the Spirit and living under grace.
(3) Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are you now completed in the flesh? (4) Did you suffer so many things in vain, if it is indeed in vain? (5) He therefore who supplies the Spirit to you, and works miracles among you, does he do it by the works of the law, or by hearing of faith? (6) Even as Abraham "believed God, and it was counted to him for righteousness."
Abraham's belief included selfless actions. Abraham left his home and set out for a promised land because God had told him to do so. His motivations were totally to obey God, and were not for self or personal gain. This is the model of faith from which we are to learn. The Galatians had this kind of faith originally when they heard the Good News from Paul. They were filled with the Holy Spirit because they were ready and willing to obey God just as Abraham had done. Thus, God counted it as righteousness and they were filled with the Holy Spirit.
(7) Know therefore that those who are of faith, the same are children of Abraham. (8) The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the Good News beforehand to Abraham, saying, "In you all the nations will be blessed." (9) So then, those who are of faith are blessed with the faithful Abraham. (10) For as many as are of the works of the law are under a curse. For it is written, "Cursed is everyone who doesn't continue in all things that are written in the book of the law, to do them."
Faith in Jesus Christ is the only way to the Father. That faith must be like Abraham's faith, which does not involve self. Once we start relying on self to justify us, we become obligated to make ourselves perfect. We cannot do that. But as we live by faith in Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit comes and we progressively become perfect. That's the difference between living by law and living by grace.
But that doesn't mean that the law itself promotes living for self. In the age to come, the priests and rulers will be Christians who live by faith in Jesus Christ, and have no self-motivations. In other words, they will be perfect as the Father is perfect. Living under the law will actually work. In the age to come, living under the law will be the same as living for Christ, because Christ will be the law and King. When everyone is living in love for God and love for neighbors, self-motivation will disappear and everyone will learn to live without sin.
(11) Now that no man is justified by the law before God is evident, for, "The righteous will live by faith." (12) The law is not of faith, but, "The man who does them will live by them." (13) Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law, having become a curse for us. For it is written, "Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree," (14) that the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Christ Jesus; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.
Thus today, we must live as if we were living in the kingdom that will come. We must act for and believe in Jesus Christ the King. The "blessing of Abraham" is a promise of a kingdom. It's a promise of the land and of many descendants. Land and many descendants add up to a kingdom. Gentiles can inherit that very same promise through the same type of faith that Abraham had, directed toward the King of that promised nation.
(15) Brothers, speaking of human terms, though it is only a man's covenant, yet when it has been confirmed, no one makes it void, or adds to it. (16) Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He doesn't say, "To seeds," as of many, but as of one, "To your seed," which is Christ. (17) Now I say this. A covenant confirmed beforehand by God in Christ, the law, which came four hundred thirty years after, does not annul, so as to make the promise of no effect. (18) For if the inheritance is of the law, it is no more of promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by promise.
Paul makes this point to show that the coming of the Law of Moses did not change the promise that was given to Abraham which Paul equates with grace and faith. The law was needed because most people were not living by selfless faith in God.
Also, Paul says that the promise to Abraham was to a single "seed", meaning Christ. This does several things. First, it brings home the fact that only those who live for the Messiah are beneficiaries of the promise. And Gentiles who live for the Messiah are included as those who will inherit the promise of Abraham. And again, the promise is that God will make Abraham's descendants into a nation. But Paul is saying that those who actually serve the King of that nation are those who will inherit the promise of that nation. To serve the King is to live by faith for that King. To live by faith is to do the good works that the King would have us do. The promise is for one "seed" only because the King of a nation is the same as the Kingdom. Those in the King are the Kingdom.
It can be argued from verse 17 (above) that the law is all that was given to Moses and that everything which predated Moses is not a part of the law that Paul condemns. Some Christian groups believe the dietary laws are still in effect because they are alluded to in the "clean" and "unclean" animals as seen in Genesis at the time of the flood. But the Law of Moses is simply a theocracy and can incorporate laws that predate Moses.
To argue that the law is strictly everything given to Moses breaks down a bit when you consider that circumcision itself was a covenant with Abraham. Thus, circumcision is often viewed as the sign of the Old Covenant whereas baptism is seen as the sign of the New Covenant. Bottom line is that anything that can be considered to be a requirement for pleasing God, which is in addition to faith in and obedience to Jesus Christ, is to be condemned.
(19) What then is the law? It was added because of transgressions, until the seed should come to whom the promise has been made. It was ordained through angels by the hand of a mediator. (20) Now a mediator is not between one, but God is one. (21) Is the law then against the promises of God? Certainly not! For if there had been a law given which could make alive, most certainly righteousness would have been of the law. (22) But the Scriptures imprisoned all things under sin, that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.
The Law of Moses was given because the people were not living by faith as Abraham had done, doing the good works of the Father. Thus, the Law of Moses was a temporary measure until Christ came. However, not being under the Law of Moses does not invalidate the fact that with Christ we are now under the Law of Christ. The Law of Moses was simply a shadow of the Law of Christ, which in reality is the Kingdom of Christ that will come. Again, there is no difference between the King and the Kingdom. And there is no difference between the Kingdom and the Law of the King. The King's Word is the Law.
(23) But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, confined for the faith which should afterwards be revealed. (24) So that the law has become our tutor to bring us to Christ, that we might be justified by faith. (25) But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. (26) For you are all children of God, through faith in Christ Jesus. (27) For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. (28) There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. (29) If you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's seed and heirs according to promise.
Those who are in Christ will inherit the promise of Abraham, which was for a nation that will be a blessing to the world. This nation will rule over the world. Those who are in Christ are a part of that promised holy nation. But to be in Christ you must live for Christ, which is to live without sinful habits. The Law of Moses was a tutor for doing just that. But now that we have Christ, we should not be obligated to obeying the ordinances of that tutor. After tasting the gift of the Holy Spirit, going back to the tutor would be rejecting Christ and His grace.
Galatians 4 But I say that so long as the heir is a child, he is no different from a bondservant, though he is lord of all; (2) but is under guardians and stewards until the day appointed by the father. (3) So we also, when we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental principles of the world. (4) But when the fullness of the time came, God sent out his Son, born to a woman, born under the law, (5) that he might redeem those who were under the law, that we might receive the adoption of children.
Paul is saying that Israel was a servant, like a slave, to the law because they were still like children. Yet because they were Israel, they were in fact heirs of the promise of Abraham, which is a Kingdom. Then when Christ the King of Israel came, they could mature and be set free from the slavery to the law.
(6) And because you are children, God sent out the Spirit of his Son into your hearts, crying, "Abba, Father!" (7) So you are no longer a bondservant, but a son; and if a son, then an heir of God through Christ. (8) However at that time, not knowing God, you were in bondage to those who by nature are not gods. (9) But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, why do you turn back again to the weak and miserable elemental principles, to which you desire to be in bondage all over again? (10) You observe days, months, seasons, and years.
The people of Israel were bondservants to the Pharisees and the teachers of the law. Yet they were "by nature not gods." In other words, they were full of sin. Now, the Galatians want to adopt that old system, and start observing Jewish festivals. This would put them back under that old system of bondage.
(11) I am afraid for you, that I might have wasted my labor for you. (12) I beg you, brothers, become as I am, for I also have become as you are. You did me no wrong, (13) but you know that because of weakness of the flesh I preached the Good News to you the first time. (14) That which was a temptation to you in my flesh, you didn't despise nor reject; but you received me as an angel of God, even as Christ Jesus. (15) What was the blessing you enjoyed? For I testify to you that, if possible, you would have plucked out your eyes and given them to me. (16) So then, have I become your enemy by telling you the truth? (17) They zealously seek you in no good way. No, they desire to alienate you, that you may seek them. (18) But it is always good to be zealous in a good cause, and not only when I am present with you.
Paul goes back to the time when an illness diverted his plans and he winds up preaching to the Galatians. They were extremely glad to hear Paul's message. But now, these false teachers are alienating the people away from Paul's teaching.
(19) My little children, of whom I am again in travail until Christ is formed in you-- (20) but I could wish to be present with you now, and to change my tone, for I am perplexed about you. (21) Tell me, you that desire to be under the law, don't you listen to the law?
Scripture uses the metaphor of a pregnant woman in childbirth in talking about the time of the resurrection. Israel is the woman. The earth will give birth to the dead. (Refer back to section 3.8 of this book.) Here, Paul borrows from that metaphor and uses it to describe his own painful emotions in how he feels about the Galatians. Paul uses the metaphor to describe his own desire that they become like Christ so that they will be resurrected with eternal life and inherit the kingdom.
(22) For it is written that Abraham had two sons, one by the handmaid, and one by the free woman. (23) However, the son by the handmaid was born according to the flesh, but the son by the free woman was born through promise. (24) These things contain an allegory, for these are two covenants. One is from Mount Sinai, bearing children to bondage, which is Hagar. (25) For this Hagar is Mount Sinai in Arabia, and answers to the Jerusalem that exists now, for she is in bondage with her children. (26) But the Jerusalem that is above is free, which is the mother of us all. (27) For it is written, "Rejoice, you barren who don't bear. Break forth and shout, you that don't travail. For more are the children of the desolate than of her who has a husband." (28) Now we, brothers, as Isaac was, are children of promise.
Paul illustrates the distinction of law and grace with an allegory. Children of the slave woman are slaves. Slaves to the law are associated with the Old Covenant and the Old Jerusalem. Children of the free woman associated with the promise of Abraham and with the New Jerusalem that will come when Christ returns.
It's interesting to note that both types of children are sons of Abraham. The Jew who is not a believer in Jesus is still a slave to the law. He is born of the flesh. This would have a double meaning. He is physically Abraham's descendent, so being born of the flesh is a statement of being Abraham's descendent. But being born of the flesh also means being a slave to sin.
The sons of the free woman are born of the promise. They are children of Abraham in the fact that they are in Christ, who is Abraham's son. This makes them be children of the promise that was given to Abraham. Again, the promise was that his children would become a great nation and would inherit the land that God showed to Abraham. Paul points out that when this happens, it will be via a New Jerusalem that is from above (verse 26).
(29) But as then, he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. (30) However what does the Scripture say? "Throw out the handmaid and her son, for the son of the handmaid will not inherit with the son of the free woman." (31) So then, brothers, we are not children of a handmaid, but of the free woman.
Galatians 5 Stand firm therefore in the liberty by which Christ has made us free, and don't be entangled again with a yoke of bondage. (2) Behold, I, Paul, tell you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will profit you nothing. (3) Yes, I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is a debtor to do the whole law. (4) You are alienated from Christ, you who desire to be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace.
Here, Paul is getting very blunt. A desire to be justified by the law forfeits salvation. Your name can be blotted from the Lamb's Book of Life. These are clearly people who have received the Holy Spirit. So they are true believers. They can fall away from grace, which means they reject the Holy Spirit. Paul is warning that they can lose their salvation by turning to the law for self-justification.
(5) For we, through the Spirit, by faith wait for the hope of righteousness. (6) For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision amounts to anything, nor uncircumcision, but faith working through love. (7) You were running well! Who interfered with you that you should not obey the truth? (8) This persuasion is not from him who calls you.
Paul is making reference to his metaphor of running a race. It's a metaphor that means living in grace and thus becoming holy as the Father is holy. It's a race that involves doing the good works the Father has for us, so that we become holy as we are filled with the Holy Spirit. Those who complete the race will inherit the kingdom and reign with Christ when he returns.
(9) A little yeast grows through the whole lump. (10) I have confidence toward you in the Lord that you will think no other way. But he who troubles you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.
The yeast working through the dough is a metaphor that Jesus often used. It can refer to either righteousness or unrighteousness. Either will spread to other people. Paul is concerned that the false teaching will spread.
(11) But I, brothers, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been removed. (12) I wish that those who disturb you would cut themselves off.
Paul makes the point that if he were to preach circumcision, even if it included a false type of faith in Jesus, then he would no longer be persecuted. Circumcision and apparent obedience to the law were very important to Jewish culture. It really did not matter what you believed as long as you were following their customs. This kept the Pharisees and teachers of the law in their positions of authority.
(13) For you, brothers, were called for freedom. Only don't use your freedom for gain to the flesh, but through love be servants to one another. (14) For the whole law is fulfilled in one word, in this: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself." (15) But if you bite and devour one another, be careful that you don't consume one another. (16) But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won't fulfill the lust of the flesh. (17) For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, that you may not do the things that you desire.
If you "walk by the Spirit", you are walking in grace, doing the will of the Father. Walking by the Spirit is the opposite of walking by the flesh, or self-effort.
(18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (19) Now the works of the flesh are obvious, which are: adultery, sexual immorality, uncleanness, lustfulness, (20) idolatry, sorcery, hatred, strife, jealousies, outbursts of anger, rivalries, divisions, heresies, (21) envyings, murders, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these; of which I forewarn you, even as I also forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.
Some who advocate free grace have admitted trouble with this verse. They believe salvation is the same as inheriting the kingdom. Distinctions are made between believers and unbelievers who do the same things. Back in section 13.3, I quoted Jim Abrahamson. He is a retired pastor and personal friend of mine. In class notes on Galatians, Abrahamson makes two points about this verse:
(1) Those who “practice” (live in the ﬂesh) shall not inherit the promised salvation because they are not in Christ. (2) A Christian may “do” ﬂeshly things but they are not “in” the ﬂesh if they have the Spirit of Christ. They live in a moral tension created by the Spirit of Christ, which keeps them from being given over fully to the lusts of the ﬂesh.
The promise God made to Abraham was not explicitly for salvation. It was for a kingdom. Also, I do not believe Paul makes a distinction between sins that are done "in" the flesh and sins that are simply done. I would argue that some true believers, during some parts of their lives, completely give themselves over to the flesh. Verse 18 makes it clear that those who are led by the Spirit are not under the law. Immediate context shows us that those who are under the law do these things because they are not being led by the Spirit. This verse has much less friction when it's understood that people can go back and forth between being led by the Spirit and being under the law. Those who learn to stay led by the Spirit all the time will inherit the kingdom. They no longer have sinful habits.
(22) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, (23) gentleness, and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (24) Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts. (25) If we live by the Spirit, let's also walk by the Spirit. (26) Let's not become conceited, provoking one another, and envying one another.
Galatians 6 Brothers, even if a man is caught in some fault, you who are spiritual must restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; looking to yourself so that you also aren't tempted. (2) Bear one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ.
Those who walk by the Spirit will seek to help others walk by the Spirit. But it must be done in a gentle way. Paul is doing just that in this letter. He knows that this church is no longer walking by the Spirit. So he is stern in his corrections, and at the same time he is being kind by showing his love for the Galatians.
(3) For if a man thinks himself to be something when he is nothing, he deceives himself. (4) But let each man test his own work, and then he will take pride in himself and not in his neighbor. (5) For each man will bear his own burden. (6) But let him who is taught in the word share all good things with him who teaches.
Paul is talking about good works that are done while walking in the Spirit. We must test (judge) our own works. Some who walk in the Spirit will be teaching. This is also good works that must done only while walking in the Spirit.
(7) Don't be deceived. God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. (8) For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption. But he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.
Paul is still talking about works. Those who do works out of self-effort will fall into sin. But to sow into the Spirit means to do the good works according to the leading of the Spirit. Those who do good works while walking in the Spirit will reap eternal life. This is a difficult verse for free grace advocates. Good works bring about inheritance of the kingdom and spiritual bodies for eternal life. Those who don't inherit must continue working at it in the age to come.
(9) Let us not be weary in doing good, for we will reap in due season, if we don't give up. (10) So then, as we have opportunity, let's do what is good toward all men, and especially toward those who are of the household of the faith.
Walking in the Spirit can be frustrating if you are not seeing results. But they will come. We should not give up. The righteous live by faith.
(11) See with what large letters I write to you with my own hand. (12) As many as desire to look good in the flesh, they compel you to be circumcised; only that they may not be persecuted for the cross of Christ. (13) For even they who receive circumcision don't keep the law themselves, but they desire to have you circumcised, that they may boast in your flesh.
The false teachers were motivated out of the desire for control and power.
(14) But far be it from me to boast, except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
Because of the cross, we walk for Christ. This means we should not be concerned about having power or control over the world. Let it wait for the age to come. And even then, reigning with Christ is only out of love.
(15) For in Christ Jesus neither is circumcision anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. (16) As many as walk by this rule, peace and mercy be on them, and on God's Israel. (17) From now on, let no one cause me any trouble, for I bear the marks of the Lord Jesus branded on my body. (18) The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit, brothers. Amen.