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Galatians; The Spirit and the flesh

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posted on Mar, 18 2016 @ 06:03 PM
The epistle to the Galatians is the text which Browning’s monk “in a Spanish cloister” was hoping to use to tempt his enemy into heretical conclusions.
Certainly this letter stands out among the letters of Paul as presenting the contrast between Faith and legalism.
Paul fears that the Galatians are being tempted to rely upon obedience to the Law in their approach to God, which would undermine their reliance upon faith.
So he warns them that subjection to the Law is a state of slavery, and they should not allow themselves to return to that bondage.

The chief hazard of this line of argument is that it appears to leave them free to do anything they like, however immoral it might be by the old rules.
Many people have been quick to criticise Paul’s teaching on those grounds.
Others have been willing to take advantage of any excuse to abandon moral standards.

One traditional solution is the assumption that only the “ritual law” is affected, while the moral side of the Law, and especially the Ten Commandments, remains intact.
However, there is no support for this distinction in the words of Paul.
Luther’s formula in this connection is that “Faith governs the conscience, Law governs the body”, but this is much less radical than the answer Paul supplies himself;
“But now we are discharged from the Law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we serve not under the old written code BUT in the new life of the Spirit”. –Romans ch7 v6
In other words, the rule of the Law has been displaced, and replaced by the presence of the Spirit.
Insofar as we continue to avoid things like theft, adultery, and murder, this is no longer under the command of the Law, but under the guidance of the Spirit.

In the second part of the fifth chapter, Paul explains in more detail the difference between the guidance of the Spirit and the behaviour of the flesh, which the Law was originally designed to curtail.
He observes in v6 that “In Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision is of any avail, but Faith working through love”.
After digressing to another personal appeal, he picks up this point again in v13.
“You were called to freedom”; that is, freedom from the Law.
But they should not allow this to be an opportunity for “the flesh” to do whatever it likes.
(So if the flesh is not to be controlled by the Law, it must be controlled in some other way.)

This has a bearing on their behaviour towards each other (vv14-15).
For the Law, in the sense of what God really wants from them, is both summed up and fulfilled in the one command or “word” that “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”.
This means that they should be loving one another and serving one another rather than “biting and devouring one another”.

This will be a key element in the difference
between Spirit and flesh, which have completely contrasting natures (on opposition which runs through Paul’s letters, constantly).
They oppose each other in action (vv16-18). It is the nature of the flesh to lead people away from what the Spirit wants them to do. It is the function of the Spirit to lead them away from what the flesh wants them to do.
So it is incumbent upon us to refuse to gratify the desires of the flesh.
We will do that if we “walk by the Spirit”. This metaphor refers to the continuous movement of our lives. The Spirit is not a single detached event, but an on-going influence over the way we conduct ourselves.
And he wants us to understand that being “led” by the Spirit in this way takes away the necessity of coming under the commands of the Law. They are two different ways of guidance.

Then he explains the difference between the effects of the flesh and the effects of the Spirit (vv19-23)
“The flesh” means the natural state of humanity, since the original falling away from God.
Paul refers to the behaviour which the flesh promotes as “the works” (TA ERGA) of the flesh. Of course this brings to mind “the works of the Law”, which he’s already condemned.
The point is that both sets of “works” are ineffective in promoting righteousness.

There is a list of “works of the flesh”, which is not intended to be exhaustive.
They fall into two groups.
The first group illustrates the behaviour which divides us from God. “Fornication, impurity and licentiousness” have that effect because they offend against his established preference for the stable married relationship.
Idolatry and sorcery are examples of breaches of the first commandment.
In the second group, we find examples of the kind of behaviour which divides us from each other.
They include “strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness”. “Party spirit”, of course, is the spirit which divides people by promoting parties or factions.
It’s worth noting that “drunkenness, carousing and the like” are placed to fall into the second group.
There is no suggestion that the drinking of alcohol, as such, is an offence against God; it is the state of drunkenness which comes under condemnation, because of its impact on the way we treat other people.

In contrast, the Spirit produces “fruit”.
This word will have been chosen because Paul did not want to talk about the “works” of the Spirit, or allow any suggestion that there were “things to do” to achieve these effects.
Paul does not say “the fruits of the Spirit are”, though I’ve often heard it sung that way.
He writes “the fruit of the Spirit IS”.
There is one fruit.
The nine qualities which he lists are different aspects of that fruit.
There is no need to analyse them in detail.
They add up to a sweetness of character which promotes good relations both with other people and with God himself, illustrating the previous statement that “love” is the fulfilment of the law.
They include “faith” and “self-control”, which would inhibit idolatry and adultery.
“The works of the flesh” are restrained by “the works of the Law”, but Paul observes that there is no need for law to act against these qualities of the “fruit”.
He could have added that “law” does nothing to promote them either.
You won’t get the fruit of the Spirit by means of obedience to the written code.

Finally, Paul shows how the contrast between Spirit and flesh fits into the main body of his argument
He has already explained (ch2 vv19-20) that he “died to the Law” when he was “crucified with Christ”.
He now extends this by adding the thought that the believer “dies to the flesh” at the same time.
“Those who belong to Christ have crucified the flesh”.
The flesh and the Law go together, and the believer is freed from them both (v24)

“If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit” (v25).
Whatever gives us life must also continue to sustain us.
In the flesh, we “live by” the breath which God gave us at our birth, the spirit which he breathed into Adam. This is not just true for the beginning of our lives, because we also “continue to walk” by the same breath.
In the same way, we now live in God “by the Spirit”, which gave us new life.
Therefore we need to “walk by the Spirit” as well; that is, continuing to live under its guidance.

The new life in Christ is to be a fresh start in every sense.

posted on Mar, 18 2016 @ 06:04 PM
Living under the law, living under the Spirit

I can explain the difference by use of analogy.
When I was a child, the school taught us how to cross the road safely.
I still remember watching the misadventures of “little Dolly Daydream” (in those days, a projected silent filmstrip, moved frame by frame under manual control, with live teacher commentary).
Those snarling cars, rearing up at her in the dramatic climax…
We were expected to cross by following a set of rules;
“Look right,
Look left,
Look right again;
When all is clear, then cross”.
That could be called “the letter of the law”.
Obviously the important point here is the basic principle of not running out into traffic.
That could be called “the spirit of the law”.
Now that I’m grown up, I don’t follow those rules religiously (being “freed from the law”), but I don’t take that as permission to rush out and get myself killed.
Instead, I live under “the spirit of the law” by keeping my wits about me enough to make sure there aren’t any vehicles coming.
There is still restraint, but a different kind of restraint.

posted on Mar, 18 2016 @ 06:05 PM
Works of the flesh

Since he says that those who do these things “shall not inherit the kingdom of God”, it’s interesting to compare the examples which he gives when offering the same warning to the Corinthians.
The first group identified here in Galatians, namely the more direct offences against God, are represented in that passage by “idolaters”, and also by adulterers and other examples of sexual behaviour.
In the second group, the offences against other people, we find “drunkards and revilers”. He also mentions “thieves, robbers, and the greedy”, perhaps illustrating the prevailing vices of the city of Corinth, while he omits “divisiveness” (the hopefully temporary vice of that church).
(1 Corinthians ch6 vv9-10)

posted on Mar, 18 2016 @ 06:06 PM
How James was inspired by Galatians ch5

A comparison of this chapter with the words of James makes it difficult to avoid the conclusion that James was familiar with the letter to the Galatians.

Paul says that any man who receives circumcision is binding himself to keep the whole law.
James declares that anyone keeping the law and failing in just one point “has become guilty of all of it” (James ch2 v10).
This resembles Paul’s earlier reminder that anyone who relies on the works of the law is under a curse if he does not keep all the things written there.

Paul commends “Faith working through love”, and says the law is fulfilled by the one command, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself”
James calls the same commandment “the royal law”, and I’ve argued that this really means “the kingdom’s law” (James ch2 v8).

Paul says that we are called to “freedom” from the law.
James uses the remarkable phrase “the law of liberty” (ch1 v25, ch2 v12), which looks like an attempt to get the best of both worlds.

And in the second half of the chapter, Paul’s contrast between the Spirit and the flesh should be compared with the passage in James (ch3 vv13-18), explaining the effects of “the wisdom from above”.
James is addressing those who are “wise and understanding”, and coming back to his earlier theme, that a man needs to be able to “show his works”.
This should be done in “meekness”; he’s just been complaining about the aggressive use of the tongue, and “meekness” is the opposite of “boastfulness”.
Meekness is one of the qualities that comes with Wisdom.
The nature of this Wisdom can best be defined by contrast with its opposite.
There is a wisdom which is not “from above”, but is EPIGEIOS (“having an earthly nature”), PSYCHIKE (“having a nature that belongs to the human soul”), and DAIMONIODES (“having a demonic nature”).
The immediate product of this kind of false wisdom is “jealousy and selfish ambition”.
One effect of jealousy and selfish ambition is that people boast and are false to the truth.
Another effect is “disorder and every vile practice”.
On the other hand, the wisdom from above is 1)pure, 2)peaceable, 3)gentle, 4)open to reason, 5) “full of mercy and good fruits”, 6) “without uncertainty or insincerity” .Finally (seventhly?) “the harvest of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace”.

It’s a very interesting exercise to place this passage alongside Paul’s teaching as outlined in the OP.
The effects of earthly wisdom, according to James, include jealousy and selfishness, which are mentioned in Paul’s list of works of the flesh.
Boastfulness and being false to the truth also belong there, in principle, as aggressive offences against other people.
The rest of Paul’s list includes fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, drunkenness, “carousing and the like”.
All these would be well summed-up by James’ phrase “disorder and every vile practice”.

There’s an even greater correspondence between the effects of “Wisdom from above” and Paul’s “fruit of the Spirit”;
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
The “self-control” mentioned by Paul corresponds to the quality of purity, which James places at the beginning.
The next three items in James’ list- “peaceable, gentle, open to reason”- can be matched against three of Paul’s words- “peace, gentleness, and patience”.
Paul has “kindness and goodness” while James has “full of mercy and good fruits”.
Finally, “without uncertainty or insincerity” would be a very reasonable definition of what Paul means by PISTIS (“faithfulness”).

How do we account for the similarity between the two patterns?
My favoured explanation is that James had a copy of Galatians in front of him, and he was deliberately re-writing the “fruit of the Spirit” passage in language that he found more congenial. This view is encouraged by the fact that James himself twice uses the word “fruit”- “good fruits” and “the fruit (KARPOS) of righteousness”.
If I’m right, then the most important difference between the two is that James is unwilling to bandy the word “Spirit” as freely as Paul does. Instead he offers the euphemistic substitute “the wisdom from above”, just as Matthew writes “kingdom of heaven” where the other gospels have “kingdom of God”.
After that, James appears to be following the same outline as Paul.
He finds other ways of describing the opposite of what God provides.
His list of the bad effects of the “wrong” wisdom looks like a summary of Paul’s “works of the flesh”.

He concludes with his own version of “the fruit of the Spirit”.
If James’s list of the “fruit” is based on Paul’s, two of the differences between them are particularly interesting.
One is that he omits any mention of the “love” and “joy” which Paul places at the beginning of the list. Does this present James as a crusty old curmudgeon? Or is it simply that he prefers to work towards the Jewish sacred number seven instead of the Greek sacred number nine?
The other difference is that the climax of James’ list is the “fruit of righteousness”, which he prefers to Paul’s talk of “no law”.
Otherwise, as I said before, they seem to be talking about much the same thing.

posted on Mar, 18 2016 @ 07:08 PM
Thank you for another thoughtful Friday post.

posted on Mar, 18 2016 @ 07:10 PM
a reply to: ketsuko
You're welcome. Next time will be Thursday, because I'm assuming that Christians will be occupied with other things on Friday.

posted on Mar, 18 2016 @ 09:58 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

The mind set on the Spirit is better then the mind set on the law.

The Law says "Do Not Steal". The Law made you think about stealing. Hearing the word steal causes the thought of stealing.

The Spirit says "Love", The Spirit made you think about Love. When you think about Love you are not thinking about stealing.

I can make you think about stealing by simply saying "Do not steal", or I can make you think about Love by simply saying "Love your neighbor".

I choose to keep my mind on Love, because Love doesn't break his own comands.

posted on Mar, 19 2016 @ 02:52 AM
a reply to: Isurrender73
Very true, which is why Paul talks about love in this passage.
Thank you for that contribution.

posted on Mar, 19 2016 @ 12:22 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

You do know that the General epistle of James was written 30 years before Gal 5?

this letter was written by James the brother of John, not James the brother of Jesus, and has a date of no later than 48BC.

So I doubt very much Paul had any influence on the writing of James. James did preach the Gospel of the Kingdom along with the other 11 Disciples.

edit on 19-3-2016 by ChesterJohn because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 19 2016 @ 01:03 PM
a reply to: ChesterJohn
Nobody is sure when James was written.
Apart from the striking echoes of Galatians ch5, James also has echoes of Hebrews ch11, using two of those examples of faith, and also offering a counter to "whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists" (ch11 v6).
The similarities are too close to be ignored, so it looks as though either the two other writers were responding to James, or he was responding to them.

posted on Mar, 20 2016 @ 03:45 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

We know two things 1) it is John's brother James, and 2) he was killed no later than 48 BC.

posted on Mar, 21 2016 @ 06:00 PM
This thread is part of a series which began here;
Getting the gospel from Christ

Soon after I reach the end of the letter, there will be an Index thread for the purpose of linking the series together.

posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 05:06 PM
Paul was rejected by the church of Jerusalem and started his own heretical church that became the paradoxically heretical pagan Roman Catholic church that has brought the world more misery than any other organization in history.

And the letters of Paul are just a bunch of hateful crap and add nothing to but do take away from the teachings of Yeshua. They are the words of an ignorant power hungry loudmouth jerk who has taught total scumbags how to still think they are entitled to the Kingdom of God because they follow a reject with a Messiah complex who lies about meeting the already ascended Yeshua.

What a joke Paul is when you really pay attention to the stupid things he says that contradict the actual teachings of Yeshua!!
edit on 22-3-2016 by Mazzini because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 05:21 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI
I noticed you acknowledge two separate Gospels, but that is not a teaching of the Messiah. Gospel of the Kingdom I believe you said? That's not a real thing, you are probably hyping up an erroneous interpretation.

There is only one road to The Kingdom. The Kingdom means eternal life with your creator in Heaven. Saying there are 2 gospels makes me think you misinterpret what Yeshua taught. But there was always one road and Paul's church was the first rogue church to corrupt His teachings. The Romans would eventually make them wildly powerful while the history of Yeshua was made mythological and the focus was made on Paul in Yeshua's name just like the prophecy of Matthew 24:23 or 23:24 I forget but it's one of those.

posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 05:32 PM
a reply to: Mazzini
I think you probably meant that comment for Chester John.
He was the one who brought up "the two kingdoms". Not on this thread, but on other threads which you have frequented under some of your other names.

edit on 22-3-2016 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 05:37 PM
a reply to: Mazzini
I take it that Megacore was post-banned, then, which would explain why you needed to have this further account.
To my knowledge, this is at least the eighth account name you've worked under since Merari was banned.
This obsessive behaviour has undermined itself; we now know that you are not someone who needs to be taken seriously, so we don't.

edit on 22-3-2016 by DISRAELI because: (no reason given)

posted on Mar, 22 2016 @ 06:38 PM
Paul is nothing but a disenfranchised nobody who hypes himself up and his letters are the words of an ignorant fool and a blowhard.

I only care about what the Messiah taught and don't believe he forgot to tell anyone anything that we need a loser like Paul to add and take away as he sees fit.

If you need Paul to tell you what Yeshua taught in the Gospels then I feel sorry for you because it is an easy message.

posted on Mar, 23 2016 @ 02:22 AM
a reply to: DISRAELI

Aside from the fact that you accused me of being someone else when I am not, if I attributed to you a comment that wasn't your's then I am mistaken and apologize.

But unfortunately it is Paul that gives people these ridiculous Jew vs Gentile seperate rules for races teachings and Paul was an ignorant spewer of lies.

So I am not sorry about anything else.

posted on Mar, 23 2016 @ 05:24 PM
a reply to: DISRAELI

We do know who this is?

posted on Mar, 23 2016 @ 05:25 PM
a reply to: ChesterJohn
Most certainly. I was alluding to that in my reply to him.

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