Written by: Dr Greg Phillips
Article source: JOY! Magazine
When we become Christians, by God’s grace and power, something supernatural should be produced in us: the fruit of the Spirit. As God’s new creation (Gal 6:15), God’s Spirit is in our hearts (Gal 4:6) and Jesus has rescued us from the present evil age (Gal 1:4). He also frees us from the power of sin (Gal 5:1, 24). This makes a difference in our character, conduct, and relationships. That is, if we’re keeping in step with the Holy Spirit! In Galatians 5:25, Paul exhorts us, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”. Keeping in step with the Spirit is the essential mark of true Christian freedom.
“Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.” – Galatians 5:25
Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches addressed a crisis brought about by a false teaching that circumcision, in addition to faith in Christ, was necessary for salvation (Gal 5:1-2). Gentile believers, who should have enjoyed their new-found freedom in Christ, were being deceived into bondage to an outward requirement of the Old Covenant. Paul opposed it strongly (Gal 1:6-8; 5:11-12) and insisted, “You, my brothers, were called to be free” (5:13) and “you are not under law” (5:18).
But Paul also insisted that freedom from the law is not a license to indulge the sinful nature. Therefore, in 5:13-14, Paul clarifies that Christian freedom is constrained by love and expressed in willing service to others.
The spirit’s power and our responsibility
Paul commands in 5:16, “Live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature”. Thus, live in dependence upon the enabling of the Spirit and you will experience true freedom. Again, Paul says in 5:25, “Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”. This means we’re spiritually alive by the power of the Spirit, and we’re constantly dependent on the Spirit’s life-giving power within us. The wonder is that the Spirit is present and at work in us.
However, Paul says, “Since, we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit”. We must take up our responsibility to be in line with the Spirit, putting our feet in His footprints. We must rely actively on the Spirit to guide and empower our every step.
In Christ we have freedom – we are not under the law, nor any form of bondage.
The inner conflict
Paul continues, “For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict” (5:17). If we don’t walk in the Spirit, the sinful nature will push us in a different and wrong direction.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires” (5:24). Although the sinful nature is still present and even influential, the believer no longer slavishly responds to its passions and desires. However, the inner spiritual conflict is real. The only way to overcome the sinful nature is to keep in step with the Spirit.
Acts of the sinful nature
Some practices of those controlled by the sinful nature are obviously wrong: sexual immorality, debauchery, drunkenness, witchcraft, and the like. More challenging are sins in our personal relationships: hatred, discord, jealousy, rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, envy…
Paul warns: “if you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other” (5:15). Therefore, keeping in step with the Spirit is the necessary solution to real problems in the church.
Live in dependence upon the enabling of the Spirit and you will experience true freedom.
The fruit of the spirit
If believers walk by the Spirit they will bear the fruit of the Spirit. This fruit consists of qualities that promote healthy personal relationships within the church. If we belong to Christ, His Spirit is in us and we’ll be enabled to keep in step with His Spirit and expect the fruit of His Spirit in each other.
Spiritual fruit is not so-called super-spiritual abilities or powers. Rather the Spirit’s fruit, as taught by Scripture, is true life and freedom; it’s the virtues of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control – all produced by the Holy Spirit. This fruit is not produced by mere human effort. No, the Spirit graciously produces His fruit within the believer as we keep in step with Him.
How do we keep in step with the Spirit? By:
• Recognising our freedom from law-keeping and the danger of misusing it
• Acknowledging daily our dependence upon the Spirit and our responsibility to obey
• Guarding constantly against the sinful nature and confessing our sins
• Praying daily that the Spirit will produce His fruit in us, especially the virtues lacking in our personal relationships
• Expecting the Spirit’s fruit in ourselves and holding each other accountable to keep in step with Him
This is the real process of transformation.
DR GREG PHILLIPS is a senior lecturer and academic registrar at Mukhanyo. He has previously served as a Baptist minister in Zimbabwe for four years and as a lecturer in biblical studies and as academic dean or registrar in two other Bible colleges in South Africa for over fifteen years.
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