COMPARING GALATIANS 5 WITH ROMANS 7.
The verse that attracted attention here was Gal.5:18. “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” which seems to introduce a new element of conditional release from law. But hopefully the context of this will remove any aspect of conditional release, or at least clarify the matter successfully.
In Romans Paul had been speaking by way of explaining the faith of Christianity to the church in Rome, and in Romans 7, to Jewish members and others of that church, [“To those who know the Law”] and his subject matter was the law, and why the covenant of law was now completed, finished in Christ, and a new covenant “in His blood” established. He had already said that by faith in what Christ had done and by committing themselves to Him, they had received a new Spirit of life by which they could be governed in a far superior way to the previous arrangement, covenant, which consisted of the keeping of laws. In chapter 7 he explained the deficiencies of the law in its failure to suppress “sin in the flesh”.
In Galatians 5, he was speaking to those of an established Christian church who had successfully started with the Spirit, but had fallen prey to those of the old covenant, those persistent “pushers” of the old testament, the old covenant, in keeping with the law of Moses, including the insistence on circumcision amongst other components of the old law. So he was seeking to install again in them the priority of following the Spirit rather than the law, that by falling back under law, they had lost sight of the ball, indeed had “lost the whole ball game”.
In Romans 7, he had explained the failure of the law system, of the old covenant, having reduced the problem to the fact that he by himself and of himself, was powerless to overcome the incessant and ingrained demands of the flesh upon his person. That it was because of law that he lost the battle, because what the law did was to provoke sin in his flesh, his natural nature, against which he had no defence, in fact, it was the law that brought him under condemnation because he in his own mind agreed with the law, and in doing so also agreed with the condemnation that it proclaimed by way of sin’s penalty, death.
So he was SELF CONDEMNED. This being the result of the knowledge of good and evil, as it began with Adam.
He summed it up as that by nature, being aware of good and evil, meant that his mind aligned with the good, but his natural nature wanted to serve its own selfish self serving purposes and reasons, and being completely at home and well established in a body of natural lusts and desires, with the law reinforcing this status of inner death, meant that he was a prisoner to this natural bonding of what he was by way of natural birth, bonded to sin and this reinforced by law, leaving him in a hopeless and helpless position. The animal sacrifices of the law only reinforced his consciousness of sin and death, he was indeed a “wretched man”. He was a conflicted person, caught between good and evil, but realistically immersed in the evil without mode of expression (other than by “wishful thinking”) of the good.
Romans 8 then introduced the gift of the Spirit of life and no condemnation through Christ.
So Galatians 5 is the story of a church built upon the foundation of Romans 7, but where they had since lost the plot and fallen foul of the advances of “the circumcision party” or similar Jewish cohorts, and “lost their first love”. Paul admonishes them, berates them, “Are you so foolish, having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?”
Under the law, the evil deeds of the flesh were empowered, obedience to the law was not possible, only to parts of its rudimentary nature which had no spiritual benefit at all, in fact, quite the contrary was the result.
But now, the spiritual requirements of which the law spoke, are able to be obtained by obedience to the Spirit of life which utterly and completely overrides the “spirit” of death, having removed its power to condemn under the law because Jesus took that condemnation upon Himself, in His own body, for us.
So just as Paul explained the failure of the law in Romans 7, here in Galatians 5 he reinstates the case for the Spirit to dominate our thinking and our hearts. Verse 17 has a parallel to Romans 7 verse 19, but is not the same scenario as some would like to have us believe. In Romans 7 verse 19 he does no good, but only does the evil he does not want to do. His mind, HE himself, fails. But in Galatians verse 17,18 where the Spirit and the flesh are opposed, the Spirit wins out and the flesh is defeated.
In verse 17, because the Spirit and the flesh are opposed, it says that “…you may not do the things that you please”. This could mean one of two things, it could mean either that ‘you cannot please yourself’ about what you do, it is not for you to ‘make up your mind’ as to how YOU ‘resolve’ the issue, NO, your part is simple obedience to the Spirit without question. OR if we compare it with Romans 7 verses 18,19, the “may not do” may be equivalent to the fact that “…I do not practice what I would like to do…”, where it is a statement of his failure because of inner conflict. In Galatians verse 18 this conflict is resolved as “But, if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law”. So it is a reassertion of Romans 8 verses 1 and 2.
The reality is that though the Spirit is immensely powerful regarding empowerment to do good, it can never empower the doing of evil. Paul’s desire in Romans 7 to actually DO the good he wanted to do, but could not do, is now here in Galatians empowered by the Spirit to actually DO THAT WHICH IS GOOD.
Galatians 5:23 says that against the fruit of the Spirit, against the doing of righteousness, THERE IS NO LAW, and verse 18 says that if you are led by (IN) the Spirit, YOU ARE NOT UNDER THE LAW (IN) the flesh).
This then surely does seem to infer that there are only two states of being, the one is to be under the law, in the flesh, the other is to be in the Spirit. The Galatians “fell from grace” “5:4 “You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace”. Paul then had to speak to them about the reestablishment of Christ in them.
So the verse in question then, that of Gal. 5:18, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” can perhaps simply be answered by saying ‘But if you are in the new covenant, you are not in the old’, if you are in Christ, you are not in the flesh. If you are in the Spirit, you are not under the law. Again verse 23, “…against such things there is no law”.
The Spirit enables obedience to itself, to HIMSELF, to righteousness, and is in opposition to unrighteousness. ‘He has purified to Himself a people EAGER TO DO WHAT IS RIGHT’. John goes so far as to say “…he cannot sin…” Because HIS Spirit dwells in him.
Why is the Spirit so powerful a force in us? It is because that part of the mind that would otherwise seek to offer judgement on all things in a legalistic fashion, is bypassed by the accumulated information regarding the mercy and forgiveness of God: the “law written on the heart” is there in the form of the forgiveness of all things, all things which the law itself could not address and deal with. The Spirit is of such integrity and cohesiveness that, providing it (He) is allowed to, sweeps aside all unrighteousness of thought so that only goodness prevails.
Paul’s problem in Romans 7 was that he could not do the good things of which the law spoke, although he said that he wanted to. Our problem now becomes ‘why will we NOW not do‘ those good things as given full authority and power by God’s Spirit to perform them?
So which covenant are we a part of, do we want to be a part of? The covenant of life (Spirit) or the covenant of death (law)? When will we “cross over” from death to life, from law to Spirit? What is our DESIRED ‘mindset’?
DO WE REALLY WANT TO “DO GOOD”? Because there is no law against doing good.
[The law was not made for good men, but for bad][Jesus took unrighteousness into His own body, so we could be released from all unrighteousness into all righteousness][To be “led by” requires obedience to][For the law made nothing perfect, but the bringing in of a better hope, did.].