And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections (=passions) and lusts If we live in the Spirit let us also walk in the Spirit.
Having considered both the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit we move on to consider Paul’s exhortations to those who are Christ’s. Earlier in the epistle the apostle rebuked the Galatians for beginning in the Spirit but then going on in the flesh. (Gal.3:3). He then explains how that Christ has made us free, and warns us not to go back into bondage (Gal. 5:1). Further, Paul says that if we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh (Gal.5:16). Paul now says that if we are Christ’s we have crucified the flesh with its affections.
The cross is the power of God I Cor. 1:18. It is God’s way of dealing with what is not of Himself. On new birth we are baptised into Christ and into His death and resurrection. Our old man was crucified with Him and now we are free from sin’s dominion (Rom.6:3-7). After listing the nine fold fruit of the Spirit Paul goes on to say that those who are Christ’s have crucified, that is put to death the flesh. This implies that there is a responsibility on our behalf. Being baptised into Christ is God’s responsibility, by doing so He brings us into all the benefits of the Lord’s redeeming work. We have a responsibility to work out our salvation with trembling and fear, Phil.2:12-13. Indeed if we are living in the Spirit we are to also walk in the Spirit.
D2.1 If you are risen
If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth. For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God When Christ, who is our life, shall appear, then shall ye also appear with him in glory. Mortify[= put to death] therefore your members which are upon the earth; fornication, uncleanness, inordinate affection, evil concupiscence, and covetousness, which is idolatry: For which things’ sake the wrath of God cometh on the children of disobedience: in the which ye also walked some time, when ye lived in them. But now ye also put off all these; anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy communication out of your mouth. Lie not one to another, seeing that ye have put off the old man with his deeds; And have put on the new man, which is renewed in knowledge after the image of him that created him:
Throughout the NT we are exhorted to live and walk worthy of the profession that we have. (e.g. Eph.4:17). This glorious baptism into Christ identifies us with His death and resurrection, so that we can then be raised with Christ in the heavenly places. This being the case Paul now exhorts us that if this is true then our affections and desires are to be on those things above.
The context of this passage is concerning the Gnostic teachers that were infiltrating the believers at that time.
And this I say, lest any man should beguile [=deceive by false reasoning] you with enticing words.
Beware lest any man spoil [to lead away from the truth to one’s sway] you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ.
Let no man beguile you of your reward in a voluntary humility and worshipping of angels, intruding into those things which he hath not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind,
Wherefore if ye be dead with Christ from the rudiments of the world, why, as though living in the world, are ye subject to ordinances, (Touch not; taste not; handle not; Which all are to perish with the using;) after the commandments and doctrines of men? Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.
The Gnostics were heretics who claimed ‘secret knowledge’ that could only be revealed as one submitted to them and their ways. They brought the person into the bondage of worldly rules and regulations of the flesh, what we would term asceticism. This is the fleshly efforts of self-denial, and not the true temperance that is of the Spirit.
It is in this context that Paul tells us to seek those things above and to mortify the flesh. It is where our hearts are that matters. If our affections are on things above then we will not be taken up with the flesh whether be it making up rules and regulations, or in gratifying self. But note which way round it is! It is not the undegenerated man trying to be spiritual by works of the flesh, rather it is the man who is born from above, walking in the Spirit applying the cross to his own life; he is denying himself.
The Galatians allowed themselves to be influenced by false brethren, who added to the simple Gospel of Jesus Christ. The flesh always wants to be in control and this is contrary to the things of the Spirit.
D2.2 Walk not as others
In Ephesians Paul has a lot to say about walking, for example:
This I say therefore, and testify in the Lord, that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk, in the vanity of their mind, Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart: Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness. But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. Wherefore putting away lying, speak every man truth with his neighbour: for we are members one of another. Be ye angry, and sin not: let not the sun go down upon your wrath: Neither give place to the devil. Let him that stole steal no more: but rather let him labour, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth. Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers. And grieve not the holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption. Let all bitterness, and wrath, and anger, and clamour, and evil speaking, be put away from you, with all malice: And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you. Be ye therefore followers of God, as dear children; And walk in love, as Christ also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to God for a sweetsmelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and of God.
The Corinthian assembly had been walking carnally, for they had walked as other men (I Cor.3:1-4), they had divisions amongst themselves. Now in Ephesians we see more as to what it means to walk as other men. Paul does this by telling us what not to do, and we can concluded that this is what walking after the flesh is.
We list them here: lying; angry and sinning, stealing, corrupt communication; bitterness, wrath and clamour, evil speaking, malice; fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, filthiness, foolish talking and jesting. Not exhaustive but enough to show that the Christian is to put to death, put off, those things which are of the flesh.
D2.3 Let us not
In our verses in Galatians there are three things that Paul highlights that we are to put off.
D2.3a …. be desirous of vain glory
The word for vainglory here is the same that Paul uses in the famous passage in Philippians.
If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies, Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind. Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.
Here Paul gives us the example of the Lord Himself. He is indeed God but he never ‘grasped ‘ at His deity. For our sakes Jesus humbled Himself right down to the cross. Everything part of His life was one of self denial, fulfilling His Father’s will in order to serve us and eventually dying the death of all deaths so that we might be saved. What an example this is! He made Himself of no reputation, later in this letter Paul says the He counted all things of his earthly life as nothing (Phil.3:8). We too are exhorted to follow suit.
In the gospel account we have one incident in which two of the disciples, wanted to be exalted above their measure.
And James and John, the sons of Zebedee, come unto him, saying, Master, we would that thou shouldest do for us whatsoever we shall desire. And he said unto them, What would ye that I should do for you? They said unto him, Grant unto us that we may sit, one on thy right hand, and the other on thy left hand, in thy glory. But Jesus said unto them, Ye know not what ye ask: can ye drink of the cup that I drink of? and be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with? And they said unto him, We can. And Jesus said unto them, Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized: But to sit on my right hand and on my left hand is not mine to give; but it shall be given to them for whom it is prepared. And when the ten heard it, they began to be much displeased with James and John. But Jesus called them to him, and saith unto them, Ye know that they which are accounted to rule over the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and their great ones exercise authority upon them. But so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister: And whosoever of you will be the chiefest, shall be servant of all. For even the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.
Jesus’ answer to these two, who were wanting to be high up, was firstly the cross: Ye shall indeed drink of the cup that I drink of; and with the baptism that I am baptized withal shall ye be baptized; and secondly the righteous thing to do is to serve one another and not to be be like the Gentiles. They have an hierarchy where there are degrees of ‘greatness’, amongst His people Jesus said it is not to be so. That is His command! The answer to all this self glorification is the cross.
Jesus also told a parable concerning this self exaltation.
And he put forth a parable to those which were bidden, when he marked how they chose out the chief rooms; saying unto them, When thou art bidden of any man to a wedding, sit not down in the highest room; lest a more honourable man than thou be bidden of him; And he that bade thee and him come and say to thee, Give this man place; and thou begin with shame to take the lowest room. But when thou art bidden, go and sit down in the lowest room; that when he that bade thee cometh, he may say unto thee, Friend, go up higher: then shalt thou have worship in the presence of them that sit at meat with thee. For whosoever exalteth himself shall be abased; and he that humbleth himself shall be exalted.
Whether it be someone who claims to has secret knowledge, extra revelation or to be someone special it all speaks of the flesh and of promoting self in someway. We are exhorted not to desire such vainglory instead we are be humble and by love serve one another.
D2.3b …provoke one another
The sense of the Greek word here, as to a contest, hence to irritate stir up what is evil in another. We have already seen one example of this in this letter. That is Peter in Chapter 2 study 12 when even Barnabus was carried away with the dissimulation.
D2.3c ….envy one another
This word has the same sense as the feeling of displeasure at hearing the advantage/prosperity of others. The extreme example is that of the religious leaders of Jesus’ day.
Then many of the Jews which came to Mary, and had seen the things which Jesus did, believed on him. But some of them went their ways to the Pharisees, and told them what things Jesus had done. Then gathered the chief priests and the Pharisees a council, and said, What do we? for this man doeth many miracles. If we let him thus alone, all men will believe on him: and the Romans shall come and take away both our place and nation. And one of them, named Caiaphas, being the high priest that same year, said unto them, Ye know nothing at all, Nor consider that it is expedient for us, that one man should die for the people, and that the whole nation perish not. And this spake he not of himself: but being high priest that year, he prophesied that Jesus should die for that nation; And not for that nation only, but that also he should gather together in one the children of God that were scattered abroad. Then from that day forth they took counsel together for to put him to death.
These things understood not his disciples at the first: but when Jesus was glorified, then remembered they that these things were written of him, and that they had done these things unto him. The people therefore that was with him when he called Lazarus out of his grave, and raised him from the dead, bare record. For this cause the people also met him, for that they heard that he had done this miracle. The Pharisees therefore said among themselves, Perceive ye how ye prevail nothing? behold, the world is gone after him.
Now at that feast the governor was wont to release unto the people a prisoner, whom they would. And they had then a notable prisoner, called Barabbas. Therefore when they were gathered together, Pilate said unto them, Whom will ye that I release unto you? Barabbas, or Jesus which is called Christ? For he knew that for envy they had delivered him. When he was set down on the judgment seat, his wife sent unto him, saying, Have thou nothing to do with that just man: for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him. But the chief priests and elders persuaded the multitude that they should ask Barabbas, and destroy Jesus. The governor answered and said unto them, Whether of the twain will ye that I release unto you? They said, Barabbas. Pilate saith unto them, What shall I do then with Jesus which is called Christ? They all say unto him, Let him be crucified. And the governor said, Why, what evil hath he done? But they cried out the more, saying, Let him be crucified.
Pilate knew that the Pharisees had handed Jesus over to him because they were envious, but why should they be so? After all The Lord was the promised Messiah, and Saviour: He was the fulfilment of all that their Scriptures had promised and foretold. The passages quoted above will give us some idea.
The Jews were looking to preserve their nation against the Roman occupation at that time. Their fear was that if all the people followed Jesus then the Romans would take away them and the very existence of the nation. Following the raising of Lazarus things came to ahead, Jesus’ popularity was a worry to the authorities, their position was in danger! They then plotted and by using the traitor Judas had Jesus arrested and forced Pilate’s hand in having Jesus crucified. Of course none of this was a surprise to God for He was bringing to fulfilment the great plan of salvation by the one and only eternal sacrifice for sin.
However it is the attitude of the rulers that we are looking at now. It was because of envy, their position and popularity was in danger. Their concern was not God’s plan or purpose but their own ways. Instead of seeing that Jesus was the promised seed, and welcoming Him and pointing men and women to the lamb of God as John the Baptist had (Jn.1:29), they sought to catch him out, forbid others from having anything to do with Him (Jn. 9:22), indeed Jesus had accused them of taking away the key of the kingdom of heaven ( Mtt.23:13; Lk.11:52)
This is, no doubt, the extreme case where men because of envy seek to destroy the Lord. But we are urged not to envy one another. The reason for the Pharisees’ envy was that they were wanting to hold on to their position. The disciples were themselves in danger of this. On one occasion they forbad someone because they wouldn’t follow them (Lk.9: 49-50). All this is contrary to the spirit of love. We are exhorted not to envy one another. In the body of Christ we all one, God has placed all in it and all have different, yet complementary functions, no one is more important than another (I Cor 12:12-27). Everyone is vital. Why then the envying? Is it not because of the flesh trying to impose self and like the religious leaders of Jesus’ day imposing ones own ideas? The result? Conflict, contention, divisions and even holding back the truth from others. What a terrible state of affairs, all because believers are walking in the flesh, and being proud (Prov.13:10). Instead we are to love one another and not seek our own but the best for others (I Cor. 13: 4-7).
Wesley summed up what our attitude to each other should be in this verse of a hymn:
The gift which He on one bestows
We all delight to prove;
The grace through every vessel flows,
In purest streams of love.
Those walking in the Spirit exhibit self-control, they do not yield to the affections and lusts of the flesh; they are putting the Kingdom of God in its rightful place of first in their lives. In this epistle we have seen that the problem with the Galatians is that they started in the Spirit but fell back into the flesh and bondage. It is not too difficult, in view of all that we have said, to see why.
We have also seen that the problem with the Corinthian assembly was that they were walking as men, those who were walking to the desires of their own minds. This was true also of the false brethren who came in to try and pervert the pure gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ. They were not seeking first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, rather they were seeking their own ways. They wanted to fulfil their own desires, not God’s, they refused to deny self and their own ideas and plans, they wanted to bring others into line with their ideas, and hence under their control.
The state of affairs described is, alas all too common in so called churches of today; it could include many things that seem to be taken for granted both on the cooperate and individual level. Collectively this could be insisting that all follow a particular doctrinal position, or practice, building up a hierarchy, (contrary to the explicit commandment of Jesus Mk.10:42-45). They refuse to deny self and let the Head of the Church be just that. Their affections are on things below, not on those things above. On an individual level this could included persons of strong personality, or of great influence insisting that their understanding of certain (secondary) issues is correct and that others should have that same understanding.
Let us all be wary of this happening to us; the only sure way is to walk in the Spirit and mortify the lusts of the flesh and deny our own ways and ideas. Instead we ought to love and serve one another as He did.