Who Are You Following?
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Delivered By
Pastor Ed Dinkins
Delivered On
February 14, 2016
Central Passage
Galatians 5:13-22
Subject
Second Sunday Service
Description

Bible Commentary - Data Source: "Do You Live By the Spirit" by Dr. Rodney Plunket

"We should begin our study of this material by noting that Paul’s letters frequently contain lists.  For example, three times he lists gifts that have been given to believers for the benefit of the whole church (Rm 12:3-8; 1 Corinthians 12:27-30; & Ephesians 4:11).  What I want to note here is that there are significant differences between these three lists.  And in Rm 1:18-32, Paul lists many acts of ungodliness and wickedness.  That list includes many items that are not included here among the deeds of the flesh.  Such an awareness helps us realize that neither the deeds of the flesh list nor the fruit of the Spirit list should be considered exhaustive.  They do, however, convey the lifestyles that these vastly different powers produce.

Let me also say that I think it is a mistake to view these lists as personal attributes lists.  That is, Paul does not seem to be saying that the individual who operates out of the power of the flesh will do the deeds of the flesh, while the individualwho operates out of the power of the Spirit will possess the fruit of the Spirit.  That may be true; I think it is true, but that does not seem to me to be what Paul is saying here. Remember the final clause of v 13; there Paul says, “through love become slaves to one another.”  And notice again v 15: “If, however, you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.”  Paul’s focus here is on community, not on individual spirituality.  Therefore, it seems to me that Paul is describing the kind of community that the power of the flesh produces and the kind of community that the power of the Spirit produces.  To cite J. Louis Martyn again, he refers to the two contrasting lists as “marks of a community under the influence of the Flesh and marks of a community led by the Spirit” (Ibid., 496).

Now to a big problem for contemporary Christians who read these lists.  We are so prone to turn them into a new version of the Ten Commandments.  The deeds of the flesh are the “Thou Shalt Nots.”  The fruit of the Spirit are the “Thou Shalts.”  We turn those lists into acts of external observance, and what happens?  We turn down the path of Law-keeping again.  We turn down the path of external observance.

Paul’s lists here are intended to show us what the power of the flesh will effect in a community and what the power of the Spirit will effect in a community to show us the power that we should give free rein within our lives.  If you open up to the power of the flesh you will have communities that are filled with all kinds of corruptions.  If you open up to the power of the Spirit you will have communities that are filled with the sweet fruit that give health and wholeness to a community. Paul is not asking us to choose a list.  Paul is asking us to choose a power.  We are to choose the power of the Spirit that sets us free from the power of the flesh.

Sisters and brothers, let’s choose the Spirit.  Let’s discard our lists.  Let’s turn away from a religious faith that is primarily focused on doing all the church stuff “right.”  Let’s realize that we are in the presence of something startlingly powerful.  We are in the presence of the living God.  We are in the presence of the living Christ.  We are in the presence of the living and life-transforming Holy Spirit of God.  Our lists rely on our will to accomplish.  They draw upon the power of the flesh.  The fruit of the Spirit grows and flourishes within our church family because of something going inside that is effected by the power of God.  Let’s turn to that power.  Let’s focus on that source of sweet, sweet fruit."

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