Short Answers: What does Paul mean, “But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law” (Gal 5:18)?
Led by the Spirit
Paul writes, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (Gal 5:16), which agrees with what he wrote to the Romans: “For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. To set the mind on the things of the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. These who are in the flesh cannot please God” (8:5-8).
The Logic behind the Flesh Being Unable to Please God:
The logic for the flesh being unable to please God is in the hostility of the flesh to God, who has consigned all of humankind to disobedience (Rom 11:32) because of the transgression of the first Adam. God delivered humankind into the hand of the Adversary so that He could have mercy on all. It isn’t that Satan took humankind captive, but that when Adam no longer covered himself (and by extension, covered his wife) with obedience to God, Adam became as the angels were that had rebelled against God. The basis for a demonstration that lawlessness or disobedience leads only to death was at hand—whereas in the timeless realm of heaven, disobedience would produce the gridlock associated with a paradox, gridlock that would prevent even movement, disobedience in the physical realm produces death.
Once God consigned humankind to disobedience, no human being was able to obey the law of God. The pious individual would still have to transgress the law in one or more of its precepts; thus, even the pious individual would be unable to submit to God’s law until God the Father raised the person from being counted among the dead by causing the person to be born of Spirit. Therefore, the person who has been mentally liberated from sin by a second birth, and who presents his or her members to God to be instruments of righteousness (Rom 6:13) is no longer under the dominion of sin (v. 14), but under Grace, the mantle of Christ’s righteousness that is put on as a garment (Gal 3:27). This person is being lead by the Spirit into obedience to God, what it means to present one’s members to God as instruments for righteousness. This person will keep, by faith, the precepts of the law and thereby have his or her uncircumcision counted as circumcision (Rom 2:26). This person is no longer under the law, for by doing what the law requires, he or she shows that law is written on the person heart (Rom 2:14-15). And when the law has been written on the heart, the person has no need for an external set of commandments.
Gratifying the Desires of the Flesh:
In his first epistle,
John writes, “Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone
loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the
world—the desires of the flesh and the desire of the eyes and pride in
possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world” (1 John
2:15-16). If a person walks by the Spirit, he or she will not gratify the
flesh, or the desires of the flesh. This means, simply, that all of those things
which Gentiles, physical and spiritual, care about (Matt 6:32)—what one
wears, eats, drives, or how one lives—are of this world and pertain to
the flesh. This also means that the person who seeks after physical
explanations for biblical prophecies, claiming this nation or that is the king
of the North or of the South, or that a United Europe under the Roman Church
will send armies to surround earthly
The only way for a
person to leave spiritual
Not Under the Law:
Wisdom holds that the person who complies with the law need not fear the law. The Apostle Paul wrote, “Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the unholy and profane” (1 Tim 1:8-9). Thus, the law is not for the person who is obedient—and the person who is led by the Spirit can keep the commandments of God, so the law is not for this person unless he or she returns to disobedience by rejecting the leading of the Spirit. Then the person is again subject to the law and its death penalty for transgression of its commandments.
Elsewhere, Paul writes, “So the law is holy, and the commandments ar holy and righteous and good” (Rom 7:12) … the person led by the Spirit will, by the Spirit working in the person, do what is right and what is holy and will thereby keep the law. The angel tells John the Revelator, “‘Let the evildoer still do evil, and the filthy still be filthy, and the righteous still do right, and the holy still be holy’” (Rev 22:11). And so shall it be: the disciple who is disobedient shall continue in his or her disobedience, ever justifying this disobedience with reasons why disciples are no longer under the law but under Grace, little realizing that Grace only extends to the person who has presented his or her members to God as instruments for righteousness. Let this person continue in his or her state of unholiness and ungodliness until angels deliver this person into the lake of fire (Matt 13:41-42) where weeping and gnashing of teeth will not last long.
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