Setting the scene:
Paul founded the church in Galatia – a huge Roman province. Paul insisted that
repentance and faith in Christ was all that was needed to receive this new life with God – but now some Jewish teachers were insisting that non-Jews needed to be circumcised and observe Jewish laws. Paul is not happy and suggests if that is true then why not go the whole hog and castrate yourself! (Gal 5.12)
So, Paul in chapter 5, begins a magnificent dialogue on ‘freedom in Christ’. Christ has saved us to set us free – not to live permissive, indulgent lives – but freedom to live as God’s children. Paul contrasts two lists of behaviours, the first are the result of fallen human desires. The second set are the result of faith in Christ and the impact of the Spirit upon our lives.
‘Fruit’ is an old metaphor – but one that was obvious in the agricultural setting of Israel. Jesus also spoke about ‘recognising a tree by its fruit’ (Matt 7.16).
- Which of the ‘fruits’ listed in v22 do you feel are least evident at this point in your life?
- Which of the fruits would you like to be most evident in your life right now?
What is the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives?
In what sense does the Holy Spirit ‘teach us’? How does the Holy Spirit transform us? How does the Holy Spirit help us to pray? The Holy Spirits role is to make Jesus real to us and to make us like Jesus.
The Holy Spirit ‘teaches us’ by helping us to make better sense of who Jesus is and what he has done for us. This includes helping us understand the meaning of scripture but also growing through this understanding. But the Spirit can also ‘teach us’ by providing Christ-like understanding of issues and situations. The Holy Spirit transforms us by prompting and even cajoling us to become like Jesus. Negatively he makes us aware of un-Christ-like attitudes and actions but also increases our distaste for them – thus he helps us break free from those things which hold us back.
Positively he fills us with both a desire and the power to become more like Jesus, although according to 1 John 3. 2 this process is not complete in this earthly life. When it comes to prayer, the Holy Spirit helps us by awakening in us a longing to know God better, but also gives us the assurance that prayer is worthwhile because he helps us know God loves us deeply (Romans 5.5; 8. 15 -16). Sometimes the Holy Spirit shows us how to pray by giving us insight into the subject for our praying. Then again the Holy Spirit can prompt us to keep praying or give us a sense that we should leave our prayer with God.
The late John Stott observed that the Christian life is life in the Spirit and it would be impossible to be a Christian, let alone to live and grow as a Christian, without the ministry of the gracious Spirit of God. All we have and are as Christians we owe to him.