For the law (principle) of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus made me free from the law of sin and death” (Rom 8:2). The characteristic principle of the Holy Spirit is to empower believers for holy living, whereas, the characteristic principle of indwelling sin is to drag a person down to death. It is like the law of gravity. When you throw a ball into the air, it comes back down to earth because it is heavier than the air it displaces. Similarly, a living bird is also heavier than the air it displaces. But if you were to throw a living bird up in the air, the bird would flap its wings and fly away. Why? The law of life in the bird overcomes the law of gravity. The Spirit is the power of the risen life, the power in which that life is enjoyed.
In verses 19-25, Paul describes the characteristics of the two kinds of life: “life in the flesh” (vv19-21) and “life in the Spirit ” (v22-23).
The Works of the Flesh (vv19-21a)
This catalogue of evil may be considered in four groups:
Sensual sins (v19) – fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness. These involve unlawful sexual indulgence, followed by impurity of mind as well as actions, then an insolent disregard for decency.
Religious pagan sins (v20a) – idolatry, witchcraft, worshiping objects rather than God, sacrificing to demons. These are followed by witchcraft or sorcery (which originally meant trafficking in drugs and spiritism).
Social sins (v20b) – including hatred or hostility. These manifest themselves in “hatefulness and hating one another,” as well as enmity against God. “Variance” means discord and rivalry resulting in strife and fighting.
Personal sins – demonstrated in drunkenness. This means excessive drinking of alcohol, and revellings or wild parties and orgies, resulting from drunkenness and ending in debauchery.
Paul follows with this warning: “Those who do (practice) such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God” (v21).
The Fruit of the Spirit (vv22-23)
When considering the fruit of the Spirit, two questions may be asked:
(a) What is meant by the fruit of the Spirit?
(b) How is this fruit produced?
Fruit in Scripture refers to the development of Christian character. It is the moral beauty of the Lord Jesus displayed in the life and character of the believer. The fruit of the Spirit is the direct result of the believer walking by or in the Spirit, as the rule and power by which behavior is ordered.
The nine-fold fruit of the Spirit divides easily into three groups:
Qualities which are Godward: love, joy, peace;
Graces when relating to others: longsuffering, gentleness, goodness;
Qualities relating to self: faith or faithfulness, meekness, temperance or self-control; “against such there is no law.”
These are but samples and signs of life in the Spirit. Remember that the Law can only restrain, whereas the Spirit of God constrains. The fruit of the Spirit is seen through the life imparted by the Holy Spirit. The life in the Spirit yields the fruit of the Spirit. Fruit in its natural sense is produced by the inherent energy of a living organism, as seen in the words of the parable of the sower: “Other seeds fell on good soil and produced grain, some one hundred fold” (Matt 13.8). Fruit in its spiritual sense is produced by the energy of the Holy Spirit, operating within those who, through faith, are brought into living union with the Lord Jesus Christ. Such fruit is a necessary product of the justified life – the very hallmark of its reality. These graces and qualities form a cluster, reflecting the moral beauty displayed in the character and life of the believer.
Conclusion and Summary (vv24-26)
“And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with the affections (passions) and lusts” (v24).
This work is done at conversion. It is not an exhortation. Rather, it is the believer’s position in Christ. When believers exercise faith in the Lord Jesus as Savior, they become His property – they belong to Him.
“… have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.”
Here, the verb “have crucified” is in the aorist tense, meaning it was a decisive change complete in itself. This act was the moment of their conversion to God. Scripture does not ask us to “crucify the old man” nor “crucify the flesh.” This happened when we were saved, and the believer is asked to acquiesce (accept the fact without objection) with this act that took place. John Ritchie wrote: “They have accepted God’s verdict and condemnation (Rom 8.3) as expressed in the cross and come to reckon of them as He does (Rom 6. 1-11). This is not a slow, painful process, attained by self-denial and mortification, as Romanism would make it, but faith’s acceptance of what God has accomplished by Christ’s death, and faith agrees with it.”
It is now our responsibility to live by the Spirit of God:
Live in or by the Spirit (v25)
“If we live or since we live by the Spirit”
Not only have we been born again by the Spirit, but we are sustained and empowered by Him in every aspect of our daily life.
Walk by the Spirit.
“Let us walk in the Spirit.”
Since we live by the Spirit, we must allow Him to guide our every step until the journey’s end.
Finally, it is important to observe that the word “walk” in verse 25 is quite different from the word in verse 16. This “walk” has to do with individual conduct, whereas in verse 25, the word means to do with our life and conduct in relation to others. The literal meaning here is to “walk in line” or to “keep in rank.” One who walks by the Spirit in his/her personal life is the one who, by the same Spirit, will walk in harmony with others. Such a circumspect walk will ensure practical oneness and unity in assembly life. Let us do so, for His Name’s sake.