Verse-by-Verse Bible Commentary

Galatians 5:16

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
New American Standard Version

Adam Clarke Commentary

Walk in the Spirit - Get back that Spirit of God which you have grieved and lost; take up that spiritual religion which you have abandoned.

Ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh - If the Spirit of God dwell in and rule your heart, the whole carnal mind will be destroyed; and then, not only carnal ordinances will be abandoned, but also the works and propensities of the flesh.

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These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Clarke, Adam. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "The Adam Clarke Commentary". 1832.

Albert Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible

This I say then - This is the true rule about overcoming the propensities of your carnal natures, and of avoiding the evils of strife and contention.

Walk - The Christian life is often represented as a journey, and the word walk, in the scripture, is often equivalent to live; Mark 7:5. See the notes at Romans 4:12; Romans 6:4, note; Romans 8:1, note.

In the Spirit - Live under the influences of the Holy Spirit; admit those influences fully into your hearts. Do not resist him, but yield to all his suggestions; see the note at Romans 8:1. What the Holy Spirit would produce, Paul states in Galatians 5:22-23. If a man would yield his heart to those influences, he would be able to overcome all his carnal propensities; and it is because he resists that Spirit, that he is ever overcome by the corrupt passions of his nature. Never was a better, a safer, or a more easy rule given to overcome our corrupt and sensual desires than that here furnished; compare notes, Romans 8:1-13.

And ye shall not fulfil … - Margin, “Fulfil not” - as if it were a command. So Tyndale renders it. But the more common interpretation, as it is the more significant, is that adopted by our translators. Thus, it is not merely a command, it is the statement of an important and deeply interesting truth - that the only way to overcome the corrupt desires and propensities of our nature, is by submitting to the influences of the Holy Spirit. It is not by philosophy; it is not by mere resolutions to resist them; it is not by the force of education and laws; it is only by admitting into our souls the influence of religion, and yielding ourselves to the guidance of the Holy Spirit of God. If we live under the influences of that Spirit, we need not fear the power of the sensual and corrupt propensities of our nature.

Copyright Statement
These files are public domain.
Bibliographical Information
Barnes, Albert. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "Barnes' Notes on the Whole Bible". 1870.

The Biblical Illustrator

Galatians 5:16

Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Flesh versus Spirit

A Galatian Christian might argue that the religion of Christ had not wrought for him the deliverance which he had expected; that whereas he had been taught to believe in the Almighty power of Christ, and of Christ’s grace, he found that there yet abode within him another power of a wholly different kind, a power antagonistic to the grace of Christ, a power constantly inclining him to evil. How was he to account for this state of things? was it that Christ’s gospel was ineffectual; or that he had not rightly apprehended it?

I. The abiding presence of the law of sin in the believer’s soul. Scripture everywhere assumes and asserts this (James 3:2; 1 John 1:8).

II. Its hostility to good. Compromise is impossible. If sin be false to everything else, it must be true to its own nature; it must be hostile to that principle which aims at its destruction.

III. Note certain features in the action of sin.

1. It is secret.

2. It is constant.

3. It is subtle.

Seeks to discover the weakest parts in the soul’s defences; to deceive and beguile the soul, and so lead it captive.

IV. The maintenance of the spiritual life.

Twofold nature of man

Man’s nature presents two sides. On the one hand the body, with all its physical needs, desires, impulses; on the other hand that spiritual nature which distinguishes him from the animal creation. These two sides are often found in collision, warring against each other; the question is, how shall they be adjusted, and which ought to rule? The two extremes of crushing out one or the other entirely, are both wrong. The Christian method does no violence to any true part of human nature. It respects all parts; but gives special emphasis to the highest, not by crushing out the lower, but by bringing it into proper subordination, so that there shall be harmony, due proportion, and complete unity.

I. The spiritual nature must have the first place. It is the most noble, and therefore the most worthy of attention.

II. The spirit is to be the directing and ruling element. It is to sway the body, not the body to sway it.

III. The physical nature is to be allowed to exercise its natural rights, but under the guidance and control of the spiritual. How practical is all this! St. Paul does not content himself with taking up a merely negative attitude. To have simply forbidden this or that, or to have told his readers that they were to exercise a restraint upon their passions, would have been at best only a partial and an unsatisfactory way of dealing with their danger. He was far too true a master of the human heart to fall into the error that nothing more than prohibition was needed. If man is to be saved from evil thoughts, habits, passions, he must be given definite and positive duties to fulfil. This is true both of

(a) the body, and

(b) the mind, as well as

(c) the soul.

Be up and doing. Don’t be idle. Let your life have definite aims; your heart and mind definite impulses, desires, principles. In this way will you be better able not only to resist what is evil but to grow in what is best. (A. Boyd Carpenter, M. A.)

The appeal to the spiritual nature

Such is St. Paul’s method, and it is the one which treats man with the greatest respect, and is calculated to effect the desired end most completely. Man is not a machine to be regulated only by external influences. He has reason, will, conscience, love; in a word, a spiritual nature. To appeal to this spiritual nature, to place it in its proper position of authority and rule, is to treat man as man, and to do so with the greatest hope of success. Law alone will not succeed unless there is a response from within. Self-restraint will not be sufficient. What is needed is the creation of an inward power of good; a self-acting principle that shall love and will and strive after what is highest and best, and from the innermost citadel of the spirit rule every thought, word, act. This is what St. Paul advocates when he says, “Walk in the Spirit.” He contends for voluntary service as against enforced; for spiritual obedience as against the mere living by rule. It is the life of love and purity and wisdom that he advocates as the life, as against the impulses, desires, passions of the physical nature. And in doing this he not merely respects man as spiritual, he not merely points out the superiority of the spiritual, but he seeks to base thought and word and deed, and the whole tenor of the life, upon a heart loving what is good and hating what is evil. Service, with St. Paul, is spiritual, free, spontaneous, high-minded. The higher desires and spiritual forces for what is good not only check what is baser, but, influencing the whole manhood, lift up every faculty, power, impulse into a purer atmosphere. (A. Boyd Carpenter, M. A.)

The spiritual walk

In these words observe--

1. The duty is to walk in the Spirit, which is the sum of all Christian piety.

2. The motive is taken from the consequent and fruit of it: “and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Let us fix the sense.

1. For the duty, “to walk in the Spirit.” Walking implieth the tenor and course of our actions, in all which we should follow the direction and inclination of the Spirit. Therefore by flesh and spirit is meant the old man and the new, and so by spirit is meant the renewed part, or the new man of grace in the heart (John 3:6, “That which is born of the Spirit is spirit”); that is, there is a work of saving grace wrought in our hearts by the Spirit of God, which new nature hath its motions and inclinations which must be obeyed and followed by us. And by flesh, is meant inbred corruption, or the old man, which is “corrupt, with his deceivable lusts” (Ephesians 4:22). Now, then, you see what it is to walk after the Spirit, to direct and order our actions according to the inclinations of the new nature.

2. For the consequent fruit of it: “and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” Here two things must be explained:--

1. “The lust of the flesh.” By it is meant the inordinate motions of corrupt nature. The flesh doth not consider what is right and good, but what is pleasing to the senses, and craveth their satisfaction with much importunity and earnestness, to the wrong of God and our own souls; especially in youth, when the senses are in vigour, and lust and appetite in their strength and fury.

2. Ye shall not fulfil; that is, accomplish and bring into complete act, especially with deliberation and consent. Mark, he cloth not say that the lusting of corrupt nature shall be totally suppressed, but it shall not be fulfilled. The best of God’s children feel the motions of the flesh, but they do not cherish and obey them. The lusts of the flesh may be said to be fulfilled two ways--

To understand this point, let me lay down these propositions.

1. That there is a diversity of principles in a Christian--flesh and spirit.

2. That there is a liberty in a Christian of walking according to each principle, either the spirit or the flesh.


1. It showeth what necessity there is that we should look after conversion to God, or a work of grace wrought in us by the Holy Spirit, for the apostle supposeth they had the Spirit. There is no walking without living, for otherwise our motions are but the motions of puppets, not proceeding from internal life, but acted from springs and engines; no subduing the flesh without setting up an opposite principle.

2. Being renewed by the Holy Ghost, that is, having our minds enlightened and hearts inclined, we must obey this inclination; for life is not given us that we may have it, but that we may act by it, and do things suitable to that life which we have. Grace is not a sluggish, idle quality, but is always working and warring on the opposite principle.

3. Though at first we are pestered and encountered with the lusts of the flesh, which divert us from God and heavenly things, yet we should not be discouraged by every difficulty; for difficulties do but inflame a resolved spirit, as stirring doth the fire.

4. The carnal life is not of one sort. Some wallow in sensual pleasures, others have head and heart altogether taken up with the world and worldly things. Now if God hath put a new bias upon our wills and affections, we must show it forth by a heavenly conversation; for they that mind earthly things are carnal, and the great inclination of the new nature is to carry us unto God and the things of another world (2 Corinthians 5:5).

5. They are much to blame that complain of sin, and will not take the course to get rid of it by obeying the instincts of the Holy Ghost, or the motions of the new nature. The Lord’s spirit is a “free spirit” (Psalms 51:12.), and His “truth maketh us free” (John 8:32).

6. How much we are concerned in all conflicts, especially in those which allow deliberation, to take part with the Spirit, and obey His motions rather than to fulfil the lusts of the flesh: otherwise, by consent and upon deliberation, you are unfaithful to Christ and your own souls. Your business is not to gratify the flesh, but to crucify it, to overrule sense and appetite, and cherish the life of grace (Galatians 5:24).

7. It is of great use and profit to us to observe which principle decayeth, the flesh or the Spirit; for thereby we judge of our condition, both in order to mortification and comfort.

The increase of the flesh may be known--

1. By your backwardness to God. Grace is clogged when you cannot serve Him with sweetness and delight (Romans 7:18).

2. When the heart groweth careless of heaven, and your life and love is more taken up about things present than things to come.

On the other hand, the prevalency and increase of the Spirit is known--

1. By a humble contentedness and indifference to plenty, pleasures, and honours.

2. When your delight in God, heaven, and holiness is still kept up.

3. When the heart is kept in a preparation for the duties of your heavenly calling. (T. Manton, D. D.)

Walking in the Spirit, the preservative from the lusts of the flesh

I. We are to inquire what it is to walk in the Spirit. I scarcely need to observe, that the Spirit of God is always represented in the New Testament as the Author of all holiness in the hearts of Christians; whence the Christian dispensation is eminently styled “the ministration of the Spirit.”

1. And first I imagine, that a regard to all the great evangelical principles is implied in the words, “walk in the Spirit.” In the Epistles to the Romans and the Galatians, in which the phrases of walking “in the Spirit” or “after the Spirit” are chiefly used, the apostle takes much pains to wean the Judaizing converts from a servile spirit of dependence upon the law, and to instil into them a spirit of liberty in Christ Jesus. Where the Spirit of the Lord is there is liberty.

2. By walking in the Spirit may be also implied habitual dependence upon His help. To walk in the Spirit, therefore, is to acknowledge with the heart our own weakness and inability to serve God; to expect victory over sin only by the gracious operation of His Spirit.

3. To walk in the Spirit implies also, that we use the means by which the Spirit has promised to convey His influence, in the humble hope of thus receiving it. Bible-reading, attendance on the preaching of the gospel, reception of the Holy Communion, and especially prayer.

4. I observe, further, that to walk in the Spirit implies the exercise of a holy fear of Him; which will manifest itself by avoiding those things which would grieve Him, and by complying with His holy motions.

II. If we thus walk in the Spirit, we shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. This is the second point which I proposed to illustrate. There is a certain degree to which victory over the sinful desires of the flesh is obtained by every real Christian; and this degree is, perhaps, proportioned to that in which he walks in the Spirit. (J. Venn, M. A.)

How may we be so spiritual as to check sin in the first risings of it

I. The principle and root of sin and evil--the flesh with its lusts.

II. The opposite principle and root of life and righteousness--the Divine Spirit.

III. The terms and bounds of a Christian’s conquest, how far he may hope for victory--“Ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.”

IV. The method and way of conquering--“Walk in the Spirit.” The best expedient in the world not to fulfil the lusts of the flesh, is to walk in the Spirit; which what it imports, I come now to show.

1. “Walk in the Spirit;” that is, in obedience to God’s commandments, which are the oracles of the Spirit (see Psalms 119:1-3).

2. “Walk in the Spirit;” that is, as becometh those in whom God’s Spirit dwells. As if the apostle had said, “The part which ye are now to act, O ye Christian Galatians, it is that of new creatures--see that ye keep the decorum. Demean yourselves like the children of God who are led of the Spirit of God” (Romans 8:14).

3. “Walk in the Spirit;” that is, Fulfil the counsels and advices of the Spirit, and you shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. But if these three rules are too general and remote, I shall now lay down some more particular and exact directions for checking the beginnings of sin.



Before the paroxysm cometh, prepare and antidote thy soul against these lusts of the flesh, by observing these advices.

1. That notable counsel of Eliphaz to Job: “Acquaint now thyself with God, and be at peace” (Job 22:21).

2. Stir up spiritual and holy lastings in thy soul after the love and favour, the grace and image, of thy God; and thou shalt not fulfil the lastings of the flesh.


II.--Study thoroughly the unchangeable natures, the eternal laws and differences, of moral good and evil. The sum of this rule then is: Deeply possess and dye thy soul all over with the representation of that everlasting beauty and amiableness that are in holiness, and of’ that horror, and ugliness, and deformity that eternally dwell on the forehead of all iniquity. Be under the awe and majesty of such clear convictions all day long, and “thou shalt not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.”


III.--Understand thyself; be no stranger to thy own breast; know the frame, and temper, and constitution of thy mind. See what grace is principally wanting in thee, which is weakest, in what instances thy greatest failure betrays itself, in which of thy passions and affections thou art most peccable, and what lastings of the flesh they are which give thee the frequentest alarms, and threaten the greatest dangers.


IV.--Get and keep a tender, conscience. Be sensible of the least sin. The most tender-hearted Christian--he is the stoutest and most valiant Christian. “Happy is the man that feareth always: but he that hardeneth his heart shall fall into mischief.”


V.--Keep an exact guard upon thy heart (Proverbs 4:23). Let the eyes of thy soul be open and awake, upon all the stirrings of thy thoughts and affections.


VI.--Be daily training and exercising all thy graces. Have them always in battle-array.


VII.--Be well-skilled in the clenchs of temptation. I mean, in unmasking the sophistry and mystery of iniquity, in defeating the wiles and stratagems of the tempter, and in detecting and frustrating the cheats and finesses of the flesh with its deceitful lusts (Ephesians 4:22; 2 Corinthians 2:11). No small part of spiritual wisdom lies in the blessed art of discovering and refuting sin’s fallacies and impostures.


VIII.--Withdraw thyself, if possible, from the occasions of sin. Be thou as the deaf adder to that great charmer: the best entertainment thou canst give him is, “Get thee behind me, Satan!”


IX.--Bind thyself beforehand With the severest of thy resolutions, not to trust thy judgment, when the temptation begins to get within thee. “A man in passion is not himself.”


X.--Awe them with the authority of thy reason and understanding. It is infinitely unbeseeming a man, that his lower appetites should grow mutinous and untractable, that “the inferior and brutish faculties of our soul,” should rebel against “that sovereign faculty of reason.” How soon doth the presence of a grave magistrate allay a popular tumult, if he comes in soon enough, in the beginning of the riot? God hath made reason the magistrate of the little world; He hath given it a commission to keep the peace in our souls.


XI.--If thy distempered affections and lusts slight the authority of thy reason, as thou art a man; bid thy conscience do its office, as thou art a Christian. Try to awe them with God’s written Word. Bring out of the register of conscience the laws of Him that made thee; oppose some clear text of Holy Writ, that comes into thy mind against that very lust that is now rising.


XII.--If all this effect nothing, then draw the curtain, take off the veil from before thy heart, and let it behold the God that searcheth it (Jeremiah 17:10; Hebrews 4:13). Show it the majesty of the Lord; see how that is described (Isaiah 6:1-3).


XIII.--If these great real arguments be slighted, try whether an argument, ad hominem, drawn from sense, will prevail. Awe thy lusts with the bitterness of thine own experience. Consider how often thou hast rues their disorders; what dismal consequences have followed upon their transports, and how dearly thou hast paid heretofore for thy connivance at them.


XIV.--Labour to cure thy justings and affections in the first beginning of their disorders, by revulsion, by drawing the stream and tide another way. As physicians stop an hemorrhage, or bleeding at the nose, by breathing the basilic vein in the arm, or opening the saphaena in the foot; so may we check our carnal affections, by turning them into spiritual ones: and those either--

1. Of the same nature. For example: catch thy worldly sorrow at the rise, and turn thy mourning into godly sorrow. If thou must needs weep, weep for something that deserves it.

2. Turn thy carnal affections into spiritual ones of a contrary nature. For example: allay thy worldly sorrow by spiritual joy. Try whether there be not enough in all-sufficiency itself to compensate the loss of any outward enjoyment; whether there will be any great miss or want of a broken cistern, when thou art at the fountain-head of living waters; whether the light of the sun cannot make amends for the expiring of a candle. Chastise thy carnal fears by hope in God. Set on work the grace contrary to the lust that is stilting; if it be pride and vain-glory in the applause of men, think how ridiculous it were for a criminal to please himself in the esteem and honour his fellow-prisoners render him, forgetting how guilty he is before his judge. If thou beginnest to be poured loosely out, and as it were dissolved in frolic, mirth, and joviality, correct that vainness and gaiety of spirit by the grave and sober thoughts of death, and judgment, and eternity.


XV.--If this avail not, fall instantly to prayer.


XVI.--When thou hast done this, rise up, and buckle on the shield of faith (Ephesians 6:16). Go forth in the name and strength of the Lord, to do battle with thy lusts. Conclusion: Let me now persuade the practice of these holy rules. Let us resolve, in the strength of Christ, to resist these lustings of the flesh. Let me press this with a few considerations.

1. The more thou yieldest, the more thou mayest. Sin is insatiable; it will never say”enough.” Give it an inch, it will take an ell.

2. It is the quarrel of the Lord of hosts in which thou tightest. A cowardly soldier is the reproach of his commanders. Thou hast a noble General, O Christian, that hath done and finished perfectly whatever concerns thy redemption from the powers of darkness.

3. The lusts of the flesh are thy greatest enemies, as well as God’s. “They war against thy soul” (1 Peter 2:11). To resist them feebly, is to do not only the work of the Lord, but of thy soul, negligently.

4. It is easy vanquishing at first in comparison. A fire newly-kindled is soon quenched, and a young thorn or bramble easily pulled up.

5. If thou resistest the victory is thine (James 4:7). Temptation puts on its strength, as the will is. Cease but to love the sin, and the temptation is answered.

6. Consider what thou doest. If thou fulfillest the lusts of the flesh, thou provokest thy heavenly Father, rebellest against Him (and “rebellion is as witchcraft, and stubbornness as idolatry”), thou “crucifiest Jesus Christ afresh, and puttest Him to an open shame.” Is this thy love and thanks to thy Lord, to whom thou art so infinitely beholden? Canst thou find in thy heart to put thy spear again in His side? Hath He not suffered yet enough? Is His bloody passion nothing? Must He bleed again? Ah, monster of ingratitude! Ah, perfidious traitor as thou art, thus to requite thy Master! Again, thou grievest thy Comforter: and is that wisely clone? Who shall comfort thee, ii He depart? (John Gibbon, B. D.)

The renewed man

If, therefore, you would judge of the life in the soul by the command which is exercised over the body, you must bring into account the agency employed, as well as the result effected. You must calculate whether the non-fulfilment of the lust of the flesh be in consequence of a radical change of the heart, or nothing more than the proud device of a weak, and self-sufficient nature.

1. It is not necessary that a man should be what Scripture calls a renewed man in order to his effecting a vast reformation in his ordinary conduct. Reformation, indeed, will unavoidably follow on renewal; and when thus produced, will be far more vigorous and decided than when traced to any other origin. But Satan, yea, oven Satan, can busy himself with the reforming of a man; for has the devil nothing to do with self-righteousness? has he nothing to do with the substitution of morality for faith? There will, indeed, have been all this outward change if an individual has been renewed by God’s Spirit; but, alas! it is not true, that because there is a change there must have been renewal! For you should remember that there follows, in the chapter from which our text is taken, a catalogue of the works of the body; and this catalogue contains “emulations, wrath, strife”--though these may have seemed to be mental rather than bodily actions. We are bound, therefore, to set down as works of the body many works which are not wrought by the agency of our corporeal members. Pride, for example, is classed as a work of the flesh, though it passes ordinarily as a disease of the mind. We argue, therefore, that since a man may gratify his pride by the higher discipline which he exercises over appetite and passion, he may be fulfilling, in one sense, “the lust of the flesh,” whilst to others he may seem to be mortifying that lust. Pride is emphatically a sin of the devil, and, therefore, to trace the action of pride is to trace it to the devil. Thus, we think our first proposition sufficiently established. There may be a struggle with “the lust of the flesh” where there is no “walking in the Spirit,” and, therefore, well might the apostle fix our thoughts on the agency as well as on the result.--“This I say, then”--oh! be not content with the appearance of resistance to the corruption of nature without searching into the origin of that resistances “this I say, then, Walk in the Spirit,” then, and then only, shall you really and actually “not fulfil the lust of the flesh.”

2. We proceed to set more definitely before you our second position, that there can be no effectual non-fulfilment of the lust of the flesh--none such as shall prove spiritual--unless there be “walking in the Spirit.” It is unquestionable, as we have already admitted, that a man may mortify many deeds of the body. He may climb the mountains, and there, far away from all companionship with his fellows, the rock for his couch, and the wild fruits for his sustenance, he may live down the fierceness of passion, and win over carnal desires so effective a sovereignty, that though they have heretofore been most imperious in their cravings, they shall ever after yield obedience to the severer calls of the Divine law. We know of nothing that may more confound those who have embraced true religion--who prefer deliverance through the satisfaction of Christ--than the ready submission to every kind of toil and privation which is presented by the votaries of false systems of theology. But, whatever the appearance, there is no thorough mortification of “the lust of the flesh” unless it be with the heart that the mortification begins. Yes, when the flesh is covered with the ashes and torn with the stripes, may pride be abroad in its strength, and man be regarded by the Holy Spirit of God as cherishing that self-sufficiency which it is the first object of the gospel to eject, and which must be subdued ere there can be admission to the kingdom of heaven. And if it be thus true that “the lust of the flesh Scannel be thoroughly unfulfilled unless the heart be overcome and brought into subjection, then no withstanding of the lusts can be that which proves a man quickened from the death of “trespasses and sins,” unless effected by the Spirit of God. As to outward conduct, a man may change it for himself, and, even as we have shown you, be assisted by Satan; but an internal change, the bringing order and harmony out of confusion and discord in the human soul, the crucifixion of the flesh, the renewal of the heart, can only be brought about by the Holy Ghost. See, then, whither you must turn for instruction and strength if you would live and not die. “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.” Oh I not to be Christ’s, after Christ has taken flesh, and sorrowed, and suffered, and died in order to make us His! Oh! not to be Christ’s, though redeemed by Christ at the untold cost of His agony and His blood! And what is wanting to make us Christ’s? Just that we have His Spirit, that Spirit which is freely promised to all by whom it is earnestly sought. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Walking in the Spirit

As having a steady forward movement, as requiring not only an action of the will, but purpose, strength, and circumspection, the Christian life is very well conceived in figure as walking. Now, there are two ways or roads on either of which we may be walking--a way of life and a way or death. And the way of life is not easy to find. It is full of questions. The paths divide and diverge at all angles. We do not travel by trains. The apostle uses the more accurate word. It is a “walk”--step by step--an individual, personal thing, with free choice, continual effort, and an onward movement. If it is to be worth anything, if it is to come to anything noble here, or immortal hereafter, life is costly. We must pay; we must think; we must watch and work, and perhaps suffer. We are equal to it, not in our own strength, but by a Power given us from above. What is the Power? Where is the Guide? To have the life that is glorious and eternal--all its failures forgiven, and its end perfect--perfect victory and perfect peace--we must “walk”--in that way? We come back to St. Paul He answers, “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit.” He is positive and peremptory. “This I say then, Walk in the Spirit.” There is one way to take and follow. There is a guide for this life. Walking is living; it is our life’s movement forward in this world. But how that shall be “in the Spirit” is what we want to know more perfectly. And here, as often happens, we are helped by contrasts. Throughout all this writing to the Galatians, and through all his preaching of the gospel of Christ, we find this grand expounder of it pointing out two opposite forces in the nature of every man. He has various names for them--“the law of the members and the law of the mind”--“the old man and the new man”--but oftenest “the flesh and the spirit.” It is popular language: we all know well enough what he means, not because the terms are precise, but because we are all conscious of having in ourselves the two things--if not always at work or at war, yet always there, ready to start up at any time and renew their battle. Take notice, the New Testament never says that the worse force of the two is wholly evil, or the better one wholly good. The gospel does teach everywhere that the spirit in man is the natural organ of what is highest and best in him, while the flesh is the natural organ of what is lower--the one connecting with the spiritual world above us, the other with the world below. St. Paul does preach, plainly and with all his might, that there is a struggle of each of these two forces for the mastery, and that it is a desperate fight till the right one gets the upper hand and rules. There are only two ways anywhere. It is one thing or the other. If we are not living in the spirit, we are living as part and parcel of a material world, which then overgrows and stifles the spirit, absorbs all interests into its outside show and passional comforts, then runs down, perishes, and has no immortality but the lingering one of the second death. If it is inquired then, What is our spiritual life? it is that within us which feels God to be a Father, which seeks and follows what is good in itself, which chooses what is lovely in conduct and generous in judgment, which tests friendships by their purity, and pursuits by their righteousness, which has faith in the unseen, which worships, which is touched and sometimes enraptured by the beauty of holiness. The spirit is that in us which would rather suffer than do wrong, and rather be crucified than mistake Caesar for the Saviour or Mammon for its maker. It would choose truth before falsehood: no matter what bribe is put into the balance with the lie. It is that by which we forgive injuries, and confess our own sins, and are willing to be made poorer for the kingdom of heaven’s sake, and take in the glorious sense of the encomium on charity in 1 Corinthians 13:1-13. There is another contrast still. St. Paul, through all this passage, has in mind not only a comparison of the spiritual mind with the sensual and selfish mind, but of the life lived in the spirit and a life which looks somewhat like it, but at heart, under the surface, is a very different thing:--i.e., a life lived under a set of rules formed by external regulations, fashioned, pieced together, cut and dried by the law. You know how determined his assaults were always, in every sermon and every epistle, from his conversion at Damascus up to his martyrdom at Rome, on the system which sees nothing in religion but rule. The reason is that in a character shaped by outside rules you will never have anything deeper than an outside piety. It will not be character at all, but only the shell of it. The heart of love has not begun to beat, the Spirit of Christ has not begun to breathe in them. Whoever would be a Christian must be one heartily and cheerfully, not grudgingly or of necessity. The Christian life must spring and bubble up from within, not be fitted on from without. (Bishop F. D. Huntington.)

The positiveness of the Divine life

There are two ways of dealing with every vice that troubles us, in either ourselves or others. One is to set to work directly to destroy the vice; that is the negative way. The other is to bring in as overwhelmingly as possible the opposite virtue, and so to crowd and stifle and drown out the vice; that is the positive way. Now there can be no doubt about St. Paul. Here comes his poor Gatatian fighting with his lust of the flesh. How shall he kill it? St. Paul says not, “Do as few fleshly things as you can,” setting him out on a course of repression; but, “Do just as may spiritual things as you can, opening before him the broad gates of a life of positive endeavour. And when we have thoroughly comprehended the difference of these two methods, and seen how distinctly St. Paul chose one instead of the other, we have laid hold on one of the noblest characteristics of his treatment of humanity, one that he had gained most directly from his Lord. I should despair of making any one see the distinction who did not know it in his own experience. Everywhere the negative and the positive methods of treatment stand over against each other, and men choose between them. Here is a man who is beset by doubts, perhaps, about the very fundamental truths of Christianity. He may attack all the objections in turn, and at last succeed in proving that Christianity is not false. That is negative. Or he may gather about him the assurance of all that his religion has done, and sweep away all his doubts with the complete conviction that Christianity is true. That is positive, and that is better. We see the same principle, the superiority of the positive to the negative, constantly illustrated in matters of opinion. How is it that people change their opinions, give up what they have steadfastly believed, and come to believe something very different, perhaps its very opposite? I think we all have been surprised, if we have thought about it, by the very small number of cases in which men deliberately abandon positions because those positions have been disproved and seem to them no longer tenable. And even when such cases do occur, the effect is apt to be not good, but bad. The man abandons his disproved idea, but takes no other in its stead; until, in spite of their better judgment, many good men have been brought to feel that, rather than use the power of mere negation, and turn the believer in an error into a believer in nothing, they would let their friend go on believing his falsehood, since it was better to believe something, however stupidly, than to disbelieve everything, however shrewdly. But what then? How do men change their opinions? Have you not seen? Holding still their old belief, they come somehow into the atmosphere of a clearer and a richer faith. That better faith surrounds them, fills them, presses off them with its own convincingness. They learn to love it, long to receive it, try to open their hands and hearts just enough to take it in and hold it along with the old doctrine which they have no idea of giving up. They think that they are holding both. They persuade themselves that they have found a way of reconciling the old and the new, which have been thought unreconcilable. Perhaps they go on thinking so all their lives. But perhaps some day something startles them, and they awake to find that the old is gone, and that the new opinion has become their opinion by its own positive convincing power. There has been no violence in the process, nor any melancholy gap of infidelity between. It seems to me that there is something so sublimely positive in Nature. She never kills for the mere sake of killing, but every death is but one step in the vast weaving of the web of life. She has no process of destruction which, as you turn it to the other side and took at it in what you know to be its truer light, you do not see to be a process of construction. She gets rid of her wastes by ever new plans of nutrition. This is what gives her such a courageous, hopeful, and enthusiastic look, and makes men love her as a mother and not fear her as a tyrant. They see by small signs, and dimly feel, this positiveness of her workings which it is the glory of natural science to reveal more and more. We find the same thing in the New Testament. The God there revealed to us is not a God of repression, or restraint, but a God whose symbols should be the sun, the light, the wind, the fire--everything that is stimulating, everything that fosters and encourages and helps. Such is the God whose glory we see in the face of Jesus Christ. The distinction is everywhere. Not by merely trying not to sin, but by entering farther and farther into the new life, in which, when it is completed, sin becomes impossible; not’ by merely weeding out wickedness, but by a new and supernatural culture of holiness, does the saint of the New Testament walk on the ever-ascending pathway of growing Christliness, and come at last perfectly to Christ. This is the true difference between law and grace, add the New Testament is the book of grace. And this character of the New Testament must be at the bottom in conformity with human nature. The Bible and its Christianity are not in contradiction against the nature of the man they try to save. Let us never believe they are. They are at war with all his corruptions, and, in his own interest, though against his stubborn will, they are for ever labouring to assert and re-establish his true self. And in this fundamental character of the New Testament, by which it is a book not of prohibitions but of eager inspirations, there comes out a deep harmony between it and the heart of man. For man’s heart is always rebelling against repression as a continuous and regular thing. Man is willing to make self-sacrifices for a certain temporary purpose. The merchant will give up his home, the student shut his books, the mother leave her household for a time, to do some certain work. The world is full of self-sacrifice, of the suppression of desires, the forcing of natural inclinations; but all the while under this crust the fire is burning; all the time, under this self-sacrifice, there is a restless, hungry sense that it is not right, that it cannot be final; there is a crying out for self-indulgence. All the time there is a great human sense that not suppression but expression is the true life. And what has Christ to say to one, who, acting on this prompting of his nature, gives up restraint and tries indulgence? My brother, I can hear him say, you are not wholly wrong. Nay, at the bottom, you are right. Self-mortification, self-sacrifice, is not the first or final law of life. You are right when you think that these appetites and passions were not put into you merely to be killed, and that the virtue which only comes by their restraint is a poor, colour-less, and feeble thing. You are right in thinking that not to restrain yourself and to refrain from doing, but to utter yourself, to act, to do, is the purpose of your being in the world. Only, my brother, this is not the self you are to utter, these are not the acts you are to do. There is a part in you made to think deeply, made to feel nobly, made to be charitable and chivalric, made to worship, to pity, and to love. You are not uttering yourself while you keep that better self in chains, and only let these lower passions free. Let me renew those nobler powers, and then believe with all your heart and might that to send out those powers into the intensest exercise is the one worthy purpose of your life. Then these passions, which you are indulging because you cannot believe that you were meant to give your whole life up to bridling them, will need no forcible bridling, and yet, owning their masters in the higher powers which come out to act, they will be content to serve them. You will not fulfil your passions any longer, but the reason will not be that you have resumed the weary guard over your passions which you tried to keep of old. It will be that you have given yourself up so utterly to the seeking after holiness, that these lower passions have lost their hold upon you. You will not so much have crushed the carnal as embraced the spiritual. I shall have made you free. You will be walking in the Spirit, and so will not fulfil the lusts of the flesh. Is not this Christ’s method? Is not this the tone of His encouraging voice? “Whosoever committeth sin is the servant of sin,” but “Ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” It is the positive attainment and not the negative surrender. It is the self-indulgence of the highest, and not the self-surrender of the lowest, that is the great end of the gospel. (Phillips Brooks, D. D.)

The spiritual walk

I. The point from which we have to start--“Walk in the Spirit.” In every walk there is a place from which we first proceed. The starting-point for every man in the spiritual walk is a state of unrenewed nature, an unconverted, unregenerated condition.

II. Let us now proceed to our second part: “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” We have seen the point from which, we now consider the course by which we are to walk--“Walk in the Spirit.” But here there must first of all be life in order to our obeying this exhortation. A dead man walks not, moves not, from whence he is. But to walk not only requires life, there must be strength, and willingness to exert strength. The sick man often cannot walk, the slothful man often will not; the spiritually diseased and slothful walk not in the Spirit; but the Holy Ghost infuses an energy into the soul of man. But in walking beside life, strength, and willingness, there must likewise be a constraining motive to induce man to walk in the road marked out for his path. The constraining motive in the spiritual walk is the love of the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Redeemer. But still there must be a road marked out for walking. There is one marked out for each of you by the Holy Spirit; there is a way, little trodden indeed by the multitude, but well known to all who have gone, and who are going to heaven. It is a straight and a narrow way; it has its difficulties.

III. Our third part yet waits. A walk, we have seen, has a point whence, a way by which, and now a place whither men are walking. The point to which the spiritual walk is intended to lead is perfect holiness, meetness for heaven, yea, heaven itself. (J. Hambleton.)

The spirit and the flesh

When St. Paul talks of man’s flesh, he means by it man’s body, man’s heart and brain, and all his bodily appetites and powers--what we call a man’s constitution; in a word, the animal part of man, just what a man has in common with the beasts who perish. To understand what I mean, consider any animal--a dog, for instance--how much every animal has in it what men have,--a body, and brain, and heart; it hungers and thirsts as we do; it can feel pleasure and pain, anger and loneliness, and fear and madness: it likes freedom, company, and exercise, praise and petting, play and ease; it uses a great deal of cunning, and thought, and courage, to get itself food and shelter, just as human beings do; in short, it has a fleshly nature, just as we have, and yet, after all, it is but an animal, and so, in one sense, we are all animals, only more delicately made than the other animals; but we are something more--we have a spirit as well as a flesh, an immortal soul. If any one asks, what is a man? the true answer is, an animal with an immortal spirit in it; and this spirit can feel more than pleasure and pain, which are mere carnal, that is, fleshly things; it can feel trust, and hope, and peace, and love, and purity, and nobleness, and independence, and, above all, it can feel right and wrong. There is the infinite difference between an animal and a,,nan, between our flesh and our spirit; aa animal has no sense of right and wrong; a dog who has done wrong is often terrified, but not because he feels it wrong and wicked, but because he knows from experience that he will be punished for doing it: just so with a man’s fleshly nature;--a carnal, fleshly man, a man whose spirit is dead within him, whose spiritual sense of right and wrong, and honour and purity, is gone, when he has done a wrong thing is often enough afraid; but why? Not for any spiritual reason, not because he feels it a wicked and abominable thing, a sin, hut because he is afraid of being punished for it. Now, in every man, the flesh and the spirit, the body and the soul, are at war. We stand between heaven and earth. Above us, I say, is God’s Spirit speaking to our spirits; below us is this world speaking to our flesh, as it spoke to Eve’s, saying to us, “This thing is pleasant to the eyes--this thing is good for food--that thing is to be desired to make you wise, and to flatter your vanity and self-conceit.” And where man’s flesh gets the upper hand, and takes possession of him, 1t can do nothing but evil--not that it is evil in itself, but that it has no rule, no law to go by; it does not know right from wrong; and therefore it does simply what it likes, as a dumb beast or an idiot might; and therefore the works of the flesh are--adulteries, drunkenness, murders, fornications, envyings, backbitings, strife. When a man’s body, which God intended to be the servant of his spirit, has become the tyrant of his spirit, it is like an idiot on a king’s throne, doing all manner of harm and folly without knowing that it is harm and folly. This is not its fault. Whose fault is is it, then? Our fault,--the fault of our wills and our souls. (C. Kingsley, M. A.)

Walking in the Spirit

I. We are to walk in the spirit of God.

II. How are we to know that we have the Spirit?

1. Not simply by natural conscience.

2. By the effect of the Spirit on the Christian life.

3. By a life that has an uniform God-ward tendency.

III. The Spirit must influence our daily life and actions.

1. The Spirit comes to young and old.

2. The Spirit influences in different ways.

3. His operation is necessary.

4. His operation must be deep and permanent. (Canon Tristram.)

The life and warfare of the Spirit in the soul

I. The work of the Spirit in the believer.

1. We live in the Spirit.

2. We walk in the Spirit. Activity the first symptom of life. This

3. We are led by the Spirit.

II. The reasons why the believer should be urged to maintain it.

1. We shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.

2. We are not under law. Freedom from

3. We shall be victorious in the great battle between the flesh and the Spirit.

The marks of a Christian

I. He “walks in” and is “led by the Spirit,” i.e., he has--

1. A heart always open to Divine influence.

2. A life subordinate to Divine rule.

II. He conquers the flesh.

1. In the inward strife described here, and in Romans 7:1-25., the Christian is not under the law of the flesh, but subdues the corrupt nature and brings it into subjection to the Spirit.

2. He does this daily.

III. He brings forth the fruits of the Spirit. Examine yourself by the list (verses 22, 23).

The principles and method of Christian life

I. The practical principles of the Christian life.

1. The virtues which are God-derived and God-ward.

2. Those which refer to our fellow-men--“longsuffering meekness.”

3. These belonging to the general disposition and habit of the soul, “Faith temperance.”

II. The method by which we appropriate these principles and make them effective in our character.

1. Negatively: the apostle does not

2. Positively: he tells us to “walk in the Spirit.”

III. Remember the true order of Christian life as here unfolded.

1. The bad is not overcome by mere abstinence from evil.

2. Be filled with the Spirit and evil will be overcome. (S. Pearson, M. A.)

The non-fulfilment of the lust of the flesh without the Spirit

I. When man trusts in anything he has done it cannot be God’s Spirit who leads to the doing of it.

II. No non-fulfilment of the lust of the flesh, which is not the result of walking in the Spirit, affords any proof of life in the soul.

III. The operations of grace may be closely imitated, though no change may have passed over the heart.

IV. In his endeavour to destroy men the devil may employ morality as well as villainy.

V. It is not enough for the mortification of the deeds of the body that the lusts of the flesh should appear unfulfilled.

VI. If, therefore, you would judge of the life in the soul by the command which is exercised over the body, you must bring into account the agency employed as well as the result effected. (H. Melvill, B. D.)

Flesh and Spirit

Thou hast a double nature. Choose between the worst and the better that is within thee. Thou hast it in thy power to become the slave of passion, the slave of luxury, the slave of sensual power, the slave of corruption. Thou hast it also in thy power to become the free master of thyself, to become the everlasting benefactor of thy country, and the unfailing champion of thy God. (Dean Stanley.)

The Divine rule

Keep the spiritual nature uppermost. Give the spiritual man the advantage. Settle every account in the Spirit’s favour. It will not make everything convenient, or merry, or prosperous. There may be mistakes of judgment; life may seem like a strain of bad music pitched to a minor key; your ideals may not be attained. Never mind that. The voice rings out over all the contradictions and ruins, “This I say then, walk in the Spirit.” “To be spiritually minded is life and peace”--life now and peace at last. (Bp. Huntington.)

The Pauline ethics

are as stern and strict as those of any system which has ever been promulgated. The liberty on which he insisted was no cover, no apology, no defence for licence, for those wild and profligate excesses which the fanatics’ faith has sometimes permitted. The extravagances of the Adamites, of the Cathari, of the Anabaptists, have been quoted as a reproach on the genius of Christianity. In reality they are a homage to it. The claim of Christianity on the allegiance of men has been so strong that they who have repudiated its spirit have affected to call themselves by its name. The Israelites often fell into that idolatry which the law donounced, condemned, chastised. But there is no reason to think that they forgot their nationality in their sin. (Paul of Tarsus.)

Value of spirituality of mind

A beautiful flower--the wood sorrel--grows among the trees in some parts of England. It has shining green leaves, and transparent bells with white veins. When it is gathered roughly, or the evening dew falls, or the clouds begin to rain, the flower closes and droops; but when the air is bright and calm, it unfolds all its loveliness. Like this sensitive flower, spirituality of mind, when touched by the rough hand of sin, or the cold dews of worldliness, or the noisy rain of strife, hides itself in the quietude of devout meditation; but when it feels the influence of sunny and serene piety, it expands in the beauty of holiness, the moral image of God. (S. J. Wright.)

Entire consecration necessary

Suppose you were to buy a ouse and lot and an elegant residence, pay the money and get the deeds, and the day you were to go in the gentleman said, “Here’s the key to eight rooms, I have reserved two rooms.” “Didn’t I buy the house?” “Yes” “Well, what do you mean?” “I want to keep four tigers in one room, and the other I want to fill with reptiles. I want them to stay here.” You say, “Well, my friend, if you mean what you say I would not have your house as a gracious gift. You want me to move my family into a house where one room is full of tigers and the other full of snakes.” Many a time we turn over our whole heart to God, and when He comes in we have reserved some rooms for the wild beasts of pride and the hissing serpents of iniquity. Let me tell you, brethren, I won’t ask God to come and live in a house that I won’t let my family live in. Empty every room in the house, and then the heart is the centre of gravity to Jesus Christ, and He will come in and live with you. (S. Jones.)

How to overcome temptation

“Flee youthful lusts.” Fight not, but flee; or if fight you must, copy the old Parthians, who, seated on fleet coursers and armed with bow and arrows, shot from the saddle, flying as they fought. If you cannot flee, then in Christ’s name and strength face round on the foe, and make a bold stand for God; and the virtues of youth shall rebuke the vices of age, and hoary sin shall go down before you armed with God’s word, as did the Philistine before the young shepherd and his sling. (T. Guthrie, D. D.)

How to vanquish sin

Prudence: “Can you remember by what means you find your annoyances at times as if they were vanquished? “Christian: “Yes, when I think what I saw at the cross, that will do it; and when I look upon my broidered coat, that will do it; also when I look into the roll that I carry in my bosom, that will do it; and when my thoughts wax warm about whither I am going, that will do it.” (John Bunyan.)

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Bibliographical Information
Exell, Joseph S. "Commentary on "Galatians 5:16". The Biblical Illustrator. 1905-1909. New York.

Coffman Commentaries on the Bible

But I say, Walk by the Spirit and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are contrary the one to the other; that ye may not do the things that ye would.

In this passage is the key to righteous living, Everyone is familiar with the seductive force of carnal, or fleshly desire, a force that operates subjectively within the minds of people, aided, of course, by all kinds of external suggestions and allurements. This "lusting against the Spirit" by that force has its stronghold in the mind, in the imagination particularly. Even in the Old Testament, the climax and pinnacle of the so-called "seven deadly sins" (Proverbs 6:18) was revealed as "a heart that deviseth wicked imaginations." The total corruption of the antediluvian world had been achieved by the evil one when the "imagination of men's hearts" had become evil, and only evil, without intermission (Genesis 6:5). This was the essence of pre-Christian debauchery of the Gentiles (Romans 1:21); and it was "imaginations" which Paul identified as being "exalted against the knowledge of God" (2 Corinthians 10:5), the Christian warfare being simply that of "casting down," eliminating, reducing and controlling the imaginations of the heart.

Now the contrary force to evil imaginations is exerted in the mind, the same being the battlefield where the warfare is decided. The pursuit of sacred studies, the thinking of loving and generous thoughts and the soul's welcome of the thoughts and attitudes of the Saviour, all of these things coming from the indwelling Spirit but remaining only if they are desired and welcomed - all of these things "lust against the flesh." This means that such Spirit-induced thoughts, if permitted to dwell within, will actively dissipate and destroy their opposites, namely, the fleshly lusts. These two verses are the summary of the thoughts in mind in the following verses, where Paul described the two kinds of life, that of the flesh and that of the Spirit.

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Coffman Commentaries reproduced by permission of Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. All other rights reserved.
Bibliographical Information
Coffman, James Burton. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "Coffman Commentaries on the Bible". Abilene Christian University Press, Abilene, Texas, USA. 1983-1999.

John Gill's Exposition of the Whole Bible

This I say then, walk in the Spirit,.... The advice the apostle thinks fit to give, and which he would have observed, is, to "walk in the Spirit", that is, either after the Spirit of God; making the word inspired by him the rule of behaviour, which as it is the standard of faith, so of practice, and is the lamp unto our feet, and the light unto our path; taking him himself for a guide, who not only guides into all truth, but in the way of holiness and righteousness unto the land of uprightness; and depending upon his grace and strength for assistance throughout the whole of our walk and conversation: or in the exercise of the graces of the Spirit of God; as in the exercise of faith upon the person and grace of Christ, of which the Spirit is the author; and in love to God, Christ, and one another, which is a fruit of the Spirit; and in humility, lowliness of mind, meekness and condescension; all which is to walk in the Spirit, or spiritually, and strengthens the argument for love the apostle is upon: and this he encourages to by observing,

and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh; he does not say there shall be no flesh, nor any lust of the flesh in them if they walk spiritually; or that the flesh should not act and operate in them; or that they should do no sinful action; all which is only true of Christ; and the contrary is to be found and observed in all true Christians, though ever so spiritual; but that they should not fulfil or perfect the lust of the flesh; should not give up themselves entirely to the power and dictates of the flesh, so as to be under it and at its command, and be obedient servants and slaves unto it; for, in this sense only, such that are spiritual do not, commit sin, they do not make a trade of it, it is not their constant employ or course of conversation.

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The New John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible Modernised and adapted for the computer by Larry Pierce of Online Bible. All Rights Reserved, Larry Pierce, Winterbourne, Ontario.
A printed copy of this work can be ordered from: The Baptist Standard Bearer, 1 Iron Oaks Dr, Paris, AR, 72855
Bibliographical Information
Gill, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible". 1999.

Geneva Study Bible

15 [This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

(15) He acknowledges the great weakness of the godly, because they are but in part regenerated: but he exhorts them to remember that they are endued with the Spirit of God, who has delivered them from the slavery of sin, and so from the Law, inasmuch as it is the power of sin, so that they should not give themselves to lusts.
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Beza, Theodore. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "The 1599 Geneva Study Bible". 1599-1645.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible

This I say then — Repeating in other words, and explaining the sentiment in Galatians 5:13, What I mean is this.”

Walk in the SpiritGreek, “By (the rule of) the (Holy) Spirit.” Compare Galatians 5:16-18, Galatians 5:22, Galatians 5:25; Galatians 6:1-8, with Romans 7:22; Romans 8:11. The best way to keep tares out of a bushel is to fill it with wheat.

the flesh — the natural man, out of which flow the evils specified (Galatians 5:19-21). The spirit and the flesh mutually exclude one another. It is promised, not that we should have no evil lusts, but that we should “not fulfil” them. If the spirit that is in us can be at ease under sin, it is not a spirit that comes from the Holy Spirit. The gentle dove trembles at the sight even of a hawk‘s feather.

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These files are a derivative of an electronic edition prepared from text scanned by Woodside Bible Fellowship.
This expanded edition of the Jameison-Faussett-Brown Commentary is in the public domain and may be freely used and distributed.
Bibliographical Information
Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible". 1871-8.

Martin Luther's Commentary on Galatians

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
"I have not forgotten what I told you about faith in the first part of my letter. Because I exhort you to mutual love you are not to think that I have gone back on my teaching of justification by faith alone. I am still of the same opinion. To remove every possibility for misunderstanding I have added this explanatory note: 'Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.'"

With this verse Paul explains how he wants this sentence to be understood: By love serve one another. When I bid you to love one another, this is what I mean and require, 'Walk in the Spirit.' I know very well you will not fulfill the Law, because you are sinners as long as you live. Nevertheless, you should endeavor to walk in the spirit, i.e., fight against the flesh and follow the leads of the Holy Ghost."

It is quite apparent that Paul had not forgotten the doctrine of justification, for in bidding the Galatians to walk in the Spirit he at the same time denies that good works can justify. "When I speak of the fulfilling of the Law I do not mean to say that you are justified by the Law. All I mean to say is that you should take the Spirit for your guide and resist the flesh. That is the most you shall ever be able to do. Obey the Spirit and fight against the flesh."

And ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
The lust of the flesh is not altogether extinct in us. It rises up again and again and wrestles with the Spirit. No flesh, not even that of the true believer, is so completely under the influence of the Spirit that it will not bite or devour, or at least neglect, the commandment of love. At the slightest provocation it flares up, demands to be revenged, and hates a neighbor like an enemy, or at least does not love him as much as he ought to be loved.

Therefore the Apostle establishes this rule of love for the believers. Serve one another in love. Bear the infirmities of your brother. Forgive one another. Without such bearing and forbearing, giving and forgiving, there can be no unity because to give and to take offense are unavoidably human.

Whenever you are angry with your brother for any cause, repress your violent emotions through the Spirit. Bear with his weakness and love him. He does not cease to be your neighbor or brother because he offended you. On the contrary, he now more than ever before requires your loving attention.

The scholastics take the lust of the flesh to mean carnal lust. True, believers too are tempted with carnal lust. Even the married are not immune to carnal lusts. Men set little value upon that which they have and covet what they have not, as the poet says:

"The things most forbidden we always desire,
And things most denied we seek to acquire."

I do not deny that the lust of the flesh includes carnal lust. But it takes in more. It takes in all the corrupt desires with which the believers are more or less infected, as pride, hatred, covetousness, impatience. Later on Paul enumerates among the works of the flesh even idolatry and heresy. The apostle's meaning is clear. "I want you to love one another. But you do not do it. In fact you cannot do it, because of your flesh. Hence we cannot be justified by deeds of love. Do not for a moment think that I am reversing myself on my stand concerning faith. Faith and hope must continue. By faith we are justified, by hope we endure to the end. In addition we serve each other in love because true faith is not idle. Our love, however, is faulty. In bidding you to walk in the Spirit I indicate to you that our love is not sufficient to justify us. Neither do I demand that you should get rid of the flesh, but that you should control and subdue it."

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website
Bibliographical Information
Luther, Martin. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "Martin Luther's Commentary on Galatians". Zondervan. Gand Rapids, MI. 1939.

Robertson's Word Pictures in the New Testament

Ye shall not fulfil (ου μη τελεσητεou mē telesēte). Rather, “Ye will not fulfil.” Strong double negative with aorist active subjunctive.

The lust of the flesh (επιτυμιαν σαρκοςepithumian sarkos). Bad sense here as usual in Paul, but not so in 1 Thessalonians 2:17; Philemon 1:23. The word is just craving or longing (from επι τυμοςepithumos yearning after).

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The Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament. Copyright Broadman Press 1932,33, Renewal 1960. All rights reserved. Used by permission of Broadman Press (Southern Baptist Sunday School Board)
Bibliographical Information
Robertson, A.T. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "Robertson's Word Pictures of the New Testament". Broadman Press 1932,33. Renewal 1960.

Vincent's Word Studies

Walk ( περιπατεῖτε )

Frequent in a metaphorical sense for habitual conduct. See Mark 7:5; John 8:12; Acts 21:21; Romans 6:4; Romans 8:4; 1 Corinthians 3:3; Philemon 3:18. Never by Paul in the literal sense.

In the Spirit ( πνεύματι )

Rather, by the Spirit, as the rule of action. Comp. Galatians 6:16; Philemon 3:16; Romans 4:12.

Fulfill ( τελέσητε )

Bring to fulfillment in action. See on do the law, Galatians 5:3.

The lust ( ἐπιθυμίαν )

Frequent in Paul, and usually in a bad sense; but see Philemon 1:23; 1 Thessalonians 2:17, and comp. Luke 22:15. The phrase lust or lusts of the flesh occurs also Ephesians 2:3; 2 Peter 2:18; 1 John 2:16. It means, not the mere sensual desire of the physical nature, but the desire which is peculiar to human nature without the divine Spirit.

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Vincent, Marvin R. DD. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "Vincent's Word Studies in the New Testament". Charles Schribner's Sons. New York, USA. 1887.

Wesley's Explanatory Notes

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

I say then — He now explains what he proposed, Galatians 5:13.

Walk by the Spirit — Follow his guidance in all things.

And fulfil not — In anything.

The desire of the flesh — Of corrupt nature.

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These files are public domain and are a derivative of an electronic edition that is available on the Christian Classics Ethereal Library Website.
Bibliographical Information
Wesley, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible". 1765.

Abbott's Illustrated New Testament

Ye shall not fulfil; ye will not fulfil.

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Abbott, John S. C. & Abbott, Jacob. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "Abbott's Illustrated New Testament". 1878.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

Я говорю: поступайте по духу. Затем апостол говорит о врачевстве против этого зла. Ведь погибель Церкви – немалое зло. Итак, его следует упорно избегать всякий раз, когда возникает подобная угроза. Но как именно избегать? С помощью того, что плоть не будет в нас господствовать, и мы будем являть свидетельства своего водительства Святым Духом. Апостол намекает на то, что галаты, ведущие жизнь недостойную христиан, являются плотскими и лишены Духа Божия. Откуда еще происходят их распри, если не от того, что они водятся плотской похотью? Итак, апостол считает это знаком того, что они не ходят по Духу. Следует обратить внимание на слово «исполнять». Апостол хочет сказать, что сыны Божии, как бы ни были еще подвержены порокам, и как бы ни тяготились бременем плоти, не привержены полностью этим плотским порокам, но упорно им сопротивляются. Духовный человек вовсе не чужд плотских вожделений, больше того, – они довольно часто в нем возникают. Однако он не покоряется им и не дает царствовать, что и означается словом «исполнять». Смотри восьмую главу Послания к Римлянам.




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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.

James Nisbet's Church Pulpit Commentary


‘Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.’

Galatians 5:16

These Galatians were a fierce, brave, generous, but untamed race of mountaineers, whose chief vices were unbridled fleshly self-indulgence. And here St. Paul urges them to struggle to be self-controlling men, and not self-indulgent brutes: ‘Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.’ It is hardly possible to conceive a greater contrast than that between those wild Galatians and ourselves in our higher civilisation and quiet homes. But the battle, with us, is the same as with them; the same ‘lusts of the flesh’ are with us, and they have to be met and conquered.

I. The chief feature of St. Paul’s teaching in reference to morality was its positiveness.—There are two ways to meet and deal with every vice: one is to set to work to destroy it; the other is to overwhelm and stifle it with its opposite virtue. The former is the negative, and the latter the positive method. There can be no doubt about St. Paul’s way. To the poor Galatian, fighting with his fleshly lusts, he does not set him on a course of stern repression, but rather points him to a life of positive endeavour, to do something opposite: ‘Walk in the Spirit, and—then——’ The Apostle laid hold on one of the noblest methods of the treatment of humanity—one that he had gained most directly from his Lord. These two methods of treatment, the negative and the positive, present themselves to us in all the other problems of life besides morality, and men choose between them.

II.—Throughout the New Testament there is nothing more beautiful than the perfectly clear way in which the positive culture of human character is adopted and employed.—The God of the New Testament, Whose express image and glory we behold in the face of Jesus Christ, is not a God of repression, but a God Whose Fatherhood is made so real that His holiness may be reproduced in His children; a God Whose symbols are everything that is stimulating, everything that encourages and helps; Who leads on His children into that new life where sin becomes impossible, on an ever-ascending pathway of growing Christliness. And this character of the New Testament, of Christianity, is not in contradiction with the best aspirations of the human heart. Man is willing to exercise repression and self-sacrifice for a certain temporary purpose, to do some certain work—the world is full of self-sacrifice, of the suppression of desires, the restraint of natural inclinations; yet all the time there is a great human sense that not suppression but expression is the true life.

III. And yet there arises much in the teachings of our Lord, and in the whole spirit of Christianity, which seems to contradict this conclusion.—Has not the religion of Jesus always been called the very religion of self-sacrifice? Is not self-surrender exalted into a virtue and crowned with glory, as it never was in any other faith? That certainly is true. But in Christ’s teaching self-sacrifice is always temporary and provisional, merely the clearing the way for the positive culture and manifestation of those great results of spiritual life which he loved: the right hand to be cut off, the right eye to be plucked out; mortification of the flesh, that the man may ‘enter into life.’ The self-sacrifice of the Christian is true in proportion as it copies the perfect pattern of the self-sacrifice of Christ. The Christian’s self-surrender is called a being ‘crucified to the world’; when, then, we turn to Christ’s crucifixion we find the key to that of the Christian man. See how the positive power shines through that, the most heroic of all sacrifices. It is not simply the giving up of something, it is the laying hold of something too. He Who suffers is conquering fear by the power of a confident hope, a triumphant certainty. The way to get out of self-love is to love God. ‘Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.’

Bishop Phillips Brooks.


‘You cannot kill any one of the appetites of human nature by merely starving them. You must try to draw those appetites from the poison they covet, by supplying a true and good food; by providing rational amusements, a healthier and brighter tone to home and public life; in a word, by a positive, and not a negative method of treatment. It is not prohibition which keeps the well-to-do, as a class, from disgusting and degrading lives: it is the comfort of home and intellectual occupation—the positive forces: these, and not negative repression, must be our aim in dealing with the poor man in the squalor of his garret and the hopelessness of his life. The same holds good of religion.’

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Nisbet, James. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". Church Pulpit Commentary. 1876.

John Trapp Complete Commentary

16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Ver. 16. This I say then] For an antidote against abuse of Christian liberty. Set the Spirit, as Pharaoh did Joseph, upon the chief chariot of your hearts, and let all be at his beck and check.

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Trapp, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". John Trapp Complete Commentary. 1865-1868.

Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible

Galatians 5:16. This I say then, walk in the Spirit, &c.— That is, "I have been cautioning you against that contentious temper which is so great a reproach to the professors of Christianity, and tends so much to the detriment of our common faith. But, that I may effectually guard you against this and every other evil, I have a charge to give you, and, in a word, I say, Walk in the Spirit, and at all times endeavour to conduct yourselves as under the influences of that blessed Agent, and in a way agreeable to the new nature that he has given you, and then ye will not fulfil the lust of the flesh; so that, if you be not yet delivered from the remainders of corruption, yet by his powerful suggestions, and by the gracious aids which you receive from him, you will be happily preserved from the predominancy of carnal and irregular appetites, so that the work of mortification and all the exercises of true godliness, will daily become more and more easy and familiar to you." Instead of, ye shall not fulfil, some read, ye shall in nowise fulfil.

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Coke, Thomas. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". Thomas Coke Commentary on the Holy Bible. 1801-1803.

Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament

"To prevent the fore-mentioned evils, as if the apostle had said, I advise and exhort you to walk had said, I advise and exhort you to walk in the Spirit, that is, according to the guidance and direction, according to the influence and motion, of the Holy Spirit speaking to you in his word, and then you never will fulfil the lusts of the flesh; that is, you will never accomplish and bring into complete act (especially with deliberation and consent) the inordinate motions of corrupt nature."

Learn hence, That the more Christians set themselves to obey the new nature, and follow the motions of the spirit of grace, the more will the power of indwelling sin and inbred corruption be mortified and kept under. This expression, Ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh, may be thought to import and imply these two things:

1. That an inward principle of grace in the heart will give a check to sin in its first motions, and cause it oft-times to miscarry in the womb, like an untimely birth, before it comes to its full maturity; it shall never gain the full consent of a gracious person's will, as it doth of an unregenerate person.

2. But if notwithstanding all the opposition grace makes to hinder the production of sin, if yet it doth break forth into act, such acts of sin are not committed without reluctance and regret, and are followed with shame and sorrow, yea, those very surprisals and captivities of sin at one time, are made cautions and warnings to prevent it at another time; and thus they that walk in the Spirit, do not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.

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Burkitt, William. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". Expository Notes with Practical Observations on the New Testament. 1700-1703.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary

16.] λέγω δέ refers to Galatians 5:13—repeating, and explaining it—q. d., ‘What I mean, is this.’

πνεύματι, the normal dative, of the rule, or manner, after or in which: Meyer quotes Hom. II. ο. 194, οὔτι διὸς βέομαι φρεσίν:—by the Spirit. But πν. is not man’s ‘spiritual part,’ as Beza, Rück., De W., al.; nor is πνεύματιafter a spiritual manner,’ Peile,—nor will ἡ ἐνοικοῦσα χάρις give the force of πνεῦμα (Thdrt.): it is (as in Galatians 5:5) the Holy Spirit of God: this will be clear on comparing with our Galatians 5:16-18, the more expanded parallel passage, Romans 7:22 to Romans 8:11. The history of the verbal usage is, that πνεῦμα, as χριστός and θεός, came to be used as a proper name: so that the supposed distinction between τὸ πν. as the objective (the Holy Ghost), and πν. as the subjective (man’s spirit), does not hold.

σαρκός] the natural man:—that whole state of being in the flesh, out of which spring the practices and thoughts of Galatians 5:19.

οὐ μὴ τελέσητε] Is this (1) merely future in meaning, and a sequence on πνεύματι περιπ., ‘and ye shall not fulfil,’—or is it (2) imperative, ‘and fulfil not?’ Ellic. in his note has shewn that this latter meaning is allowable, it being doubtful even in classical Greek whether there are not some instances of οὐ μή with the second person subjunctive imperatively used, and the tendency of later Greek being rather to use the subjunctive aorist for the future. And Meyer defends it on exegetical grounds. But surely (1) is much to be preferred on these same grounds. For the next and following verses go to shew just what this verse will then assert, viz. that the Spirit and the flesh exclude one another.

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Alford, Henry. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary. 1863-1878.

Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae



Galatians 5:16. This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

IN the Church of God, no less than in the ungodly world, there have always been found persons ready to foment divisions, and to kindle animosities between man and man. It was so in the apostolic age: it is so at this day: and it must of necessity be so, as long as tares are left growing amongst the wheat, or persons professing godliness suffer themselves to be led captive by a proud, unmortified, and contentious spirit. In the Galatian Church, persons of this description abounded: and to such a height did their contentions arise, that the Apostle was constrained to give them this solemn warning: “If ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another [Note: ver. 15.].”

Now, how shall this propensity be counteracted? The Apostle tells us, “Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh.” Let us consider then,

I. The direction here given—

Before we can enter fully into the passage before us, we must explain the terms which the Apostle uses to convey his sentiments. The whole context shews that there are two principles in the regenerate man; one which is called flesh, and another which is called spirit: the one comprehending all which we bring into the world with us, and which is common to the natural man; the other importing that better principle which is infused into the soul by the Spirit of God, when he quickens us to a new and heavenly life: as our Lord says, “That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit [Note: John 3:6.].” Sin of every kind is the fruit of the former; and holiness of every kind is the offspring of the latter. Amongst “the works of the flesh,” the Apostle numbers “idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulation, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies [Note: ver. 20.]:” which shews, that we are not, when speaking of “the lusts or desires of the flesh,” to confine our views to sins which are acted in and by the body; but to take in all the corruptions of our nature, in mind as well as body. With this explanation, we shall the more easily see, that, to “walk in the Spirit,” we must walk,

1. In a constant attention to the new principle infused into us—

[I cannot give a more just idea of this new principle, which the Spirit of God imparts to us in our conversion, than by comparing it with the modern invention of the compass. Before the invention of the compass, mariners, in a dark night, were unable with any precision to direct their course. Whilst they were in sight of land, or had a view of the sun or stars, they could proceed with some degree of certainty: but, in the absence of these, they were altogether at a loss. But it is not so with mariners at this time. By the help of the compass they can by night steer the ship, as well as in the day; having constantly at hand, as it were, a sure directory. Now this is the difference between the natural and the spiritual man: the natural man has reason and conscience, which, to a certain degree, are capable of directing his path. But numberless occasions arise whereon they fail him utterly. The spiritual man has, superadded to these, a new and living principle abiding in him; a principle infused into him by the Spirit of God, and in exact accordance with his mind and will: and by this principle the Spirit himself guides him in all his way. The spiritual man, therefore, in every doubt or difficulty, should consult this divine principle within him; and see its bearings, and follow its directions. And as the mariner, whilst he observes his compass, consults also his chart and maps; so must we, whilst attending to the motions of this principle, consult also the directory which God has given us in the Holy Scriptures: and by means of these observations we shall be kept from any great aberrations from the way of truth. This process, however, must be continued throughout all our way: we must not only live in the Spirit, but must “walk in the Spirit,” every step we take [Note: ver. 25.] — — —]

2. In a humble dependence on that Divine Spirit who has infused it—

[The new principle within us may suggest what is right; but it cannot enable us for the performance of it: for all power to do the will of God, we must be indebted altogether to the Spirit of God. Our blessed Lord expressly says, “Without me ye can do nothing [Note: John 15:5.].” There is no surer cause of failure than self-confidence and self-dependence. Peter, and with him all the other Disciples, declared that they would follow their Lord even unto death: but no sooner did the trial come, than “they all forsook him and fled.” And we, too, if we make resolutions in our own strength, shall learn, by bitter experience, that “he who trusteth in his own heart, is a fool [Note: Proverbs 28:26.].” We must be careful, too, not to make any difference between matters of greater or lesser difficulty, as though we were competent for the one any more than the other. We must, in the whole course of our journey, depend on God alone: we are never, for a moment, to feel strong in ourselves, but “strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might [Note: Ephesians 6:10.]:” and in every step that we take, we must cry, “Hold thou me up, and I shall be safe [Note: Psalms 119:117.].”]

To this direction the Apostle adds,

II. Our encouragement to the observance of it—

We have before shewn, that by the “lusts of the flesh” we are to understand all the motions of our corrupt nature: and from these we shall be preserved, if we follow the direction given us in our text. But here we must carefully distinguish between what is promised, and what is not.

1. It is not promised that we shall not be tempted by the lusts of the flesh—

[The carnal principle still remains with us after we are renewed; as the Apostle says, “The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit, against the flesh; and these are contrary the one to the other; so that ye cannot do the things ye would [Note: ver. 17.].” If, on the one hand, our spiritual principle keeps us from following the evil bias of our nature; so, on the other hand, the remainder of the carnal principle within us keeps us from following so fully as we could wish the dictates of our renewed mind. The Apostle Paul himself complained, that “when he would do good, evil was present with him;” and that, notwithstanding he delighted in the law of God after his inward man, “he had still a law in his members, warring against the law of his mind, and at times bringing him, in some degree, into captivity to the law of sin which was in his members [Note: Romans 7:21-23.].” And we, too, shall find the same, even to our dying hour. But,]

2. It is promised that we shall not fulfil them—

[God will “strengthen us by his Spirit in our inward man [Note: Ephesians 3:16.],” and enable us to “crucify the flesh with the affections and lusts [Note: ver. 24.].” Weak as we are in ourselves, “nothing shall be impossible to us,” if we trust in Him [Note: Matthew 17:20.]: he will “give us more grace [Note: James 4:6.],” and “strength according to our day [Note: Deuteronomy 33:25.].” Whatever be our temptations, “the grace of Christ shall be sufficient for us [Note: 2 Corinthians 12:9.];” and “we shall be enabled to do all things through Christ, who strengthens us [Note: Philippians 4:13.].”]

From this subject we may clearly learn,

1. What is the great work we have to do—

[The one employment which we have daily to attend to, is, to be putting off the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; and to be “putting on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness [Note: Ephesians 4:22-24.].” We are here as in a great hospital, where the process of healing is going forward, and many are convalescent; but we need still to apply the same remedies; and we are none of us possessed of that measure of health which we hope to attain previous to our dismission. We follow still the prescriptions of our physician; and we hope, in so doing, to obtain, in due season, a perfect recovery — — —]

2. The need we have of constant vigilance and exertion—

[The old principle, as has been observed, still remains within us: and, if we be not constantly on our guard, it will regain its former ascendency over us. A stronger army, if the sentinels fall asleep, may be surprised and vanquished by troops that are far inferior: and we too, notwithstanding the power given us by the indwelling Spirit, shall surely be overcome, if we be not constantly on our watch-tower. We must be prepared to meet our adversary at his first approach. Our blessed Lord says, “Watch and pray, that ye enter not into temptation:” and the sad consequences of sleeping on our post may be seen in the Disciples, when they failed to observe this important admonition [Note: Matthew 26:41; Matthew 26:43; Matthew 26:56.]. Corruption will often put on the appearance of virtue, and Satan assume the garb of an angel of light [Note: 2 Corinthians 11:14.]: but if we be on our guard, we shall detect his devices; and “if we resist him manfully, he will flee from us [Note: James 4:7.].”]

3. The security that is afforded us, if we be only faithful to ourselves—

[God assures us of success, if only we follow his directions. “If we sow to the flesh, we shall of the flesh reap corruption: but if we sow to the Spirit, we shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting [Note: Galatians 6:7-8.].” In two respects shall we be placed on a totally different footing from that on which we stood before: we shall not be judged according to the perfect law, which condemns us for the smallest act of disobedience; for, “if we walk in the Spirit, we are not under the law [Note: ver. 18.]:” on the contrary, our imperfect obedience shall be eternally rewarded: for God would deem himself “unrighteous, if he were to forget” any thing that we do for his sake [Note: Hebrews 6:10.]. With boldness, then, I say to every one amongst you, “Be steadfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, and you may rest assured that your labour shall not be in vain in the Lord [Note: 1 Corinthians 15:58.].”]

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Simeon, Charles. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". Charles Simeon's Horae Homileticae. 1832.

Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament

Galatians 5:16. With the words “But I mean” (Galatians 3:17, Galatians 4:1) the apostle introduces, not something new, but a deeper and more comprehensive exhibition and discussion of that which, in Galatians 5:13-15, he had brought home to his readers by way of admonition and of warning—down to Galatians 5:26. Hofmann is wrong in restricting the illustration merely to what follows after ἀλλά,—a view which is in itself arbitrary, and is opposed to the manifest correlation existing between the contrast of flesh and spirit and the ἀφορμή, which the free Christian is not to afford to the flesh (Galatians 5:13).

πνεύματι περιπατεῖτε] dative of the norma ( κατὰ πνεῦμα, Romans 8:4). Comp. Galatians 6:16; Philippians 3:16; Romans 4:12; Hom. Il. xv. 194: οὔτι διὸς βέομαι φρέσιν. The subsequent πνεύματι ἄγεσθε in Galatians 5:18 is more favourable to this view than to that of Fritzsche, ad Rom. I. p. 225, who makes it the dative commodi (spiritui divino vitam consecrare), or to that of Wieseler, who makes it instrumental, so that the Spirit is conceived as path (the idea is different in the case of διά in 2 Corinthians 5:7), or of Hofmann, who renders: “by virtue of the Spirit.” Calovius well remarks: “juxta instinctum et impulsum.” The spirit is not, however, the moral nature of man (that is, ἔσω ἄνθρωπος, νοῦς, Romans 7:22-23), which is sanctified by the Divine Spirit (Beza, Gomarus, Rückert, de Wette, and others; comp. Michaelis, Morus, Flatt, Schott, Olshausen, Windischmann, Delitzsch, Psychol, p. 389), in behalf of which appeal is erroneously (see also Romans 8:9) made to the contrast of σάρξ, since the divine πνεῦμα is in fact the power which overcomes the σάρξ (Romans 7:23 ff., Romans 8:1 ff.); but it is the Holy Spirit. This Spirit is given to believers as the divine principle of the Christian life (Galatians 3:2; Galatians 3:5, Galatians 4:6), and they are to obey it, and not the ungodly desires of their σάρξ. Comp. Neander, and Müller, v. d. Sünde, I. p. 453, ed. 5. The absence of the article is not (in opposition to Harless on Eph. p. 268) at variance with this view, but it is not to be explained in a qualitative sense (Hofmann), any more than in the case of θεός, κύριος, and the like; on the contrary, πνεῦμα has the nature of a proper noun, and, even when dwelling and ruling in the human spirit, remains always objective, as the Divine Spirit, specifically different from the human (Romans 8:16). Comp. on Galatians 5:3; Galatians 5:5, and on Romans 8:4; also Buttmann, neut. Gr. p. 78.

καὶ ἐπιθυμίαν σαρκὸς οὐ μὴ τελέσητε] is taken as consequence by the Vulgate, Jerome, Theodoret, Erasmus, Luther, Calvin, Grotius, Estius, Bengel, and most expositors, including Winer, Paulus, Rückert, Matthies, Schott, de Wette, Hilgenfeld, Wieseler, Hofmann, Reithmayr; but by others, as Castalio, Beza, Koppe, Usteri, Baumgarten-Crusius, Ewald, in the sense of the imperative. Either view is well adapted to the context, since afterwards, for the illustration of what is said in Galatians 5:16, the relation between σάρξ and πνεῦμα is set forth. But the view which takes it as consequence is the only one which corresponds with the usage in other passages of the N.T., in which οὐ μή. with the aorist subjunctive is always used in the sense of confident assurance, and not imperatively, like οὐ with the future, although in classical authors οὐ μή is so employed. “Ye will certainly not fulfil the lust of the flesh,—this is the moral blessed consequence, which is promised to them, if they walk according to the Spirit.” On τελεῖν, used of the actual carrying out of a desire, passion, or the like, comp. Soph. O. R. 1330, El. 769; Hesiod, Scut. 36.

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Meyer, Heinrich. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". Heinrich Meyer's Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament. 1832.

Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament

Galatians 5:16. λέγω δὲ, but I say) He goes on to explain what he proposed at Galatians 5:13.— πνεὑματι, in the Spirit) See [Galatians 5:18; Galatians 5:22; Galatians 5:25, ch. Galatians 6:1-8] Romans 8:4, note.— οὐ μὴ τελέσητε) ye shall not fulfil.

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Bengel, Johann Albrecht. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". Johann Albrecht Bengel's Gnomon of the New Testament. 1897.

Matthew Poole's English Annotations
on the Holy Bible

Walk in the Spirit; the apostle having, Galatians 5:13, cautioned them against turning the grace of God into wantonness, by using their liberty as an occasion to the flesh; here he directeth them to the best means for the avoiding thereof, viz.

walking in the Spirit. Where by Spirit he doth not mean our own spirits, or the guide and conduct of our own reason; for the term Spirit, set (as here) in opposition to the flesh, is in no place of Scripture understood of any other than the Holy Spirit of God, which dwelleth in and influenceth believers, guiding them both by a rule from without, (which is the word of God, given by its inspiration), and by its inward motions and operations. Walking, signifieth the directing of their whole conversations. The phrases

in the Spirit, and after the Spirit, Romans 8:1, seem to be of the same import, uuless the alteration of the preposition signifieth, that Christians are not only to look to the word of God dictated by the Holy Spirit as their rule, and to listen to its dictates, but also to look up to the Holy Spirit for its strength and assistance; and implieth a promise of such assistance. The sense is: Let your whole conversation be according to the external rule of the gospel, and the more inward motions, directions, and inclinations of the Spirit of Christ, dwelling and working in you, and moving you to the obedience of that word.

And ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh; this doing, though the flesh be yet in you, and you will find the lustings and warrings of it, yet you shall not fulfil the sinful desires and lustings of it; that is, sin, though it be in you, shall not be in dominion in you; it shall not reign in your mortal bodies: Romans 6:12: Let not sin reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

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Poole, Matthew, "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". Matthew Poole's English Annotations on the Holy Bible. 1685.

Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture

поступайте по духу Все верующие имеют присутствие обитающего в них Святого Духа (ср. Рим. 8:9; 1Кор. 6:19, 20), дающего каждому силу жить, угождая Богу. Форма греч. глагола, переведенного как «поступать», указывает на непрерывное действие или привычный образ жизни. Это слово подразумевает также понятие прогресса: по мере того, как верующий подчиняется Духу, т.е. проявляет послушание в отношении простых заповедей Писания, он возрастает в духовной жизни (см. пояснения к Рим. 8:13; Еф. 5:18; Кол. 3:16).

плоти Это не просто физическое тело, сюда входят ум, воля и чувства – и все они подвержены греху. В целом, имеется в виду наша неискупленная человеческая природа. См. пояснения к Рим. 7:5; 8:23; ср. ст. 13.

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MacLaren, Alexander. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". Alexander MacLaren's Expositions of Holy Scripture.

Justin Edwards' Family Bible New Testament

Walk in the Spirit; live under his influence and follow his directions.

Not fulfill the lust of the flesh; not follow sinful inclinations or comply with temptations to sin.

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Edwards, Justin. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "Family Bible New Testament". American Tract Society. 1851.

John Eadie's Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Colossians and Philippians

Galatians 5:16. λέγω δέ, πνεύματι περιπατεῖτε—“Now I say, According to the Spirit walk.” The first words are a formula introducing a further explanation, and refer back to the first part of Galatians 5:13 - εἰς ἀφορμὴν τῇ σαρκί; the intervening verses being suggested by the last clause of the same verse- διὰ τῆς ἀγάπης. . . δέ is not merely continuative, but points to the difference of theme. Had the apostle referred, as Gwynne supposes, to the immediately preceding verse, and merely proceeded with a specific and opposed injunction, λέγω would have been superfluous. It always introduces continued explanation: Galatians 3:17, Galatians 4:1. For περιπατεῖτε, see under Ephesians 2:2. The dative πνεύματι is that of norm- κατὰ πνεῦμα, Romans 8:4 (Meyer, Usteri)-indicating the rule or manner. Winer, § 31, 6; Galatians 3:17; Romans 4:12; Philippians 3:16. Fritzsche regards it as the dativus commodi (on Romans 13:13), because in such a verb as the one occurring in this clause, nulla notionis eundi ratio habetur; and Hofmann similarly refers it to the power of the Spirit, like πνεύματι ζῆν. Wieseler takes it as instrument, the Spirit being the path in which they walk. Similarly Gywnne—“the Spirit, the agent, being regarded as the instrument.” πνεῦμα is the Holy Spirit; for it is the same Spirit that is spoken of in Galatians 5:18; Galatians 5:22, and therefore is not the spiritual part of our nature, nor the human spirit in unity with the Divine Spirit (Beza, Rückert, De Wette, Schott, Olshausen, and Brown); some epithet or addition would need to be added to the simple πνεῦμα to give it such a meaning. Nor can the phrase be diluted into “after a spiritual manner” (Peile, and Theodoret who calls it ἐνοικοῦσαν χάριν). The want of the article does not forbid the reference to the Holy Spirit; for πνεῦμα came at length to be treated as a proper name. See under Ephesians 1:17.

Their whole course of life in thought and act, in all its manifestations, was to be in the Spirit who is the source of all good and gracious impulse. He is within believers the living, ennobling, and sanctifying power; and susceptibility of influence-of check and guidance-from Him, in all points of daily life, was to characterize them-

καὶ ἐπιθυμίαν σαρκὸς οὐ μὴ τελέσητε—“and (so) ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.” This translation is accepted by perhaps the majority of expositors. The clause is a conclusion following an imperative-do the one, and the other shall follow; the καί being consecutive. Winer, § 53, 3; Matthew 22:32; Luke 6:37; 2 Corinthians 13:11. See under Philippians 4:7. The double negative οὐ μή is intensive, as if it were μηδαμῶς. Lobeck, Phrynichus, p. 724; Winer, § 56, 3. See under Galatians 4:30. The aorist subjunctive is often employed in such negative utterances, especially in later Greek. Donaldson, Cratyl. 394; Krüger, § 53, 7, An. 6.

But another rendering has been adopted, and the verb is taken as an imperative—“and fulfil not the lust of the flesh;” the verse consisting in this case of an affirmative and a negative imperative connected by the simple copula. This is the view of Castalio, Beza, Koppe, Usteri, Baumgarten-Crusius, Ewald, and Meyer. The verb may indeed be taken in an imperative sense, there being apparently similar instances of such an imperative use of the second person subjunctive, and the aorist subjunctive being abundantly used in later Greek for the future. Gayler has given many examples from the classics, and a table of them from the Sept., p. 440, 1, etc. But there is no clear example of this construction in the New Testament, and there is often difference of reading in such cases as here. D3, E have οὐ μὴ τελέσετε, as if from the Latin versions, which give non perficietis. The context following plainly presupposes an assertion made, not a prohibitive command given, and assigns the reason for making it: If ye walk by the Spirit, ye shall not fulfil the lusts of the flesh; for the two courses are incompatible-the one excludes the other. It is questionable if the use of τελεῖν will bear out the inference of Calvin—“The spiritual man may be often assaulted by the lusts of the flesh, but he does not fulfil them.” See the use of ποιεῖν in John 8:44, Ephesians 2:3, compared with Romans 2:27, James 2:8. For σάρξ, see under Ephesians 2:3; Delitzsch, Bib. Psychol. 5.6, die unaufgehobene Antinomie; Müller, die Christ. Lehre von der Sünde, vol. i. p. 442, etc.

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Eadie, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". John Eadie's Commentary on Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians.

Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable

Walking by the Spirit means living moment by moment submissively trusting in the Holy Spirit rather than in self.

""Walk by the Spirit" means "let your conduct be directed by the Spirit."" [Note: Bruce, p243.]

"To "walk by the Spirit" means to be under the constant, moment-by-moment direction, control, and guidance of the Spirit." [Note: Fung, p249.]

"Walking is a metaphor used from time to time in Scripture to denote spiritual progress. People in the first century could not travel as fast as we do, with our cars, planes, trains and the like, but even Song of Solomon, for them as for us, walking was the slowest way of going places. But even though walking was slow and unspectacular, walking meant progress. If anyone kept walking, she or he would certainly cover the ground and eventually reach the destination. So for the apostle walking was an apt metaphor. If any believer was walking, that believer was going somewhere." [Note: Morris, p167.]

We could translate the Greek present tense imperative "Keep on walking." To the extent that we do this we will not at all (Gr. ou me, the strongest negative) carry out our fleshly desires. This is a promise.

This does not mean that one must be constantly thinking about his or her dependence on God to be walking in the Spirit. It Isaiah, of course, impossible to be thinking about this all the time. Nevertheless we should be trusting in Him all the time. The more we think about our dependence on Him the more consistent we will be in trusting in Him and in walking by the Spirit.

"The contrary way of living is to fulfil the lust of the flesh. The flesh is the physical part of our being and stands accordingly for that which is opposed to our spirit as well as to the divine Spirit. Our flesh is characterized by lust, which stands for the strong, but sometimes evil, desires that are associated with bodily living." [Note: Ibid, p168.]

This is one of the most important and helpful verses on Christian living in the Bible.

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Constable, Thomas. DD. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "Expository Notes of Dr. Thomas Constable". 2012.

Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament

Galatians 5:16. Paul returns to the warning in Galatians 5:13, not to abuse the freedom for an occasion to the flesh.

Walk by the Spirit, according to the rule and direction of the Holy Spirit who is the higher conscience and controlling principle of the Christian. Comp. Galatians 4:6; Romans 8:2.

And ye shall in no wise fulfil the lust of the flesh. The Holy Spirit and the sinful flesh are so antagonistic and irreconcilable that to follow the one is to resist and defeat the other. The ‘flesh’ is here, as in Galatians 5:13; Galatians 5:17; Galatians 5:19, and often in Paul (also John 3:6), used in a moral sense, and designates the fallen, carnal, sinful nature of man. It is not confined to sensuality, but embraces also the evil dispositions of the mind (Galatians 5:20). It must not be confounded with ‘body;’ it uses and abuses the body as its organ, but the body is good in itself, and intended to become the organ of the regenerate spirit of man and the temple of the Holy Spirit of God. 1 Corinthians 6:19-20; comp. Galatians 3:16; 2 Corinthians 6:16. (Comp. Excursus on Romans 7, and the elaborate discussion of Wieseler on Galatians 3:13, pp. 442-455.) The antagonism between the carnal nature of man and the Holy Spirit of God is one of the fundamental ideas in Paul’s psychology. The Gnostics and Manichaeans carried it to the extreme of dualism between mind and matter; but this is a heretical perversion. Paul’s antagonism is moral, not physical, and rests on the recognition of the body as substantially Rood and redeemable by the same power of God which redeems the soul.

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Schaff, Philip. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "Schaff's Popular Commentary on the New Testament". 1879-90.

The Expositor's Greek Testament

Galatians 5:16. .: Walk by the spirit, i.e., Regulate your lives by the rule of the spirit. You will not then fulfil the desire of the flesh.



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Nicol, W. Robertson, M.A., L.L.D. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". The Expositor's Greek Testament. 1897-1910.

E.W. Bullinger's Companion Bible Notes

in the Spirit = by spirit. App-101.

not. Greek. ou me. App-105.

fulfil. Greek. teleo. Compare App-125.

flesh. See Romans 6:12, Romans 6:19, Romans 13:14.

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Bullinger, Ethelbert William. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "E.W. Bullinger's Companion bible Notes". 1909-1922.

Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

This I say then - explaining Galatians 5:13, 'What I mean is this.'

Walk in the Spirit - `By [ Pneumati (Greek #4151)] the (Holy) Spirit' (as your governing principle, rule) (Acts 15:1; Galatians 6:16; Philippians 3:16 : cf. Galatians 5:16-18; Galatians 5:22; Galatians 5:25; Galatians 6:1-8, with Romans 7:22; Romans 8:2; Romans 8:9; Romans 8:11). The best way to keep tares out of a bushel is to fill it with wheat.

The flesh - the natural man, moving in the world of sense and self only. Its manifestations are various (Galatians 5:19-21). The spirit and the flesh mutually exclude one another. It is promised, not that we should have no evil lusts, but that we should "not fulfil" them. If the spirit in us can be at ease under sin, it is not a spirit that comes from the Holy Spirit. The gentle dove trembles at the sight even of a hawk's feather.

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Jamieson, Robert, D.D.; Fausset, A. R.; Brown, David. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible - Unabridged". 1871-8.

Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers

(16) Walk.—Conduct yourselves: a metaphor very common in the writings of St. Paul, but not peculiar to them. It occurs three times in the Gospels, once in the Acts, thirty-three times in St. Paul’s Epistles, once in the Hebrews, ten times in the Epistles of St. John, and once in the Apocalypse.

In the Spirit.—Rather, by the Spirit—i.e. by the rule of the Spirit, as the Spirit directs. “The Spirit” is here undoubtedly the Holy Spirit—the Spirit of God, not the spirit in man.

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Ellicott, Charles John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "Ellicott's Commentary for English Readers". 1905.

Treasury of Scripture Knowledge

This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.
I say
3:17; 1 Corinthians 7:29
25; 6:8; Romans 8:1,4,5,12-14; 1 Peter 1:22; 4:6; Jude 1:19-21
19-21; Romans 6:12; 13:13,14; 2 Corinthians 7:1; Ephesians 2:3; Colossians 2:11; 3:5-10; 1 Peter 1:14; 2:11; 4:1-4; 1 John 2:15,16
ye shall not fulfil
or, fulfil not.
Reciprocal: Genesis 6:3 - My;  Ezekiel 36:27 - cause;  Matthew 26:41 - the spirit;  John 3:6 - born of the flesh;  John 15:7 - ye shall;  Romans 7:5 - in the flesh;  Romans 8:14 - led;  1 Corinthians 13:2 - and have;  1 Corinthians 15:50 - this;  2 Corinthians 9:6 - 1say;  2 Corinthians 10:2 - we walked;  Galatians 5:18 - if;  Galatians 5:22 - the fruit;  Galatians 5:24 - crucified;  Galatians 6:16 - walk;  1 Thessalonians 2:12 - walk;  3 John 1:14 - Peace

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Torrey, R. A. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "The Treasury of Scripture Knowledge".

Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books

Week Eleven: 5:16-26 A Walk In The Spirit Is A Must For The Believer

This text is a window to what Paul means in verses fifteen and twenty-six.

15 But if ye bite and devour one another, take heed that ye be not consumed one of another.

Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

There is still that contrast between law and grace, bondage and freedom going on. In this section he tells the reader that the flesh has a certain outcome in practical living, and that the spiritual has another, quite different outcome. What a contrast there is between these two.

I am sure that many will jump on this passage to say that the flesh and the spirit war with one another within us, but this is not what Paul is teaching. This is clear in what he says in verse twenty-four "And they that are Christ"s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts." Notice the past tense and it is an aorist indicating a one time action, not a daily action as many suggest our spiritual life requires.

He begins with a simple statement that the believer is to walk in the Spirit and if we do we will not get into trouble with works of the flesh.

Galatians 5:16 [This] I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh.

Walk is a word that means to be occupied with. When I go for an exercise walk, I am totally oblivious to the world. I am walking as fast as I can, I am concentrating on the sidewalk before me, I am watching for lunatic drivers that can"t get out of my way fast enough, and I am mostly concentrating on getting enough air into my lungs to stay upright. I am walking; I am occupied with this activity. It is my total concentration.

This is in the imperative thus a command rather than one of twelve choices in life. Many Christians live as though many of the things Scripture tells us to do are in the comparative - you know, compare the lot of them and pick out the easiest of them and go to town on your spirituality - not the thought of the Lord, He has left us with a certain lifestyle and we are expected to walk it.

Walking in the Spirit isn"t walking around with your head in the clouds with a saintly air about you; it is asking the Spirit to work in and through you to help you live as Christ lived - to be filled with the characteristics that are to follow.

Remember in the movies when someone is in the confessional and the priest hears that they are done - he says something like, "Bless you my child, go and sin no more." No, that isn"t walking in the Spirit. Walking in the Spirit is a lifestyle that does not allow for sin, it does not allow for thoughts of sin, and it certainly does not allow for acts of sin. Walking in the Spirit is the opposite of fulfilling the lust of the flesh. The one is not compatible with the other. You can"t be spiritual and dabble in the little sins that you like to cling to, you are either walking with God or not.

The verb could be translated "keep on walking" and as you do so, there will be no possibility of you walking in the flesh - one does not go with the other, you will never see the Spirit of God and the flesh walking on the beach together. They may be on the beach walking in different directions, but never together walking the same way - take it to the bank, they won"t.

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Derickson, Stanley. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "Stanley Derickson - Notes on Selected Books".

Whedon's Commentary on the Bible

16.This I say—On this rule I lay special emphasis.

Walk in the Spirit— As the true preventive of the internal strife of Galatians 5:17.

Walk—Live and act.

In the Spirit—In obedience to conscience and Scripture enlightened by divine influence.


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Whedon, Daniel. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "Whedon's Commentary on the Bible". 1874-1909.

The Bible Study New Testament

16. Let the Spirit. The voice of the Spirit speaks through the New Testament especially, and as we listen to Him speak and guide our lives by what He says, we will avoid the evil desires of human nature that make us bite and devour each other.




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Ice, Rhoderick D. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "The Bible Study New Testament". College Press, Joplin, MO. 1974.

Calvin's Commentary on the Bible

16.This I say then. Now follows the remedy. The ruin of the church is no light evil, and whatever threatens it must be opposed with the most determined resistance. But how is this to be accomplished? By not permitting the flesh to rule in us, and by yielding ourselves to the direction of the Spirit of God. The Galatians are indirectly told, that they are carnal, destitute of the Spirit of God, and that the life which they lead is unworthy of Christians; for whence did their violent conduct towards each other proceed, but from their being guided by the lust of the flesh? This, he tells them, is an evidence that they do not walk according to the Spirit.

Ye shall not fulfill. We ought to mark the word fulfill; by which he means, that, though the sons of God, so long as they groan under the burden of the flesh, are liable to commit sin, they are not its subjects or slaves, but make habitual opposition to its power. The spiritual man may be frequently assaulted by the lusts of the flesh, but fulfill them, — he does not permit them to reign over him. — On this subject, it will be proper to consult Romans 8:0

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Calvin, John. "Commentary on Galatians 5:16". "Calvin's Commentary on the Bible". 1840-57.