Lord God, give us the Holy Spirit of liberty. Amen.
Text: Galatians 5:16-24
I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
To “walk in the Spirit” is the opposite of “being under the Law.” The Apostle contrasts “the Spirit” with “the flesh.” He also shows walking in “the Spirit” and slavery under “the Law” to be opposites. But make no mistake: Those who “are not under the Law” are not “without the Law.” The carnal would like to be without the Law; but they have its judgment in their conscience, whether they know it or not, and they are all in reality its slaves; they are not children of the Spirit. The spiritual, on the other hand, who are free from slavery, embrace the law of love and follow it. The Law condemns the works of the flesh, and those of the flesh hate the Law; but there is no law against the works of the Spirit, and the spiritual are not opposed to the Law.
The believers know that the command to love is pure and just; they believe Christ has fulfilled it for them, and God the Holy Spirit through faith gives them the new life of love in their soul. What Christ has done, I know, is given to me in Baptism and is completely accounted as if I had done it. Thus I am righteous and blessed and free from all the demands of the Law and all the condemnation of the Law; yes, in this way the Law no longer exists for me, but is nailed to the cross, dead and gone. But with such faith in God’s love I love God from my inmost heart, and love all people, even my worst enemies. By the Gospel God has given me His love, thus written His Law in my heart. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit” (Rom 8:2-4). Meanwhile, we still have the flesh, which works so that our life is weak and imperfect. And when the Apostle says: “the flesh lusts against the Spirit … so that you do not do the things that you wish,” we understand that the believers should humbly acknowledge the desires of the flesh as their own. What the flesh desires, what you wish, should be rejected. I should not forget that I – the same one who loves God with holy love – I bear in my self-will, in my flesh, such shameful things as fornication, adultery, impurity, etc., but all of them (thank God!) are crucified. I should suffer “so that” I might learn meekness and self-denial; but I should not follow it to become its slave; I should mortify the flesh with its lusts and desires. On the other hand, let us come forward with the fruits of the Spirit! The roots of the heart grow deeper in God’s love every single day! Let us walk more steadily, more fully, in a free, happy, childlike spirit! Richer expression of it in all heavenly deeds!
Grant us this grace, merciful God, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Jesus, help conquer! My lusts – O subdue them!
Nor in my flesh leave them longer to reign!
Works of the Spirit – I now would pursue them, –
Upward my course to Thy glory maintain.
Strengthen the will, and succeed my endeavor,
Body and soul shall rejoice in Thy favor.
Jesus, help conquer! – I still must bewail me,
While my offenses keep ever in view.
Help, when the past and its follies assail me,
Conscience the mem’ry of these would renew:
Give me to taste of the joys of Thy pardon,
Then shall my soul of its guilt lose the burden.
Schröder: Jesus, giv Seier! L 471:2-3 tr. H. Mills;
tune: Store Profet (Jensen’s Koralbog); alternate hymn: Holy Ghost, with light divine ELH 402