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First Quarter 2017 (December 31–March 24)
COMMENTARY ON THE HOLY SPIRIT AND SPIRITUALITY
Week 7: February 11–17
COMMENTARY ON "THE HOLY SPIRIT AND THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT"
Following is a combined commentary on the material included in the Bible Study Guide with references as necessary to the supplemental passages included in the E. G. White Notes for the Sabbath School Lessons.
Note: Unless otherwise stated, all biblical quotes are from the English Standard Version (ESV).
This is the memory text that sets the theme for this week:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Gal. 5:22-23)
The daily quarterly lessons for this week do a good job of covering the various manifestations of the fruit of the Holy Spirit outlined in this memory text yet ignores the implications of the last phrase...."against such things there is no law". Notice that this verse begins with the word 'but' which shows 'the fruit of the Spirit' is contrasted against the text leading up to the work of the Holy Spirit. Even more important, the context as to why the Apostle Paul even has a reason to mention 'the fruit of the Spirit' is missing.
Therefore this commentary is in the form of an overall view of the book of Galatians. Important as is the 'fruit of the Holy Spirit' in the growth (sanctification) of Christians it is subordinate to what the Apostle Paul is concerned about. All else is dependent on understanding the pure biblical gospel of Jesus Christ.
In Galatians 1:1-5 we have his opening greeting to the churches in the Roman province of Galatia. The Apostle Paul identifies himself as one who was personally appointed by Jesus Christ thereby establishing that he has the authority to confront issues that affect Christian doctrine, followed by a blessing of 'grace and peace' in the name of the God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ who gave himself over to deliver us from our sins in this evil age. Much of chapters one and two are given over to reinforcing and making it clear he is speaking in the knowledge, approval and name of our Savior Jesus Christ which would also include support from the apostolic leadership in Jerusalem.
Paul then gives the context and reason for this letter to the churches in Galatia:
I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel—not that there is another one, but there are some who trouble you and want to distort the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again: If anyone is preaching to you a gospel contrary to the one you received, let him be accursed. For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God? Or am I trying to please man? If I were still trying to please man, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Gal. 1:6-10)
There is and can only be one gospel message that establishes who is and who is not in the kingdom of God. If anyone, including someone who appears to be an angel from heaven introduces something other than what Paul and the other apostles are preaching, that false non-gospel is to be ignored. Paul then placed a curse on those who preach such a false message.
Justification is by faith only:
We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified. (Gal. 2:15-16)
The chronic uncertainty of those who are Adventist is that no matter how perfectly you keep the laws that identify who you are as an Adventist your works will never be credited to you as justification.
Then we come to this verse:
I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose. (Gal. 2:21)
Furthermore, if you could actually keep the law, you wouldn't need the Savior Jesus Christ. Who among you would want to propose such a heresy?
Oh foolish Adventist! Who has bewitched you?:
O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? (Gal. 3:1-3)
The heresy Paul is confronting is the false belief centered on 'works of the law' instead of 'hearing with faith'. Paul then examines the faith of Abraham.
Abraham believed God:
Does he who supplies the Spirit to you and works miracles among you do so by works of the law, or by hearing with faith—just as Abraham “believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”? (Gal. 3:5-6)
The Apostle Paul knows he is addressing Christians, those whose lives have been changed by the shed blood of the Savior and are personally indwelt by the Holy Spirit.
All those who rely on the 'works of the law' are under a curse:
For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, “Cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.” Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for “The righteous shall live by faith.” But the law is not of faith, rather “The one who does them shall live by them.” (Gal. 3:10-12)
Instead of the works of the law the righteous shall live by faith.
The promise given to Abraham:
And God said to Abraham, “As for you, you shall keep my covenant, you and your offspring after you throughout their generations. This is my covenant, which you shall keep, between me and you and your offspring after you: Every male among you shall be circumcised..." (Gen. 17:9-10)
Now the promises were made to Abraham and to his offspring. It does not say, “And to offsprings,” referring to many, but referring to one, “And to your offspring,” who is Christ. This is what I mean: the law, which came 430 years afterward, does not annul a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to make the promise void. (Gal. 3:16-17)
Paul reveals in Galatians 3:19-22 that the law 'imprisoned everything under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe'.
So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be justified by faith. But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. (Gal. 3:24-26)
And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise. (Gal. 3:29)
When we come to chapter four, it is clear that Paul is confronting those who are preaching the need to do 'the works of the law' instead of our being justified by faith. Therefore he explains in human terms what was the function of Old Covenant law.
I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave, though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons. And because you are sons, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a son, and if a son, then an heir through God. (Gal. 4:1-7)
The gospel message which is centered solely on the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ for the remission of our sin is the 'fullness of time' spoken of in the above analogy. Those who have the 'faith of Abraham' are no longer slaves to the law.
In Gal. 4:12-20 Paul expresses great concern and perplexity because of what they are doing and then introduces 'faith versus slavery' with the allegory of "Hagar and Sarah" (Gal. 4:21-31) that culminates with this passage:
Now you, brothers, like Isaac, are children of promise. But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. But what does the Scripture say? “Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman.” So, brothers, we are not children of the slave but of the free woman. (Gal. 4:28-31)
Building upon the above text we come to this command:
For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery. (Gal. 5:1)
Paul now comes to the specific question of circumcision (Gal. 5:2-12) which was the sign of the covenant given to Abraham (Gen. 17:9-14) and must be observed before you could enter into the provisions of the Old Covenant which Paul is calling a "yoke of slavery".
But if I, brothers, still preach circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. I wish those who unsettle you would emasculate themselves! (Gal. 5:11-12)
While circumcision isn't normally considered an issue within Adventism the point that gets ignored is that the 'yoke of slavery' Christians have been set free from is the whole of the Old Covenant, not just the law of this covenant or some supposed part of that law because 'the law' is the whole of the law found recorded in the first five books of the Bible. Paul's point is that we are either under all the law or none of it.
For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not consumed by one another. (Gal. 5:13-15)
The law, meaning the whole law, is fulfilled in one word, defined as: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” which brings us what it means to 'walk by the Holy Spirit' and includes the theme passage for this week:
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. (Gal. 5:16-18)
All sinners who are saved by the blood of Jesus Christ, are either walking by the Holy Spirit or are still walking according to the flesh. This is why it is so critical that you understand the one and only biblical gospel message of the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ that frees you from your failed works of the flesh.
in Gal. 5:19-21 Paul outlines the works of the flesh with the warning that those who do such things "will not inherit the kingdom of God". Contrasted to this is the work of the Holy Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal. 5:22-24)
Since the quarterly lesson covers the fruit of the Spirit very well the only point that needs to be stressed in this commentary is that Paul is speaking to those who are 'in Jesus Christ', those who have "have crucified the flesh". It is they who have evident in their lives the fruit of the Holy Spirit through their spiritual growth.
Paul's Final Words
But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong. (2 Cor. 12: 9-10)