Galatians Chapter 5:16-26 Sunday School Notes

These are some of my notes for Sunday, July 5, 2009 in the Lifeway Explore the Bible Series.

Books referenced in these notes are:

1.) Grace in Galatia, by Ben Witherington III

2. ) The Epistle to the Galatians, NIGTC by F.F. Bruce

3.) IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, by Craig Keener

4.) Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, edited by Kittel and Friedrich, abridged by Geoffrey Bromiley

5.) New Testament Text and Translation Commentary by Philip Comfort

6.) Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament (2nd Edition) by
Bruce Metzger

Gal 5:16
Greek lego de, “but I say” draws attention to what follows and marks the beginning of a new section, as it also does in Gal 3:17 and 4:1(Witherington)

“walk by or according to the Spirit” is Jewish speak for manner of life, and echoes OT “walk according to the statutes of the Law” (Ex 16:14; Lev 18:4; Jer 44:23; Ezk 5:6-7). Life in the Spirit versus life in the Law.(Witherington)

Jewish teachers describe the moral laws derived from the OT as halakah, which means “walking”. Is this a reference to Eze 36:27 LITV And I will put My Spirit within you and cause you to walk in My statutes, and you shall keep My judgments and do them.?(Keener)

“You will not carry out the desire of the flesh” is a negative assertion, not a command. Bruce calls it a promise. It emphasizes living in the Spirit still means temptation, but the Spirit provides the power to overcome temptation. Effort is required, but if Spirit is allowed to lead, temptation is overcome.(Witherington, Bruce)

“Flesh” is human weakness, not just sinfulness, and means the best and worst one can do in himself.(Keener)

It is also good to remember that for Paul flesh was the one part of humanness not redeemed by becoming a Christian. The new body awaited the new age when Christ returned and redeemed the physical universe and bodies of believers as well as the minds and spirits of believers already affected by the Spirit.

Gal 5:17
Flesh and Spirit are opposed.

What does the latter part of the verse imply?

1.What you want = both evil and holy desires.
2.What you want = Spirit led desires
3.What you want = fleshly desires

Taken with the previous warning about the flesh in Gal 3:3 and the positive context here, it seems Paul is saying that the struggle is to prevent Christians from acting upon fleshy desires. Which fleshly desires? Perhaps sexual, and circumcision is being touted as a remedy to some degree for lust . Paul continues arguing that the Spirit is the solution to temptation, not the rites and rules of the Law. (Witherington)

Bruce and Burton seem to chose option 1, saying that the Christian’s choice determines things. If he chooses evil, the Spirit opposes these things, while if he chooses good, the flesh opposes but the Spirit aids. Service to the Spirit is a freer state than slavery to the flesh, as seen here:(Bruce)

Mat 11:29-30 NET. Take my yoke on you and learn from me, because I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. (30) For my yoke is easy to bear, and my load is not hard to carry.”

1Jn 5:3 NET. For this is the love of God: that we keep his commandments. And his commandments do not weigh us down,

Gal 5:18
Spirit’s leadership is more than adequate substitute for the Law.

2Co 3:4-6 NET. Now we have such confidence in God through Christ. (5) Not that we are adequate in ourselves to consider anything as if it were coming from ourselves, but our adequacy is from God, (6) who made us adequate to be servants of a new covenant not based on the letter but on the Spirit, for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.

2Co 3:17 NET. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is present, there is freedom.

Gal 5:19
Ancient writers often compiled lists of vices and virtues, a sort of standard “two ways to live” comparison charge found in Judaism and reflected for instance in the Christian manual the Didache (c.50-100 AD) and the Epistle of Barnabas.(Keener)

Paul felt proper behavior is self-evident, part of human nature:(Bruce)

Rom 2:14-16 NET. For whenever the Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature the things required by the law, these who do not have the law are a law to themselves. (15) They show that the work of the law is written in their hearts, as their conscience bears witness and their conflicting thoughts accuse or else defend them, (16) on the day when God will judge the secrets of human hearts, according to my gospel through Christ Jesus.

Paul’s ethical lists include 1 Th 4:3-6; 1 Cor 5:9-13, 6:9-11; Rom 1:29-31; Col 3:5-8; Eph 4:17-19, 5:3-5(Bruce)

Ordering of list: First three are sexual sins, next two spiritual sins, next eight social sins against the Christian community, last 2 sins against the larger political society.

Witherington sees first and last sins in the list as part of rites in pagan temples, the middle those found in the Christian community. He further splits the list into an A category which lists sins associated with the Galatians’ pagan past, and a B category of sins committed against the church community.(Witherington)

Ramsay divides sins so:
1.Vices connected with Anatolian religion
2.Vices connected with city life
3.Vices part of the custom in Hellenistic cites.(Witherington)

Here then is the A list of sins 5:21-22:

KJV’s adultery, in Greek moicheia, is omitted in almost all modern translations as a later scribal addition. It’s so commonly omitted in modern Greek NTs that Metzger’s first and second edition Greek NT commentaries don’t even discuss it. Comfort notes that many of the earlier manuscripts have “adultery” inserted in later scribal hands, presumably to match Jesus’ list of vices in Mark 7:21-22.(Comfort)

Sexual immorality: Greek porneia. This is especially associated with prostitution, which Jews associated with temples. Temple prostitution wasn’t original to Greece, but they learned the habit in the Anatolian regions like Galatia through contact with Levant culture in trade. Most Greco-Romans prostitutes were slaves, and porne means literally “harlot for hire”. The term became a general one for “sexual irregularity”, and such behavior was so common in ancient Greco-Roman society that it was not considered bad except when practiced in obvious excess. (Witherington, TDNT, Bruce)

Moral impurity: Greek akatharsia, impurity. It is especially used in the NT of moral impurity, and associated with the lifestyle of Gentiles, their wantonness in the eyes of Jews. Among the Greco-Romans, the term included moral evil and vices that could be “transmitted” as it were.(TDNT, Bruce)

Promiscuity: Greek aselgeia, “licentiousness, sordidness, debauchery”. Blatant, unrepentant public indecency.(Bruce)

Gal 5:20a
Idolatry: Greek eidololatria, “idol worship”. Includes not only pagan idols, but anything that is substituted for God.(Bruce)

Sorcery: Greek pharmakeia, the root from which we get our “pharmacy”. The use of drugs in pagan religions to induce altered states of consciousness or poison people, easily understood as a form of “magic”. Witherington thinks this also points to rites in pagan temples. Roman law made little distinction in court between a poisoner and a sorcerer.(Witherington, Bruce)

Gal 5:21
Drunkenness, Greek methai, is a plural noun, denoting here regular bouts of drinking, which were part of major pagan temple feasts. Drunkenness is a regular feature in Paul’s vice lists, regular drunkenness being an enemy to rationality and also to harmony, as in the dangers of angry and impolite drunks.(Witherington, Bruce)

“Murders”, Greek phonoi, is another textual variant. The previous word, envys, in Greek is phthonoi, so there is only one letter difference between them in Greek. A decision is difficult because even the experts disagree. Metzger and Comfort think phonoi was added to match Rom 1:29, while Wallace in the NET sees the similarity of the adjacent words as an explanation for phonoi being accidentally omitted, and also notes the strong evidence for phonoi’s originality in manuscript evidence.(Metzger, Comfort, NET)

Carousing, Greek komoi, again in the plural, relates to late night drunken parties and orgies, typically associated with the worship of the wine god Dionysus. Drunkenness and its results are again to be avoided.(Witherington, Bruce)

Witherington sees this list as aimed toward convincing the Galatians they could an should resist returning to their pagan lifestyle with the help of the Spirit.(Witherington)

Now the B list is possible future sins that might be committed if the Galatians go the route of the Judaizers. This list goes from feelings (hatreds) to actions (factions)

Hatreds, Greek echthrai, “enmity, hostilities”. Describes the feelings between personal and national enemies. Includes both acts and feelings of hatred. (TDNT, Bruce)

Strife, Greek eris, also means “discord, wrangling, contention”.

Jealousies, Greek zeloi, is where the English zeal derives from. It is a term about passionate commitment to something, zeal in a positive sense, jealousy in a negative sense.(TDNT)

Angers, Greek thumoi, refer to repeated outbursts of anger. The Greek root has a sense of “movement” and “boiling over”. Thumos is used in the NT for sudden rage, while orge seems the Greek in the NT for a more a more rational anger, a fixed anger.

Selfish ambitions, Greek eritheiai, comes from a root about working as a day laborer. From here it developed into a term for those out for selfish gain, and was associated with politicians and prostitutes. The Greek contempt for people who worked with their hands or to support themselves (the large slave and freedman population) meant they had little notion of a “Protestant work ethic”, though no few philosophies had a “no work, no food” ethic.(TDNT, Witherington)

Dissensions, Greek dichostasiai, literally “standing apart”, also has meaning of “seditions”, and was used as a political term normally.(Witherington)

Heresies, Greek aireseis, has a meaning of both schools and factions. Different schools of thought, like the Pharisees and Sadducees, or the various Greek philosophical schools. The formation of cliques, the display of party spirit(Witherington, Bruce)

Gal 5:21
Envy, Greek phthonoi, “envys”, acts of malice and/or ill will. The envious are those who find even their friends success painful. (Bruce)

Kingdom of God: Good works may not get one into the world to come, but these vices will certainly stop you from entering that blessed state. (Bruce)

Galatians 5:22
Fruit, Greek karpos, is singular. This emphasizes the unity of the gifts themselves, and their unifying quality in the Christian community. (Witherington)

We then proceed to a list of qualities produced by the Spirit:

Love, agape, is the signature Christian quality, and as in Rom 5:5 that love is given by the Spirit. Paul has already defined the importance of love in Gal 5:6, 13, 14. In 1 Cor 13 Paul speaks of love as the supreme quality for Christians to have. See also Rom 5:5(Witherington, Bruce)

Joy, Greek chara, is definitely a Spirit-given attribute for it is often mentioned and described in the NT as accompanying suffering.

Peace, Greek eirene, is based on the Hebrew shalom, rather than the pagan notion of a state of stillness or a quiet mind. Shalom is more about healthy relationship, with both God and man, and the peace that comes from such relationships.(TDNT, Witherington)

Bruce notes love, peace and joy might almost be an early Christian triad, like faith, hope, and love. Jesus speaks of His peace (Jn 14:27), His love(Jn 15:9), and His joy(Jn 15:11) in the Upper Room Discourse.(Bruce)

Patience, Greek makrothumia, “long suffering, forbearance”, is a divine attribute (Ex 34:6; Ps 103:8 ; Rom 2:4, 9:22) also to be displayed by Christians.( 1 Cor 15:4) It is a long temper, a slow fuse, and is the quality of enduring a wrong or suffering without anger or retaliation. (2 Cor 6:6; Eph 4:2; Col 1:11, 3:12)(TDNT, Witherington, Bruce)

Kindness, Greek chrestotes, is another divine quality. (Ps 34:8;136:1; 1 Peter 2:3; Rom 11:22,2:4)

Goodness, Greek agathosune, is also in a range of meaning with “generous” . (Bruce)
Faith, Greek pistis, can either refer to “belief, trust”, or to being worthy of belief and trust, “faithfulness, loyalty, trustworthiness, dependable”. In a list of ethical qualities it likely better translated as “trustworthy”. (Bruce)

Gal 5:23
Gentleness, Greek prautes, is defined by Aristotle as the mean between anger-prone and lacking all anger. It has much in common with patience and self-control.(Bruce)

Self-control, Greek egkrateia was most important virtues in Greco-Roman philosophy. Similar to gentleness, it has to do more with control of sensual passions for food, sex, and the like than gentleness’ control of anger. Paul speaks of it in 1Cor 7:9 about single people and in1 Cor 9:25 about athletes.

Against such things there is no law: Ancients felt the wise/virtuous needed no Law by nature. Indeed this phrase is used by Aristotle in a discussion of the virtuous, and may be a proverb Paul is quoting here. Likewise Paul emphasizes Christians fulfill the OT Law by virtue of indwelling of the Spirit, which guides them to right living. For both Aristotle and Paul the idea is that there are those for whom the Law is just unnecessary, because they already fulfill it, and Law is for the weak, the undisciplined. Or in Paul’s case, those without the Spirit.(Keener, Bruce)

Gal 5:24
Unlike ancient philosophers, Paul doesn’t speak of controlling passions, but of dying completely to passions in accepting Christ. (Keener)

Law and flesh both are the old order. The Cross has brought a new order in which Law and Flesh have no part, unless the believer foolishly allows it. Just as Christ’s death replaced the Mosaic Law with Christ’s Law, so the ways of the flesh are replaced by the cross with the ways of the Spirit. (Rom 8:12-13)(Bruce)

Gal 5:25
The verb for walk here, Greek stoicheo was originally a military term for stand in line in a group of soldiers. “Let us keep in line, in step, with the Spirit” is a slangy way to translate this. (Bruce)

If living by the Spirit is the internal, spiritual reality, then one can only complete that living by actually follow the guidance of the Spirit which leads Christians in righteous actions that accompany righteous belief.(Bruce)

Gal 5:26
Paul returns to a theme of harmony here. For Paul, as for Jesus, one’s relationship with God is revealed in one’s relationships with fellow human beings. (Keener)

Conceited: boastful when there is nothing to boast about, pretentious, self-important. Greek kenodoxia.(Bruce)

Provoking: Greek prokaleomai, challenging to a contest in battle or sport. (Bruce)

Envying: Paul repeats this one, presumably much on his mind.

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