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This week’s study: Life in the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-26)

August 13, 2013


This week we will be looking at a passage that I think is frequently misused, misunderstood, and taken out of context: Galatians 5:16-26.

Many of us may have had to memorize the “works of the flesh” and the “fruit of the Spirit” as kids in one Sabbath school lesson or another. But what is Paul talking about here? This definitely isn’t the first time in Galatians that he’s presented his readers with this spirit-flesh dichotomy (recall the Hagar and Sarah symbolism employed in chapter 4). Think about how these terms are used elsewhere in the epistle. Remember that what has driven Paul to write this letter in the first place is the question of whether Gentile converts to Christianity must also essentially convert to Judaism. Essentially, Paul is infuriated that the Church in Galatia would be presenting circumcision as a prerequisite for entry into the Christian community. The authentic Israel–according to Paul–is not distinguished by its adherence to the letter of the Law, but by the Spirit of God working in the Church through faith. In this way, “There is no longer Jew or Greek, there is no longer slave or free, there is no longer male and female; for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s offspring, heirs according to the promise” (Galatians 3:28-29, NRSV).

Read through 5:16-26 several times, keeping the context in mind. What do you see as the main teaching of this passage?

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