Live By The Spirit

The Lord be with you

Because we are sinners, it is all too easy to identify primarily as sinners. Andres Das, in commenting on Galatians 5:25 (If we live by the Spirit, then by the Spirit let us also walk), reminds us that such a self-view is mistaken.

Preachers and teachers should never shy away from Paul’s clear emphasis on Christ’s Spirit and the Spirit’s fruit. The Galatians, as with Christians of any age, will never find power in a misguided focus on Moses” Law. To go “under” the Law (e.g., [Galatians] 5:18) is to abandon Christ and his Spirit and to fall under the Law’s curse ([Galatians] 3:10-13). The Law, of course, is only one of many potential misguided focuses in the modern age: social justice, personal development, higher education, self-advancement. For all their positives, these alternatives are poor substitutes for the riches in Christ. Likewise, a proper Christian focus means that the believer does not dwell on the last, losing struggles of the crucified, defeated flesh. To dwell on the flesh is nothing but surrender! Many preachers mistakenly spend far too much time trying to instill a false sense of identity as “sinners.” This emphasis in many cases reflects a misapplication of the popular phrase simul justus et peccator, or in modern parlance, “simultaneously both saint and sinner.” Just as the Gospel predominates over the Law, so also justified (justus) saint and sinner (peccator) are not equal for the Christian. A believer’s identity is not that of a “sinner” but of a “saint” whose sins have been forgiven (Gal 1:4) and who is now one with Christ ([Galatians] 3:28). The believer does not find his or her identity in sin but rather struggles daily and mightily against it. Tragically, efforts to instill a sense of identity among God’s people as “sinners” abandon the decisive victory of Christ’s powerful work that took place not only on the cross but also in the lives of his followers. Dwelling on personal sins becomes its own form of idolatry! The empowering Spirit always directs a believer’s eyes back to the victory in Christ ([Galatians] 3:1). With a focus on Christ alone, the fellow crucified experience the tremendous power of Christ and his Spirit in action. What the Spirit began ([Galatians] 3:3) now continues. In “walking” by the Spirit ([Galatians] 5:16, 25), the believer is moving ever closer with every passing step toward the final end of all things when the resurrection life fully reveals itself at the Last Day. The believer lives in victory even as he or she lives in hope!

Das. A. Andrew Concordia Commentary: Galatians 588-589