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  • Writer's pictureJonathan Parnell

Spirit-Living Is Not “Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots” (Galatians 5:24-25)

And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. ²⁵If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. —Galatians 5:24-25

Character is determined by identity. At the end of the day, we live as who we are.

Start with Paul’s primary command in verse 16: walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. The Spirit, Paul tells us, not the flesh. Then he moves into a parenthetical discussion where he shows us the contrast. Gratifying the desires of the flesh look like this: Galatians 5:19–21. The fruit of the Spirit look like this: Galatians 5:22–23. And then in verse 24 he gets back to his main point with a clarifying statement. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passion and desires.

The command of Galatians 5:16 lands on us. It’s a real command. Walk in the Holy Spirit, that is, live your life in the path of the Holy Spirit. Walk in step with the truth of the gospel (Galatians 2:14). Operate your moments in the Holy Spirit so that you will not fulfill the desires of your flesh. But understand something: Spirit-living versus flesh-gratifying isn’t a coin toss of our will.

We often act as if the Spirit and flesh are another version of ‘Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.’ We act as if the Spirit will win if we can only move our thumbs quicker than the other guy. But how does Paul picture the competition?

“If you belong to Christ Jesus,” he tells us, “the flesh is dead.” The flesh has already been knocked out of the ring. Or better, cut off at the cross. The flesh with its passions and desires has been crucified. Paul is tapping back into the great passage of Galatians 2. Remember what he says there: “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life that I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).

In Christ, we are new creations. The flesh that used to hold us captive is now the flesh to whom we are unrelated. It’s been handled. We are, at the very core, people of the Spirit. And therefore, since we live by the Spirit, since this is who we are in Christ, let’s keep in step with the Spirit (Galatians 5:25). As those who belong to Christ Jesus, as those who have the Spirit, let’s grow into the people God has created us to be.


For Reflection

1. If death to our sins is indicated by the cross, where do we see the empowering for life?

2. What does it mean to walk in the Spirit?

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