After the apostle Paul gives the listing of the fruit of the Spirit he gives two final pieces of instruction. He tells us that against the Fruit of the Spirit there is no law, and that Christians are those who have crucified the flesh and it passions. I want to take a quick look at these two final instructions to conclude the series on the fruit of the Spirit.
First, we must look at what Paul means when he says, “against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:23b) In simplest terms I would say that Paul means exactly what he says; there is no law in the universe that would prohibit any of the things listed. More specifically I would say that Paul is talking about three specific systems of law. These are the laws of nature, the laws of human conscience (put in place by God) and the legal systems that man sets up. Nothing in nature contradicts the Fruit of the Spirit because God is the one who made the world and the laws of nature. Nothing in man’s conscience can conflict with the Fruit of the Spirit because God has instilled in man that conscience according to His own character. And, lastly, all of the legal systems man sets up flow from that which man inherently knows to be right because of his conscience.
What does this mean practically? It means that any action we take that violates any of the three systems of law is by definition not a part of the fruit of the Spirit. By the same token any system of man that conflicts with the other two systems is also contrary to the way God intended things to be. To be clear what this means is that if you cut someone off in traffic you have not only violated the law of the land but also failed to show love by putting yourself first. Get it?!
The second part is the more difficult to talk about. The first is idyllic. The laws actually support the command of God! But the second gets to the heart of the matter, the fact that who we are is not who we should be. Paul talks about crucifying the flesh. This is not just symbolism, or a word picture; it is the demand and requirement of all those who follow Christ. This is not an accidental word picture or a convenient anecdotal image that fits into our faith paradigm. Paul is talking about being brutally, mercilessly, and purposefully barbaric in our complete annihilation of our sinful desires.
We often tend to forget that crucifixion was a very brutal, violent form of capital punishment. The Scriptures tell us that there was hardly any evidence left by which Jesus could be identified as a man. He was physically disfigured. He had His beard yanked out. He was one ugly, bleeding mess. We would much rather picture Jesus on the cross with a few neat little rivulets of blood down His chest, than we would like to think of Him as something that would make most of us retch. But that is the picture that Paul is trying to bring to the fore here.
It is easy to think of the Fruit of the Spirit as going above and beyond the mere following of the law. But that is not what Paul is talking about. He says that only those who have crucified their flesh are the ones who belong to Jesus. In this sense we should all have a skeleton in our closets. Paul is not talking about fighting the flesh; he is talking about killing it. Dead things have no will, no power and no control over us.
Sadly this is where we fail, and I am as guilty as anyone. I tend not to crucify my flesh, but instead bring it milk and cookies and give it a back rub. It is no wonder that when it comes to the Fruit of the Spirit that I fail so often. This study has been a challenge to me to break out the whip, hammer, and nails and put my flesh on the cross, and execute it with extreme prejudice. I praise God, though, that while my flesh seems to keep coming back to life, in His grace the more we crucify our flesh the easier it gets. Praise our wonderful Father for His gift of life through Jesus which enables us to die to self and live for God’s glory!