Selfishness, The Killer of Christianity
By: Rev. Joe Kramer
(16) I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. (17) For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. (18) But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
-Galatians 5:16-18 (NKJV)
There is a lot going on in the book of Galatians at this point. However, I want to focus on just this one text.
Paul in verse eighteen references the law, and throughout this chapter he is referencing it as well. The thing is that the Galatians had left the teaching of grace and allowed themselves to go back under the Jewish law by being circumcised (Circumcision is the symbol of the law for them). But Paul reminds them that they are not under law, but grace (Romans 6:14). The human race, due to sin marring it, has this innate ability to think of ourselves as better than we are. In this way we deceive ourselves. So the Law was given by God to show us that we are true wretches before a Holy God, we are now Selfish and self-destructive. Because of this innate sin in man, man can never keep the law because we are born in sin.
Now with that foundation laid let us look at verse sixteen. Notice in verse sixteen it says to walk in the Spirit. To the Jewish mindset this would refer to a person’s attitudes and behavior (i.e. how one would live their daily life). If our attitudes and behavior mirrors that which we find in the scripture then we will have power not to fulfill the works of the flesh (meaning our sinful nature). As humans, because of sin, we are all selfish! If you are a parent you know this to be the case. Children naturally in one swoop can become the most selfish things known to man and then in the next minute the most giving. No one teaches children selfishness, it is known to them naturally due to the sinful nature all human beings are born with. However, if we are walking in a relationship with God in submission to His Word then we will not walk in the sinful nature. This does not mean that the sinful nature will not tempt us, but that we are given power from the Holy Spirit to resist.
In verse seventeen Paul sets up the sinful nature and the Spirit against each other. However the flesh cannot overcome the Spirit. The Spirit overcomes the flesh at all times. (So, why do we constantly have problems with sinning? That will be covered when we get to verse eighteen.) The Spirit is a Christian’s constant companion. He has a role in the Christian life. Look at the wording at the end, “So that you do not do the things that you wish;” the wording shows that we are selfish and without the Spirit constantly “checking us” we would be overcome by the sinful nature, again (like we were before salvation). The key to this overcoming life for the Christian that is being talked about in this verse is found in verse eighteen.
Verse eighteen says that if we do not want to be condemned by the law we must be lead by the Spirit. Remember that above we talked about living the overcome life? This is the key to living it. We must be lead by the Holy Spirit.How are we lead? This goes back to verse sixteen; our attitudes and behavior must match that of Christ and God’s Word. We do that by studying God’s word (“Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.” – 2 Timothy 2:15 (NKJV) and PRACTICING GOD’S WORD. If we don’t practice God’s Word then we are like a person who knows what to do and doesn’t do it; this person is like someone who looks into a mirror and see the problems (i.e. unkempt) and doesn’t do anything (i.e. clean up and comb their hair, brush their teeth etc.) (James 1:22-25). Unfortunately there are too many Christians who allow this world to come into their lives and don’t even read the Word on a daily basis, much less study it, and they do not practice what is in it. If you don’t read and study you cannot practice what it is in the Word.
How about you today? Will you be lead by the Spirit or will you allow the sinful nature to rule you? Will you study God’s Word and PRACTICE it or will you just continue on in your same rut? Maybe you need to do some praying right now to a loving and wonderful God, ask for forgiveness and start practicing God’s Word in your attitudes and actions. The Choice is yours.
Resources Consulted Before Writing
- Commentary Critical and Explanatory on the Whole Bible: Jamieson, Robert; Fausset, A.R.; Brown, David
- Faithlife Study Bible: Barry, John D; Grigoni, Michael R.;_