Walk by the Spirit
16. This I say then—Repeating in other words, and explaining the sentiment in Ga 5:13, What I mean is this.”
Walk in the Spirit—Greek, “By (the rule of) the (Holy) Spirit.” Compare Ga 5:16–18, 22, 25; Ga 6:1–8, with Ro 7:22; 8:11. The best way to keep tares out of a bushel is to fill it with wheat.
the flesh—the natural man, out of which flow the evils specified (Ga 5:19–21). The spirit and the flesh mutually exclude one another. It is promised, not that we should have no evil lusts, but that we should “not fulfil” them. If the spirit that is in us can be at ease under sin, it is not a spirit that comes from the Holy Spirit. The gentle dove trembles at the sight even of a hawk’s feather.
17. For—the reason why walking by the Spirit will exclude fulfilling the lusts of the flesh, namely, their mutual contrariety.
the Spirit—not “lusteth,” but “tendeth (or some such word is to be supplied) against the flesh.”
so that ye cannot do the things that ye would—The Spirit strives against the flesh and its evil influence; the flesh against the Spirit and His good influence, so that neither the one nor the other can be fully carried out into action. “But” (Ga 5:18) where “the Spirit” prevails, the issue of the struggle no longer continues doubtful (Ro 7:15–20) [Bengel]. The Greek is, “that ye may not do the things that ye would.” “The flesh and Spirit are contrary one to the other,” so that you must distinguish what proceeds from the Spirit, and what from the flesh; and you must not fulfil what you desire according to the carnal self, but what the Spirit within you desires [Neander]. But the antithesis of Ga 5:18 (“But,” &c.), where the conflict is decided, shows, I think, that here Ga 5:17 contemplates the inability both for fully accomplishing the good we “would,” owing to the opposition of the flesh, and for doing the evil our flesh would desire, owing to the opposition of the Spirit in the awakened man (such as the Galatians are assumed to be), until we yield ourselves wholly by the Spirit to “walk by the Spirit” (Ga 5:16, 18).
18. “If ye are led (give yourselves up to be led) by (Greek) the Spirit, ye are not under the law.” For ye are not working the works of the flesh (Ga 5:16, 19–21) which bring one “under the law” (Ro 8:2, 14). The “Spirit makes free from the law of sin and death” (Ga 5:23). The law is made for a fleshly man, and for the works of the flesh (1Ti 1:9), “not for a righteous man” (Ro 6:14, 15).
19. Confirming Ga 5:18, by showing the contrariety between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.
manifest—The hidden fleshly principle betrays itself palpably by its works, so that these are not hard to discover, and leave no doubt that they come not from the Spirit.
which are these—Greek, “such as,” for instance.
Adultery—omitted in the oldest manuscripts.
lasciviousness—rather, “wantonness” petulance, capricious insolence; it may display itself in “lasciviousness,” but not necessarily or constantly so (Mk 7:21, 22, where it is not associated with fleshly lusts) [Trench]. “Works” (in the plural) are attributed to the “flesh,” because they are divided, and often at variance with one another, and even when taken each one by itself, betray their fleshly origin. But the “fruit of the Spirit” (Ga 5:23) is singular, because, however manifold the results, they form one harmonious whole. The results of the flesh are not dignified by the name “fruit”; they are but works (Eph 5:9, 11). He enumerates those fleshly “works” (committed against our neighbor, against God, and against ourselves) to which the Galatians were most prone (the Celts have always been prone to disputations and internal strifes): and those manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit most needed by them (Ga 5:13, 15). This passage shows that “the flesh” does not mean merely sensuality, as opposed to spirituality: for “divisions” in the catalogue here do not flow from sensuality. The identification of “the natural (Greek, ‘animal-souled’) man,” with the “carnal” or fleshly man (1Co 2:14), shows that “the flesh” expresses human nature as estranged from God. Trench observes, as a proof of our fallen state, how much richer is every vocabulary in words for sins, than in those for graces. Paul enumerates seventeen “works of the flesh,” only nine manifestations of “the fruit of the Spirit” (compare Eph 4:31).
20. witchcraft—sorcery; prevalent in Asia (Ac 19:19; compare Rev 21).
variance—Greek, “strife”; singular in the oldest manuscripts.
emulations—in the oldest manuscripts, singular— “emulation,” or rather, “jealousy”; for the sake of one’s own advantage. “Envying’s” (Ga 5:21) are even without advantage to the person himself [Bengel].
wrath—Greek, plural, “passionate outbreaks” [Alford].
strife—rather as Greek, “factions,” “cabals”; derived from a Greek root, meaning “a worker for hire”: hence, unworthy means for compassing ends, factious practices.
seditions— “dissensions,” as to secular matters.
heresies—as to sacred things (see on 1Co 11:19). Self-constituted parties; from a Greek root, to choose. A schism is a more recent split in a congregation from a difference of opinion. Heresy is a schism become inveterate [Augustine, Con. Crescon. Don., 2, 7].
21. tell … before—namely, before the event.
I … told you in time past—when I was with you.
you—who, though maintaining justification by the law, are careless about keeping the law (Ro 2:21–23).
not inherit … kingdom of God— (1Co 6:9, 10; Eph 5:5).
22. love—the leader of the band of graces (1Co 13:1–13).
gentleness—Greek, “benignity,” conciliatory to others; whereas “goodness,” though ready to do good, has not such suavity of manner [Jerome]. Alford translates, “kindness.”
faith— “faithfulness”; opposed to “heresies” [Bengel]. Alford refers to 1Co 13:7, “Believeth all things”: faith in the widest sense, toward God and man. “Trustfulness” [Conybeare and Howson].
23. temperance—The Greek root implies self-restraint as to one’s desires and lusts.
against such—not persons, but things, as in Ga 5:21.
no law—confirming Ga 5:18, “Not under the law” (1Ti 1:9, 10). The law itself commands love (Ga 5:14); so far is it from being “against such.”
24. The oldest manuscripts read, “They that are of Christ Jesus”; they that belong to Christ Jesus; being “led by (His) Spirit” (Ga 5:18).
have crucified the flesh—They nailed it to the cross once for all when they became Christ’s, on believing and being baptized (Ro 6:3, 4): they keep it now in a state of crucifixion (Ro 6:6): so that the Spirit can produce in them, comparatively uninterrupted by it, “the fruit of the Spirit” (Ga 5:22). “Man, by faith, is dead to the former standing point of a sinful life, and rises to a new life (Ga 5:25) of communion with Christ (Col 3:3). The act by which they have crucified the flesh with its lust, is already accomplished ideally in principle. But the practice, or outward conformation of the life, must harmonize with the tendency given to the inward life” (Ga 5:25) [Neander]. We are to be executioners, dealing cruelly with the body of sin, which has caused the acting of all cruelties on Christ’s body.
with the affections—Translate, “with its passions.” Thus they are dead to the law’s condemning power, which is only for the fleshly, and their lusts (Ga 5:23).
25. in … in—rather, as Greek, “If we live (see on Ga 5:24) by the Spirit, let us also walk (Ga 5:16; 6:16) by the Spirit.” Let our life in practice correspond to the ideal inner principle of our spiritual life, namely, our standing by faith as dead to, and severed from, sin, and the condemnation of the law. “Life by (or ‘in’) the Spirit” is not an occasional influence of the Spirit, but an abiding state, wherein we are continually alive, though sometimes sleeping and inactive.
26.Greek, “Let us not become.” While not asserting that the Galatians are “vainglorious” now, he says they are liable to become so.
provoking one another—an effect of “vaingloriousness” on the stronger: as “envying” is its effect on the weaker. A danger common both to the orthodox and Judaizing Galatians.
 Jamieson, R., Fausset, A. R., Fausset, A. R., Brown, D., & Brown, D. (1997). A commentary, critical and explanatory, on the Old and New Testaments (Ga 5:16–26). Oak Harbor, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc.