16 I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is against the Spirit, and the Spirit desires what is against the flesh; these are opposed to each other, so that you don’t do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, 21 envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar. I tell you about these things in advance —as I told you before —that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, we must also follow the Spirit. 26 We must not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations are taken from the Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1999, 2000, 2002, 2003, 2009 by Holman Bible Publishers. Used by permission. Holman Christian Standard Bible®, Holman CSB®, and HCSB® are federally registered trademarks of Holman Bible Publishers.
Have you ever met someone whose life consistently exhibits the virtues listed in verse Galatians 5:22: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and self-control? If so, chances are you not only respected that person, but maybe you have even marveled at the way he/she stands out from the crowd.
There’s something very striking and attractive about someone who consistently displays these behaviors.
In verses 19-21, Paul contrasts these virtuous behaviors with a lengthy list of behaviors that are driven by the sinful nature. He notes that our sinful nature actually craves this type of conduct, and that there is a constant war within every believer between the Spirit and our worldly nature. They are completely opposed to one another.
On any given day, followers of Christ can detect this war within, and we each face dozens of daily decisions about whether to side with the Holy Spirit within us, or with our old sinful nature. Paul tells us that the only way we can win each battle and achieve the consistent practice of all these godly characteristics is by staying in step with the Holy Spirit.
Since God desires for each of us to practice all of these virtues, the good news is that it isn’t just up to us to be “better people.” When we regularly spend time in prayer, asking God to conform our will to His and to direct our behavior, we align our hearts with His and receive power to display these characteristics.
We all have different temperaments and hardwiring. Some of these virtuous behaviors flow more readily than the others from each personality style. For example, I find it easier to practice kindness than goodness, which often involves taking a powerful stand against injustice. Other personality styles might find they more naturally display self-control than joy, or faithfulness than love.
Yet Paul tells us that there is no law against practicing all of these virtues. We should in fact display all of them in our lives. God knows that doing so makes our faith attractive to others. And because these behaviors are starkly contrasted with the sin-nature behaviors, others take notice when they observe the difference in us.
When Paul exhorts us to stay in step with the Spirit, he reminds us that we need to acknowledge God’s Spirit living inside us, moment by moment, situation by situation—and ask Him to transform us from the inside out. Doing so will help us display this Christ-like behavior, and ultimately to bring glory to God through our actions.
- Read the list of virtues given in verse 22 again. Recall a time in the last week when you’ve had an opportunity to demonstrate each of the qualities listed. Which of them did you have an easier time displaying in your daily behavior? Which were more difficult?
- If an opportunity presents itself today to practice one of these that you’ve deemed more challenging, pause and ask God to permeate and empower you with His Spirit to allow you to demonstrate that virtue effectively.