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Puritan Catechism Question of the Week
Q 16. Into what estate did the fall bring mankind?
A. The fall brought mankind into a state of sin and misery.

Name: Mike
Location: California, United States
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Friday, March 10, 2006

You are not under law...

This may seem like a strange post to have following Deuteronomy 6:5 and Leviticus 19:18. Nevertheless, hopefully it makes sense by the time you finish reading.

Galatians 5 is a popular passage for many schools of thought. All Protestants must love the passage with the possible exclusion of some extreme fundamentals. Furthermore, Reformers who are still chanting "Justification by Faith alone" will refer heavily to the passage. On the other side of the paradigm are the antinomians who love the passage. Furthermore, there are also the so-called evangelical Roman Catholics who quote the passage heavily.

With such a broad field of people who refer to this passage, I thought I would address one thing a little more carefully. This occurs in the wake of our discussion regarding to two great Commandments.

First, the verse at hand:
Galatians 5:18

18But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

A pretty straight forward conditional verse. IF you are led by the Spirit THEN you are not under law. One thing that is absolutely critical regarding Galatians is the distinction between Flesh and Spirit. Paul assumes here (very similar to Romans 8) that if one is in the Spirit then he is not of the flesh and vice versa.

So then, the passage continues:

19Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,

20idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,

21envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

So then, Paul is not saying "Thou shall not commit sorcery." Rather, he is simply saying that those who are still in the flesh, that is, not yet made alive in Christ, will be people characterized by this list. Now then, if you (or I) claim to be a Christian but our life is characterized by any of these things then we must carefully examine ourselves. As John says, if we know the Light then we will not continue to walk in darkness.

The passage continues:
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,

23gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

24Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.

25If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

And here, as shown by the emboldened text, we return to the matter of the law. Note well what Paul is referring to. "Against such things", he says, "there is no law." What then is he speaking about? That is, of course, the person walking in the light, according to the flesh.

This is the key teaching of the Liberation In Christ that is taught in the New Testament. We are not liberated to Sin (for this is what characterizes the heathens) but rather liberated unto producing the fruit of the Spirit. Why is there no Law? First, and most important, because we are in Christ who has already satisfied the law on our behalf. Secondly though, and not a minor point, because we "belong to Christ Jesus" and thus we have "crucified the flesh with its passions and desires".

This, brethren, is not a reference to Justification (although Justification is discussed previously). Paul has moved on to Santification. This, we should remember, is very similar to Romans 8. Paul first lays out the indicatives that we have been buried with Christ and now live with new life. He then proceeds to the Imperatives that we ought to walk according to the Spirit. In much the same way, Paul has moved beyond our Justified Standing before God, to our practical living out of the Christian life. This, so he says, is characterized by living according to the Spirit and thus walking according to the Spirit (which is to say the same thing as producing the fruit of the Spirit).

So then what must be concluded from this passage?

A) We are no longer under the law.
B) This is not a license to sin.
C) It is a license for living righteously.
D) Those who walk in sin are not true brethren.
E) Those who walk according to the Spirit are followers of Jesus.
F) After being Justified in Christ (Declared innocent in our Standing before God) we are to Live Righteously (Relational obedience to God).

N.B. Justified and Righteous look like utterly different words in English but the two come from the same root word in Greek. The ideas are inseperable.

I conclude where I began and believe I can do so without contradicting my last two posts:
But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

In Christ alone,


Blogger Daniel said...

I think that the expression "under the law" is explained well by 1 Cor. 9:19-23.

"Though I am free and belong to no man, I make myself a slave to everyone, to win as many as possible. To the Jews I became like a Jew, to win the Jews. To those under the law I became like one under the law (though I myself am not under the law), so as to win those under the law. To those not having the law I became like one not having the law (though I am not free from God's law but am under Christ's law), so as to win those not having the law. To the weak I became weak, to win the weak. I have become all things to all men so that by all possible means I might save some. I do all this for the sake of the gospel, that I may share in its blessings.

I would guess based on this that "under the law" means having to be circumcised and follow the Torah's food regulations, etc.

8:46 AM  
Blogger delete said...


Outstanding article! I like your conclusion C) It is a license for living righteously. We have been freed from the the bondage of sin and sin is no longer our master. We have a new nature and thus empowered to live righteously.

David S. Spaggiari

9:01 AM  
Blogger TheDen said...


Again, great post. I agree with you (and also Daniel...) The law that Paul's talking about is the Mosaic law which we are freed from--however, we are not free from God's law and are still under Christ's law. We must follow His commandments.

Freedom to disobey God's law is not freedom, it's licentiousness which I think is the point in your post.

9:42 PM  

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