1 And I, brethren, could not speak to you as to spiritual people but as to carnal, as to babes in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk and not with solid food; for until now you were not able to receive it, and even now you are still not able; 3 for you are still carnal. For where there are envy, strife, and divisions among you, are you not carnal and behaving like mere men? (1 Corinthians 3:1–3, NKJV)
One culprit of a weak faith is remaining spiritually undeveloped. Every Christian begins in this immature state as “babes in Christ” (v. 1). The problem of spiritual weakness is staying in that condition. Christ calls us to grow in Him by using God’s word in our lives (1 Pet. 2:2; Heb. 5:12-14). Those who do are the “spiritual” ones; They use God’s revelation to decide their course of conduct (1 Cor. 2:14-16). However, the Corinthians had not grown; they were still carnal (“fleshy”) in thought and practice (v. 1). Such spiritual weakness quickly becomes anti-spiritual (as noted in verse 3). Now, the flesh controlled their minds and choices (see the contrast in 1 Cor. 2:15). We retain the traits and characteristics of the flesh (carnally minded) when we do not grow in our faith (Rom. 8:1, 5-8). Like the Corinthians (engulfed in “envy, strife, and divisions”), spiritual weakness devolves into sin unless arrested by renewing our minds and lives (Rom. 12:1-2; Eph. 4:20-24). Let us not yield to the weakness of the flesh (Matt. 26:41). Instead, be strong in the Lord, using each day to strengthen your faith, cleanse your actions and purify your heart from all defilement of flesh and spirit to grow up in Christ (Matt. 26:41; James 4:8; 2 Cor. 7:1; Eph. 4:15).
2 Beware of dogs, beware of evil workers, beware of the mutilation! 3 For we are the circumcision, who worship God in the Spirit, rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:2–3, NKJV)
Christ’s apostle boldly described those who perverted the gospel (i.e., false brethren) by demanding Gentiles keep the law of Moses to be saved; They were false brethren (Acts 15:5; Gal. 2:4-5; 5:4). For emphasis, Paul gave one warning three times. (1) Beware of dogs (v. 2). Feral dogs lived in packs, scavenging for food (Ps. 59:6; 1 Kings 14:11). We must be alert against false teachers who attack and consume souls (Gal. 1:6-10; Jude 4). (2) Beware of evil workers (v. 2). Their works are wicked; Do not give them quarter (Ps. 119:115; Phil. 2:18-19). (3) Beware of the mutilation (v. 2). The doctrine of binding circumcision for salvation did nothing to remove sin because it was only a physical incision. By contrast, Christians (whether Jews or Gentiles) are “the circumcision” (the covenant people of God, whose hearts are circumcised, Rom. 2:28-29; Col. 2:11-13). Next, Paul gave three counterbalancing descriptions of Christians. (1) Christians worship God in the Spirit (v. 3). The word “worship” denotes service to God. We serve God according to the truth that the Spirit revealed, not by the error of the “dogs” (Gal. 3:1-3; 5:5-6). (2) Christians rejoice in Christ Jesus (v. 3). We have joy in Christ and do not take pleasure in evil things (Phil. 3:1; 4:4; Rom. 12:15). (3) Christians have no confidence in the flesh (v. 3). Our salvation in Christ does not depend on physical pedigree, performance, and promotion. Paul refused to trust in such things (Phil. 3:4-7). Brethren, be alert to error and those who teach it. Serve God with the confidence of the truth of the gospel.
8 “You have put all things in subjection under his feet.” For in that He put all in subjection under him, He left nothing that is not put under him. But now we do not yet see all things put under him. 9 But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, for the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, that He, by the grace of God, might taste death for everyone (Hebrews 2:8–9, NKJV).
Jesus Christ has been given all authority in heaven and earth (Matt. 28:18; Eph. 1:20-23). Although “we do not yet see (horao, discern clearly, JRP) all things put under” the authority of Jesus, we see (blepo, behold, sight) many things about Him. The writer of Hebrews draws our attention to the humanity of Jesus in chapter two, having already defined and described His deity in chapter one. When we pause to look at Jesus, we see the magnificence of the Savior. (1) We see His humility to be made lower than the angels for a little while. Leaving the glory of heaven, He submitted to becoming human to be an offering for sin (Phil. 2:7-8; Heb. 10:5, 10). In Him alone was “all the fullness of the Godhead bodily” (Col. 2:9). (2) We see Jesus becoming human to suffer and die. The painful humiliation and injustice of the cross was an act of willful obedience on His part (Phil. 2:8; Heb. 5:8). (3) We see God’s grace in His death for everyone. We see the paradox of the cruel cross as God’s blessed favor is revealed in the sacrifice of His Son for us. “And of His fullness we have all received, and grace for grace” (John 1:16). (4) We see Jesus crowned with glory and honor. Resurrected and exalted in the heavens as God’s right hand, Jesus is king on His throne and High Priest over God’s house (Heb. 1:13, 8-9; 2:17; 8:1-2). Praise God that the Son became flesh and dwelt among us, to die for us, and to blaze the trail to glory for us (Heb. 2:10).
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Romans 8:5–6, NKJV).
We live according to where we set our minds. The person who fixes his mind on fleshly things lives for the flesh and produces the “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21). The apostle of Christ firmly declared, “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21). Conversely, to live “according to the Spirit,” we must set our minds on “the things of the Spirit.” What are those things? Nothing less than the things the Spirit revealed to the apostles, which they preached to the world (1 Cor. 2:10-13). The things of the Spirit are the words of truth He revealed, confirmed, and inspired. The “fruit of the Spirit” is borne in our lives when we follow the Spirit’s guidance that is in God’s word (Gal. 6:16-18, 22-23). Today’s passage explains we either live “according to the flesh,” or we live “according to the Spirit,” but not both. Spiritual death (separation from God) is the outcome of being carnally minded. Spiritual life and peace with God result from being spiritually minded. Have you set your mind on the things of the Spirit or the flesh? “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2).
14 Inasmuch then as the children have partaken of flesh and blood, He Himself likewise shared in the same, that through death He might destroy him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and release those who through fear of death were all their lifetime subject to bondage. (Hebrews 2:14–15, NKJV)
Christ lived in the flesh to die for humanity. He was “made a litter lower than the angels” when He partook of “flesh and blood.” Through God’s grace, His “suffering of death” “for everyone” equipped and glorified Him as the captain of our salvation (Heb. 2:9-10). He blazed the trail for our redemption from the bondage of sin and the fear of death. By doing so, Christ destroyed the devil, rendering useless his power to use the fear of death against us. Christ has overcome sin and death by His death and resurrection. We view death with hope, release, and joy because of Christ (2 Cor. 4:16-18; Phil. 1:21-23; 2 Tim. 4:6-8). In Christ, life has its proper context – a temporary blessing on the road to eternity (2 Cor. 5:1). In turn, understanding death instills in us the faith to make the Lord’s will our own (Jas. 4:13-17). Death is coming for us all, but that is not the end of the story. Christ “abolished death and brought life and immortality to light through the gospel” (2 Tim. 1:10). His gospel calls on us to die to sin and live with and for Him, now and forever (Gal. 2:20). Keep the faith, praise God, and have no fear; Christ has overcome the world (Jno. 16:33).
16 And as many as walk according to this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God. 17 From now on let no one trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. (Galatians 6:16–17, NKJV)
The nation of Israel was chosen by God, fulfilling a promise He made to Abraham to make his seed a great nation (Gen. 12:2; Deut. 10:22). God told Israel through Moses, “‘Now therefore, if you will indeed obey My voice and keep My covenant, then you shall be a special treasure to Me above all people; for all the earth is Mine. And you shall be to Me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation.’ These are the words which you shall speak to the children of Israel” (Exo. 19:5-6). Sadly, Israel often rebelled against God. Their crowning rebellion was rejecting the promised Messiah. As a result, the kingdom was taken from Israel and given to Christ’s kingdom, His church (Matt. 21:42-45; Heb. 12:28; 1 Pet. 2:4-10). Because His kingdom is “not of this world,” physical descend and possessing land do not define “the Israel of God” in this gospel age. Faith, not flesh, identifies the children of God (Israel) now (Rom. 2:25-29; 9:6-8). No longer does physical lineage and circumcision of the flesh by the Law of Moses. Now, the gospel of the cross of Christ produces and identifies God’s chosen people (Gal. 3:26-29). Paul experienced great physical suffering for Christ and the gospel. Yet, God’s peace and mercy rested on him and on all who walk according to the standard of truth, the gospel, that God’s Spirit revealed through the apostles and prophets of Christ (Gal. 3:1-3; 5:7, 16-26).
7 Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. 8 For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. (Galatians 6:7–8, NKJV)
Jeremiah said the human heart is deceitful (Jer. 17:5). Indeed. Since our hearts can deceive us, Paul’s warning is for us all. God is not mocked; we do not deceive God. We will reap what we sow. Like Israel (who sowed the wind and reaped the whirlwind, Hos. 8:7), we will reap the results of the life we choose. With this sober reminder, Paul begins to conclude his exhortation to walk in the Spirit and not the flesh (Gal. 5:16-6:10). Fulfilling the lust of the flesh produces the works of the flesh and results in eternal corruption (Gal. 5:16, 19-21; 6:8). But, walking in the Spirit bears the fruit of the Spirit that results in everlasting life (Gal. 5:16, 18, 22-25). Helping one overtaken by sin is sowing to the Spirit (Gal. 6:1-2). Envious conceit and self-promotion sow to the flesh (Gal. 5:26; 6:3). Sharing in all good things with our teachers is sowing to the Spirit, but refusing to do so is a trait of the flesh (Gal. 5:20; 6:6). Paul’s broader context bears out this principle. Those who tried to be justified by the law failed and forfeited being led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:3-4, 18). We are accountable to God for what we sow in life (2 Cor. 5:10). When judgment comes, will we reap sorrowful tears or joyful glory? Do not be deceived.
1 It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and such sexual immorality as is not even named among the Gentiles—that a man has his father’s wife! 2 And you are puffed up, and have not rather mourned, that he who has done this deed might be taken away from among you. (1 Corinthians 5:1–2, NKJV)
A Christian was committing fornication (porneia) with his father’s wife, and the Corinthian church was doing nothing to remove the immoral man from their number. Sadly, many churches repeat that pattern. Many churches openly accept the sin of fornication (premarital, extra-marital, heterosexual, and homosexual, 1 Cor. 6:9). Some churches condemn fornication but accept false doctrines that result in having fellowship with adulterers (Matt. 5:32; 19:9; 1 Cor. 7:10-11; Rom. 7:2-3). Some churches ignore the issue. But, the Holy Spirit did not ignore the sexual sin at Corinth. The sin’s unaddressed presence was infecting the church with a prideful and casual approach toward sin that had to cease (1 Cor. 5:2-7). Sexual immorality cannot be swept under the rug and ignored. Paul told the Corinthians to discipline the sinner to motivate his repentance and salvation (1 Cor. 5:3-5; 2 Cor. 2:6-11). Christians do not embrace fornication. It is a work of the flesh that is against God, and those who practice it will not inherit the kingdom of God (Gal. 5:19, 21). We must also reject teachings that enable fornicators to continue their sin (Gal. 1:6-9; 2 Jno. 9-11). We must “come out…and be separate” from those who sanction sin (2 Cor. 6:17). Determine not to rationalize and accommodate sin, for that only leads to eternal death (1 Cor. 5:13).
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)
What we crave determines what we follow, where we walk, where we live. The apostle Paul has contrasted the Spirit’s gospel with the law of Moses throughout his epistle to the Galatians (2:16-21; 3:1-3, 19-25); 4:21-31; 5:1-5). Disciples of Christ crave (lust) the Spirit’s direction and influence in their lives. Thus, they live by the gospel of Christ that the Holy Spirit revealed, inspired, and confirmed (Gal. 1:6-12). Paul makes a compelling argument that being led by the law of Moses places confidence in the flesh (v. 18; Gal. 3:3). The question we must ask ourselves is whether we yearn to be led by the Spirit of God through the gospel of Jesus, or do we lust after the flesh. We cannot crave and follow them both. Paul’s warning against craving the flesh and its works is clear: “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:19-21). His counterpoint is equally evident: those who have crucified the flesh with its passions and lusts bear the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-24). We live (have spiritual life) “in the Spirit,” therefore, we must also “walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:25). And, lest we miss the point, “obeying the truth” is how we walk in and are led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:6-7; 3:1-2).
6 But it is not that the word of God has taken no effect. For they are not all Israel who are of Israel, 7 nor are they all children because they are the seed of Abraham; but, “In Isaac your seed shall be called.” 8 That is, those who are the children of the flesh, these are not the children of God; but the children of the promise are counted as the seed. (Romans 9:6–8, NKJV)
God showed His faithfulness by fulfilling His promise to Abraham that “in your seed all the nations of the earth shall be blessed” (Gen. 22:18). The gospel of Christ reveals this promised blessing as salvation from sins “for everyone who believes, for the Jew first, and also for the Greek” (Rom. 1:16). The gospel also makes it clear the “children of the promise” are now the children of God. The promised blessing is obtained in Jesus Christ, not as a Jew under the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:16-19). Whether Jew or Gentile, “we are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus,” not through the Law of Moses (Gal. 3:23-27). The nation of Israel is no longer God’s chosen people. God chose us “in Christ” for redemption, regardless of race (Eph. 1:4; 2 Thess. 2:13). In Christ, “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28). Being a citizen of the nation of Israel does not make one a child of God. The church is now the “Israel of God” (Gal. 6:15-16).