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Galatians 5:13-26

  • This is the final week of our Holy Spirit series. What has stood out to you over the last 12 weeks? (Feel free to browse the studies at to refresh your memory!) Is there anything in particular that you've learned or been challenged by?

Read Galatians 5:13-26

In this passage, Paul draws a contrast between the Spirit and 'the flesh' (the sinful state of a human heart without the Spirit, motivated by your own selfish desires.[1])

  • What sort of attitudes and behaviours describe a life spent living for the flesh? (Discuss the things Paul mentions here, especially in verses 19-21, but also others you can think of)

  • What sort of attitudes and behaviours describe a life spent living for the Spirit? (Again, while discussing Paul's examples, mostly in verses 22-24, also try to think beyond them to examples he doesn't use here)

  • How does the Spirit 'free' us?

    • What are we set free from?

    • What are we set free for?

  • Do you think that the Spirit will bear this fruit in us despite our fleshly nature, or do we need to put in some effort to be conscious and willing participants in our own transformation? Or is it both somehow?

  • Practically speaking, how do we make sure we 'keep in step with the Spirit' and not just 'gratify the desires of our flesh'?

Spend some time praying...

  • That God would enable us to walk in step with Spirit

  • That the Spirit would develop this fruit in us as we give ourselves freely to Him

[1] The word for 'flesh' in Greek is 'sarx'. Read a bit more about what Paul meant by 'flesh', according to theologian R. Alan Cole:

In brief, sarx begins by meaning the physical substance ‘flesh’, like the Hebrew bāśār, the word which it translates in the Greek Old Testament (so Abbot-Smith). From that, it comes to mean either ‘body’, as substance, although the word for this is more properly sōma, or ‘mortal’, especially in the phrase ‘flesh and blood’. From that, it is an easy transition to ‘that which is natural to mortals’ or ‘human nature’. It could be argued that this is not necessarily sinful in itself, just as sōma, ‘body’, is certainly not sinful in itself. But there are two aspects in which sarx is inadequate, even if not actually sinful. The first is that, when we say ‘human’, we now must mean ‘fallen human’: this is inevitable, in a fallen world. Thus, in so far as sarx is the ‘flesh’ of fallen humanity, it is sinful.

Secondly, at a deeper level than this, even if we could concede that ‘flesh’ was once sinless and that its ‘nature’ was once ‘unfallen nature’, it is still grossly inadequate as ‘flesh’. God is spirit, and not flesh (Isa. 31:3); his thoughts and plans are as far above our thoughts as heaven is above earth (Isa. 55:9). That is what Paul means by saying that his gospel is ‘not … from any man’ but ‘by revelation’ (1:12, NIV)...

When Paul says we must not use (or abuse) our Christian liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, or, as we might say, as a ‘springboard for the flesh’, he means ‘you must not use this as an opportunity to show what you are really like as humans’. We may choose to translate it by ‘lower nature’ (NEB) or ‘sinful nature’ (NIV) to make the meaning clearer; but to Paul, all fallen human nature is by definition this ‘lower nature’. We can see from the list of vices below that, while he certainly includes the grosser vices of the body in his purview – very necessary in a Gentile church – he also includes those subtler vices of the mind which we normally consider as ‘respectable’. The law, of course, was equally realistic in its approach: it was designed to stop us from behaving in a ‘natural’ manner.


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