|Matthew Henry's Concise Commentary|
5:16-26 If it be our care to act under the guidance and power of the blessed Spirit, though we may not be freed from the stirrings and oppositions of the corrupt nature which remains in us, it shall not have dominion over us. Believers are engaged in a conflict, in which they earnestly desire that grace may obtain full and speedy victory. And those who desire thus to give themselves up to be led by the Holy Spirit, are not under the law as a covenant of works, nor exposed to its awful curse. Their hatred of sin, and desires after holiness, show that they have a part in the salvation of the gospel. The works of the flesh are many and manifest. And these sins will shut men out of heaven. Yet what numbers, calling themselves Christians, live in these, and say they hope for heaven! The fruits of the Spirit, or of the renewed nature, which we are to do, are named. And as the apostle had chiefly named works of the flesh, not only hurtful to men themselves, but tending to make them so to one another, so here he chiefly notices the fruits of the Spirit, which tend to make Christians agreeable one to another, as well as to make them happy. The fruits of the Spirit plainly show, that such are led by the Spirit. By describing the works of the flesh and fruits of the Spirit, we are told what to avoid and oppose, and what we are to cherish and cultivate; and this is the sincere care and endeavour of all real Christians. Sin does not now reign in their mortal bodies, so that they obey it, Ro 6:12, for they seek to destroy it. Christ never will own those who yield themselves up to be the servants of sin. And it is not enough that we cease to do evil, but we must learn to do well. Our conversation will always be answerable to the principle which guides and governs us, Ro 8:5. We must set ourselves in earnest to mortify the deeds of the body, and to walk in newness of life. Not being desirous of vain-glory, or unduly wishing for the esteem and applause of men, not provoking or envying one another, but seeking to bring forth more abundantly those good fruits, which are, through Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God.
Verse 18. - But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the Law (ei) de\ Pneu/mati a&gesqe, οὐκ ἐστὲ ὑπὸ νόμον); but if ye are led by the Spirit, ye are not under the Law. The sense of Πνεύματι as denoting the Spirit of God is put beyond question by the parallel passage in Romans (Romans 8:14), "As many as are led by the Spirit of God (Πνεύματι Θεοῦ ἄγονται), these are sons of God." The dative case with ἄγομαι in both passages is illustrated by 2 Timothy 3:6, "silly women laden with sins, led away by divers lusts (ἀγόμενα ἐπιθομίαις ποικίλαις)." In all three cases the dative must be the dative of the agent, there being in 2 Timothy 3:6 a slight personification. This use of the dative is not in prose writers a common construction with passive verbs, though not altogether unknown (Winer, ' Gram. N.T.,' § 3l, 10). In the present case its harshness is perhaps relieved by the circumstance that the noun does not represent an agent whose personality is markedly conspicuous ab extra; but rather an internally swaying influence, whoso personality is a matter of faith. Hence in 2 Timothy 3:6 we render, "led away with divers lusts." This shade of sense might be represented by rendering, "led with the Spirit." In Luke 4:1, "led by the Spirit," we have ἤγετο ἐν τῷ Πνεύματι. In all these passages the passive, "being led," must, from the nature of the case, include the voluntary self-subjection of those led. In Romans," being led by the Spirit" stands instead of "walking after the Spirit" in ver. 4; "being after the Spirit" in ver. 5; "by the Spirit mortifying the deeds of the body" in ver. 13. Similarly, here it is tantamount to the "walking by the Spirit" mentioned above in ver. 16. The phrase cannot be fairly understood of merely having that presence of the Holy Spirit. which is predicated of the whole "body of Christ," even of those members thereof whose conduct is plainly not regulated by the sacred influence (comp. 1 Corinthians 12:13; 1 Corinthians 6:19); it must be understood as describing the case of such as recognize its presence and yield themselves to its guidance. The sense of the phrase, "being under the Law," is illustrated by Galatians 3:23, "we were kept in ward under the Law;, Galatians 4:4, "made to be under the Law;" ibid., 5, "to redeem those which were under the Law;" ibid., 21, "ye who would fain be under the Law;" Romans 6:14, 15, "not under the Law, but under grace;" 1 Corinthians 9:20, "to those which are under the Law as under the Law, that I might gain those who are under the Law." These are all the passages in which the expression occurs. The inference is clear that the apostle designates by it the condition of such as are subject to the Law of the old covenant, viewed as a whole, in its ceremonial aspect as well as its moral; his meaning would not be exhausted by the paraphrase, "subject to the condemnation of the Law." What he affirms here is this: If in the course of your lives you are habitually swayed by the inward motions of the Spirit of God, then you are not subject to the Law of the old covenant. The connection between the premiss and the conclusion has been clearly shown by the apostle above (Galatians 4:5-7), it is this, that the possession of the Spirit of adoption proves a man to be a "son" - one who has attained his majority and is no longer subject to a pedagogue. This aphorism of the apostle, that if they were led by the Spirit they were not under the Law, suggests the inquiry - But how was it with those Christians who were not led by the Spirit? Would the apostle teach, or would he allow us to say, that Gentile Christians (for it is to such that he is writing), and Jewish as well, if not guided by the Spirit, were bound to obey the Law of the old covenant? With reference to this point we are to consider that the apostle has elsewhere clearly stated, for example in Romans 11, that the Church of God forms, in solidarity with Israel of old, one "Israel of God," as he speaks in the sixth chapter of this Epistle (ver. 16); Gentiles, being "grafted in" upon the original stock, have thus become branches (σύμφυτοι) having one common life and nature therewith; or, in the language of another figure, "fellow-heirs, and fellow-members of the body, and fellow-partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus," with those who originally were heirs and forming the body and partners in the promised blessing (Ephesians 3:6). This leads us to the view that God's Law, the revelation of his will relative to his people's conduct, given in successive developments - patriarchal, Mosaical, prophetical - is, with such modifications as have been made by the crucifixion and the priesthood of Christ, and by the mission and work of the Holy Spirit, God's Law relative to his people's conduct still. The cross and priestly work of Christ, as we are taught by this Epistle and the Epistle to the Hebrews, do for all Christians eliminate from this Law its ceremonial prescriptions altogether; but its moral prescriptions, more fully perfected by the moral teaching of Jesus and his apostles, are still incumbent upon them. Those Christians who really give themselves up to the Spirit to be taught and animated by him, who are as St. Paul says (Galatians 6:1) "spiritual," these use this Law (as Calvin phrases it) as a doctrina liberalis; the Law of the Spirit of life within them leads and enables them to recognize, and so to speak assimilate, the kindred import of the Law embodied in the letter; which thus ministers to their instruction and consolation (Romans 15:4; 2 Timothy 3:16; 1 Corinthians 9:10). The letter of the Law is now their helper, no longer their absolute rigid rule; as a rule it is superseded by the law written in the heart (2 Corinthians 3:6-11; Hebrews 8:8-11). As Chrysostom writes in his note on the present passage, "They are raised to a height far above the Law's injunction." But in the degree in which they axe not spiritual, but natural (ψυχικοί, 1 Corinthians 2:14-16; Jude 1:19), in that degree must they use the letter of the Law, in the New Testament as well as the Old, as the rule of their conduct. We, those who have been sacramentally brought into covenant with God, cannot be left to ourselves; either we must be sweetly, persuasively, instinctively, swayed by the Spirit of God within, or else own the coercing dominion of the written Law. In fact, the same individual Christian may at different times be subject to alternation between these two diverse phases of experience, passing over from one to the other of them according to his fluctuating needs. Christians may, therefore, be broadly divided into three classes:
(1) the spiritual (Galatians 6:1; Romans 8:1-4);
(2) those who are as yet in bondage to the letter;
(3) those who are living after the flesh - "carnal" (1 Corinthians 3:3).
The above statement of the case commends itself as in accordance with what the apostle writes in 1 Timothy 1:8-11, "We know that the Law is good [καλός: cf. Romans 7:12] if a man use it lawfully [νομίμως, according to the manner in which God has directed us to use it in his gospel (ver. 11)], knowing this [having his eye upon this], that the Law is not made (οὐ κεῖται) for a righteous man, but for the lawless and disobedient, for,.., according to the gospel of the glory of the blessed God." In contrast with this Law, coercing impiety and immorality wherever it is found, whether in the world or in the Church, the apostle has before in ver. 5 declared that its function is superseded in the case of the spiritual believer: "The end of the commandment [see Alford] is charity, out of a pure heart and a good conscience, and faith unfeigned." The perpetual obligation of the Law given under the old covenant, subject to the qualifications noted above, appears to be emphatically affirmed by our Lord: "I came not to destroy the Law, but to fulfil: for verily I say unto you, till heaven and earth pass away, one jot or one tittle shall in no wise pass away from the Law, till all things be accomplished" (Matthew 5:17, 18). And the recognition of this principle underlies all his moral teaching; as, for example, in the sermon on the mount; in his controversies with the Jewish rabbins; in such passages as Mark 10:19; Matthew 22:37-40. The moral Law given in the Old Testament amalgamates itself with that given in the New, forming one whole.
Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible
But if ye be led by the Spirit,.... That is, of God, who is the guide and leader of his people. It is a metaphor taken from the leading of persons that are blind; as such are before conversion, and whom the Spirit of God leads in ways they knew not, and in paths they had not known: or from the leading of children, and teaching them to go; so the Spirit leads regenerate persons, and teaches them to walk by faith in Christ. This act of leading supposes life in the persons led, for dead men cannot be led; the Spirit is first a Spirit of life from Christ before he is a leader; and also it supposes some strength, though a good deal of weakness; were there no spiritual strength derived from Christ, they could not be led; and if there was no weakness, there would be no need of leading; it is an instance of powerful and efficacious grace upon them, yet not contrary to their wills, though they are led, they are not forced; they go freely, being led, as there is good reason for it; for the Spirit of God always leads for their profit and advantage, and for the spiritual delight, pleasure, and comfort of their souls; he leads out of the ways of sin, and so of ruin and destruction, and from Mount Sinai, and all dependence on a legal and moral righteousness; he leads to Christ, to his person, for shelter, safety, and salvation, to his blood, for pardon and cleansing, to his righteousness, for justification, and to his fulness, for every supply of grace; he leads into the presence of God, and to his house and ordinances; he leads into the covenant of grace, to the blessings, promises, and Mediator of it; he leads into all truth as it is in Jesus, in the ways of faith and truth, and in the paths of righteousness and holiness, and always in a right way, though sometimes in a rough one, to the city of their habitation; he leads from one degree of grace to another, and at last to glory: all which he does gradually; he leads by little and little into a man's sinfulness, and to see his interest in Christ, and by degrees into the doctrines of the Gospel, and the everlasting love of the three Persons; and proportionally to the strength he gives, and as they are able to bear: now such persons as these have nothing to fear from the law of God:
ye are not under the law; such are not only delivered from the law in fact, but in their own apprehensions; they have the comfortable knowledge and experience of it; the law is no terrifying law to them; it works no wrath in them; they are delivered from the spirit of bondage to fear, by the Spirit of God, by whom they are led; nor are they under it, nor do they need it as a pressing forcing law to duty; they delight in it, and cheerfully serve it, being constrained by love, and not awed by fear; nor are its accusations and charges regarded, or to be regarded, by such who are led by the Spirit to Christ, the end of the law for righteousness; and they are entirely freed from its curse and condemnation, though they are under it, and desire to be under it, as held forth by Christ the King of saints; and, under the Spirit's influence and guidance, yield a cheerful and evangelical obedience to it.
Jamieson-Fausset-Brown Bible Commentary
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).
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