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.
19-23. Confirming Ga 5:18, by showing the contrariety between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit.
manifest—The hidden fleshly principle betrays itself palpably by its works, so that these are not hard to discover, and leave no doubt that they come not from the Spirit.
which are these—Greek, "such as," for instance.
Adultery—omitted in the oldest manuscripts.
lasciviousness—rather, "wantonness" petulance, capricious insolence; it may display itself in "lasciviousness," but not necessarily or constantly so (Mr 7:21, 22, where it is not associated with fleshly lusts) [Trench]. "Works" (in the plural) are attributed to the "flesh," because they are divided, and often at variance with one another, and even when taken each one by itself, betray their fleshly origin. But the "fruit of the Spirit" (Ga 5:23) is singular, because, however manifold the results, they form one harmonious whole. The results of the flesh are not dignified by the name "fruit"; they are but works (Eph 5:9, 11). He enumerates those fleshly "works" (committed against our neighbor, against God, and against ourselves) to which the Galatians were most prone (the Celts have always been prone to disputations and internal strifes): and those manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit most needed by them (Ga 5:13, 15). This passage shows that "the flesh" does not mean merely sensuality, as opposed to spirituality: for "divisions" in the catalogue here do not flow from sensuality. The identification of "the natural (Greek, 'animal-souled') man," with the "carnal" or fleshly man (1Co 2:14), shows that "the flesh" expresses human nature as estranged from God. Trench observes, as a proof of our fallen state, how much richer is every vocabulary in words for sins, than in those for graces. Paul enumerates seventeen "works of the flesh," only nine manifestations of "the fruit of the Spirit" (compare Eph 4:31).