But if you be led of the Spirit, you are not under the law.
These words have before now been must mischievously mistaken by ignorant persons who were glad enough to suppose that by Christian privilege they were put out of the reach of the law. The meaning is as follows: — The Holy Spirit of God puts into the heart of man the Spirit of Christ, and this is the Spirit to think and do "whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report." Now if a man have in himself the spirit for a thing, what needs he any outward ordinance to compel him to it? To the man who is led by the Spirit the works of the law of God are the natural outward, working of his spirit, as natural to him as the very motion of his limbs; he does not want them to be written down, any more than he requires to be told that he must move his arms and legs, and they can neither condemn him nor justify him; he is what he is without them, before he comes to them; and, as St. Paul says, he, "through the Spirit, waits for the hope of righteousness by faith;" so independent is he of them. Is it not manifest, then, that he who is led by the Spirit is not, under the law? Let us go on, then, to know more concerning this Spirit, in which we are called into such glorious liberty. It is, as I have said, the Spirit of Christ within a man, formed there by the renewing power of the Holy Spirit; it is the new, the inner, the spiritual man, and the walk of this man is, of course, a following of Christ, a continual working out of that which he believes; for instance, he believes that Christ was crucified, therefore he crucifies the flesh with the affections and lusts; he believes that Christ died, therefore he reckons himself dead unto sin; he believes that Christ rose again, therefore he reckons himself alive unto God through Him; he believes that Christ ascended into heaven, therefore he sets his affections on things above; he believes that Christ is sitting at the right hand of God, administering His kingdom and interceding for His people, therefore he does all that His kingdom may come and His will be done, and is instant in prayer; he believes that Christ will come again to judge the quick and the dead, therefore he does the part of a faithful servant in watching and waiting for his Lord. Our notion of perfect liberty in the flesh is to do everything that we like; but experience soon tells us that the notion is impossible. But the true Christian does everything that he likes, for he does everything from the heart, because of the spirit which is within him. This it is to be led by the Spirit; this is the liberty wherewith Christ hath made His people free. Shall we not desire to stand fast in it? Shall we surrender ourselves to the bondage of the law? Let us only consider a little farther the difference of these two states.
1. To be under the bondage of the law, is either to take merit to ourselves for obeying it, or to bring its vengeance upon us by disobeying it; in either ease it is a hard master indeed.
2. Surely, then, there is no real liberty but that wherewith the gospel of Christ makes us free. Let me state a few particulars of this also. The man of God, continuing in the word of Christ, and led by the Spirit, uses the law as he does a road; he is not guided by it, any more than a man perfectly acquainted with a country is guided by it, but he uses it to travel along through this world, and he delights in it, as in a road to a better place, and as in the exercise of his spirit. As for the commandments of God, he loves them, and in His statutes he meditates. The word of God is a lamp unto his feet and a light unto his path. He feels no unwillingness; he has no mind for pleading excuses and making delays; but he deplores the weakness of the flesh, which in this body of sin cannot follow up the willingness of the spirit, and he strives to put to full account all the means which God hath so graciously given in Jesus Christ our Lord for enabling him to keep the precepts and testimonies of the Lord. He takes to himself no merit for keeping them, any more than for eating or drinking, or satisfying any craving of his nature; the leading of the Spirit makes the will of God his will, and therefore doing the will of God is doing his own will, so that while he keeps the law he is not subject to it.
(R. W. Evans, B. D.)Beside the spirit of our mind (Ephesians 4:23) every man is led by some spirit or other.
1. One is led by the spirit of error (1 Timothy 4:1).
2. Another by the spirit of giddiness (Isaiah 19:14).
3. Another by the spirit of bondage (ver. 1; Romans 8:15).
4. Another by the spirit of the world (1 Corinthians 2:12).
5. The regenerate by the Spirit of God.
I. HOW MAY A MAN KNOW THAT HE IS TRULY LED BY THE SPIRIT? The Spirit leads —
1. In a right way: the way of God's commandment.
2. By a just rule: the word of truth.
3. Sweetly and justly.
4. In a constant way of progression, from grace to grace.
5. In a way opposed to the flesh.
II. WHO ARE THOSE WHO ARE NOT LED BY THE SPIRIT?
1. Those who go in a known evil way.
2. Those who are led by their own imaginations without any warrant from the Word of God.
3. Those who are carried by passions and distempers even in a good way.
4. Those who make no progress.
5. Those who fulfil the lust of the flesh.
I. THE NEED OF GUIDANCE AND HELP.
1. We are ignorant of the road.
2. Have defective vision and cannot see our way.
3. Are lame and impotent.
II. WE SHOULD SEEK FOR THIS GUIDANCE AND HELP. This is what a lost, benighted, or disabled traveller does. Man, however, does the opposite, and pursues his journey perversely, blindly, helplessly.
III. WE MUST BE PROVIDED SPIRITUALLY WITH WHAT AN ORDINARY TRAVELLER HAS MENTALLY,
1. A disposition to seek the right way.
2. A willingness to receive every help in the pursuit of it.
IV. THIS IS SUPPLIED BY THE SPIRIT OF GOD.
1. He leads by dwelling in the believer as a quickening and actuating principle ever aspiring after knowledge and holiness.
2. Under His guidance the believer advances —
(1) in knowledge
(a) of the person and work of Christ;
(b) of the issues of obedience and suffering;
(c) of Christ's spiritual kingdom.
(2) In holiness.
(a) In inward graces;
(b) in outward deportment.
V. THIS LEADING IS NOT DRIVING.
1. The free will is not destroyed by uncontrollable impulses or rigid compulsion.
2. The will is so influenced as to be inclined to holiness.
(H. Melvill, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.