Passage: Galatians 5:15-25
Guide for Group Discussion or Personal Reflection
Though we all have some idea of what it would take to grow in character, it can seem so difficult to actually grow. In Galatians 5:16-25, Paul teaches that the grace and freedom of the gospel are what grow us as Christians. Contrary to the charge of the troublemakers in Galatia, that freedom would only lead to license and to gratifying the flesh, Paul asserts that those who walk by the Spirit “will not gratify the desires of the flesh” (5:16), but instead will grow into new people, who bear the Spirit’s fruits. How does this work? First, we need to understand a deeper diagnosis of why it’s hard to grow. Growth so often feels like a struggle because we have warring desires instead of us: the “desires of the flesh” and the “desires of the Spirit” (5:17). Our “flesh”—our natural, untransformed, sinful nature—has desires that are self-seeking, and harmful to the community, and while these desires don’t disappear when we trust in Jesus, the Holy Spirit comes to live inside of us and births in us a new set of desires—desires to obey Jesus, and “serve one another through love” (5:13).
Because these desires are inherently “opposed” to one another, it makes sense that growth feels difficult. And yet God wants to transform us, not only at the level of our actions, but at the level of our underlying desires. And so, we also need a clear picture of what it looks like to grow—or not to grow. When our flesh’s desires consistently win out, our life together will be characterized by the destruction that our sinful nature brings, and our community will be torn apart (5:19-21). When the Spirit’s desires win out, however, we will bear the beautiful fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (5:22-23). Paul’s metaphor of fruit here is apt, and it can teach us about the nature of growth.
True growth is comprehensive (notice it’s the fruit, not the fruits, of the Spirit), and therefore, if our growth is genuine, we should expect to see all the fruit of the Spirit emerge in our lives over time. But fruit also takes time to grow, so we should be patient with ourselves and others. Most importantly, fruit is organic—meaning it grows naturally from the inside, out. If we cultivate our own and each other’s spiritual lives, fruit will grow. How do we experience this growth continually, then? Certainly not by the power of the law, or our own self efforts—that is the very slavery we’ve been set free from, for if we “are led by the Spirt, (we) are not under the law” (5:18)! Rather, it is through “walking by the Spirit” (5:16; 25). The Spirit’s role is to remind us of all that we have for free because of the grace of Jesus, and when we remember these things, we find the fruits of the Spirit welling up from within us—what joy, what peace, what patience with others, etc! So let’s walk by the Spirit. Let’s cultivate our love for Jesus and get ourselves into environments where we’ll be reminded of all that he’s done for us—then, over many years, watch the growth that God works in us.
• A Deeper Diagnosis of Growth (5:16-17)
• A Clearer Picture of Growth (5:19-23)
• The Power to Experience Growth Continually (5:18; 24-25)
Group Discussion & Personal Reflection Guide:
Re-read the passage(s): Galatians 5:16-25
A Deeper Diagnosis of Growth (5:16-17)
- INTRO: Look over the list of the fruit of the Spirit. Is there a particular area where you’ve experienced growth as a long-term struggle? What has that struggle felt like?
- Re-read Galatians 5:16-17 and meditate on these verses together. Consider:
• What are the “desires of the flesh”? What are the “desires of the Spirit?”
• What does it mean that these desires “keep you from doing the things you want to do?”
3. In some cases, it’s not always obvious if a desire we have is a “desire of the flesh” or a “desire of the Spirit”. How can we tell when a certain desire we have is a desire of the flesh, vs. when it’s a desire of the Spirit? What are some ways we can discern and diagnose this?
4. Is there a struggle you’re currently going through in this season (or one you just passed through) where you feel these competing desires warring within you? What did you sense the Holy Spirit within you desired to do? What did your own “flesh” want to do?
A Clearer Picture of Growth (5:19-23)
5. Re-read 5:19-21 and meditate on these verses together. Consider:
• As you look on the list of the “works of the flesh”, are there any that you are surprised to see on this list? • What might this list teach us about the nature of our sinful flesh?
• If our salvation is by grace, why does Paul say that “those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”?
6. Re-read 5:22-23 and meditate on these verses together. Consider:
• Which aspect(s) of the “fruit” of the Spirit do you long to emerge more fully in your life? In your church community? • How are these aspects of “fruit” similar? What are some things they all have in common?
7. In the sermon, Ben said that that “fruit” is a helpful image because fruit takes time to grow. Is there an area of your life where you need to be patient with yourself or someone else as they slowly grow in this fruit of the Spirit?
8. In the sermon, Ben emphasized the fact that the “fruit” imagery means that growth is organic—i.e. it starts with being healthy on the inside and then works its way out “naturally”. How might this understanding of growth as fruit impact the way we seek to:
• Disciple others?
• Pursue our own growth?
• Raise children?
The Power to Experience Growth Continually (5:18; 24-25)
9. Re-read verse 18. Why does Paul give the important reminder here that “if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law?” What temptation do you think he might be countering when it comes to pursuing our own growth?
10. Read these other verses: 1 Corinthians 2:12, John 16:14-15, Romans 8:14-17. What do they all suggest about the role of the Holy Spirit?
11. In the sermon, Ben said that the way the Spirit produces his fruit is by reminding us of all that we have for free because of Jesus. Think together about these different aspects of our inheritance in Jesus. For each one, brainstorm what aspects(s) of the fruit of the Spirit you think it would produce in you if you fully rested in each of these truths:
• Forgiveness of sins • Eternal life in a new heavens and a new earth • Adoption into a family • Being loved despite our failures • The promise that Jesus “will never leave us or forsake us”?
12. Re-read 5:24. How does “belonging to Jesus” help us crucify, or put to death, our old desires? Can you think of a specific example of something you used to want, that you no longer want because of belong to Jesus?
Additional Application Questions
Q) How else would you like to engage with God this week?
Q) How can you tangibly care for those in your community this week, both inside and outside of the church?
Spend time praying for yourselves, our church community, the North Shore community, and our nation and world—particularly those most vulnerable.