Monday, July 12, 2010

Flesh Death and Spirit Life

“[Galatians] Are you so foolish? Having started with the Spirit, are you now ending with the flesh?”

~Galatians 3:3 (NRSV).

Not exactly complimentary stuff, is it? Paul was obviously quite jaded with the regression the new believers at the church in Galatia had made.

By starting out well and then stopping in their progress the Galatians had fallen out of step with God, as they marched again to their old tune. Using a military illustration, Paul seeks to get them focused again on the matter of obedience in the faith—being guided obediently and led by the Spirit (see Galatians 5:25).

The Goal of Sanctification

Sanctification is about enhancing the passage of Christian growth from the inception of the belief that Jesus Christ came to die to free us from our sin, to the maturity of faith—a process finishing at physical or mortal death. Sanctification is growing in holiness.

The process involves putting the flesh—our worldly desires—to death (mortification) whilst simultaneously bringing more and more life to the regenerate nature—in the Spirit (vivification).

It has to be our goal to negate the negative one and blossom in the positive one.

Keeping in step with the Spirit is about noticing the cadence of drum and falling into line with its beat as it pertains to our lives. We live obediently and in keeping with our fellows and peers around us, particularly other believers.

The Holy Spirit’s Role in Growing Spiritual Fruit in Us

Ryken calls the Holy Spirit “God’s drill sergeant.” The Holy Spirit, then, tells us in no uncertain terms when we fall out of line; this is through our more-ordered, well-oiled Christian conscience.

The Holy Spirit also reveals to us patterns of behaviour and habits to form in counteracting the habits and behaviours of the flesh.

J. I. Packer said of the Spirit’s method:

“Holiness by habit forming is not self-sanctification by self-effort, but is simply a matter of understanding the Spirit’s method and then keeping in step with him.”

It’s via this quote above that we can finally understand the metaphor of ‘path’ and that we must ordinarily ‘get on path’ and then ‘stay on path.’ Our habits are our destiny.

© 2010 S. J. Wickham.

Further Reading: Philip Graham Ryken, Galatians – Reformed Expository Commentary (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: P&R Publishing Company, 2005), p. 239f.

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