The epistle reading in all Orthodox Churches this Sunday is from a very short letter that St. Paul wrote to the Church in Galatia. It is one of the most incredible things he ever wrote and I know that is saying a lot since we credit most of the New Testament to him. My biblical studies professor from seminary, who was also named Paul, would smile and call St. Paul, “The Other Paul.” Funny, that is probably exactly how St. Paul refers to my biblical studies professor. But that is a story for another day. Bible commentaries say things like this about Galatians, “It is the most Pauline of the Pauline writings.” Sounds good to me. Here it is:
Brethren, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. Let us have no self-conceit, no provoking of one another, no envy of one another. Brethren, if a man is overtaken in any trespass, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Look to yourself, lest you too be tempted. Bear one another’s burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ. Galatians 5:22-6:2
Just prior to that reading above, St. Paul has recited a list of the desires of the flesh that are against the desires of the Spirit and hinder us from being led by the Spirit; “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, party spirit, envy, drunkenness, carousing and the like.” St. Paul warns us that if we do these things we will not inherit the kingdom of God. Then he turns his attention away from acts of the flesh to what we have to combat those temptations; fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Live by the Spirit. Walk by the Spirit. Be guided by the Spirit. I like how St. Paul asks us to not only believe it but to act on our belief. Man, that’s good! Under the influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit the human person is changed. St. Paul is basically arguing for a change, a reorientation of the entire person to God – not merely a psychological awareness. St. Paul argues that our nature, our very existence and reality is changed if we are guided by the Spirit. We have moved from being under the Mosaic law to, as he said to the Corinthians, “ennomos Christou” (1 Cor. 9:21) Greek for under the law of Christ, the law of the Spirit of Life. (Romans 8:2) To live, walk and be guided by the Holy Spirit is to get into the flow, God’s flow.