The Divine Lamp

The unfolding of thy words gives light; it imparts understanding to the simple…Make thy face shine upon thy servant, and teach me thy statutes

Bernardin de Piconio on Galatians 5:16-25

Posted by Dim Bulb on May 20, 2012

16. And I say: walk by the Spirit; and the desires of the flesh vou shall not fulfil.
17. For the flesh lusts against the spirit, and the spirit against the flesh; for these are antagonistic to one another, so that you do not everything you wish.
18. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law
.

16. And I say, to emphasize what follows. As he has just reduced all the precepts of the law to the one precept of charity, so now he brings all the means of making charity perfect under one rule. Walk by the Spirit. Live according to the dictate of the Holy Spirit, and you will not fulfil the desires of the flesh. By the flesh, in this passage, is signified desire, either that of the physical appetites, as gluttony or luxury: or of irascible feeling, as envy, malice, or resentment: or of the rational appetite, as the desire of fame or distinction. Although these desires all influence the soul, they are called collectively the flesh, because for the most part it is from the animal
nature that they arise. But the Apostle does not say, the desires of the flesh you shall not feel, or be sensible of, because this is in this life inevitable, but you shall not fulfill them, either by internal consent or outward act, for this you will easily avoid, by living according to the impulse of the Spirit of God.

17. The Syriac version reads this verse: Inasmuch as the flesh desires that which injures the spirit, and the spirit that which injures the flesh; and these two are contrary to one another, so that you do not what you would. The flesh desires what is pleasant and agreeable, the spirit what is holy; the flesh desires what is carnal, earthly, and temporal, the spirit what is spiritual,,
celestial, and eternal. And these are so opposed that frequently we cannot do all we would. We would not desire, yet in spite of ourselves we do desire. We would do good with fervour and alacrity, but the flesh resists the impulse of the will, and weighs down the soul, and makes us tepid and inactive.

These opposite moments of nature and of grace are described, with great simplicity of language, but with great force and truth, in the third book of the Imitation of Christ, cap. 54. Saint Augustine vividly describes the same conflict as carried on within himself, in the eighth .book of the Confessions; and the final victory of the spirit, and overthrow of rebellion against its authority, in his commentary on Psalm 75.

It must be observed that in this passage, as elsewhere in the writings of St. Paul, the spirit does not signify the intellectual faculties of human nature as distinguished from the animal faculties; a sense in which the term is sometimes used in modern philosophy; for the mind and body are so mysteriously allied and related that the same or similar impulses and motives govern both. The spirit means the supernatural power of the Spirit of God upon the human heart, the reality of which is proved by its results, though the mode of its action cannot ordinarily be traced.

18. If you are led by the Spirit you are not under law. A parenthetical statement, importing that we have here the real solution of the controversy about the law. Led by the Spirit, you do of your own accord, and from the motive of affection, that which the law prescribes, and exacts by menace of penalty to be incurred by transgression. You are above the law, and beyond it, and there is no law opposed to you. If all Christians walked by the Spirit, and all mankind were Christians, no laws would be required. You have in that case, what the law cannot impart, the spirit of sons, not servants. We shall find this statement repeated in verse 23.

19. And the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury,
20. Service of idols, magic, enmities, contentions, emulations, anger, quarrels, dissensions, sects,
21. Jealousies, homicides, drunkenness, revelling, and things like these: which I declare to you, as I have already declared, that they who do such things will not attain the kingdom of God.
22. And the fruit of the Spirit is charity, joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, long-suffering.
23. Gentleness, fidelity, modesty, continence, chastity; against such there is no law
.

19. Lest there should be any doubt, amid the general corruption of pagan society then prevailing, as to what is meant by the flesh and the spirit, or any should pretend to doubt, the Apostle proceeds to enumerate the effects of each; observing that the works of the flesh are plainly manifest to all who have eyes to see. The four named in verse 19 do not exactly correspond with the Greek, which has, adultery, fornication, uncleanness, luxury; this last term the Vulgate appears to divide into two. Idolatry and magic were temptations of powerful influence in ancient times, though now in some degree out of date. Magic charms were supposed to control persons at a distance, or secure affection, or do injury to persons or property, and the pretenders to such powers as these made a profitable trade out of the wickedness and credulity of those who trusted to them. The Greek word for sects is heresies. It is interesting to observe that the Apostle considers that the motives which prompt men to cavil at the faith, and set up parties in opposition to the Church of God, have their origin in this world, and in man’s fallen nature, so that he classes these among the works of the flesh. Those who do these things, or things like them, shall not attain, in the Greek inherit, the kingdom of God, or a kingdom of  God. This is a statement which Christians not infrequently loss sight of. Of the seven mortal sins, or classes of mortal sin, two only, luxury and gluttony, have directly reference to the body. The others are spirituals Yet most people, as is evident by their confessions, d0 penance only for sins of the body, and pass over all the others as immaterial. And yet it is of all alike that the Apostle says, that they who do such things shall not inherit God’s kingdom.

22. Saint Paul speaks of the works of the flesh, and the fruits of the Spirit. Carnal and worldly passions move and work tumultuously in the soul, and produce crime, death,and ruin. But the Holy Spirit acts powerfully, yet insensibly, and is seen only in his effects, as the influence of the sunshine is seen in the harvest and the vintage. The fruits of his presence are charity, joy, peace, and the others. Patience, modesty, and chastity, given in the list in the Vulgate, are wanting in the Greek, and in the same list as given both by Saint Jerome and Saint Augustine. The Greek text gives, therefore, nine fruits of the Spirit, the Vulgate, twelve. The Syriac version also gives only
nine; Ambrose includes ten. The Greek list is : charity joy, peace, patience, benignity, goodness, fidelity, meekness, continence. It would seem, and is observed by Estius, that the Greek word μακροθυμία is translated in the Vulgate by the two words patience and long-suffering, πρᾳότης   by gentleness and modesty, and ἐγκράτεια by continence and chastity; thus increasing the list as given in the Greek by three. Charity is the principal fruit of the Spirit; and charity does no ill. The fruits of the Spirit are opposed in general and in detail to the works of the flesh. Joy is opposed to envy, which is pain at another’s happiness; peace to enmity; patience to strife and quarreling: goodness to magic and homicide; continence to luxury and
gluttony.

Against such there is no law. Laws are not enacted for the just. The law is given for those who err, says Ambrose. If all men were such as the Apostle here describes, penal legislation would be altogether unnecessary.

It is to be observed that while the works of the flesh enumerated by the Apostle, are the ordinary and natural result of the passions and desires of human nature, directed to objects belonging to this mortal life, and not controlled by grace, the fruits of Spirit are all supernatural and the effect of the grace of the H0ly Spirit acting on the powers and faculties of human nature.

24. And they who are of Christ crucified the flesh with the vices and concupiscences.

This enumeration of the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit (in the previous verses) now enables the Apostle to place the combatants in array, distinguishing the soldiers of Christ from those who are devoted to the interests of this world. Those who belong to Christ crucify the aims, ambitions, and desires that belong to this mortal life, or contribute to the satisfaction of our animal nature. The verb is used by the Apostle in the Greek text, in the aorist, and may possibly have a general sense as regards time present, past, or future. The Vulgate reads crucifixerunt. A man crucified is bound to the cross, his body torn and dislocated, his life blood drained, life itself by slow degrees extinguished. So the Christian crucifies concupiscence, binds, crushes, enfeebles it to death. The flesh of Christ on the cross is the exemplar of Christian mortification. The Apostle does not say that the Christian crucifies the body, for the body is often thereby rendered stronger and more effective for the service of God; and the body will be raised one day from the grave to eternal strength and immortality. What is crucified, or mortified, is the flesh in a figurative sense, all desires, affections, and inclinations which find their satisfaction in anything that is limited and measured by this mortal life. And as Christ died for our sins in pain and suffering, so not without pain and suffering can sin be crucified in us.

25. If we live by spirit, by  spirit also let us walk.

St. Paul repeats in this verse what he said in verse 16. Walk by the Spirit, and you will not fulfil the desires of the flesh. To crucify the flesh, walk by the guidance of God’s Spirit, whose presence is the life of the soul.

 

 

 

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