This Mystery

reflections on theology and life

Tag: Jason C. Meyer

Completed by the Spirit Part 15: Producing Fruit, Not Inspecting Fruit

This is the 15th part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

While we have seen that the law is inef­fec­tual against sin, and (as Paul argues) that the law pro­motes sin in sin­ful flesh, and while we have just seen that it is love that ful­fills the two tables of the law, we then must ask, “What, accord­ing to Paul, pro­duces growth in holi­ness?” And that brings us to the great antithe­sis between the Spirit and the flesh that Paul expounds in . Let’s empha­size once again that Paul is writ­ing to the church. He is not writ­ing a trea­tise solely on jus­ti­fi­ca­tion by faith. He reminds the Gala­tians, as we noted above, “You were run­ning well!” These are believ­ers that Paul is cau­tion­ing against turn­ing from the Spirit.

[16] But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not grat­ify the desires of the flesh. [17] For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. ()

While the strug­gling man of may or may not be a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the unre­gen­er­ate man fac­ing despair in try­ing to obey the law, the man addressed by Paul is one who fights the Chris­t­ian fight, the war between the flesh and the Spirit.  Con­tinue reading


5:1 For free­dom Christ has set us free; stand firm there­fore, and do not sub­mit again to a yoke of slavery.

Look: I, Paul, say to you that if you accept cir­cum­ci­sion, Christ will be of no advan­tage to you. I tes­tify again to every man who accepts cir­cum­ci­sion that he is oblig­ated to keep the whole law. You are sev­ered from Christ, you who would be jus­ti­fied by the law; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit, by faith, we our­selves eagerly wait for the hope of right­eous­ness. For in Christ Jesus nei­ther cir­cum­ci­sion nor uncir­cum­ci­sion counts for any­thing, but only faith work­ing through love.

You were run­ning well. Who hin­dered you from obey­ing the truth? This per­sua­sion is not from him who calls you. A lit­tle leaven leav­ens the whole lump. 10 I have con­fi­dence in the Lord that you will take no other view than mine, and the one who is trou­bling you will bear the penalty, who­ever he is. 11 But if I, broth­ers, still preach cir­cum­ci­sion, why am I still being per­se­cuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been removed. 12 I wish those who unset­tle you would emas­cu­late themselves!

13 For you were called to free­dom, broth­ers. Only do not use your free­dom as an oppor­tu­nity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. 14 For the whole law is ful­filled in one word: “You shall love your neigh­bor as your­self.” 15 But if you bite and devour one another, watch out that you are not con­sumed by one another.

16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not grat­ify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evi­dent: sex­ual immoral­ity, impu­rity, sen­su­al­ity, 20 idol­a­try, sor­cery, enmity, strife, jeal­ousy, fits of anger, rival­ries, dis­sen­sions, divi­sions, 21 envy, drunk­en­ness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the king­dom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kind­ness, good­ness, faith­ful­ness, 23 gen­tle­ness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have cru­ci­fied the flesh with its pas­sions and desires.

25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become con­ceited, pro­vok­ing one another, envy­ing one another. (ESV)


16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not grat­ify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. (ESV)


7:1 Or do you not know, brothers—for I am speak­ing to those who know the law—that the law is bind­ing on a per­son only as long as he lives? For a mar­ried woman is bound by law to her hus­band while he lives, but if her hus­band dies she is released from the law of mar­riage. Accord­ingly, she will be called an adul­ter­ess if she lives with another man while her hus­band is alive. But if her hus­band dies, she is free from that law, and if she mar­ries another man she is not an adulteress.

Like­wise, my broth­ers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. For while we were liv­ing in the flesh, our sin­ful pas­sions, aroused by the law, were at work in our mem­bers to bear fruit for death. But now we are released from the law, hav­ing died to that which held us cap­tive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the writ­ten code.

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, pro­duced in me all kinds of cov­etous­ness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead. I was once alive apart from the law, but when the com­mand­ment came, sin came alive and I died. 10 The very com­mand­ment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seiz­ing an oppor­tu­nity through the com­mand­ment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the com­mand­ment is holy and right­eous and good.

13 Did that which is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, pro­duc­ing death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the com­mand­ment might become sin­ful beyond mea­sure. 14 For we know that the law is spir­i­tual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin. 15 For I do not under­stand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good. 17 So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that noth­ing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the abil­ity to carry it out. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, 23 but I see in my mem­bers another law wag­ing war against the law of my mind and mak­ing me cap­tive to the law of sin that dwells in my mem­bers. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin. (ESV)

Completed by the Spirit Part 3: The Law Cannot Cope With Sin

This is the third part of a series of posts adapted from a paper I pre­sented at a New Covenant The­ol­ogy think tank in upstate New York in July 2010.

The first of the five propo­si­tions we intro­duced in Part 1 of this series is that the law can­not cope with sin.

The law can­not pre­vent sin; the law can’t curb sin; the law is pow­er­less against sin.

In fact, Paul tells us, the law pro­vokes sin.

Moses smashing the tablets of the lawAlthough what the law com­mands is holy, it was given to stiff-necked Israel to increase trans­gres­sions until the Mes­siah, the sin­gle seed of Abra­ham, was to come:

[19] Why then the law? It was added because of trans­gres­sions, until the off­spring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an inter­me­di­ary. [20] Now an inter­me­di­ary implies more than one, but God is one.

[21] Is the law then con­trary to the promises of God? Cer­tainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then right­eous­ness would indeed be by the law. [22] But the Scrip­ture impris­oned every­thing under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

[23] Now before faith came, we were held cap­tive under the law, impris­oned until the com­ing faith would be revealed. [24] So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be jus­ti­fied by faith. ()[1]

In his analy­sis of this pas­sage, Jason C. Meyer ref­er­ences Thomas Schreiner’s argu­ment that, “although the phrase ‘because of trans­gres­sions’ could refer to defin­ing or increas­ing trans­gres­sion, the lat­ter option is prefer­able.”[2] Schreiner gives three rea­sons for that inter­pre­ta­tion: first, that the con­text of the pas­sage is that sal­va­tion can­not be attained by the law; sec­ond, that the rela­tion­ship of “under law and under sin” reveals the law’s role in arous­ing sin; and third, that there is a par­al­lel with : “Now the law came in to increase the tres­pass. …”[3]

Con­tinue reading


19 Why then the law? It was added because of trans­gres­sions, until the off­spring should come to whom the promise had been made, and it was put in place through angels by an inter­me­di­ary. 20 Now an inter­me­di­ary implies more than one, but God is one.

21 Is the law then con­trary to the promises of God? Cer­tainly not! For if a law had been given that could give life, then right­eous­ness would indeed be by the law. 22 But the Scrip­ture impris­oned every­thing under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe.

23 Now before faith came, we were held cap­tive under the law, impris­oned until the com­ing faith would be revealed. 24 So then, the law was our guardian until Christ came, in order that we might be jus­ti­fied by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a guardian, 26 for in Christ Jesus you are all sons of God, through faith. 27 For as many of you as were bap­tized into Christ have put on Christ. (ESV)


20 Now the law came in to increase the tres­pass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, (ESV)

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