Paul colors this section of Galatians with a number of metaphors.  Having established the conflict between the flesh and the spirit, he goes on to urge the Galatians to walk according to the Spirit, just as they have been called.  Yet the first metaphor he employs is a military one:  “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).  In its most basic sense, the word translated as “walk in step” refers to an army in formation, either standing in a line or on the march.  Christians are therefore called to march in the Spirit as a well disciplined unit, just as Paul “lives in observance of the law” (Acts 21:24, using the same word).  When we do so, we will not be like braggart soldiers, boasting of empty deeds and provoking one another, but those who have a reason to boast in what God has done.

Paul goes on with this imagery to describe one who has stumbled.  If one missteps while on the march, it is the duty of “the spiritual” to restore him.  The army is not to march roughshod over one who falls, but to lift him up in order to preserve the integrity of the line.  However, in a shift from the plural to the singular, Paul warns each of us individually to “watch yourself lest you also are tempted” (Galatians 6:1). Judgment and restoration belong to the whole church (Matthew 18:17; 1 Corinthians 5:4-5, 6:1-8; 2 Corinthians 2:5-11).  Diligence and vigilance belong to the individual (1 Thessalonians 5:3-11; Mark 13:32-37).

Part of helping up the one who has stumbled is to share his burden.  The metaphor shifts here.  Christians are called to “bear one another’s burdens, and thus fulfill the law of Christ” (Galatians 6:2).  These burdens are generally heavy weights, things which draw us downward.  Given the previous statement, it seems that Paul refers to our own personal failings and weaknesses.  “We who are strong have an obligation to bear with the failings of the weak, and not to please ourselves” (Romans 15:1).  This fulfills the law of Christ, namely that we love one another just as Christ first loved us (1 John 4:19-21).

After all, “if anyone thinks himself to be something, being nothing, he deceives himself” (Galatians 6:3).  Pride and lovelessness have no place within the bond of peace.  As Paul said in the previous chapter, divisions and dissensions are the fruit of the flesh.  Empty boasting proves nothing.  Such boasting always magnifies the self over the weakness of someone else.  Yet are we so free from danger that we can afford to look elsewhere and condemn our brother (Romans 14:4; 1 Corinthians 10:12; Matthew 7:5)?  We must set our own house in order, for we all have our own “load” to carry.  This load, a different word from before, is like cargo, carried either on an animal or in a ship (as it is used figuratively in Matthew 23:4 and Luke 11:46; and literally in Acts 27:10).  Yet Jesus Himself lays this burden on us (Matthew 11:30), for it is the cross given to each one of us to carry daily (Luke 9:23-24).  Yet the personal discipline of the cross yields the fruit of righteousness (Hebrews 12:7-11).

Paul now moves to another point.  “Let the one who is taught the word share all good things with the one who teaches” (Galatians 6:6).  The student, or more literally the catechumen, should share all good things with his teacher or catechist.  Catechesis, literally “to sound through, i.e. to teach orally,” shows that Christian education is bound up with being a part of the body.  Learning through the written word, while not forbidden, loses something of what God intends, because reading is often individual.  To learn aurally is not merely a practical matter for an illiterate culture, but a reality of what it means to be in the Church.  We are bound to one another, just as we learn from one another.  Those whom God has set to be the “sounders” in the Church should get their living by the Gospel (1 Corinthians 9:14), not because they need to pay for a retirement plan, but because the whole body prospers in the Gospel.

Paul reinforces this point with his final metaphor of sowing and reaping.  God will not be mocked, or in the same sense, we cannot turn up our noses at God.  Whatever you plant you will also harvest.  This is not the false, pagan notion of karma, an impersonal what goes around comes around.  This is a recognition of God’s justice (Deuteronomy 32:35; Isaiah 59:18).  To separate ourselves from the body in empty boasting and pride will lead to our destruction.  We cannot imagine that we have no need for the rest of the body.  Such divisiveness is a fruit of the flesh, not of the Spirit.  If you sow to the flesh, you will reap the only fruit possible from the flesh, which is destruction (Hosea 8:7; Job 4:8).  But if you sow to the Spirit, you will reap the only fruit possible from the Spirit, eternal life (James 3:18).

Therefore, we are called to not be negligent in our task of doing good.  Such good can only flow forth from the Spirit.  Being in Christ, we are called to do good to all men, since Jesus tells us to “love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Matthew 5:44-45).  Such works will heap burning coals on his head, or even cause him to the Father who is in heaven (Romans 12:20; Matthew 5:16).  Yet more than this, we are called to first build up the Church.  To ignore the needs of the house while taking care of the stranger is to be worse than an unbeliever (1 Timothy 5:8)!  There can be no division within the Church, because we are walking together in Christ, being made like Christ, and finally being saved in Christ as one holy people.

The language of “walking” resonates throughout the whole Bible.  Enoch is the first said to “walk with God” (Genesis 5:21-24), and he was taken up into heaven because of his faith (Hebrews 11:5-6).  Noah also walked with God, being blameless in his generation (Genesis 6:9).  Abram, before receiving the name of the promise, hears God’s command to “walk before me, and be blameless” (Genesis 17:1).  What further connects these passages together is the tense of the verb:  all of them share the same unusual Hebrew tense found in Genesis 3:8.  In other words, they are walking in the same way that God walks.

This concept also occurs in other passages of the Old Testament.  Proverbs 4 gives an excellent example of the “two ways” found so often in the Wisdom literature.  Men must walk one of two ways, either the way of wisdom, in which is life and salvation, or the way of evil, which ends only in death.  Psalm 1 states that the righteous man does not “walk in the counsel of the wicked.”  Jesus also describes Himself as “the way, the truth, and the life” (John 14:6), further cementing the language of walking with God.

Paul’s admonition, therefore, to “walk by the Spirit” sets before us these two ways.  Being a Christian is not a static thing, but a movement in conjunction with the Spirit.  Even the word Torah, often translated as “law” in the Old Testament, carries a moving, directional connotation, since it shares the same root as words meaning “to shoot.”  If we are walking in step with the Spirit, then we are not walking down the way of the flesh.  It has to be one or the other.  The Christian cannot stand still.

Because the tree is known by its fruit (Matthew 7:15-20), the righteous and the wicked are distinguished by their actions.  Nor is this hidden, because Paul says that “the works of the flesh are evident” (Galatians 5:19).  Christians cannot engage in such destructive actions and expect to escape unscathed.  Paul’s list is extensive and straightforward.  “Sensuality” refers to a lack of self-control.  “Sorcery” is more literally “using drugs,” since the original word is related to English words like “pharmacy.”  Within the context, Paul cannot mean that all drugs or material cures are forbidden, since the Bible refers positively to physicians in many places.  Rather, like Asa who sought the help of doctors in his distress instead of seeking the Lord (2 Chronicles 16:12), it is an attempt to gain control through physical means of what properly belongs to God.  This is why the word is translated more broadly to include magic, since it is quite possible to trust in God’s gift of healing more than God Himself.  Finally, “orgies” are not exclusively sexual in the way that we often use that word today, but can refer to any kind of unbridled partying, including excessive feasting and drinking.

Is it possible that a Christian may fall into such activities from time to time due to the weakness of his flesh?  Of course it is possible.  Paul laments this weakness in Romans 7.  Yet weakness is not an excuse for such things.  They will exclude one who does them from entering the kingdom of God (Galatians 5:21).  They are deadly poison, not indifferent matters.  Walking in the Spirit means fighting against such things.  Claiming that one couldn’t avoid doing it or even reveling in such things as if they glorified God’s mercy runs the serious risk of becoming hardened in them.  Sin repeated is sin strengthened.  Christians, flee from the works of the flesh!

But on the other hand, the fruits of the Spirit are equally evident.  These are not generic virtues, as if “love” in the abstract is a fruit of the Spirit.  Rather, these are Christian virtues because they come from God and God alone.  Christian love, for example, is not permissive, but transformative.  It builds up the whole rather than accepting things as they are.  Christian joy is not merely feeling happy, but joy in Christ, knowing that this present evil age is coming to an end and that Christ has redeemed us from the depths of our sin.  Christian peace is the peace which surpasses all understanding (Philippians 4:7; John 14:27), knowing that Christ is with us always.  And the list could go on.  But Paul’s point is clear:  “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.”  The fruits of the Spirit flow forth from walking in the Spirit, which puts to death the old way and no longer walks down it.  Death breaks forth into life, because we are in Christ.