Walking in the spirit: A study of Paul's teaching on the spirit and ethics in Galatians 5:13-6:10

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  • Kwesi Otoo

    Research areas

  • PhD, School of Philosophy and Religion

Abstract

This study was born out of the observation that Paul’ s ethics in Galatians is
often interpreted in terms of an exclusively Spirit - focused way of life.
Expressed in the language of all - sufficiency of the Spirit, that interpretation
views the law of Moses as superfluous in the life of Christians. It also
underestimates the human role in the ethics of Galatians. This study demonstrates the inadequacy of thatwidespread view in contemporary scholarship, and proposes that the ethics of Galatians involves a well-structured Spirit/believer co-operation lived within the framework of the law.In developing this thesis, the study teases out Paul’s distinctive sowing metaphor language in the text to clarify that as the Spirit sows and bears its fruit in the believer
and the believing community (5:22-23), believers are also expected to sow
to the Spirit (6:8). The reciprocity of the Spirit and the believer‘ sowing into each other’ is a distinct concept in Galatians and is what undergirds the Spirit/human co-operation that Paul presents in the letter. Paul uses the metaphor of sowing to the Spirit in the text as a summary expression of the human activities he
orders by way of imperatives and admonitions. To sow to the Spirit is to make
a conscious decision and to take every necessary human step in displaying
the fruit of the Spirit.
The logic behind Paul’s call for human action in his moral exhortation is that,
in spite of the crucifixion of the flesh with its passions and desires by believers
(5:24), flesh still poses a moral threat to the Christian community. In support of the notion of the all-sufficiency of the Spirit, some interpreters attribute the moral situation in the Galatian Christian community to the inadequacy of the law in dealing with the flesh. Contrary to that claim, Paul’s exhortation to sow to the Spirit suggests that some members of the community were not co-operating with the Spirit in terms of exercising the necessary self-discipline in ethical matters. The exhortation carries a strong tone of concern for others, as
expressed in Paul’s emphasis on love. This suggests that the apostle’s
ultimate goal is for the community to be able to serve one another in love
and, by so doing, to fulfil the law (5:14; 6:2). Viewed in that light, Paul’s four references to the law in the exhortation are intended to emphasise that the law
has an important role to play in the Spirit-filled life.The law serves as the
scriptural gauge by which the believer’s Spirit-led pattern of behaviour can be
accurately tested to ensure that it is authentic and truly conforms to God
’s standard.

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Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
    Award dateJan 2014