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What does “against such things there is no law” mean (Galatians 5:23)?

against such things there is no law

Paul taught the believers in Galatia about their freedom in Christ, warning against the tendency to turn back to “a yoke of slavery” or legalism. Many Jewish believers were still trying to be right with God by keeping the Law of Moses (Galatians 5:1–15). Paul also cautioned them to avoid the other extreme of license or doing whatever their sinful nature desired (Galatians 5:16–21). He explained that freedom in Christ involves submitting to the Holy Spirit’s guidance in everything. If we pursue a lifestyle “in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25), the Holy Spirit produces fruit in us of “love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22–23).

When these qualities of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control develop and express themselves in the believer’s life, there is no need for legalistic obedience to the law. Against such there is no law means that the fruit of the Spirit corresponds perfectly with God’s law. The law was meant to limit, restrain, deter, or prohibit certain behaviors and wrongheadedness; however, no prohibition is needed against the virtues that the Spirit produces. There is no law against loving others or experiencing and spreading joy. None of God’s commandments forbid cultivating peace or being patient, kind, good, faithful, or gentle. Those who practice self-control will naturally be in conformity to the law.

The Law of Moses can bring no charges against those who demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit (see Romans 8:1–4). Those who walk in the Spirit are free; the fruit of the Spirit is beyond the scope of the law. Paul wrote elsewhere, “For the law was not intended for people who do what is right. It is for people who are lawless and rebellious, who are ungodly and sinful, who consider nothing sacred and defile what is holy, who kill their father or mother or commit other murders. The law is for people who are sexually immoral, or who practice homosexuality, or are slave traders, liars, promise breakers, or who do anything else that contradicts the wholesome teaching that comes from the glorious Good News entrusted to me by our blessed God” (1 Timothy 1:9–11, NLT).

Obedience to the law does not produce “the fruit of righteousness” (see Philippians 1:8, 11; cf. Galatians 3:2). We can’t white-knuckle our way into God’s good graces by toiling and straining to do good works. Only as the Holy Spirit works through our faith are these fruits produced in our lives (2 Corinthians 3:18). The fruit of the Spirit reflects the character of Christ as we are transformed into His image (John 15:8; Romans 8:5–14; Ephesians 5:8–11; Colossians 1:10). The works of the flesh, as well as trying to obey the law through human effort, will eventually lead to death (Hebrews 9:14). But the fruit of the Spirit grows from abiding in Christ and walking in the Spirit (Luke 8:15; John 15:4–5). It matures into eternal life (Romans 8:5–6, 13–14; Galatians 6:7–9).

The fruit of the Spirit is meant to be consumed by others so that it can bear fruit in their lives, too (John 15:2). Warren Wiersbe writes, “People around us are starving for love, joy, peace, and all the other graces of the Spirit. When they find them in our lives, they know that we have something they lack. We do not bear fruit for our own consumption; we bear fruit that others might be fed and helped, and that Christ might be glorified” (The Bible Exposition Commentary, vol. 1, Victor Books, 1996, p. 720).

Legalistic rule-following brings no glory to God. Neither does giving in to the sinful desires of the flesh. But yielding to the Spirit’s guidance in every area of our lives brings glory and praise to God (Philippians 1:11). This is the path to freedom in Christ, and against such, there is no law, indeed.

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What does “against such things there is no law” mean (Galatians 5:23)?
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This page last updated: May 8, 2024