“But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law”
Paul now makes a summary statement about life under the law and under grace. One is about what the self can do, and the other is about what the Holy Spirit can do.
The word “if” means that it is true that the Holy Spirit leads some Christians in their walk with God.
you are led by the Spirit,
The Christian lives by intrinsic, not extrinsic, power. He does not live by pulling on the bootstraps of self-effort. He lives under the power of the Holy Spirit when he walks in the Spirit.
“For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God” (Romans 8:14).
you are not under the law
The law cannot condemn Christians because Christ already paid the penalty of the law.
Being led by the Spirit or operating under the law are mutually exclusive. It is one or the other, not both. If a Christian operates by the law, he must operate by the flesh (Romans 7:8-11). But grace supersedes the Mosaic law, for the law is a system of gaining God’s favor by “operation bootstraps” (living the Christian life by self-effort).
There is a double antagonism in this section of Galatians: The Holy Spirit versus the flesh, and the Holy Spirit versus the law. The law is the outward conduct of men in an attempt to please God by human effort. The leading of the Spirit is the sphere where the Holy Spirit does His work in the life of the believer.
The Galatians failed to live the Christian life because they depended on themselves rather than the Holy Spirit to live the Christian life.
“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).
Walking in the flesh versus being led of the Spirit to please God are diametrically opposed to each other.
No Christian is led of the Spirit unless he walks in the Spirit. Unless the Holy Spirit fills us, He will not lead us.
Walking in the flesh emphasizes the self, whereas walking in the Spirit emphasizes the Holy Spirit. The Spirit of God leads the believer under grace to a new standard for living. Intrinsic regulation is far more effective than outward regulation.
This is no special leading but simply the leading of the Spirit toward sanctification. The Holy Spirit is the one who engages us to live the Christian life. We can never live that life in our own power.