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Read Introduction to Galatians


“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.

In verse 17, the believer experiences spiritual conflict within his soul. In this verse, Paul introduces another issue: dependence upon self-effort by obeying the law. The Holy Spirit is excluded from the process. The grace way does not depend on the flesh but on the higher plane of the Spirit by faith. 

But if (since)

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 his spiritual life by intrinsic, not extrinsic, power. He does not exercise his spiritual walk by pulling on the bootstraps of self-effort. When he walks in the Spirit, he lives under the control of the Holy Spirit. The idea of “led by the Spirit” here is the believer comes under the controlling influence of the Holy Spirit in their walk with God. It is a voluntary submission to the Spirit. It is more than simple guidance. 

“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 lead one’s life by the Holy Spirit.

“For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace” (Romans 6:14).

Since justification is impossible by works, sanctification is not attainable by works. The onus is on a life of faith in God’s promises.  


Walking in the flesh versus being led by the Spirit to please God are diametrically opposed.


The Spirit leads no Christian 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 of living. Intrinsic regulation is far more effective than outward regulation.

This is no unique leading in our verse 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 power.