Galatians 5:16 Parallel Verses [⇓ See commentary ⇓]

Galatians 5:16, NIV: "So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh."

Galatians 5:16, ESV: "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh."

Galatians 5:16, KJV: "This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh."

Galatians 5:16, NASB: "But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh."

Galatians 5:16, NLT: "So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won't be doing what your sinful nature craves."

Galatians 5:16, CSB: "I say then, walk by the Spirit and you will certainly not carry out the desire of the flesh."

What does Galatians 5:16 mean? [⇑ See verse text ⇑]

In the previous passage, Paul has spoken truth to the Galatian Christians. That truth applies to all Christians, even today. His plea is for believers not to waste their freedom in Christ on serving their own flesh, and their own selfish desires. Instead, he has told those free in Christ to serve each other in love. He is describing a life of self-sacrifice lived out in response to God's love for us (Galatians 5:13–15).

Now Paul begins to describe how to live in this way. After all, this kind of love does not come naturally. Not only do we resist giving up our own way, we often simply do not know how to love. Without the rules of the law to guide our every decision, how will we use our freedom in Christ to love each other?

Paul points to the only source of power and wisdom beyond ourselves: the Holy Spirit of God. He revealed earlier in this letter that the Spirit comes to live in the hearts of every one of God's sons and daughters (Galatians 4:6). Now Paul tells us to use this freedom in Christ to access the power of God's Spirit in our hearts in our everyday lives. He tells us, literally, to walk, and keep on walking, by the Spirit's power and guidance.

Again, the picture Paul will paint is about setting aside our own power and relying on God's. In the same way we could not fulfill the law by our own effort, Paul tells us to quit trying to serve each other in love on our own. The Spirit of God in us is available and willing to help.

Yes, this is a mysterious idea, but it's also how free people in Christ avoid giving in to the desires of our flesh. It's how we overcome our strong appetites to do what feels good even if that thing is sinful. In the Spirit's power, we can say no to ourselves.