You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.
So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
There were different types of law in the Old Testament and other Jewish literature. There were ceremonial laws to do with how to worship God. Then there were civil laws about how to live in daily life. And finally there were moral laws which are direct commands from God (for example, the Ten Commandments).
Paul has already made it clear that he does not insist on the Gentiles keeping all aspects of the Jewish Law. This is particularly true of the ceremonial laws and civil laws. This is why Gentiles did not have to give up eating pork and why Gentile men did not need to be circumcised. However, in this passage, Paul provides a balance. He does not want Gentile believers or Jewish believers to use their freedom from the law as an excuse to behave unkindly.
In other words, Paul is saying that the moral laws still apply because they reveal the character of God and the way he wants people to live. He does not want people to keep moral laws as a way of gaining salvation; he wants people to be filled by the Spirit and respond with gratitude to God’s salvation that they have already received. If people love their neighbours they will not hurt each other or break any laws.
This passage of scripture can help us as we wrestle with difficult questions about how the gospel relates to our culture. Re-read these verses and then think about how you would answer the following questions: