'But iF ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under The Law': An Exposition On Paul's Words in Galatians 5:18

Samuel Smith



You are welcome to another edition of Insights from God's Word, a Bible study programme that is committed to sharing God's Word by allowing the Bible to speak for itself.

In this edition, we continue with our series on The Law of God. The topic for this study is: "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law": an exposition on Paul's words in Galatians 5:18. Many in Christendom today have utilized this Pauline text to further the teaching that believers in Christ have no obligation to keep the Moral Law of God. In this study, we are going to ascertain from Scripture whether this popular interpretation is the true meaning of Paul's words in Galatians 5:18. We are going to analyse the text in three subsections which will enable us to reach this desired goal:


Beloved, it is the Holy Spirit that leads men from the slavery of sin to behold the light of God that shinneth upon this world (John 1:4-5, 9). If the Spirit of God does not draw one, he or she cannot come to Christ (John 6:44). In His tender yet effective working on the human heart, the Holy Spirit leads people to accept the Lordship of Jesus in their hearts. When the Spirit leads a person to Christ, he or she can be described as not under the law (see Galatians 3:23-25). But what is meant by the phrase "ye are not under the law"? The third segment of this study is designed to answer this question. But for the meantime, we will be considering the scriptural meaning of the phrase "to be under the law". When we understand this phrase, it will help us to appreciate clearly the phrase "ye are not under the law".


To be under the law is to be under the condemnation of the law. If a person willfully rejects the salvation that is offered freely through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, he or she will remain under the condemnation of the law. From John 3:16-19, we read the following from our Lord Jesus Christ: "3:16 For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

3:17 For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved.

3:18 He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

3:19 And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil."

(John 3:16-19)
Friends, the penalty for our disobedience to God's law was eternal death. It was to redeem us from this condemnation that the Son of God came to die. However, as the passage above clearly declares, those who reject the atoning sacrifice of Christ will continue to remain under the condemnation or penalty of the law.


Our key text from Galatians 5:18 reads: "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law". Friends, when we heed the promptings of the Holy Spirit and come to Christ as we are, He gives us the power to overcome sin. When we daily look unto the spotless Son of God, we become like Him in character. The apostle Paul portrays this beautiful truth as follows; "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord" (2 Corinthians 3:18).

Beloved, when the contents of this text become our experience, we are no longer under the law, for Christ becomes our standard instead of the letter of the law. It is with this understanding that Paul wrote to the Galatian church the following:

3:23 "But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed."

Key Explanation: Before we came to believe in Christ, we were under the condemnation of the law.

3:24 "Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith."

Key Explanation: The law, like a mirror, reveal unto us our miserable sinful condition (see Romans 3:20; Romans 7:7). Like a hard schoolmaster, the law deals treacherously with us by condemning our sinful lifestyle. When the law places us in this miserable state, we become uncomfortable and seek help from the only One who can help us, the Man, Christ Jesus.

3:25 "But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster."

Key Explanation: When we come to believe in the Son of God, and walk by faith in Him, we are freed from the condemnation of the law. We come to behold the law with gladness as there is nothing in us for it to condemn. It is in this sense that the believer in Christ is described as not under the law.

(Galatians 3:23-25)

Thus beloved, from the scriptural passages we have reviewed so far, it is clear that the Pauline text; "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law" does not mean that when we come to believe in Christ we do away with the Moral Law of God. In fact, the apostle Paul himself declares concerning the Moral Law the following: "Do we then make void the law through faith? God forbid: yea, we establish the law" (Romans 3:31).

Exhortation: "22 For I delight in the law of God after the inward man: 23 But I see another law in my members, warring against the law of my mind, and bringing me into captivity to the law of sin which is in my members. 24 O wretched man that I am! who shall deliver me from the body of this death? 25 I thank God through Jesus Christ our Lord. So then with the mind I myself serve the law of God; but with the flesh the law of sin" (Romans 7:22-25).

In our next study, we will consider the topic: "...for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life": an exposition on Paul's words in 2 Corinthians 3:6. The Bible study references for this study are 2 Corinthians 3:1-18, Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 10:16, Romans 3:20, Romans 7:7, Romans 6:23 and John 6:44. Please do well to go through these passages before the next study is released.

Stay blessed and keep shining for King Jesus.


Powered by White Throne Ministries