Friday, August 03, 2012

Hurray for the Double Negative

“But I say to you, walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desires of the flesh!”
Galatians 5:16

In our current message series here at Gaylord E-Free Church that we are calling “Walk This Way,” we are learning what it means to “walk by the Spirit.”  In this one verse we learn 6 aspects that are involved.  Yesterday I gave an overview of the first 5 of these aspects – the Power involved; the Pattern involved; the Progress involved; the Partnership involved; and the Priority involved.  Now let me share the final aspect.

Walking by the Spirit involves a PURPOSE.  Why is it so important that we “walk by the Spirit?”  It is crucial because it is only through “walking by the Spirit” that we will not carry out the desires of the flesh.  Paul put it another way in Romans 13:14,

“But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regards to its lusts.”

Remember that we were all born with a sin nature which has a propensity to sin.  That is why sin comes naturally for mankind.  No one has to teach their kids to misbehave.  It just happens.  But when we trust Christ to be our Lord and Savior the Holy Spirit puts within us a new nature – one that is bent on obeying God.

However, the old sin nature does not go away.  It remains and, as Paul describes many times, every day of the Christian life is an inner conflict between the old and new nature.  But according to Galatians 5:16, the way to ensure that you do not carry out the desire of the flesh (the desire of the old nature that we still possess even as believers) is to “walk by the Spirit.”

But does this really work?  Let’s look to grammar for the answer.  When I was in High School our English teacher had what she called the “5-grammar mistake rule.”  In other words, on any paper we turned in, if there were 5 or more grammar mistakes it was an automatic “F.”  Unfortunately, typos counted as a grammar mistake.  So did “double negatives.”

Double negatives are not allowed in English grammar.  Fortunately, Paul did not write this original letter to the Galatian churches in English.  He wrote it in the Greek language and in Greek grammar, not only are double negatives allowed – they are very important.

The double negative occurs slightly less than 100 times in the New Testament.  In these cases the negative idea is greatly strengthened. It becomes a very powerful negative.  This is the strongest way to negate something in Greek.  The meaning is something like this:  "Never, positively not!  It will never happen!  It's unthinkable!  There is not even the slightest possibility that it will ever happen!"

For example, in John 10:28 Jesus said that He has given His children eternal life and they will never perish.  The word “never” is written as a double negative in the Greek language.  In other words, those who have been given eternal life will never by any means perish.  It will never happen.  It’s unthinkable.  There is not even the slightest possibility.

The same is true in Galatians 5:16.  When you walk by the Spirit you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.  This too is written as a double negative.  When you walk by the Spirit you will not by any means carry out the desire of the flesh!  If you are walking by the Spirit it will never happen.  It’s unthinkable.  There is not even the slightest possibility.

Hurray for the double negative!

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