Galatians 5: 22-23 The Fruit of the Spirit
The contrast is stark
the sinful nature results in:
sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred,
discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition,
dissentions, factions, envy, drunkenness, orgies,
and the like, in other words, the list could be longer,
and if we were each to take a pen and a sheet of paper
and make a note of all the sinful behaviour we see with our own eyes
and hear with our ears
and read about in our newspapers,
the list we could produce by next Sunday morning
would be as long as a roll of wallpaper!
Paul’s words, inspired by the Holy Spirit, about those who do these things, are stark, salutary:
‘Those who live like this WILL NOT inherit the Kingdom of God’.
Absolutely clear; no compromise; no universalism; no excuses,
not that we should become smug or self-righteous,
but so that we should pray FOR and WITH sinners who do such things
that they would repent and come to Christ.
The first list, then, is a list of actions we as children of God should not do;
and this is followed by a list of characteristics that those who belong to God should display;
and Paul calls them the fruit of the Spirit,
and the teaching or doctrine is that each and every one of the nine,
is always produced in every believer,
no matter how faintly evidenced its various outward manifestations may be.
If a bush or shrub is healthy it will produce good healthy edible fruit;
if it is dead, it will not;
so it is with us in a spiritual sense.
On the subject of Christian fruitfulness, in John 15:1-8 Jesus says
"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser.
Abide in me, and I in you.
As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine,
neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches.
Whoever abides in me and I in him, bears much fruit,
for apart from me you can do nothing.
If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers;
and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.
By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit
and so prove to be my disciples.”
Jesus wants us to be fruitful.
In Galatians 5:22–23 Paul lists nine fruit,
or representative characteristics produced by the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life.
They are not produced by us
through following a programme of character formation or striving.
They are love gifts, given by only source of true love, God the Holy Spirit.
The first three, “love, joy, peace,”
are inner qualities that reflect our Christian relationship to God.
The next three, “patience, kindness, goodness,”
show themselves in the Christian’s attitude and actions toward his neighbour,
And the last three, “faithfulness, gentleness and self-control”
reflect how Christians, we, should conduct ourselves in view of the duties, opportunities, and obligations that arise in our daily lives.
In every case, Jesus is the supreme example of each of these fruit or virtues,
and if we had time to look through the Gospels
we would see from the life and actions of Christ how he exhibited each of them.
The first characteristic or spiritual fruit is love,
the Greek word used being ‘agape’ which can be translated as ‘love’, ‘affection’, ‘benevolence’ or ‘charity’.
This is the supreme virtue of Christian living according to 1 Cor. 13:13;
and more important for us to show than even faith or hope.
As St Paul put it in Gals 5:14, “the whole Law is fulfilled in the statement,
‘You shall love your neighbour as yourself’”.
Agape love is the form of love that does not refer simply to pleasant emotions
or good feelings but to willing, self-giving service and deep care for others.
To display true agape love is a sure sign that one belongs to God.
1 John 4:7 says ‘Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God,
and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God.’
Jesus did not say ‘by this people will know you are my disciples by your church attendance, or Bible knowledge, but by your love for each other’.
If we do not love each other,
and people outside the church know that we do not love each other,
then they will think we are hypocrites, and will never want to join our church.
For believers, love is not an option but a command. “Walk in love,” Paul declared,
in Ephesians 5:2 saying, “just as Christ also loved you,
and gave Himself up for us,
as an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma”.
But this command cannot be fulfilled apart from the Holy Spirit,
it is not something that we can manufacture or develop;
it is a gift of the Holy Spirit, which we allow to grow and ripen in us,
or allow to rot.
The second fruit of the Spirit is joy.
Chara (joy) is used some 70 times in the New Testament,
and always to signify the deep-down sense of well-being or blessedness
that abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well
between himself and the Lord.
Chara can be translated as ‘cheerfulness’, ‘calm’, ‘gladness’ or ‘joyfulness’.
It is not an experience that comes from favourable circumstances
or a human emotion that makes someone feel ‘happy’ or ‘good’.
It is one of God’s gift to believers.
As Nehemiah declared, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).
Christian joy is different from worldly joy such as that experienced by someone winning the Lottery, or passing and exam;
it is the result of knowing Jesus Christ as Saviour
and experiencing daily, in good times and bad, God’s continuing presence and grace.
Joy not only does NOT come from favourable human circumstances or events
but is sometimes experienced greatest when those circumstances
are the most painful and severe, and downright nasty.
For example, shortly before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples:
in John 16:20-24 ‘Truly, truly, I say to you, you will weep and lament,
but the world will rejoice. You will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will turn into joy.
When a woman is giving birth, she has sorrow because her hour has come,
but when she has delivered the baby, she no longer remembers the pain and the blood, because she is full of joy because she has brought a beautiful new human being into the world.
Jesus said, ‘So also you have sorrow now, but I will see you again,
and your hearts will rejoice, and no one will take your joy from you’.
Although joy is a gift of God through His Spirit to those who belong to Christ,
like love, it is also commanded of them
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I say, rejoice!” Paul commands in Phil. 4:4.
Because joy comes as a gift from God,
the command obviously is not for believers to manufacture or try to imitate.
The command is to gratefully accept and revel in this great blessing
that Christians already possess.
“For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking,
but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (it says in Rom. 14:17).
The 3rd fruit is peace.
The Greek word is ‘eirene’ which can be translated as ‘quietness’, ‘rest’,
or ‘set at one again’.
It refers to the tranquillity or serenity of mind and spirit
that comes from having a relationship with God.
The Greek word means ‘everything is in place and as it ought to be’,
and spiritual peace has no relationship to circumstances.
A Christian can have peace, not because they are unaware or unfeeling
about bad circumstances around them,
but because they have confidence in God,
who “causes all things to work together for good to those who love God”
Because Christians possess the fruit of peace or calmness,
there is absolutely no reason for them to be anxious or afraid,
no matter what test or trial they have to face.
In Philippians 4:6-9 Paul wrote “do not be anxious about anything,
but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving
let your requests be made known to God.
And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding,
will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
I hope that is OUR experience.
When so many people around us are worried about so many things,
such as their health, or their jobs, or the economic situation,
we should be known as a people of peace;
confident for the future because of our trust in God.
The 4th fruit is translated patience in the NIV and ESV,
but is translated as long-suffering in the AV.
The Greek word used in the text is ‘makrothumia’
which can also be translated as tolerance and long-suffering, or forebearance,
and means the ability to endure injuries inflicted by others;
and the calm willingness to accept situations and people
that are irritating or painful.
According to Ps 86:15 God Himself is “slow to anger”
and He expects His children to be the same.
It is because of God’s merciful patience
that He forestalls Christ’s second coming
and the accompanying judgment on unbelievers,
“not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Pet. 3:9).
Paul exhorted believers to emulate the Lord’s patience in Ephesians 4:1-3, writing “I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner
worthy of the calling to which you have been called,
with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.”
Through the Holy Spirit, God’s grace has been given to each one of us
so that we can maintain unity by bearing with one another, which is patience.
The 5th fruit is translated as kindness in the NIV and ESV,
but as gentleness in the AV..
The Greek word ‘chrestotes’ can be translated as ‘excellence of character’, ‘goodness’, ‘kindness’ or ‘usefulness’.
When the word is applied to people it means they are considered
“decent”, “honest” and “helpful”.
When a person is all that he or she is supposed to be, humane, decent, reliable, gentle, and kind, they possess the Spiritual fruit called “kindness.”
Spiritual kindness is not just a good personal quality
that leads someone to help people in need, it goes way beyond that.
Chrestotes was what Christ showed to the sinful woman who wept at his feet
(in Luke 7:37), whereas others were ‘unkind’ to her.
Someone said, the ability not only to possess but to deploy the fruit of kindness, especially in the face of hostility, is the mark of a true Christian.
The 6th fruit is goodness.
the Greek word used is ‘agathosune’ which can be translated as ‘virtue’
and has to do with moral and spiritual excellence.
We might also call it ‘godliness’ for God is the Ultimate in goodness.
It means doing good to others; practising what we preach.
William Barclay said “the primary idea of agathôsyne is generosity,”
especially the kind of generosity God exercises towards sinners.
We exercise it when we give someone something they could never have earned.
On the other hand a person could display agathôsyne
by their zeal for goodness and truth,
even if it entails rebuking, correcting, chastising,”
as when Christ drove the buyers and sellers from the temple.
Jesus did not do this out of anger, because anger is sin and Jesus did not sin.
He did this out of respect for His Father’s temple;
it would have been a sin to NOT do something.
Goodness is not only about doing nice things, but standing up against bad things.
But remember, we do not show goodness so that we may be regarded as good people,
but so that the grace of God may be seen in our lives
and so that He would receive the praise and glory, not us.
Possessing these fruits, with God’s help,
we will be good, kind, patient and long-suffering;
we will be kind and gentle, even with the most offensive,
not rendering evil for evil as sinners do,
but sowing goodness where others sow evil.
In other words, being Christ-like.
We cannot do this on our own; nut with the help of the Holy Spirit we can.
The 7th of the 9 fruits is translated in the NIV and ESV as faithfulness,
but as faith in the AV.
The Greek word used in the text is ‘pistis’, which can also be translated as ‘belief’, ‘assurance’, ‘firm persuasion’ or ‘conviction’.
The inward and outward manifestation of this fruit
of the Holy Spirit is loyalty to God, and trustworthiness towards our fellow men.
In Lam 3:22 Jeremiah declared that “the Lord’s loving-kindnesses never cease, for His compassions never fail.
They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness”
In Revelation 2:10 it says “Do not fear what you are about to suffer.
Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison,
that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation.
Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life.
That is the kind of faithfulness the Holy Spirit puts in us.
The 8th fruit is translated gentleness in the NIV and ESV,
but as meekness in the AV,
the Greek word used in the text being prautes.
In his ‘Synonyms of the New Testament’, R. C. Trench writes
‘prautes does not consist in a person’s “outward behaviour only;
nor yet in his relations to his fellow-men.
Rather it is an inwrought grace of the soul;
and the exercises of it are first and chiefly towards God.
It is that temper of spirit in which we accept His dealings with us as good,
and therefore without disputing or resisting”.
The fruit of gentleness that we have from the Holy Spirit
has been described as a humble and gentle attitude, one of obedience to His will;
a determination to be patiently submissive in spite of every offence,
and free of any desire for revenge or retribution.
Gentleness also means forgiving others as the Lord has forgiven us (Col.3:13).
The 9th fruit is translated as self-control in the NIV and ESV
and as temperance in the AV.
The Greek word used in the text ‘enkrateia’
refers to the ability to restrain passions and appetites;
in other words, strength of character or temperance.
Adam and Eve gave in when Satan tempted them
instead of relying on the self-control that God gave them when He created them.
When Jesus resisted the temptations of the devil in the wilderness
after his baptism,
he DID exercise the self-control that his heavenly Father had endowed him with.
God has given us enkrateia so if we give in to temptation
it is not God’s fault, or even the devil’s,
but because of our weakness.
As Paul put it the spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak’,
but this is no excuse; we should – and do if we are honest – know better.
So, the Holy Spirit gives every Christian these nine Fruit of the Spirit,
but it is up to us whether we develop them or let them wither on the vine.
The fruit of the Holy Spirit are good Christian virtues.
They are what God gives us and what God wants us to display in our lives.
By displaying these attitudes and actions a Christian shows
that he or she conforms to God’s holy will,
and as people put it ‘we practice what we preach’!.
They see Christ in us.
Just before closing, I would like us to consider the opposite side of the coin.
Could someone be a true Christian if they were completely lacking in love;
always unhappy and miserable,
always racked by worries and fears,
completely untrustworthy and disloyal,
who is aggressive and known for his or her bullying,
who is unstable and completely lacking in self-control?
I think the answer must be no, but such we would be without the grace of God and the presence of the Holy Spirit within us.
May our lives, our talk, and even our thoughts
all bear witness to the Holy Spirit who dwells in us
and who has given us all His fruit.