We are continuing today to look at the contrast Paul drew between the leading of the Holy Spirit in the life of the Christian and the life of those who are controlled by the desires of the flesh. Yesterday we looked at the listing of works of the flesh as given in Galatians 5:19-21. Today we are thinking about the beautiful and desirable “fruit of the Spirit.”
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” (Galatians 5:22-24).
I wouldn’t say what follows was the intent of the apostle when he wrote this passage, but the thought certainly is provocative. Notice the difference in number of the subjects of the two sentences. “Works” is plural, “fruit” is singular. The works of the flesh represent a life without focus, characterized by maybe a few and maybe many of the sins to which human beings invariably fall victim. This life is spent with no vision of purpose and no certain goal. He lives from day to day, torn by the desires of the flesh and driven by conflicts and uncertainty.
On the other hand the life of the one led by the Spirit is unified, coherent, focused with a definite goal in view and an understanding of how to get there. The fruit of the Spirit is one fruit, manifested in many different ways. The one quality out of which all the other positive things flow is love.
LOVE sums up the whole intent of God’s law.
“Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law.” (Romans 13:8).
“For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Galatians 5:14).
Not only does love fulfill the law, it is the most essential element that makes for unity among God’s people.
“And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.” (Colossians 3:14).
How does love do this? How does love fulfill the law and bind people together at the same time? These two things are really related. If you think about the ten commandments, four of them relate to God and the remainder to our conduct toward others. When these are fulfilled by loving God and our neighbors they cover every possible situation in every area of our lives. How so? Because everything necessary to good, beneficial relationships stem from an intense desire to do God’s will and to doing what right and good toward others.
JOY arises from knowing that one is loved by God and that through that love we have been redeemed from our sins. It also is brought out as a result of loving our neighbors, doing good toward them in whatever way we may have opportunity.
PEACE is ours through he knowledge that we have been forgiven and that we are at peace with God. Peace is a calm, orderly quietness in the inner man that is not disturbed by doubts and fears of an inadequate relationship with God. The Christian does not fear that he is not saved – his trust in God gives him a calm assurance that all it well. From this comes peace with our fellow man – as far as we are able to achieve it, at least.
PATIENCE with others is a precious virtue. The Christian will be longsuffering with the shortcomings of others. We remember that we have not only been forgiven by God, but that he has endured much from us as we stumble and falter in our walk as a Christian and yet he bears long with us. Patience allows us to allow others the opportunity to grow and change. It does not dismiss as hopeless and worthless one who may do something against us but gives time for repentance.
GOODNESS is a virtue that arises from a good heart. It wants to do all the good it can do. It not only refrains from wrong for its own sake, but is positively good for the sake of family, friends, community, church and society in general.
FAITHFULNESS is the quality of one who in whom others can trust. He or she is a person of their word. When they make a promise they can be depended on to keep it. When they make a commitment they will stick by it. Having become a Christian they will remain true to their faith, never denying their Lord.
GENTLENESS does not treat others unkindly or with harshness. It uses good manners and courtesy at all times. It is polite, and even tempered, treating others with respect and kindness. When correcting someone of wrong, gentleness enables the one appealing to the one in error to gain a hearing and works to help recover that one from sin.
“Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1).
SELF-CONTROL is the last of the Spirit enabled qualities of the Christian life. Another word used by some translators is “temperance.” The word means that one has strength or power over his own lusts and passions. That includes, but by no means is limited to abstinence from the use of alcohol. A temperate, self-controlled person is not hot tempered but takes a disciplined approach to dealing with difficult situations. He or she is even handed in dealing with problems.
Paul concludes this listing of the positive qualities of the Christian life by saying, “against such things there is no law.” Those who live by the principles named here will not be condemned by any law. As long as one’s life is governed by these qualities he is commended by God, not condemned. Indeed, the purpose of moral law is fulfilled in such an individual.
In verse 24, he takes it one step further. He says, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” To have crucified the flesh means that one is effectively dead to the enticements and allurements offered in the fleshly realm. This one has entered into the spiritual realm where Christ is now his king, the ruler over is passions and desires. He is no longer under the power of desire, doing whatever the flesh wills, but what Christ wills. He has acted to put an end to the control of the flesh over his deeds and has submitted his will to that of a different master.
He then says,
“If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” (Galatians 5;25-26).
The Christian does live by the Spirit. It is by his power that we are enabled to overcome evil and to practice righteousness. This requires that one “march to a different drummer,” not his old man and fleshly desires, but to live in tempo with the Spirit whose interest is only in making us into people fashioned after the image of Christ. When our lives are attuned to him, we will not have place in our hearts for conceit or arrogant self-esteem, but will live in peaceful harmony with our brothers and sisters in the Lord.