On Newswatch AM February 9th: second impeachment trial of President Trump begins in the Senate today; World Health Organization expert says Covid likely did not originate in a lab in China, while in the US, cases are dropping, but officials … …
On Newswatch AM February 9th: second impeachment trial of President Trump begins in the Senate today; World Health Organization expert says Covid likely did not originate in a lab in China, while in the US, cases are dropping, but officials … …
The Senate gears up for President Trump’s second impeachment trial. Why some say the whole thing is unconstitutional. Plus how the White House is working to spread up COVID vaccinations. And why the murder rate is soaring in the U.S. and what’s …
If you’ve been following the blog for a while, you know that, from time to time, I post biblically edifying, informative movies, videos, or documentaries on Tuesdays – ergo, “Movie Tuesday.”
Recently, my friend, Pastor Travis McNeely, released a six video series on Critical Race Theory featuring LSU law professor, Randy Trahan. In this series, Randy, a former proponent of CRT, describes his journey into – and out of – critical theory, explains what CRT is, and why it’s a danger to the church, particularly to Southern Baptists.
For the last few weeks, every Tuesday has been Movie Tuesday as we’ve made our way through this video series. Today is the final video. If you haven’t already, I would urge you to carefully watch each episode – especially if you’re Southern Baptist (if we actually have an SBC annual meeting this year, this issue is sure to come up)…
View original post 148 more words
Find God, Find the Truth
John 14:6; 18:37–38; 1 John 5:6
Where I found truth, there I found my God, who is the Truth itself, which from the time I learned it I have not forgotten. And thus since the time I learned you, you abide in my memory; and I find you there whenever I call you to remembrance, and delight in you.
AUGUSTINE OF HIPPO
Ritzema, E. (2013). 300 Quotations for Preachers from the Early Church. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
Childlike Faith and Wonder
In nothing is the child so righteously childlike, in nothing does he exhibit more accurately the sounder order of simplicity, than in the fact that he sees everything with a simple pleasure, even the complex things.… To the child the tree and the lamppost are as natural and as artificial as each other; or rather, neither of them are natural but both supernatural. For both are splendid and unexplained. The flower with which God crowns the one, and the flame with which Sam the lamplighter crowns the other, are equally of the gold of fairytales.
G. K. CHESTERTON
Ritzema, E., & Vince, E. (Eds.). (2013). 300 quotations for preachers from the Modern church. Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press.
5:22–23 The fruit illustration calls to mind the vine and the branches that produce fruit (Jn 15:1–5). The mention of love first in the list looks back to Gl 5:6, 13–14. Such loving behavior comes through the power of the Holy Spirit by faith. Self-control (Gk egkrateia, “holding in passions and appetites”) is placed last in the list for emphasis, because all the works of the flesh reflect lack of self-control. There is no need for prohibitive law when people’s lives exhibit love and self-control.
|5:22 the fruit of the Spirit This list (vv. 22–23), which contrasts with the works of the flesh (vv. 19–21), is not exhaustive but representative. These traits describe the desires and characteristics that God cultivates in believers through His living presence.
The phrase “fruit of the Spirit” in this context refers not to “spiritual fruit,” but to “fruit that the Spirit produces.” This latter translation best supports Paul’s argument that the production of godliness in the life of the believer does not require the law; it is empowered by God’s Spirit.
5:23 Against such things there is no law When the life of the believer expresses these qualities, there is no need for the law. Those who “live by the Spirit” (v. 16) produce fruit reflecting the character of God that the law could not (3:21). However, this list shouldn’t be turned into a new kind of law (a replacement for faith in Christ and life lived by the Spirit).
5:22–23 The Spirit fights against sin not merely in defense but also in attack by producing in Christians the positive attributes of godly character, all of which are evident in Jesus in the Gospels. Love appears first because it is the greatest quality (1 Cor. 13:1–13; 2 Pet. 1:5–7) in that it most clearly reflects the character of God. Joy comes in at a close second, for in rejoicing in God’s salvation Christians show that their affections are rightly placed in God’s will and his purpose (see John 15:11; 16:24; Rom. 15:13; 1 Pet. 1:8; Jude 24; etc.). Peace is the product of God having reconciled sinners to himself, so that they are no longer his enemies, which should result in confidence and freedom in approaching God (Rom. 5:1–2; Heb. 4:16). Patience shows that Christians are following God’s plan and timetable rather than their own and that they have abandoned their own ideas about how the world should work. Kindness means showing goodness, generosity, and sympathy toward others, which likewise is an attribute of God (Rom. 2:4). Goodness means working for the benefit of others, not oneself; Paul mentions it again in Gal. 6:10. Faithfulness is another divine characteristic; it means consistently doing what one says one will do. Gentleness is a quality Jesus attributes to himself in Matt. 11:29; it enables people to find rest in him and to encourage and strengthen others. Self-control is the discipline given by the Holy Spirit that allows Christians to resist the power of the flesh (cf. Gal. 5:17). Against such things there is no law, and therefore those who manifest them are fulfilling the law—more than those who insist on Jewish ceremonies, and likewise more than those who follow the works of the flesh surveyed in vv. 19–21.
5:22 fruit of the Spirit. Godly attitudes that characterize the lives of only those who belong to God by faith in Christ and possess the Spirit of God. The Spirit produces fruit which consists of 9 characteristics or attitudes that are inextricably linked with each and are commanded of believers throughout the NT. love. One of several Gr. words for love, agape, is the love of choice, referring not to an emotional affection, physical attraction, or a familial bond, but to respect, devotion, and affection that leads to willing, self-sacrificial service (Jn 15:13; Ro 5:8; 1Jn 3:16, 17). joy. A happiness based on unchanging divine promises and eternal spiritual realities. It is the sense of well being experienced by one who knows all is well between himself and the Lord (1Pe 1:8). Joy is not the result of favorable circumstances, and even occurs when those circumstances are the most painful and severe (Jn 16:20–22). Joy is a gift from God, and as such, believers are not to manufacture it but to delight in the blessing they already possess (Ro 14:17; Php 4:4). peace. The inner calm that results from confidence in one’s saving relationship with Christ. The verb form denotes binding together and is reflected in the expression “having it all together.” Like joy, peace is not related to one’s circumstances (Jn 14:27; Ro 8:28; Php 4:6, 7, 9). patience. The ability to endure injuries inflicted by others and the willingness to accept irritating or painful situations (Eph 4:2; Col 3:12; 1Ti 1:15, 16). kindness. Tender concern for others, reflected in a desire to treat others gently, just as the Lord treats all believers (Mt 11:28, 29; 19:13, 14; 2Ti 2:24). goodness. Moral and spiritual excellence manifested in active kindness (Ro 5:7). Believers are commanded to exemplify goodness (6:10; 2Th 1:11). faithfulness. Loyalty and trustworthiness (La 3:22; Php 2:7–9; 1Th 5:24; Rev 2:10).
5:23 gentleness. Better translated “meekness.” It is a humble and gentle attitude that is patiently submissive in every offense, while having no desire for revenge or retribution. In the NT, it is used to describe 3 attitudes: submission to the will of God (Col 3:12), teachability (Jas 1:21), and consideration of others (Eph 4:2). self-control. This refers to restraining passions and appetites (1Co 9:25; 2Pe 1:5, 6). no law. When a Christian walks by the Spirit and manifests His fruit, he needs no external law to produce the attitudes and behavior that please God (cf. Ro 8:4).
What is the fruit of the Spirit and how does it grow in me?
|Gal. 5:22, 23|
|The closer you get to believers who truly walk in the Spirit, the better they look. You don’t get the impression that they’re hiding something. They radiate integrity. You feel you could trust them with your most intimate secret. You may even find yourself opening up to them in a way quite uncharacteristic for you.
Of course, they’re not perfect. You will likely hear more apologies from the lips of those who walk by the Spirit than from any other group. Their sensitivity to the Spirit provides them with an uncanny ability to know when they have offended or hurt someone, and their internal security allows them to respond quickly once they realize their sin or error in judgment. They never feel afraid to admit their faults, yet they always remember they have within them the power to rise above their fleshly appetites and desires.
Specifically, their lives exude nine virtues: love, joy, peace, longsuffering (patience), kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. I won’t give a blow-by-blow description of each quality, because I think such an elaboration creates a problem.
In preparing to write this, I read from several books that gave expanded definitions of each quality. When I read about kindness, I quickly became preoccupied with being more kind. I began thinking of all the unkind things I had done and said recently. Then I asked God to make me a kinder person. I found myself launching out on a mission of kindness.
When I read about gentleness, the same thing happened. I realized how abrupt and insensitive I can be. So I told God how much gentler I was going to be.
Do you see the problem?
• “I need to act more loving.”
• “I need to be more patient.”
• “I need to exercise more self-control.”
• “I … I … I … I … I …”
I believe Paul listed these virtues and moved on for one simple reason. They aren’t given to us as goals to pursue because you and I cannot produce fruit. The Holy Spirit is the producer; we are merely the bearers. The fruit of the Spirit was never intended to demonstrate our dedication and resolve. Rather, it reveals our dependency on and sensitivity to the promptings of the Spirit.
Fruit is not simply one mark of a Spirit-filled life; it is the preeminent mark.
5:22–23. The word fruit suggests something that is natural. Thus the fruit of the Spirit is something that can and should characterize the life of every believer. Fruit is produced as the believer abides in Christ by faith.
The fruit of the Spirit is all praiseworthy interpersonal activity, starting with love, the goal of the Christian life (5:7).
Joy does not mean simply inner happiness. It refers to joy in relation to others who are also walking in the Spirit. That is clearly not what legalism produces between people.
The person walking in the spirit experiences peace with others as much as is possible (Rom 12:18). Legalism does not.
Spiritual believers are longsuffering. They are patient toward others. Legalists, of course, are anything but longsuffering. They are quick to pounce on the failings of others.
Kindness is the product of the Spirit’s ministry in the faith believer. The person who lives by focusing on Christ’s love (2:20) is able to extend kindness to others.
Goodness is a godly quality since God is good. The Spirit produces goodness in the life of the believer who lives by faith.
The believer who walks in the Spirit is faithful because the Spirit produces faithfulness in him as he walks by faith in Christ.
The Spirit produces gentleness. This is natural for the spiritual believer, but quite foreign to the legalist.
The Spirit produces self-control in believers who walk by faith. This probably does not mean that a spiritual person exercises a high degree of self-control in all areas. For example some mature believers who struggle with weight problems exercise self-control in interpersonal relationships, which is the emphasis of this section.
Against such there is no law. Paul does not say merely that these things are not violations of the Law of Moses. There is no law whatsoever against such behavior.
Paul normally uses the term law (nomos) negatively in Galatians. However, here it is neutral. And here Paul opens the door to the positive use of “law” when a few verses later he speaks of “the law of Christ” (6:2).
The legalist needs to understand that if the goal is to obey God’s commands, then the means to do so is by walking by faith in Christ. Obsessing over the law, even those NT commands that are in effect today, is not healthy. Believers are to focus on Christ, the law Giver. The more they fall in love with Him, the more they manifest the fruit of the Spirit.
5:22, 23 It is significant that the apostle distinguishes between the works of the flesh, and the fruit of the Spirit. Works are produced by human energy. Fruit is grown as a branch abides in the vine (John 15:5). They differ as a factory and a garden differ. Note that fruit is singular, not plural. The Holy Spirit produces one kind of fruit, that is, Christlikeness. All the virtues now listed describe the life of the child of God. Dr. C. I. Scofield has pointed out that every one of them is foreign to the soil of the human heart.
Love is what God is, and what we ought to be. It is beautifully described in 1 Corinthians 13, and told out in all its fullness at the cross of Calvary. Joy is contentment and satisfaction with God and with His dealings. Christ displayed it in John 4:34. Peace could include the peace of God as well as harmonious relations among Christians. For peace in the life of the Redeemer, see Luke 8:22–25. Longsuffering is patience in afflictions, annoyances, and persecutions. Its supreme example is found in Luke 23:34. Kindness is gentleness, perhaps best explained in the attitude of the Lord toward little children (Mark 10:14). Goodness is kindness shown to others. To see goodness in action, we have but to read Luke 10:30–35. Faithfulness may mean trust in God, confidence in our fellow Christians, fidelity, or reliability. This latter is probably the meaning here. Gentleness is taking the lowly place as Jesus did when He washed His disciples’ feet (John 13:1–17). Self-control means literally holding oneself in, especially regarding sex. Our lives should be disciplined. Lust, passions, appetites, and temper should be ruled. We should practice moderation. As Samuel Chadwick points out:
In newspaper English the passage reads something like this: the fruit of the Spirit is an affectionate, lovable disposition; a radiant spirit and a cheerful temper; a tranquil mind and a quiet manner; a forbearing patience in provoking circumstances and with trying people; a sympathetic insight and tactful helpfulness; generous judgment and a big-souled charity; loyalty and reliableness under all circumstances; humility that forgets self in the joy of others; in all things self-mastered and self-controlled, which is the final mark of perfection. How striking this is in relation to 1 Cor. 13!
Paul closes this list with the cryptic comment: “Against such there is no law.” Of course not! These virtues are pleasing to God, beneficial to others, and good for ourselves. But how is this fruit produced? Is it by man’s effort? Not at all. It is produced as Christians live in communion with the Lord. As they gaze upon the Savior in loving devotion, and obey Him in daily life, the Holy Spirit works a wonderful miracle. He transforms them into the likeness of Christ. They become like Him by beholding Him (2 Cor. 3:18). Just as the branch derives all its life and nourishment from the vine, so the believer in Christ derives his strength from the True Vine, and is thus able to live a fruitful life for God.
5:22–23. There is a pointed contrast here. As verse 16 indicated, there is no need for a believer to display the works of the flesh. Rather, by the Spirit’s power he can manifest the nine graces that are now listed. It is important to observe that the fruit here described is not produced by a believer, but by the Holy Spirit working through a Christian who is in vital union with Christ (cf. John 15:1–8). The word “fruit” is singular, indicating that these qualities constitute a unity, all of which should be found in a believer who lives under the control of the Spirit. In an ultimate sense this “fruit” is simply the life of Christ lived out in a Christian. It also points to the method whereby Christ is formed in a believer (cf. 2 Cor. 3:18; Phil. 1:21).
The first three virtues are habits of mind which find their source in God. Love (agapē) is listed first because it is the foundation of the other graces. God is love and loves the world (cf. 1 John 4:8; John 3:16). Such self-sacrificing love that sent Christ to die for sinners is the kind of love that believers who are Spirit-controlled manifest. Joy (chara) is a deep and abiding inner rejoicing which was promised to those who abide in Christ (cf. John 15:11). It does not depend on circumstances because it rests in God’s sovereign control of all things (cf. Rom. 8:28). Peace (eirēnē) is again a gift of Christ (cf. John 14:27). It is an inner repose and quietness, even in the face of adverse circumstances; it defies human understanding (cf. Phil. 4:7).
The second triad reaches out to others, fortified by love, joy, and peace. Patience (makrothymia) is the quality of forbearance under provocation (cf. 2 Cor. 6:6; Col. 1:11; 3:12). It entertains no thoughts of retaliation even when wrongfully treated. Kindness (chrēstotēs) is benevolence in action such as God demonstrated toward men. Since God is kind toward sinners (cf. Rom. 2:4; Eph. 2:7) a Christian should display the same virtue (cf. 2 Cor. 6:6; Col. 3:12). Goodness (agathōsynē) may be thought of both as an uprightness of soul and as an action reaching out to others to do good even when it is not deserved.
The final three graces guide the general conduct of a believer who is led by the Spirit. Faithfulness (pistis) is the quality which renders a person trustworthy or reliable, like the faithful servant in Luke 16:10–12. Gentleness (prautēs) marks a person who is submissive to God’s Word (cf. James 1:21) and who is considerate of others when discipline is needed (cf. “gently” in Gal. 6:1; 2 Tim. 2:25; “gentle” in 1 Cor. 4:21; Eph. 4:2; “gentleness” in Col. 3:12; 1 Peter 3:16). Self-control (enkrateia; this noun is used in the NT only here and in Acts 24:25; 2 Peter 1:6) denotes self-mastery and no doubt primarily relates to curbing the fleshly impulses just described. Such a quality is impossible to attain apart from the power of God’s Spirit (cf. Gal. 5:16). As a final summary statement Paul affirmed that there are no prohibitions (lit., there is not a law) against such virtues. In a litotes (understatement) he asserted that obviously no one would make laws against people who practice such things.
5:22–23a. The fruit image often refers to good works (Pr 8:19; Is 5:1–7; Jn 15:1–8), and does not imply passivity. Virtues can and should be actively pursued (e.g., 1Co 14:1; 2Tm 2:22; 1Pt 3:11). Paul used fruit imagery, however, to emphasize the Spirit’s role in the production of these virtues in a believer’s life. As we are active in following the Spirit, He, not the law, produces these and other virtues.
Paul’s list stresses character (e.g., patience: bearing with difficult people or situations while still maintaining one’s composure; self-control: being restrained, holding oneself back from acting on evil desires) and relationships (e.g., kindness: being gracious or generous; gentleness: using the least amount of force or power needed when dealing with people). As with 5:19–21, Paul likely intended the list to be representative, not exhaustive (cf. Col 3:12–15). Paul is not espousing works salvation here. These fruit(s) are expressed, however imperfectly, by every believer who has the Spirit indwelling him, and as such testify that the believer in question is destined for the kingdom.
5:23b. This phrase is rhetorical. As Paul said elsewhere (1Tm 1:8–9), law is needed to regulate the ungodly life. The virtuous—those described by vv. 22–23—go above requirements of law, and so are not obligated to live by it.
5:22–23. In contrast to the “acts of the flesh” presented above, those who are obedient to the Holy Spirit produce beautiful, nourishing spiritual fruit. Notice the fruit in this passage is called the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of self-effort. This fruit the Holy Spirit produces in the life of a faithful Christian. In other passages of Scripture, we are commanded to fulfill the individual characteristics. The answer to this seeming paradox, I believe, is that only the Holy Spirit can produce the fruit; but he will not do so unless we are striving to the best of our ability for them in faithful obedience. These fruits of the Spirit are in harmony with and not opposed to the law. However, they are not produced by the law but rather by the Spirit working through the believer’s faith.
5:22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is” Paul described human effort as works of the flesh, but he described the Christian life as the “fruit” or product of the Spirit. He thereby distinguished human-focused religion and supernatural-focused religion. Obviously, the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit are different. While spiritual gifts are given to every believer at salvation (cf. 1 Cor. 12:7, 11), the fruit is another metaphor to describe the motives, attitudes and lifestyle of Jesus Christ. As the gifts are the distribution of the different ministries of Christ among the body of Christ, the fruit is the collective attitude of Christ in performing these gifts. It is possible to have an effective gift and not have a Christlike attitude. Therefore, Christlike maturity, which the fruit of the Spirit brings, gives ultimate glory to God through the various gifts of the Spirit. These are both expected by the filling of the Spirit (cf. Eph. 5:18).
It is also interesting to note that fruit is SINGULAR in this verse. The use of the SINGULAR can be understood in two ways: (1) Love is the fruit of the Spirit, described by the varying terms that follow; or (2) it is a collective singular like “seed.”
© “love” This Greek form for love, agapē, was used by the early church of God’s self-giving love. This noun was not used often in classical Greek. The church infused it with new meaning to describe God’s special love. Love here is theologically analogous to hesed, God’s covenant loyalty and love, in the OT.
© “joy” Joy is an attitude of life that rejoices in who we are in Christ regardless of circumstances (cf. Rom. 14:17; 1 Thess. 1:6; Jude 24).
© “peace” Peace may mean: (1) our sense of well-being because of our relationship to Christ; (2) our new world view based on the revelation of God that does not depend on circumstances; or (3) tranquility in our relationship with other people, especially believers (cf. John 14:27; Rom. 5:1; Phil 4:7).
© “patience” Longsuffering was proper in the face of provocation. This was a characteristic of God the Father (cf. Rom. 2:4; 9:22; 1 Tim. 1:18; 1 Pet. 3:20). As God has been patient with us, we are to be patient with other people, especially believers.
© “kindness, goodness” “Kindness” describes not only the life of Jesus, but His yoke (cf. Matt. 11:30). Together the two terms describe a positive, open and accepting attitude toward others, especially believers.
© “faithfulness” Pistis is used in its Old Testament sense of loyalty and trustworthiness. It was usually used of God (cf. Rom. 3:3). Here it describes the believer’s new relationship with people, especially believers.
5:23 “gentleness” Sometimes translated as “meekness,” praotes is characterized by a submissive spirit. It was a metaphor taken from domesticated animals. Gentleness was not included in the Greek or Stoic lists of virtues, because it was seen as a weakness. It is uniquely Christian (cf. 1 Cor. 4:21; 2 Cor. 10:1; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; 1 Tim. 6:11; 2 Tim. 2:25; Titus 3:2). It was used of both Moses (cf. Num. 12:3) and Jesus (cf. Matt. 11:29; 21:5).
© “self-control” The capstone of the list, self-control characterizes Christlike maturity (cf. Acts 24:25; Titus 1:8; 2 Pet. 1:6). This term was used in 1 Cor. 7:9 for the control of our sexual drive and that may be alluded to here because of the list of the sexual abuses of pagan worship.
© “against such things there is no law” There is a new inner law in the life of a believer which shows its presence by living in godliness (cf. Rom. 6:19; James 1:25; 2:8, 12). This is exactly the goal of the new covenant (cf. Jer. 31:31–34 and Ezek. 36:22–32). Christlikeness is the goal of God for every Christian (cf. Rom. 8:28–29; Gal. 4:19; Eph. 1:4).
22, 23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, self-control.… Perhaps the nine pleasing endowments can be divided into three groups, each group comprising three gifts. If this should be correct—it is by no means certain!—, the first group would refer to the most basic spiritual qualities: love, joy, peace. The next group would describe those virtues that reveal themselves in social relationships. We assume that it views believers in their various contacts with each other and with those who do not belong to their company: longsuffering, kindness, goodness. In the last group, though here especially there is room for a difference of opinion, the first item listed may well refer to the relation of believers to God and to his will as revealed in his Word: faithfulness or loyalty. The second probably pertains to their contact with men: meekness. The last, to each believer’s relation to himself, that is, to his own desires and passions: self-control.
Mentioned at the very beginning of the first group is “the greatest of the three greatest,” namely, love (1 Cor. 13; Eph. 5:2; Col. 3:14). For this virtue see on 5:6 and 5:13 above. Not only Paul but also John assigns priority to this grace of self-giving (1 John 3:14; 4:8, 19). And so does Peter (1 Peter 4:8). In this they clearly followed the example that was given by Christ (John 13:1, 34; 17:26). Although, as these passages indicate, it is hardly legitimate strictly to limit this basic virtue to “love for the brethren,” yet, on the other hand, in the present context (over against quarrels, wrangling, jealousy, etc.,” and see also verse 14) the reference may well be especially to this mutual affection. When love is present, joy cannot be far behind, for has not the author told us that love is the law’s fulfilment, and does not the doing of God’s law bring delight (Ps. 119:16, 24, 35, 47, 70, 174)? Moreover, the truth of this statement becomes even clearer when it is borne in mind that the ability to observe this divine ordinance of love is God’s gift, being an element in that wonderful salvation which in his great love he has freely bestowed upon his children. Moreover, since all things work together for good to those that love God (Rom. 8:28), it is evident that believers can rejoice even amid the most distressing circumstances, as Paul himself proved again and again (Acts 27:35; 2 Cor. 6:10: “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing”; 12:9; Phil. 1:12, 13; 4:11; 2 Tim. 4:6–8). Their gladness, moreover, is not that of the world, a mirth which is superficial and fails to satisfy the deepest needs of the soul, but is a “joy unspeakable and full of glory” (1 Peter 1:8), and a foretaste of the radiant raptures that are still in store for Christ’s followers. Peace, too, is a natural result of the exercise of love, for “Great peace have they that love thy law” (Ps. 119:165; cf. 29:11; 37:11; 85:8). This peace is the serenity of heart that is the portion of all those who, having been justified by faith (Rom. 5:1), yearn to be instruments in the hand of God in causing others to share in their tranquility. Hence, the peace-possessor becomes, in turn, a peace-maker (Matt. 5:9). Moreover, the one who is truly conscious of this great gift of peace which he has received from God as a result of Christ’s bitter death on the cross, will, within the Christian fellowship, “make every effort to preserve the unity imparted by the Spirit by means of the bond (consisting in) peace” (Eph. 4:3).
The mention of peace is, as it were, a natural link between the first and the second group, for this virtue is often contrasted with strife among men, and this second group describes those virtues which believers reveal in their contacts with each other and with other men. The first of the Spirit’s gifts mentioned in this second group is longsuffering. It characterizes the person who, in relation to those who annoy, oppose, or molest him, exercises patience. He refuses to yield to passion or to outbursts of anger. Longsuffering is not only a human but also a divine attribute, being ascribed to God (Rom. 2:4; 9:22) and to Christ (1 Tim. 1:16) as well as to man (2 Cor. 6:6; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12, 13; 2 Tim. 4:2). As a human attribute it is inspired by trust in the fulfilment of God’s promises (2 Tim. 4:2, 8; Heb. 6:12). Emphasis on this virtue was greatly needed by the Galatians, who, as has been shown, were probably being torn by strife and the party spirit. Besides, longsuffering is a mighty weapon over against the hostility of the world in its attitude toward the church. Hand in hand with this virtue goes kindness. It is mildness, benignity. The early Christians by means of it commended themselves to others (2 Cor. 6:6). This endowment, as exercised by believers, is a faint reflection of the primordial kindness manifested by God (Rom. 2:4; cf. 11:22). We are, moreover, admonished to become like him in this respect (Matt. 5:43–48; Luke 6:27–38). The Gospels contain numerous illustrations of Christ’s kindness shown to sinners. To mention but a few, see Mark 10:13–16; Luke 7:11–17; 36–50; 8:40–56; 13:10–17; 18:15–17; 23:34; John 8:1–11; 19:25–27. Goodness, which completes this group, is Spirit-created moral and spiritual excellence of every description. Perhaps in the present connection, being mentioned after kindness, it could refer especially to generosity of heart and action.
Finally, the apostle mentions the three graces that conclude the entire summary. First is faithfulness. The word that is used in the original is often properly rendered faith. However, here occurring after “kindness” and “goodness,” the rendering “faithfulness” would seem to strike a more consonant harmony. It means loyalty, fidelity. Since in this very letter Paul complains about the lack of loyalty toward himself which had become evident in the conduct of many of the Galatians (4:16), we can see that mentioning this virtue was definitely in order. However, in the final analysis it was not so much disloyalty to himself as to the gospel—hence, to God and his Word—that, to a considerable extent, had been lacking, as is evident from 1:6–9; 3:1; 5:7. Faithfulness to God and to his will is, accordingly, the virtue which, in all probability, Paul is here commending as a gift of the Spirit. This, however, does not exclude but includes loyalty toward men. In connection with the preceding context, which speaks of strife in its various manifestations (see verses 20, 21), it would seem to be proper here to interpret the next item, namely, meekness, as gentleness toward one another and toward all men. Cf. 1 Cor. 4:21. Also this virtue reminds one of Christ (Matt. 11:29; 2 Cor. 10:1). Meekness is the very opposite of vehemence, violence, and outbursts of anger. The final virtue which Paul mentions, and by implication commends, is self-control, a relation of the self to the self. The person who is blessed with this quality possesses “the power to keep himself in check,” which is the meaning of the word that is used in the original. The previous mention of immorality, impurity, and indecency, among the vices (verse 19), shows that it was very appropriate to list self-control as an opposing virtue. Of course, the reference is to other things besides sex. Those who truly exercise this virtue compel every thought to surrender itself in obedience to Christ (2 Cor. 10:5).
Continued: against such there is no law. Since Paul has just completed a list of virtues, which are things, not people, it is natural to interpret his words as meaning: “against such things—such virtues—there is no law.” Grammar does not forbid this construction. It is also evident that, as was true with respect to the vices, so also this list of virtues is representative. By no means every item of Christian excellence is included in the list. Hence, Paul says, “against such.” By saying that there is no law against such things he is encouraging every believer to manifest these qualities, in order that, by so doing, the vices may be annihilated.
The incentive to exhibit these fine traits of character was furnished by Christ, for it is out of gratitude to him that believers adorn their conduct with them. The example, too, in connection with all of them, was given by him. And the virtues themselves, as well as the strength to exercise them, are imparted by his Spirit.
Spring reminds us why we garden. We seek for fruit: for the flower, for the vegetable, for the herb, for those plants that bring us joy, beauty, and nourishment. Similarly, we ought to seek fruit in the spiritual world, in our minds, hearts, and souls. God has invested in us in order that we might bear fruit for His glory and honour; we are to be a people who live well for Him and bring forth the blessed fruit of righteousness. In Galatians 5:22, Paul turns his attention to the necessity of fruitfulness. He has described the barren, winter landscape of the natural man, the deeds of the flesh. He has taken us through this war zone and shown us the devastation of the human heart. Having shown us the landscape, he leads us into God’s garden. In verse 22–23, he contrasts the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ with the ‘deeds of the flesh’: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
The general nature of the fruit
After introducing the fruit of the Spirit, in verse 22, Paul lists nine features: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. By these terms he depicts the Christian graces or virtues, which are produced by the Holy Spirit. He is not describing personality traits. Unregenerate people may be loving, kind, and patient. In fact, it might be difficult to distinguish the kindness of a renewed man from that of the unregenerate person. The difference lies, in the first place, in the motive, the spring of it, which is love. Love is the chief grace and out of love flows all the other graces.
Second, Paul is not listing nine diverse fruits, of which a Christian may possess a few. The term, fruit, is in the singular. The nine together are the fruit that mark the Christian, like a cluster of nine grapes. By the cluster concept, we begin to discover the difference between the kind and patient non-Christian and the truly renewed man or woman. The Christian possesses all the fruit. The renewed person should have some balance, some symmetry of character, although by no means will he be perfect. Each has his or her areas of weakness, but there will be some element of each of these graces in the life of every Christian.
Third, like the catalogue of the deeds of the flesh, this catalogue is representative. In many of his epistles, Paul lists similar catalogues of God’s good fruit (Col. 3 and Eph. 5; cf. 2 Pet. 1:5–8). As we examine our hearts, we must not stop with these nine, although they are a good place to start.
Fourth, Paul focuses on the character of the heart. Indeed, the character of the heart will manifest itself in outward acts, but the heart of the matter is the heart. Note that we are not talking about a legalistic conformity to external standards (outward acts), but about the heart that is being transformed. Closely related, Paul is not talking about a formalistic role playing; we all can put on our ‘Sunday go to meeting face.’ We know how to play the role; we can give the appearance of being patient, kind, and gentle. Instead, Paul describes the internal reality of who we are.
Fifth, the author of these graces is the Holy Spirit. Here Paul names them the fruit of the Spirit, teaching that the production of the fruit is a supernatural work. The Spirit plants the seed of this fruit when He regenerates us and immediately He begins to cultivate these graces in us. Therefore, the fruit is a necessary evidence of the new birth. The person who is not developing this fruit over a period of time is unregenerate.
Since it is the work of the Holy Spirit, it is also a sovereign work; Christ teaches the sovereignty of this work in Matthew 13:23: ‘And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.’ Just as God causes our children to grow at different rates and to mature at different paces, He causes us to grow at different speeds spiritually. None of us, of course, should be content with our degree of fruitfulness. We mourn our lack of growth and we hunger and thirst for righteousness. But we must never forget that God is sovereign in our sanctification.
The specific nature of the fruit
I will group the nine fruit into three categories of three fruit each: the foundational graces (love, joy, and peace); the social graces (longsuffering, kindness, and goodness); and the controlling graces (faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control).
The Foundational Graces
Love—The first three fruit are formative of all the others and love is the source of them all. We learned in Galatians 5:6 that faith works through love, and in verses 13 and 14 that our obedience must spring from love. Love, therefore, is the motivating principle of the other eight because love is the form that faith takes and it is love that gives rise to all the others. Along with love, the features of joy and peace particularly mark our relationship to God but they spill over into our relationship with others.
What is love? We can define love as the affectionate disposition and commitment that seeks the well-being of its object. It is an act of the will, but it grows out of a disposition of affection and kindness. At times the disposition will be lacking. At such times you must act out the commitment. We must always obey and to do so is to love God and our neighbour. We ought, however, to cultivate the affectionate disposition. We are to have this disposition even towards our enemies, since this is the manner in which God dealt with us. We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:10). Our love for God is kindled by the realization of His love. As we receive Christ by faith, we are overwhelmed by God’s glorious love and love Him in return. We cannot separate faith and love. Faith is the action, by which we receive justification, but it is attracted to God because of His loveliness and it is accompanied with a love for God, a love for the Saviour, a love for the Holy Spirit. This love is not the instrument of justification, but it acts along with justifying faith.
Above all, we are to love God: ‘ “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind.” This is the greatest commandment’ (Matt. 22:37, 38). This love is the fountainhead of all obedience and is particularly expressed in the first four of the ten commandments, although love of God is working in all aspects of obedience.
Out of this love ﬂows love for our neighbour: ‘the second is like it, “you shall love your neighbour as yourself” ’ (Matt. 22:39). Because we love God, we love our neighbour. This love is governed by the last six of the ten commandments.
Joy—Love produces, and is accompanied by, joy. Since we find delight in the object of our affections, it is fitting that joy is the next aspect in the list. Joy is an attitude of delight, security, and comfort that we have as we trust in God. Because we trust God, we may maintain this delight and security in all circumstances. Joy comes out of the realization that God is our portion and our inheritance; therefore, we are complete in Him (Ps. 73:25–28). He loves us and will only do for us that which is best (Rom. 8:28); therefore, we may rejoice even in our trials (Phil. 4:4; James 1:2). We are enabled to say with Eli, upon hearing that awful prophecy about the destruction of his household, ‘It is the Lord; let Him do what seems good to Him’ (1 Sam. 3:18). Joy is not the gritting of the teeth and enduring. Rather it is resting with a quiet submission in God, who has promised he will never leave us or forsake us (Heb. 13:5).
Peace—The Bible often joins joy and peace. They are twins. Peace is that sense of well-being that comes out of being reconciled to God. It delivers us from anxiety (Ps. 94:19). It promotes and brings contentment and prompts us to be at peace with our neighbour. It is important to understand that this sense of well-being arises from being reconciled to God. Peace, in the first place, is an objective reality. Peace comes when God, who has been opposed to us as His enemies, lays down His weapons against us. He does this because Christ Jesus has satisfied His justice and made us His friends and His children (Rom. 5:9–11; 2 Cor. 5:18, 19). This peace is an objective reality: ‘Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom also we have obtained our introduction by faith into this grace in which we stand’ (Rom. 5:1, 2).
Peace with God leads to a peace of conscience. Our consciences have been cleansed from the defilement of sin, our guilt has been removed and we are right with God. As we realize we are reconciled to God, we experience subjective peace. We see further the relation between peace and joy. It is impossible to have joy without this peace of conscience. Real joy can only be produced by the conscience that knows that it is at peace with God. As we read in the Shorter Catechism 36: ‘The benefits which in this lie do accompany or flow from justifications, adoption, and sanctification are, assurance of God’s love, peace of conscience, joy in the Holy Ghost, increase of grace, and perseverance therein to the end.’ Peace frees us from anxiety about our sins and gives us boldness before God; and hence we are delivered from worry and anxiety.
As we truly experience the peace of God, we will become peace-makers. As Paul exhorts us: ‘If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men’ (Rom. 12:18; cf. Heb. 12:14; Matt. 5:9). Thus when we are defrauded, we will bend over backwards to seek peace; we will not insist upon our rights; we will seek to bring reconciliation between people as well as between them and our God.
These three features are foundational, for it is out of them, love flowing into joy and peace, that the other elements of the fruit of the Spirit develop.
The Social Graces
Peace is the link with the next triad: patience, kindness, and goodness. These three graces describe, in particular, our attitudes and behaviour toward those around us.
Patience—Paul begins with patience. The term is better translated ‘longsuffering.’ The Bible teaches that before we were in Christ, God bore long with us. He was patient and longsuffering. Think how longsuffering He is with us currently as His backward children. He bears long with our foolishness and waywardness. People provoke us all the time; they are rude, inconsiderate, sometimes deliberately, but often unintentionally. Our enemies also attack us; they will misconstrue what we do and say and slander us. The temptation is to resent and seek vindication. We are too easily provoked when our rights have not been considered or we have been ill-treated. We need to quit thinking about rights and start thinking about grace. As we orient our thinking to grace, we will not be so easily provoked. Love covers a multitude of sins. We can learn to think, ‘He did not mean to do or say that, I am going to forget about it.’
When love cannot cover the actions of another, what do we do? Either we are unable to forget about it or it is of such a serious nature that we must not forget about it. Love covers that sin another way, by dealing with it according to Matthew 18, by going to the brother or sister, in private to discuss the problem. Ninety-nine percent of the time, the problem will be settled and there will be peace and true reconciliation. When there cannot be true reconciliation, we may either pursue it with witnesses or leave the matter in the hands of the Lord. But regardless, let us learn to exercise patience.
Kindness—The second social grace is kindness. Kindness is the gracious attitude that seeks the well-being of our neighbour. It is the positive step beyond long-suffering; the exercise of compassion and tenderness. Although some versions translate a later fruit as ‘gentleness,’ this fruit is really the exercise of gentleness. The Psalmist reminds us of God, ‘And thy gentleness makes me great’ (Ps. 18:35). We promote greatness in our children and one another by gentleness and kindness, by having a heart that reaches out to and longs to see good things come to those around us. We combine a kind countenance with kind words and acts as we interact with those whom God brings into our lives. As we do so we manifest the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Goodness—The third social grace, closely connected to kindness, is goodness. Goodness is the moral characteristic or disposition that motivates us to do righteous acts to others, to behave towards each other on the basis of the law of God, and to do good and to seek the well-being of our neighbour. Goodness motivates us to seek our neighbour’s good, to see righteousness prevail in our relationships, to promote that which is lovely and of good repute (Phil. 4:8). True holiness is not ugly; it does not have rough edges; it is not unbalanced. But we are often unbalanced. We can be censorious and self-righteous, but the holiness that is shaped by the Fruit of the Spirit indeed is lovely, clearly resembling the character of the Saviour.
The Discipline Graces
The last triad of the fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness, meekness, and self-control. I call these three the graces of discipline. These three, perhaps more than the others, fly in the face of our contemporary culture. To modern man, the practice of these is like someone dragging finger nails down a chalkboard. Faithfulness does not characterize our age. Our age is marked by selfishness and treachery, self-assertion and not meekness. Neither does self-control come to mind in our narcissistic and hedonistic society. Consequently, this last triad profoundly confronts our culture. Love, joy, and peace are not antagonistic to the culture. In fact, many might even marvel at your love and joy. Moreover, the social graces do not directly confront our culture. The exhibition of the graces might irritate our neighbour and they might seek to take advantage over us, thinking we are weak, but they will not be necessarily provoked. These last three, however, will provoke unbelievers to animosity.
Faithfulness—The first is the discipline of action. Faithfulness describes one who is honest and dependable. Faithfulness, which springs out of God’s veracity, is a divine attribute. Hence, in the Hebrew the same term is translated ‘faithful’ and ‘truthful.’ God’s faithfulness is His truthfulness. He tells us in His word who He is, what He has done, and what He will do. He cannot and does not lie and hence you may depend upon everything He says. Because He is true, He is dependable. He keeps every promise and fulfils every threat. The Bible, God’s word, is an extension of His faithfulness. Since it is His word, it must be true and dependable as well.
What does it mean, therefore, for us to be faithful? First, it refers to how we live before God; we receive, believe, and love all that He has said in His word. We take it to be our faithful standard of doctrine and practice. Second, faithfulness demonstrates itself most frequently in how we live among those around us. The faithful Christian is the honest person; and committed to honesty. His ‘yes’ is to be ‘yes’ and his ‘no’ is to be ‘no’. The Psalmist says, ‘He swears to his own hurt, and does not change’ (Ps. 15:4). The Christian should desire to be known as one who keeps his word. Not only must we avoid the more flagrant types of lying, but also we must avoid self-exalting exaggerations, as well, the little white lies we use to avoid giving offence. We must try to answer people tactfully, but truthfully. Paul says speak the truth in love (Eph. 4:15). We are not compelled to say everything we think or to tell all the truth, if it is going to harm someone. But we must never tell a non-truth. If we cannot think of another way of answering a question except with a white lie, we must tell the truth.
Faithfulness means we honour our obligations; paying our bills on time is an important part of faithfulness. Faithfulness includes dependability; if you say you are going to do something tomorrow, then unless you are providentially hindered, you will do it tomorrow. We must be careful not to over commit. We must learn to say, ‘I am sorry, I cannot do that, not by tomorrow,’ or ‘I will try, but I can’t promise you that I will have that done by tomorrow or by the end of the week.’ You must learn to say ‘no.’ You must learn not to over commit, so when you do commit you are able to accomplish that which you have promised.
Another aspect of faithfulness is loyalty. We remain loyal to our husbands and wives, loyal to friends, regardless of the difficulties. We remain loyal to a commitment, even when something more advantageous comes along.
Meekness—The second discipline is one of attitude, ‘meekness.’ Meekness is not dissimilar to longsuffering and kindness (some versions translate this term ‘gentleness’), but it is distinct and it has to do with a disciplined attitude about ourselves before God and one another. Meekness is the attitude that humbles oneself under God’s Word and before one’s neighbour. Meekness before God is the attitude expressed by Isaiah: ‘But to this one I will look, to him who is humble and contrite of spirit, and who trembles at My word’ (Isa. 66:2). James also describes our attitude to the word of God when he writes, ‘But let everyone be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger’ (1:19). We are to submit to the will of God expressed in His word and the will of God worked out in His providence. It is the attitude expressed by the Psalmist: ‘O Lord, my heart is not proud, nor my eyes haughty; nor do I involve myself in great matters, or in things too difficult for me. Surely I have composed and quieted my soul; like a weaned child rests against his mother, my soul is like a weaned child within me’ (131:1, 2).
We also are to exercise meekness in our relationships. We are not to think more highly of ourselves than we should, but ought to esteem our brethren more highly than ourselves. Because we are sinners our hearts are deceitful; we tend to appraise our gifts and abilities more highly that we ought. We must labour for a sober assessment to know our weaknesses. Meekness, however, is not a denial of our strengths and gifts. There is nothing wrong with saying, ‘Thank you,’ when somebody compliments you. Neither is there anything wrong with volunteering to do something that you believe you can do well. Meekness is a sober self-assessment.
Moreover, meekness manifests the humility that submits to the opinion of others and does not always insist on its own way. It would be the opposite of being disputatious. Neither does one get his feelings hurt when he is not recognized or others are exalted over him. Hence it is the opposite of jealousy and envy.
Self-control—The discipline of affection and appetite is self-control. A person who is truly self-controlled governs himself. Self-government begins with submission to the will of God and His word. We learn to control our emotions regardless of the circumstances. Emotions are reactive; we cannot immediately control the emotive response, but we can learn to discipline its expression. We should seek to bring our responses and reactions into a quiet, peaceful submission to God and not be blown about by every adverse circumstance. We can learn to control our emotions by learning to control the venting of our emotions. Paul says, ‘Be angry, and yet do not sin’ (Eph. 4:26). He modelled that admonition when he had a flash of righteous anger and spoke somewhat harshly to the high priest. When he was rebuked and told not to speak to the high priest in that manner, he immediately brought his anger under control and responded, ‘I was not aware, brethren, that he was the high priest; for it is written, “You shall not speak evil of a ruler of your people” ’ (Acts 23:5).
We also must learn to control our appetites. God has given us all things to enjoy, but He has also called us to a temperate life style. We are not to overindulge in the use of the things of the world. We must not be obsessed with satisfying appetites and pleasures. We are to be moderate in our use of the gifts of God. We must not be slaves to our appetites (not gluttons or drunks) or enslaved to substances like caffeine or tobacco.
We must also exercise discipline over our bodies. Paul does not deny the usefulness of bodily discipline when he says it is of little profit (1 Tim. 4:8). Consequently, we ought to do some form of exercise to maintain regular health and stamina. Therefore, if we are bearing fruit, we will be disciplined in our actions, attitudes, affections and appetites.
Fruit-bearing and liberty (5:23)
Paul concludes the catalogue of the fruit of the Spirit by saying that against such things there is no law (5:23). He demonstrates that the fruit of the Spirit is the mark of true liberty. He began this section by saying, ‘For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another’ (5:13). Freedom comes as we walk in the Spirit (v. 16). Paul reminds us of what he said in verse 18: ‘But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.’ In others words, the fruit of the Spirit is the mark that you are led by the Spirit. Therefore, if you manifest the fruit of the Spirit, you demonstrate that the Spirit is in you. You are not under the law as its slave. You are freed from its condemning and irritating power. You are free to bear the fruit of the Spirit.
Moreover, these graces are not under the law, which means they do not compete with the law. As we are accepted for Christ’s sake as justified men and women, our imperfect fruit-bearing is acceptable before God for Christ’s sake. In other words, perfection in the fruit of the Spirit is not what commends you to God. You are to strive for perfection, but your fruit will not make you more acceptable to God. Because you are in Christ, God takes delight and pleasure in you and your fruit. He will cultivate it; He will prune you and develop you, but He takes delight in your fruit and its growth. So do not be discouraged with your small beginnings. God will continue His work in you.
Here we have a cluster of nine Christian graces which seem to portray a Christian’s attitude to God, to other people and to himself.
Love, joy, peace. This is a triad of general Christian virtues. Yet they seem primarily to concern our attitude towards God, for a Christian’s first love is his love for God, his chief joy is his joy in God and his deepest peace is his peace with God.
Next, patience, kindness, goodness. These are social virtues, manward rather than Godward in their direction. ‘Patience’ is longsuffering towards those who aggravate or persecute. ‘Kindness’ is a question of disposition, and ‘goodness’ of words and deeds.
The third triad is faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. ‘Faithfulness’ (av ‘faith’) appears to describe the reliability of a Christian man. ‘Gentleness’ is that humble meekness which Christ exhibited (Mt. 11:29; 2 Cor. 10:1). And both are aspects of the ‘self-mastery’, or ‘self-control’, which concludes the list.
So we may say that the primary direction of ‘love, joy, peace’ is Godward, of ‘patience, kindness, goodness’ manward, and of ‘faithfulness, gentleness and self-control’ selfward. And all these are ‘the fruit of the Spirit’, the natural produce that appears in the lives of Spirit-led Christians. No wonder Paul adds again: against such there is no law (verse 23). For the function of law is to curb, to restrain, to deter, and no deterrent is needed here.
Having examined ‘the works of the flesh’ and ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ separately, it should be even clearer to us than before that ‘the flesh’ and ‘the Spirit’ are in active conflict with one another. They are pulling in opposite directions. There exists between the two ‘an interminable, deadly feud’. And the result of this conflict is: ‘so that what you will to do you cannot do’ (end of verse 17, neb). The parallel between this little phrase and the second part of Romans 7 is, in my judgment, too close to be accidental. Every renewed Christian can say ‘I delight in the law of God, in my inmost self’ (Rom. 7:22). That is, ‘I love it and long to do it. My new nature hungers for God, for godliness and for goodness. I want to be good and to do good.’ That is the language of every regenerate believer. ‘But’, he has to add, ‘by myself, even with these new desires, I cannot do what I want to do. Why not? Because of sin that dwells within me.’ Or, as the apostle expresses it here in Galatians 5, ‘because of the strong desires of the flesh which lust against the Spirit’.
This is the Christian conflict—fierce, bitter and unremitting. Moreover, it is a conflict in which by himself the Christian simply cannot be victorious. He is obliged to say ‘I can will what is right, but I cannot do it’ (Rom. 7:18) or, speaking as it were to himself, ‘ye cannot do the things that ye would’ (Gal. 5:17, av).
‘Is that the whole story?’ some perplexed reader will be asking. ‘Is the tragic confession that “I cannot do what I want to do” the last word about a Christian’s inner moral conflict? Is this all Christianity offers—an experience of continuous defeat?’ Indeed, it is not. If we were left to ourselves, we could not do what we would; instead, we would succumb to the desires of our old nature. But if we ‘walk by the Spirit’ (verse 16), then we shall not gratify the desires of the flesh. We shall still experience them, but we shall not indulge them. On the contrary, we shall bear the fruit of the Spirit.
22. The first three aspects of the Spirit’s harvest need little comment; the second and third, chara, joy, and eirēnē, peace, are probably suggested by the typically Jewish-Christian greeting of ‘grace and peace’, charis kai eirēnē, of 1:3, although charis and chara are not directly connected. To the Christian, joy is something quite independent of outward circumstances, and its source is the Holy Spirit (see 1 Thess. 1:6 and Rom. 14:17). Agapē has been already considered; it is put first on the list as embracing all the others if rightly understood. Whether we are justified in bracketing these three as a ‘triad’ apart from the other virtues is uncertain. The list certainly does not fall into sections as readily as that of the vices did. See 1 Corinthians 13:13 for another but different triad: faith, hope, and love, with ‘love’ as the climax.
The use of karpos, fruit, as mentioned above, suggests that all these spiritual qualities, and many more, are the spontaneous product of the presence of the Spirit of Christ within the heart of the Christian. The metaphor is a very old one, natural to an agricultural people like Israel. While karpos means any kind of fruit, it is most frequently employed of the product of the fruit tree or vine. It was a principle enunciated by the Lord himself that a tree could be recognized by the fruit that it bore (Matt. 7:16); so, by the presence of these ‘fruits’, the presence of the Spirit in the hearts of the Galatians is proved. It is interesting that Paul does not here use the presence of spiritual gifts, equally coming from the Spirit, as a proof of spiritual life, although such gifts seem to have existed among the Galatians (‘works miracles among you’, 3:5). Perhaps it is because fruit of the Spirit cannot be simulated, while gifts of the Spirit can (Matt. 7:22).
Makrothymia, patience, is well paraphrased by Bruce by the coined word ‘long tempered’ as opposed to ‘short tempered’; perhaps ‘tolerance’ would give the idea better in modern English. It is the quality of ‘putting up with’ other people, even when one’s patience is sorely tried. It is interesting to speculate why Paul put this quality in such a lofty place in his list. Perhaps it was because in Galatia neither ‘party’ displayed much of this virtue. Chrēstotēs, kindness, also has the connotations of ‘goodness’ or ‘generosity’ (so BAGD), but these thoughts are already covered by other words in the list before us. The common slave-name Chrēstos comes from this root, so that the word must suggest some quality that was desired in the ideal servant, as indeed do all the other qualities listed here: it has been well said that they are a list of ‘slave virtues’. If these are the qualities of the ‘servant Messiah’, on whom Christians are called to pattern themselves, this is not surprising. Indeed, there may even be a pun based on the similar pronunciation of Christos, the Messiah, and Chrēstos, the slave name. Did the wits of Antioch intend this pun when they called this ‘reformed sect’ of Judaism ‘Christians’, hinting at ‘the goody-goodies’ (Acts 11:26)? Agathōsynē has here probably more of its colloquial meaning of ‘generosity’ than its original meaning of goodness although both interpretations are possible: prautēs, gentleness (v. 23), would then mean something like ‘humility’.
These qualities are basically manward rather than Godward in their aspect, and most, if not all, would be directly relevant to a state of party strife in a church, whether two-sided or three-sided. Most of them are qualities of restraint and humility, to be displayed by the victor to the vanquished. That in itself suggests that Paul may fear over-violent dealing with the erring Judaizers by a victorious ‘orthodox party’ in the Galatian church, should his appeal be successful. The apostle’s exhortation in 6:1 concerning anyone ‘overtaken in any trespass’, bears this out. Once Paul has vanquished an opponent theologically, that person ceases, for Paul, to be an opponent and becomes instead an erring brother or sister in need of pastoral care (2 Cor. 2:5–8). But he knows human nature too well to expect that the Galatian reaction will necessarily be the same. Indeed, the more tempted the Galatians had been to succumb to the attack of the Judaizers, the more likely they would be to lead the ‘heresy hunt’ now, in order to justify themselves for their own past wavering.
Of the two remaining qualities, pistis, faithfulness, if translated ‘faith’, would be primarily directed to God; Paul does not speak of having ‘faith’ in fellow humans. However, it can equally well be translated, as here, ‘faithfulness’ (neb, ‘fidelity’).35 If this is the correct rendering, it could apply to the Christian’s attitude manwards as well as Godwards. It would then refer to the Galatians’ lack of fidelity towards Paul, of which he had complained in 4:12–20.
23. The last quality, enkrateia, self-control, is neither Godward nor manward, but more properly ‘selfward’. It is usually employed to describe self-control in sexual matters; if that is its meaning here, then it looks back to the grosser vices of the list above. If there was a ‘libertine’ group at Galatia, boasting of their antinomian ‘freedom’, then they sorely needed this gift. Tōn toioutōn, such, could be amplified, with neb, as ‘such things as these’, and the sense would be excellent. No law forbids qualities like these; such virtues are in fact the ‘keeping’, or ‘fulfilling’, of the law. But, in view of the personal nature of the reference in verse 21, hoi toiauta prassontes, ‘those who habitually behave thus’, it is better to translate personally here too, as ‘such people’, not ‘such things’. The phrase will then become ‘The law was never meant for (or “was never directed against”) people like this’. In either case, the main sense is the same, though niv prefers ‘such things’.
Having described the works of the flesh, Paul then goes on to describe the maturing Christian character. In fact, what we have here, along with the apostle’s words in 1 Corinthians 13, might almost be called a character sketch of Christ himself.
5:22–23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Notice that Paul does not say, ‘The fruits of the Spirit are …’ but ‘The fruit of the Spirit is …’ He is saying that the ninefold fruit of the Spirit is to be found in every Christian. This is not so with the gifts—God deliberately withholds certain gifts from each of us; there is no Christian who possesses all the gifts (1 Cor. 12:11, 29–30). You may or may not have the gift of teaching, or music, or relating to children, or administration, but if you are a Christian, you have the ninefold fruit in your life to some discernible extent. The one who is justified by free grace has the Holy Spirit within him/her, and the Holy Spirit who granted new life in the first place sanctifies those who belong to Christ.
We are not sanctified by faith; we are not passive; we do not ‘let go and let God’. It is true that we ‘work’ the works of the flesh, but that should not be seen as implying that bearing fruit requires no work on our part. Gordon Fee overstates the case when he writes, ‘To be sure, “works” puts emphasis on human endeavour, “fruit” on divine empowerment.’ One should not try to derive too much theology from alleged semantic differences between ‘fruit’ (καρπὸς) and ‘works’ (ἔργα). καρπὸς can be used, as here, to denote what is good, or, as in Romans 6:21, to denote what is evil. Similarly, ἔργα can have evil connotations, as here, or good connotations, as in Ephesians 2:10. To bear fruit, we battle weeds and bugs; we are active. Growth into Christlikeness is not an automatic process—as Fee himself well realizes.
John Stott says that the first three fruit are God-ward, the second three are man-ward, and the last three are self-ward. Derek Thomas follows suit. That makes for easier memorization and provides a structure for preaching, but it is not convincing
At the head of the works of the flesh was sexual immorality, and at the head of the fruit of the Spirit is ‘love’. Even grumpy and cantankerous Jerome could write that ‘From love is born all that is good.’ John Stott says this is love to God—which is difficult to argue against—but the context favours mainly love to others. The power to love comes from God; it is poured out by the Holy Spirit (Rom. 5:5). It extends to all, even our enemies (Matt. 5:43–48; 1 Thess. 3:12). We do not pretend that our enemies are our friends. We do not pretend that everyone is good and so is lovable. We do not tolerate the intolerable. But we are to love all.
Love is to be pursued above all else; in the sense that it will continue into heaven, it is greater and more lasting even than faith and hope (Col. 3:14; 1 Cor. 13:13). A loving spirit will solve or alleviate most of our problems in relationships. It will stop us being selfish, small-minded, pedantic, hard to get on with, petty, resentful, bitter and unforgiving. For the Christian, love counts more than his rights (Philem. 8–9; Rom. 14:14–15). Love may well mean we discipline or rebuke (2 Cor. 2:4). Love is not the same as being nice or bland. Love can be severe at times.
Love reflects the character of God, for he is love (1 John 3:14; 4:7–8). It is supremely revealed in Christ (John 13:34; 15:9–10). Love is therefore a summary of the way we are to treat people (Lev. 19:18). This will mean caring for the poor (Lev. 19:9–10), being honest in all business dealings (Lev. 19:11, 13), considering those who are weaker than you are (Lev. 19:14), and not holding grudges and resentments against anyone (Lev. 19:17). It is to be seen in the everyday commonplace things of life. Derek Prime cites one little girl who said, ‘Love is when the person reading you a bedtime story doesn’t skip any of the pages.’
To love is to be Godlike and Christlike in the world.
Thomas Watson once commented that ‘There are two things which I have always looked upon as difficult. The one is, to make the wicked sad; the other is, to make the godly joyful.’ That ought to surprise and shame us, because the fact that the wicked are not sad signifies the Spirit’s absence (John 16:8–11), while the fact that the godly are joyful is meant to signify his presence (5:22). William Morrice has pointed out that there are 326 joy’ words in the New Testament. Admittedly, some of these refer to the wrong kind of joy, but it is nevertheless true that the message of the gospel is meant to be one of joy. It was announced as good news of great joy (Luke 2:8–10).
There is joy in believing (Rom. 12:12; 14:17; 15:13). When people became Christians, as the Holy Spirit worked in their lives, they experienced real joy (Acts 8:39; 16:34). The early church was a joyful community (Acts 2:46). They possessed that joy which John Brown defines as ‘holy cheerfulness’. In Bunyan’s The Pilgrim’s Progress Christian loses his burden at the cross and gives three leaps for joy before going on his way singing. C. S. Lewis called his autobiography Surprised by Joy. (Later he married Joy Davidman, who appeared to be dying of cancer. When she recovered for a time, the joke was that he was again surprised by Joy!)
A Christian is the only person on earth who has any long-term reason to be joyful. He even delights in the spiritual progress of others (Rom. 16:19; Col. 2:5; 1 Thess. 3:8–10). There is a debased worldly pleasure that counterfeits Christian joy (Titus 3:3; James 4:1, 3). So the rich fool makes merry in his riches (Luke 12:19), but the father of the prodigal son makes merry in his son’s return (Luke 15:23–24, 32). In all things, for the Christian, ‘The joy of the LORD is your strength’ (Neh. 8:10). When sustained by God, the believer rejoices in the Lord and is joyful in his Saviour even when circumstances are adverse (Hab. 3:17–18).
Of course, there is grief in the Christian life—grief at unbelief (Rom. 9:1–3), at sickness and the threat of death (Phil. 2:25–27), and in empathy with those who suffer (Rom. 12:15). The experience of delight and wretchedness can go together (Rom. 7:22–24). Indeed, in this world, there is no experience of joy without an experience of pain (John 16:21–22; 2 Cor. 6:10; 1 Thess. 1:6). Thomas Watson put it well, as he invariably did: ‘Let us weep for those sins which shed his blood, yet rejoice in that blood which washes away our sins.’
Joy is not to be understood in a wooden and superficial way, but underneath there ought to be a deep and abiding rejoicing in who God is and what he has done for sinners (Phil. 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:16). Jesus himself is described as a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief (Isa. 53:3), one who wept at the death of a friend (John 11:35) and at the sin of unbelief (Luke 19:41), and who knew grief and agony of soul (Mark 14:34). Yet he is also a man of joy (Luke 10:21; John 15:11), one who looked to the joy of the resurrection life in heaven (Heb. 12:2). Heaven is a place of great joy (Rev. 19:7).
Adomnan, the biographer of Columba (c. A.D. 521–597), one of the greatest of the early missionaries of the tiny island of Iona to reach Scotland, described Columba: ‘He was loving to all people, and his face showed a holy gladness because his heart was full of the joy of the Holy Spirit.’ Would that were true of every Christian!
The hymn-writer asks, ‘Peace, perfect peace, in this dark world of sin?’ It is a fitting question, because Jeremiah warned that there were those who proclaimed, ‘ “Peace, peace”, when there is no peace’ (Jer. 6:14). In 1932, at one of those interminable Disarmament Conferences in Geneva, the Soviet delegate kept suggesting that all weapons be abolished, so the Spanish delegate told the following fable. Birds and animals had come together to discuss peace and disarmament. The lion suggested that the eagle dispense with its talons; the eagle suggested that the bull give up its horns; the bull said that the tiger should get rid of its claws. Finally, the Russian bear suggested that they all disarm and join him in a universal embrace. There was a man who understood that peace means more than using the right terms!
Being justified by faith, the Christian has peace with God (Rom. 5:1). This leads to peace between Christians (Eph. 2:14–16; 4:3) and, if at all possible, with all men (Rom. 12:18). It also leads to peace within, even in the midst of a world full of trouble (John 14:27; 16:33). None of this is automatic, but it will give us the full meaning of what Paul meant when he wrote, ‘Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way. The Lord be with you all’ (2 Thess. 3:16).
You may well have heard the saying:
Patience is a virtue, possess it if you can:
Seldom found in women, but never in a man.
But it needs to be found in Christians! The NKJV translates the word as ‘long-suffering’; Leon Morris suggests ‘longanimity’ and F. F. Bruce has ‘long-tempered’. If one wanted to coin a word, ‘macro-tempered’ would be close to the Greek. J. B. Lightfoot defines it as ‘patient endurance under injuries inflicted by others’. Alan Cole suggests ‘tolerance’ but this has political and social overtones now. This is an age of speed—instant gratification, instant success, the quicker the better. Patience, or long-suffering, is not something that we naturally applaud.
Yet a Christian ought to be patient and long-suffering because that is the character of God. He is slow to anger, and is long-suffering with the likes of us (Exod. 34:6; Ps. 103:8). Not that his patience is boundless, because there will come a day when he will act in judgement. But because God is love, he is patient. If the fruit of the Spirit is in us, we have love and, among other things, that entails patience (1 Cor. 13:4). We daily provoke God with our sins, but he is patient with us. He is just too, but praise him for his long-suffering and patience.
The contemplation of this truth will cause us to exhibit patience in our relationships here on earth (Prov. 19:11). Long-suffering is an important aspect of the way Christians are to relate to one another (Eph. 4:1–3). If we take offence at every slight, real or imagined, we are breaking God’s word. People ought not to feel that they have to tread on eggshells in our presence. The elect of God are to put on patience or long-suffering—one of the marks of predestination is a patient character (Col. 3:12; 1 Thess. 5:14).
When the tyre on the car goes flat just ten minutes before an appointment, the Christian does not curse and swear and carry on in a most useless and unseemly way. It is the unregenerate who are impatient, as Saul was when he could not wait for Samuel to arrive (1 Sam. 13:8–13). That was simply impatience. Saul could not abide Samuel’s timetable, and acted foolishly in disobeying God. According to James, farmers should know all about patience. An impatient farmer should look for another job. There is no instant crop (James 5:7–11).
This applies in evangelism too (2 Tim. 3:10). Paul knew the downside of ministry but, in his ups and downs, he also knew how to exercise patience (see 2 Cor. 6:4–10, especially v. 6). This was not because he had a laidback temperament; Paul knew also the urgency of the matter; he knew that there were eternal issues at stake (2 Tim. 4:2). John Angell James has written of the need for An Earnest Ministry. The task is even more difficult than that—it is how to be earnest and patient at the same time. Know what you can do and what God does. It is because God is the one to grant repentance that the Christian evangelist is to be gentle and patiently to endure evil (2 Tim. 2:24–25). Knowing those two things will keep us from a false urgency and a ‘notches on the gun’ approach to evangelism. Be earnest and urgent, yes, but also be patient in all things.
It is obvious that the fruit of the Spirit is a unity. If we have one, we have all. Hence we read that love is kind (1 Cor. 13:4). Love, the first fruit, is characterized by kindness, the fifth fruit. God is kind (or good, as in some translations—another indication of just how interconnected the ninefold fruit is—see Ps. 34:8; Luke 6:33–36). Kindness is not being soft in the head. In God it coexists with severity (Rom. 11:22). God is kind to all, especially to his people. ‘Let us, with a gladsome mind, praise the Lord for he is kind,’ wrote John Milton, paraphrasing Psalm 136.
Therefore, we are to put off unkindness and malice (Titus 3:3; 1 Peter 2:1). Joseph’s brothers were unkind to him. Jonah was unkind to the Ninevites (Jonah 4:2). We are to put on kindness (Col. 3:12). Christ is kind, and so went about doing good (Acts 10:38). We need to add to that, but we dare not subtract from it.
Take the case of David, who acted with kindness towards Mephibosheth, Saul’s surviving descendant (2 Sam. 9:1–13). That might seem a bit artificial and self-conscious, but remember that Mephibosheth was a possible rival, he would have been much younger than David, he was a cripple and he was of no real benefit to David’s career. Much kindness is only disguised selfishness. The businessman, the boyfriend, the politician or the pastor may appear kind when he is really only manipulating people in order to get something—it may only be a case of ‘How to make friends and influence people’.
Look at the parable of the Good Samaritan. It is not just a parable telling us to be kind to all and sundry. Jesus is seeking to cause the lawyer to see his sin by driving home to him the full meaning of the law. But it nevertheless is teaching us to show kindness to all, even if that costs time and trouble and money. The Good Samaritan acts out of unfeigned kindness (Luke 10:33–35).
Unkindness is because of self and sin. It looks after self first, and passes by on the other side rather than put itself out. It feigns kindness only to those who can repay double. But true kindness reflects the kindness of God himself. As Albert Barnes put it, ‘Religion makes no one crabbed, and morose, and sour. It sweetens the temper; corrects an irritable disposition; makes the heart kind; disposes us to make all around as happy as possible.’
In the full sense of the word only God is good, as Jesus informed the rich young ruler (Mark 10:17–18). This religious and upright young man thought that he was nearly good enough for heaven. He only had to smooth out a few rough spots, and he would be ready. Jesus was quick to point to the huge gulf between the goodness of God and the supposed goodness of man. God is open-handed, open-hearted, upright and generous; the rich young ruler was not.
Being good is more than being righteous or just (Rom. 5:7). To be fair in all our dealings is right and good. To reward what is good and to punish what is evil is only fair. But the fruit of goodness calls for the second mile (see Matt. 20:15). To be good means to be generous and kindly to those who do not deserve it. The NRSV actually has ‘generosity’ rather than ‘goodness’ for the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, as does F. F. Bruce. It means to celebrate God who is altogether good (Ps. 107:1, 8, 15, 21, 31, 43). Psalm 107 is a celebration of the fact that God fed his people in the wilderness (vv. 4–7); he released them from bondage and affliction (vv. 10–14); he restored them when they cried to him for mercy (vv. 17–20); and he preserved them (vv. 23–30).
Our response is to be twofold. As we contemplate the goodness of God, we ought to praise him (Ps. 107:22, 32). There is none of the artificial approach of the preacher who tries to whip up his congregation with a few words of manipulation: ‘Are we going to have a good time tonight?’ No, as we contemplate the goodness of God, we are moved to praise him.
And, secondly, we are moved to be like him—we are to be good, as Barnabas was (Acts 11:22–24). Of course, before God, no one is good. But Barnabas was a good man—he was encouraging to new Christians, he was open to the work of God, broad in his sympathies and full of the Holy Spirit and of faith.
By the 1920s and 1930s the theological liberals had taken over much of the American Presbyterian Church. J. Gresham Machen stood against the tide, and refused to support the church’s missionaries who were liberal. For this crime, he was defrocked in 1935. That led to a split in the church and, alas, Machen died soon afterwards, on 1 January 1937. On his tombstone in Baltimore is the inscription: ‘Faithful unto death’ (from Rev. 2:10). It is a fitting epitaph. The Spirit brings us to saving faith in Christ, and he enables us to be faithful to him.
The basis for all this is that God himself is utterly faithful (1 Cor. 1:9). This has implications for how he treats us (1 Cor. 10:13; 1 Thess. 5:24). We are all somewhat moody—up one day, down the next. But God is forever faithful to his character and to his Word. That is what we rely on (2 Tim. 2:13). Christ is therefore described in the same terms, as the faithful one (Rev. 1:5).
Because God is faithful, we are to be faithful—faithful to the revealed will of God (1 Cor. 4:1–2), faithful in the day-to-day things of life (Dan. 6:4) and faithful even in menial tasks (Titus 2:9–10). Erasmus said that a good servant should be ‘faithful, ugly and fierce’. Paul might say that the latter two are optional, but the first one is compulsory. When God renews his people, they are faithful in all they do; they can be relied upon and trusted in matters requiring honesty (for an example, see 2 Kings 12:9–15).
God is the God of all of life. So be faithful in little things (Luke 16:10). Carrying out the rubbish and paying bills are both Christian duties. Prepare the Sunday school lesson, be reliable in returning calls, be faithful in cooking, cleaning, teaching, digging, fixing, praying, and all else. Some are called to be faithful in jail (Bunyan), some before the hangman’s noose (Bonhoeffer), some at the stake (Cranmer). Whether that is our fate or not, we do not know. Whatever God has in store for us, let us strive first to be faithful in the lesser tasks.
The world tends to think of meekness as weakness,but the two should never be confused. Moses was the meekest, or gentlest, of men (Num. 12:3). But nobody would look at this man, who spent forty years in the desert, leading two or three million complaining Israelites, and accuse him of being insipid or spineless. Nietzsche complained of Christians that ‘They are lacking in clenched fists,’ but that is a distorted view of what it means to be strong. Nietzsche’s views paved the way for Nazism, and Nazism is not strength but bullying. In Moses, however, we see a man of real strength—yet with great gentleness.
We are told not only to be good but also to be strong (1 Cor. 16:13; Eph. 6:10). Yet Christians look to Christ, who is meek and lowly (Matt. 11:29; Isa. 42:1–4; Zech. 9:9–10). This means that we are to be meek in receiving God’s word (James 1:21), in presenting the gospel to others (2 Tim. 2:24–25; 1 Peter 3:15), in pastoral work (1 Thess. 2:7), and in correcting fellow believers (6:1). In short, we are to be gentle to all (Titus 3:2). This does not mean that we have to be gentle at all times (1 Cor. 4:21).
The Christian is to work at being self-controlled in all things (1 Cor. 9:25–27). In the second century there was a heretical Christian group called the Encratites. This group was ascetic; it insisted that one had to abstain from meat, wine and marriage in order to be a Christian. That is a gross misunderstanding of what Paul is saying here. The Buddhist says, ‘Suppress all desire.’ The Christian says, ‘Make sure all desires are godly.’
The one who does not believe in Christ lacks control of himself (2 Tim. 3:1–3). The prodigal son lacked any restraint (Luke 15:13; cf. Prov. 25:28). Felix was one who lacked self-control (Acts 24:25). Even a believer can exhibit a lack of self-control. This, surely, was Samson’s besetting sin. He was outwardly strong, but not inwardly strong—although he was saved (Judg. 13–16; Heb. 11:32).
We who profess to be Christians are to grow in self-control (2 Peter 1:6). We might consider four areas:
Our tempers (Prov. 16:32)
In God’s sight, better to be a Moses than an Alexander the Great. Better to control one’s temper under provocation, as David did (1 Sam. 24; 26), than to conquer the world. Notice how Paul reins in his volatile temper in Acts 23:2–5, after he has abused (with good reason) the high priest.
Our tongues (Prov. 12:18; James 3:2; Ps. 140:1–3; 141:3)
William Wilberforce had a gift for invective and sarcasm, and had to work at curbing his tongue in order to use it graciously.
Our sexual desires (1 Cor. 6:12)
Sex addiction is being treated today as a disease. It is not a disease but a sin. The decadent West is fast breaking all bounds of decency. Television programmes have exceeded our lowest expectations, and the morning-after pill has shown how far we are prepared to go to kill any consequences.
Our use of alcohol and drugs (Prov. 23:29–35)
To be controlled by alcohol is to be under bondage, not freedom. Even worse is to be dependent on cannabis or other drugs.
Paul’s last comment on this section is the laconic, ‘against such things there is no law’ (5:23). Our parliaments have not yet decreed that the fruit of the Spirit is illegal! Leon Morris calls this ‘a masterly understatement’. It is said for rhetorical effect. Aristotle said something similar in his Ethics—which is cited by Aquinas—and it may have become something of a proverbial saying. Paul is not quite saying that such people have no need of law. The law is still useful for the Christian, but more vital, as John Brown said, is ‘a living spring of holy disposition’.121 The law was not designed to make us holy from the inside out, but to restrain evil persons (see 1 Tim. 1:9–11). But if the Spirit indwells us, he will make his presence known.
5:22 / Paul now turns to the fruit of the Spirit. The designation of the manifestations of the Spirit as “fruit” speaks volumes about Paul’s understanding of the ways of life he has been contrasting throughout the letter. Life lived in the flesh (“sinful nature”) is a life of work (“acts”), a life that strives and strains for the protection of self and often consequently for the domination of others. Life in the Spirit, on the other hand, blossoms, and the word “fruit” gives the sense that the characteristics Paul lists in verses 22 and 23 are the result of a healthy rooted state such as comes from living in Christ. Note that “fruit” is in the singular, and so the following qualities are various aspects of the generative power of the Spirit. Most of these aspects of the fruit of the Spirit are characteristics Paul elsewhere attributes to God. For Paul the fruit of the Spirit generates godly characteristics in the believer.
The first characteristic is love, which Paul has identified with Christ (2:20) and with the life of those in Christ (5:6, 14). The next is joy, which is not the same as happiness. Joy is not a state in which most of the circumstances of one’s life are satisfactory, but rather is life rooted in the Spirit (Rom. 14:17) and in God (Rom. 15:13). Peace, like joy, stems not from the external circumstances of one’s life but from the God of peace (Rom. 15:33; 16:20; Phil. 4:9). Patience has the sense of forbearance and is a characteristic of God (Rom. 2:4; 9:22) in which believers share (cf. 2 Cor. 6:6). Kindness is another feature of God’s character (Rom. 2:4; 11:22) that should characterize the people of God (2 Cor. 6:6). Goodness has the sense of “generosity” or “uprightness.” Paul uses it as a high compliment (Rom. 15:14) and recognizes that only through God’s power can believers exhibit such a virtue (2 Thess. 1:11). Faithfulness is another feature of God’s character (1 Cor. 1:9; 10:13; 2 Cor. 1:18; 1 Thess. 5:24; 2 Thess. 3:3). It is also one of the chief characteristics of Christ (2:16; 3:22).
5:23 / Gentleness has the meaning of “humility,” “courtesy,” or “considerateness.” It is the most appropriate and constructive attitude to have in relating to others (cf. Gal. 6:1). Paul speaks of Christ as having this quality (2 Cor. 10:1). Self-control—the mastery of one’s own desires, or, as Plato puts it “a man being his own master” (Republic 430e; trans. Jowett; cf. Republic 390b)—was a major ethical goal in the philosophies of the ancient Mediterranean world. Xenophon defends Socrates as a man of self-control in word and deed and extols self-control as “the foundation of all virtue” (Memorabilia 1.5.4 [Marchant, LCL]). Paul also recognizes it as a worthy goal (cf. 1 Cor. 7:9; 9:25).
The fruit of the Spirit cannot be produced or prohibited by law. Life in Christ will result in character that fulfills the law apart from the law (cf. 5:14).
22 If the impulses of the flesh direct individual and community life, the result is ugly indeed. The character of the person and the community of persons where the Spirit leads is altogether different: “The fruit produced by the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, forbearance, self-control” (5:22–23). The contrasting pictures underscore the incompatibility of “what the flesh desires” and “what the Spirit desires” (5:17) and why these two cannot coexist. This list is also illustrative rather than comprehensive, like Paul’s list of “flesh-born works,” which is suggested by Paul’s subsequent claim that “there is no law against such things” (5:23; see also 5:21).
These virtuous qualities will naturally result where the person who has received God’s Spirit allows the Spirit to control and guide him or her. The Spirit cultivates “certain states of mind, namely, mental attitudes,” with the result that “one will always and everywhere act in the proper way,” a “genuinely other-directed” way. The “fruit” of the Spirit is the “harvest,” not of following rules and regulations, but of “the self-forgetfulness that looks away from itself to God.” The image of fruit suggests that it is in fact the Spirit who produces this harvest.89 Here is another significant departure from the Greco-Roman ethical conversations about virtue. The cultivation of character of this kind is, for Paul, not merely or even principally the result of the individual’s knowledge of the good or cultivation of the good through habituated practice; it is the result of a power external to and beyond the individual at work within the individual and among the community inhabited by the Spirit. Nevertheless, this fruition calls for conscientious and constant investment on the part of the believers; Paul will soon speak of the disciple investing himself or herself in “sowing” to the Spirit, even as the person who continues in rebellion against God’s reign “keeps sowing” to the flesh (6:7–8). The disciple is responsible to keep himself or herself oriented toward God and God’s Spirit, so that the Spirit can produce this harvest.
That “love” (the familiar agapē) should head the list is no surprise. “Love” is the common element in Jesus’s selection of the two most important commandments, as indeed it is Paul’s own choice for the most essential virtue (1 Cor 13:13) and the verb that appears in the commandment the doing of which, for Paul, fulfills the whole Torah (Gal 5:14; Lev 19:18; see also Gal 5:6). The Greek noun agapē was rarely used by pagan authors, though they did occasionally use the verb form. They preferred to speak of “love” using three other terms: philia, often the term of choice for the love that exists between friends; storgē, the term for affection, especially as the love that exists between family members; and erōs, often, though not exclusively, used to name the attraction between men and women. Agapē and its related verb figure prominently in the LXX, particularly in the foundational command to love God with all one’s being (LXX Deut 6:4, the opening of the Shema). It is often used to denote the love (as “covenant faithfulness”) that the people of Israel are to show one another (Lev 19:18), though not exclusively so. Because of its connection with the commands to love, and the noun’s infrequent use in Greco-Roman authors (thus making the word more semantically available for Christian usage with distinctive content), agapē becomes the prominent word for love in early Christian culture, especially the quality of other-centered, self-giving love that Christ demonstrated and disciples are called to imitate. Spirit-empowered love is the antidote to the toxic behaviors (the “works of the flesh”) that both poison relationships in this life and disqualify one from entering into the life to come. Such love, it should be emphasized, is a love in action (see 5:6), not merely an internal disposition.
The “joy” of which Paul speaks is rooted in the pleasure of knowing God, of experiencing the friendship of the Holy Spirit, of being assured of one’s place in God’s people and God’s good future. It springs from an awareness of God’s love and beneficence toward the believer, and from mindfulness of God’s gifts in the midst of all circumstances. Unlike the joys that believers and unbelievers alike experience as a result of good fortune, pleasant circumstances, and other such external goods, this joy is not fragile, liable to being dashed and dispelled by a sorry turn of events. Early Christian leaders often specifically identify the hallmark of this joy to be its persistence under adverse conditions.
“Peace” is not merely the absence of strife, and probably more than “tranquility of mind.” The Hebrew concept of shalom, the enjoyment of solid and edifying connections with others throughout the community and beyond, cannot be far in the background for Paul. The impulses of the flesh lead to strained or broken relationships; the Spirit, by contrast, leads us to take the initiative in working toward healing and restoration. It moves us to act as peacemakers in a world of bruised relationships and broken communities,96 even where such action carries a significant cost to our own well-being or security. Thus, “peace” suggests the state that results from enjoying “personal wholeness and beneficial relationships,” in contrast to the “works of the flesh,” which disrupt community peace.
The Greek word here rendered “patience” is commonly used to denote one of two qualities. It can name gentleness in the face of others’ failures or slights, a slowness to take offense or, especially, vengeance. It is a quality often attributed to God in the Scriptures, beginning with God’s self-revelation to Moses on Sinai (LXX Exod 34:6). God’s determination not to punish quickly but rather to give those who have offended him time to repent and seek reconciliation, is, for Paul, a manifestation of God’s “kindness and … patience” (Rom 2:4). The word is also used, however, to speak about perseverance under hardship, as throughout the Testament of Job and in Jas 5:7–11. In this sense, it bespeaks the courage of the disciple, both in the face of the rigors of discipleship (e.g., resisting temptation, seeking steady and sure growth toward the likeness of Jesus) and in the face of the hostility of unbelievers. In the context of a list of relational and “other-centered” virtues that build up community, as here in 5:22–23, the first sense would probably be more readily evoked.
“Kindness” may denote “uprightness in one’s relations with others,” but also the disposition to treat others well, to help them if possible, to be a harbor for them in the midst of a stormy life. Kindness helps the other person to feel “love’s touch,” providing a safe haven from interpersonal injury. If “patience” is a passive trait of love, “kindness” is an active counterpart, as in 1 Cor 13:4.
“Goodness,” a close synonym of the preceding word, carries overtones of “generosity,” as in the contrast between the “good” (generous) landowner and the envious workers in the parable of the laborers (Matt 20:1–16). The disciple’s experience of God’s goodness and generosity overflows into the lives of others, arousing a genuine benevolence toward others. When we see a need, we must respond to it in the compassion of Christ, uplifting the quality of people’s lives around us.
Although Paul often uses the Greek word pistis elsewhere throughout Galatians to denote “trust,” here in the context of interpersonal virtues it more probably evokes the ethical quality of “faithfulness,” “reliability,” or “loyalty.” It is the quality that leads those around us to feel safe in relying on us (hence, encouraging others to trust). It is the social counterpart of God’s own reliability, bearing each individual believer aloft in the safety net of the community.
23 The Greek word translated here “forbearance” is also often translated “gentleness” (so NRSV, NIV, CEB). It was rendered “meekness” in older translations (such as the KJV), though this word can evoke negative associations (e.g., a failure to be assertive or display appropriate strength). Aristotle defines this virtue as the mean between excessive anger and the inability to get angry (Nicomachean Ethics 2.7.10 [1108a]). It speaks of the proper restraint of anger or power, out of consideration for the other person. “Forbearance” may therefore capture its meaning most accurately. Paul will suggest one way in which to put this virtue into action in 6:1, where he urges believers to follow the Spirit in restoring fellow believers “in a spirit of forbearance” rather than in a harsh, judgmental manner. “Forbearance” is able to confront difficult issues or behaviors (see also the use of this word in 1 Cor 4:21 and 2 Tim 2:25), doing so in a way that allows the confrontation to be received as an expression of love, care, and commitment.
“Self-control” closes Paul’s list, whereas it would probably open a list of virtues in other authors’ discussions of the mastery of desires and passions. Self-control specifically involves such mastery and is often seen as the foundation for all the virtues, since the passions of the flesh are the primary hindrance to every virtue (as in 4 Macc 1:30b–31). Its appearance at the close of Paul’s list is probably not an indication of its unimportance, but it may reflect Paul’s essential position that being “other-centered” is the ultimate guiding principle of life in the Spirit or of having the mind of Christ (hence “love” and other relational virtues are listed first), whereas “self-control” is focused on “self” (though self-control is a necessary prerequisite to showing genuine love and the other virtues).
This list of nine specifically named virtues, like the list of “works born of the flesh,” is representative and not exhaustive, which is clear from Paul’s closing declaration that there is no law against “such things as these.” People in whom these kinds of fruit are abundant are people whom the law would never condemn; indeed, no law would condemn such people, and where it did, it would reveal a failure in that law itself. The expression “against such things as these there is no law” recalls a statement by Aristotle. Speaking about people who exhibited greater moral excellence than the common lot, Aristotle said that “against such people as these there is no law” (Politics 3.13 [1284a]). Aristotle’s point, and probably Paul’s as well, is that people in whom such virtue is so well formed are exactly the sort of people that a good and just body of laws would have sought to form. Insofar as they are manifesting such virtues, they cannot be running afoul of any law. Paul would add, however, that no external body of laws, however holy and just and good, could effectively form such virtuous character within the person. This is the good news about the sending of the Holy Spirit, and why the Spirit is so important a gift that Paul sees it as the inheritance promised to all people in Abraham: the Spirit can empower and guide such inner transformation as will make people righteous according to God’s standards.
22 But the harvest of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, fidelity, gentleness, and self-control. 23 There is no law dealing with such things as these.
22 “The fruit of the Spirit” (AV, etc.) is obviously intended as a contrast to “the works of the flesh”; if the latter expression denotes deeds done by the flesh, the former refers to the concrete manifestations of the Spirit’s work in the believer. The phrase directly ascribes the power of fructification not to the believer himself but to the Spirit, and effectively hints that the qualities enumerated are not the result of strenuous observance of an external legal code, but the natural product (“harvest”) of a life controlled and guided by the Spirit.107 Thus the two different expressions point to a contrast between the natural acts of the self-centered life and the ethical characteristics produced by the Spirit as the believer’s life-transforming power.
Elsewhere Paul speaks of the Spirit distributing a diversity of gifts separately to each individual as he wills (1 Cor. 12:11), but here the singular “harvest” shows that the nine graces mentioned are not, so to say, different jewels; rather, they are different facets of the same jewel which cohere and show forth their luster simultaneously—when the Spirit is truly at work in the believer’s life. H. D. Betz suggests that “the nine concepts should be taken as `benefits’ which were given as or together with the Spirit. In other words, when the Galatians received the Spirit, they were also given the foundation out of which the `fruit’ was supposed to grow.”
It is eminently fitting that “love” (agapē) should stand at the head of this list of virtues. For love is “the measure and goal of freedom”: believers have been set free for the purpose of mutual service through love (v. 13), and the measure of their freedom is (at least in part) their ability to place themselves in loving service of their neighbors. Love is the “bond of perfectness” (Col. 3:14, AV, RV) which “binds … together in perfect harmony” (RSV) or “unity” (NIV, NASB)112 all the virtues listed in Col. 3:12f.—compassion, kindness (chrēstotēs), humility, gentleness (praÿtēs), patience (makrothymia), mutual forbearance and forgiveness. Love is a grace superior to all the spiritual gifts, and among the graces it is greater than faith and hope (1 Cor. 12:31; 13:13). It is nothing less than a reflection of the nature of God and of Christ (Gal. 2:20; Eph. 5:1f.; cf. 1 Jn. 4:16).
God’s great love (cf. Eph. 2:4–7) is completely undeserved by mankind (Rom. 5:8). Believers’ experience this love in their hearts through the mediation of the Spirit as part of the guarantee that their hope of future glory is no mockery (the other part being their experience of suffering-endurance-approvedness, Rom. 5:3–5). Nothing—no being, event or object—can separate them from the love of God, which is also the love of Christ (Rom. 8:35–39). This incomprehensible love should be the controlling force of the Christian life (2 Cor. 5:14f.).
Paul’s estimate of the importance of love in the Christian life may be gauged by the following considerations: (a) It is to be the atmosphere in which believers are to conduct their lives (Eph. 5:2), the garment they are to put on (Col. 3:14), the consistent motive of all their actions (1 Cor. 16:14). (b) Love is the secret of unity (Col. 2:2); it begins with love for fellow Christians (Eph. 1:15), including Church leaders (1 Thess. 5:12f.), and extends to all people (1 Thess. 3:12). (c) It is also the way to Christian maturity (Eph. 4:15), the ground of Christian appeal (Phm. 9), and the proper restraint on the exercise of Christian liberty (Gal. 5:13; Rom. 14:15; 1 Cor. 8:1, 13). (d) Love is accompanied by practical action; it leads, for example, to magnanimous giving (2 Cor. 8:7f., 24) and genuine forgiveness (2 Cor. 2:7f.). (e) Christian love is not flabby or sentimental, but keenly perceptive: it is capable of true discrimination (Phil. 1:9f.) and does not refrain from censure and warning, when such is demanded by the situation (2 Cor. 2:4; cf. 1 Cor. 16:24). Such love is not self-generated: it is the product of the Holy Spirit. At the same time, Christians are exhorted to “pursue” love (1 Cor. 14:1, NASB), which, interpreted by the context of the Galatian passage under discussion, is tantamount to seeking to be led and guided by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16, 18).
“Joy” (chara) does not mean earthly, human happiness: Paul repeatedly exhorts Christians to rejoice “in the Lord” (Phil. 3:1; 4:4; cf. 2 Cor. 13:11, NASB). This joy is “joy in the faith” (Phil. 1:25, RV, etc.) given by the God of hope along with peace in the continuous process of believing (Rom. 15:13); its chief ground is the hope which derives from faith (Rom. 12:12, NEB “Let hope keep you joyful”).118 As an aspect of “the fruit of the Spirit,” joy is also said to have its origin “in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17, RSV, NASB, NIV), that is to say, it is “inspired by the Holy Spirit” (NEB; cf. 1 Thess. 1:6, RSV, NIV; Lk. 10:21). Thus Paul traces the origin of joy indiscriminately to the Lord (i.e., Christ), God, and the Holy Spirit. Because its origin is not human but divine, Christian joy is unperturbed by sorrow and tribulation, and indeed gives proof of its power precisely in the midst of them (2 Cor. 6:10; 8:2; 1 Thess. 1:6; cf. Rom. 5:3). This joy is maintianied when we make our “requests known to God in prayer and petition with thanksgiving” (Phil. 4:6, cf. v. 4; 1 Thess. 5:16f.) and recognize that if we share in Christ’s sufferings now we shall “share his splendour hereafter” (Rom. 8:17).
Paul himself was the embodiment of a joyful life. Although he later on found himself in a distressful situation in Rome, still he rejoiced because Christ was being proclaimed (Phil. 1:15–18) and decided to continue rejoicing because of his conviction that in defending the gospel he would know the Spirit’s support (vv. 19f.). He rejoiced in his sufferings for the Church (Col. 1:24)—even if he was “being poured out like a drink offering on the sacrifice and service” of his converts’ faith (Phil. 2:17, NIV). He considered two Macedonian churches his “joy” (Phil. 4:1; 1 Thess. 2:19f.). He rejoiced over the Roman church because the report that they obeyed the Gospel had spread everywhere (Rom. 16:19), over the Colossians because they were orderly and stable in their faith in Christ (Col. 2:5), over the Thessalonians because they were standing firm in the midst of persecution (1 Thess. 3:8f.), and over the Corinthians because of their genuine repentance and the comfort and encouragement which he experienced as a result (2 Cor. 7:7–9, 16). He rejoiced when the Church was strong, even if he was weak (2 Cor. 13:9). And he rejoiced at his converts’ concern and practical help for him (1 Cor. 16:17f.; 2 Cor. 7:7; Phil. 4:10; cf. 1 Thess. 3:6–8). Such was the apostle of joy who bids his readers not only “be always joyful” (1 Thess. 5:16) but also “rejoice with those who rejoice” (Rom. 12:15, RSV, NASB, NIV).120
Greek eirēnē, “peace,” like Heb. šālôm, means more than the merely negative notion of absence of war and trouble; it denotes rather a positive state of “wholeness”—“soundness” and “prosperity.” In the LXX the word “describes health of body, welfare and security, perfect serenity and tranquillity, a life and a state in which a man is perfectly related to his fellow-men and to his God.”121 In Paul, eirēnē appears most commonly in greetings and benedictions, where God (with Jesus) is identified as the source of peace. Paul also speaks of “the God of peace” (Rom. 15:33; 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:11; Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 5:23) and refers to Jesus as “the Lord of peace” (2 Thess. 3:16). As opposed to “disorder” or “confusion” (AV, RV, RSV, NASB), peace is a state of normality consistent with God’s will (1 Cor. 14:33). The evangel is called “the gospel of peace” (Eph. 6:15), because in it is proclaimed the eschatological salvation of the whole person (1 Thess. 5:23; cf. Rom. 8:6). Peace in this sense is based upon Christ’s finished work of reconciliation: through the shedding of his blood on the cross (Col. 1:20) he has “annulled the law with its rules and regulations” (Eph. 2:15; cf. Col. 2:14), thus making it possible on the one hand for mankind to have “peace with God” (Rom. 5:1) and, on the other hand, for Jew and Gentile to be reconciled to each other—indeed, to be created into “a single new humanity in himself” (Eph. 2:14–17).
In the Church, therefore, believers should “make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace” (Eph. 4:3, NIV), for it is to the peace of Christ that they have been called as members of a single body, and this peace should rule in their hearts and so act as arbiter in the community (Col. 3:15). Such harmony and concord is a characteristic of the kingdom of God (Rom. 14:17) and the norm for the marriage relationship (1 Cor. 7:15). “Peace” may also refer to the Christian’s peace of mind, which comes from faith in God (Rom. 15:13; Phil. 4:6f.). Paul’s exhorts the Romans Christians to “make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification” (Rom. 14:19, NIV); peace is also among the objects of pursuit in his advice to Timothy (2 Tim. 2:22). Here in Gal. 5:22 “peace” may refer specifically to harmony in human relationships, but it would be arbitrary to exclude from its meaning the inner peace which results from a right relationship with God and is reflected in concord with other people.124
Joy and peace are also conjoined in Rom. 14:17 and 15:13. In the first of these verses this collocation of peace and joy appears in its more logical order: for as justification through faith provides the logical basis for reconciliation with God (Rom. 5:1; 2 Cor. 5:19), so the peace of reconciliation with God is in turn the logical basis for the Christian’s joy in God (Rom. 5:11). It has been suggested that, like faith, hope, and love (cf. 5:5f.), love, joy, and peace may well have formed a triad common in early Christian language: “In the upper-room discourse of the Fourth Gospel Jesus gives his disciples `my peace’ (Jn. 14:17), bids them abide in `my love’ (Jn. 15:9f.) and desires that they know `my joy’ (Jn. 15:11).”
Makrothymia—“patience” or “long-suffering” (AV, RV)—is first a quality of God (cf. Ex. 34:6). Paul considers himself the object of Christ’s “perfect patience” so that he could thereby be “an example to those who were to believe in him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:16, RSV). In Rom. 2:4 he speaks of God’s “wealth of kindness, of tolerance, and of patience.” Comparison with the reoccurrence of “God’s kindness” later in the verse makes it likely that kindness is to be interpreted in terms of the other two members of the triad: God’s kindness consists in his forbearance and patience, that is, in his graciously restraining the infliction of punishment and the execution of his wrath. This kindness (of which patience is part) is intended to lead people to repentance (Rom. 2:4b; cf. 2 Pet. 3:9), but the critic addressed in Rom. 2:1 is warned: “by your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed” (v. 5, RSV).126 If God bore with great patience the objects of his wrath—prepared for destruction,” that was because he chose “to show his wrath and make his power known” (Rom. 9:22, NIV); the parallelism with v. 17 suggests the meaning that God’s long-suffering towards the vessels of wrath was designed to serve the more effective display of his wrath and power when these are revealed at last.
God’s long-suffering toward mankind constitutes the basis and reason for the believer’s patience towards others. To live up to their calling Christians must, among other things, “be patient, bearing with one another in love” (Eph. 4:1, NIV). They are to put on patience as part of the garments that suit God’s own beloved and chosen people (Col. 3:12) and are to show patience not only in their relationships with other Christians, but “with all men” (1 Thess. 5:14, NASB) Patience was one of the qualities by which Paul and his associates commended themselves as servants of God (2 Cor. 6:6). In this (and other respects) Timothy followed his example (2 Tim. 3:10); nevertheless, Paul urged Timothy (and thus all who would be faithful ministers of the gospel) to “be unfailing in patience and in teaching” (2 Tim. 4:2, RSV).
In Paul’s prayer for the Colossians (Col. 1:11), a closely related term, hypomonē (RSV “endurance,” NEB “fortitude,” NASB “steadfastness”), appears in conjunction with “patience.” Insofar as a distinction can be drawn between the two terms, hypomonē denotes the ability to persist in pressing forward in spite of difficult circumstances, whereas “patience” refers to a long-suffering attitude towards other people, deferring one’s anger under provocation, and refusing to retaliate for wrong done to oneself. Such a broad distinction may be present also in 2 Cor. 6:4, 6 (hypomonē, makrothymia, respectively), although it is not absolutely maintained.
Chrēstotēs (“kindness”; AV “gentleness”) is found in the NT only in Paul’s letters, although the cognate adjective, chrēstos, is not so confined (e.g., Lk. 6:35; 1 Pet. 2:3, quoting Ps. 136 [LXX 135]:1). As applied to God, the word denotes his gracious attitude and action towards sinners: God’s kindness, which (as suggested earlier) consists in his forbearance and patience, is aimed at the sinner’s repentance (Rom. 2:4); salvation is the manifestation of God’s kindness and his “love for mankind” (Tit. 3:4, NASB); in Jesus Christ the supreme act of God’s kindness towards us was revealed (Eph. 2:7). God’s kindness and severity (NIV “sternness”) are contrasted with each other, and yet they are conjoined (Rom. 11:22); this suggests that his kindness is not unprincipled or sentimental.
As those who have experienced the kindness of God’s salvation in Christ, believers are to clothe themselves with kindness (and other like qualities, Col. 3:12) and “be kind to one another” (Eph. 4:32, RSV), 128 Kindness is also among the qualities displayed by Paul as a servant of God (2 Cor. 6:6). It is an essential ingredient of love (1 Cor. 13:4) and, like love, expresses itself in action; those who are kind treat others in the same way as God has treated them, (Eph. 4:32; cf. Lk. 6:35).
Agathōsynē, “goodness,” occurs only in the Septuagint, the NT, and literature directly dependent on them. It has been interpreted as “the quality which a man has who is agathos [“good”] and therefore [as] moral excellence as well as goodness.” But perhaps the best way of getting at the meaning of the term is to set it alongside (or against) two other terms: (a) “Goodness” appears together with “righteousness” (dikaiosynē, NEB “justice”) in Eph. 5:9, and the “righteous” (NEB “just”) man and the “good” man are set against each other in Rom. 5:7). From these passages we can see that “goodness is an attitude of generous kindliness to others, which is happy to do far more than is required by mere justice.” (b) The contrast between the “good” landowner and the “evil” eyes of the complaining workers in the parable of the laborers in the vineyard (Mt. 20:15) shows that the “evil eye” (cf. Dt. 15:9; 28:54: AV, RV) denotes a grudging or hostile spirit (cf. the Deuteronomy passages in RSV, NASB, NIV), while being “good” means being generous.133 Hence we may conclude that “goodness” in Gal. 5:22 represents a magnanimous kindliness which issues in practical generosity; it may thus be considered the antithesis to “envy” (item xiii in the list of the works of the flesh, v. 21).
Pistis has already occurred many times in this letter in the sense of faith in God and/or Jesus Christ (2:16, 20; 3:2, 5, 7–9, 11f., 22–26; 5:5f.). Here, where ethical qualities are in view, the word does not denote that basic principle of the human relationship with God, justifying faith, nor does it refer to that special faith which is one of the spiritual gifts (1 Cor. 12:9). The suggestion that the word here means trustfulness, that is, “faith in God’s promises and mercies and loving trust towards men” (cf. 1 Cor. 13:7) is not substantiated by the usage of the term. Rather, pistis here apparently means “faithfulness” (RV, etc.), “fidelity” (NEB), that is, loyalty and trustworthiness in one’s dealings with others (as in Mt. 23:23; Rom. 3:3; Tit. 2:10).
Paul occasionally uses the corresponding adjective pistos to mean “believing” (Gal. 3:9; 2 Cor. 6:15), but his normal use of it is for the person who is “faithful.” (a) Faithfulness is a necessary qualification of the steward, the teacher, and the female deacon (1 Cor. 4:2; 2 Tim. 2:2; 1 Tim. 3:11). (b) Paul himself is someone “who by the Lord’s mercy is trustworthy” (1 Cor. 7:25, RSV, NIV; cf. NEB “fit to be trusted”); he is thankful that the Lord has judged him worthy of his trust and appointed him to the gospel ministry (1 Tim. 1:12, cf. v. 11). (c) Several people are commended by Paul as pistos: Timothy (1 Cor. 4:17), Tychicus (Eph. 6:21; Col. 4:7), Epaphras (Col. 1:7), and Onesimus (Col. 4:9). (d) Paul presents Jesus Christ himself as the noblest example of fidelity and trustworthiness (2 Thess. 3:3; cf. Heb. 2:17; 3:2, 6; Rev. 1:5; 19:11). (e) God is faithful (1 Cor. 1:9; 10:13; 2 Cor. 1:18; 1 Thess. 5:24; 2 Tim. 2:13), and the sayings and teachings of the gospel are trustworthy (1 Tim. 1:15; 3:1; 4:9; 2 Tim. 2:11; Tit. 1:9; 3:8). Jesus repeatedly charged his disciples to faithfulness, as in some of the parables (Mt. 25:14–30; Lk. 12:35–48; 16:10; 19:11–27). Pistis, then, is the quality of being pistos, which “describes the man on whose faithful service we can rely, on whose loyalty we may depend, whose word we can unreservedly accept. It describes the man in whom there is the unswerving and inflexible fidelity of Jesus Christ, and the utter dependability of God.”
23a Praÿtēs does not have the negative sense of a lack of spirit, courage, vigor, and energy that its translation as “meekness” (AV, RV) or even as “gentleness” (RSV, NASB, NIV, NEB) might convey in modern English. In classical Greek praÿtēs/praotēs and the cognate adjective praÿs/praos were typically used to describe a person in whom strength and gentleness go together. In the Septuagint “gentleness” usually signifies a humble disposition which submits to the divine will.140 In the NT “gentleness” is associated with love (1 Cor. 4:21), forbearance (2 Cor. 10:1; Tit. 3:2), patience and humility (Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12), and peaceableness, that is, the capacity for “avoiding quarrels” (RSV, Tit. 3:2). In 1 Cor. 4:21 “gentleness” is contrasted with “a rod,” which symbolizes chastisement.
“Gentleness” is the spirit in which the Word of God is to be received (Jas. 1:21), the erring brother restored (Gal. 6:1), and the opponents of the Lord’s servant corrected with sound doctrine (2 Tim. 2:25). It should, indeed, pervade the whole of Christian living (cf. Jas. 3:13; 1 Pet. 3:4). It was an outstanding feature in the life of Jesus (Mt. 11:29; 21:5; 2 Cor. 10:1), who taught that “those of a gentle spirit … shall have the earth for their possession” (Mt. 5:5). That “gentleness” does not render one incapable of indignation is demonstrated by Jesus (cf. Mt. 11:29 with Mk. 3:5) and by Paul (cf. 2 Cor. 10:1 with Gal. 1:8f.; 5:12). As an ethical grace in the believer’s life, “gentleness” may be described as a humble and pliable submission to God’s will which reflects itself in humility, patience and forbearance towards others, regarding even insult or injury as God’s means of chastisement (cf. 2 Sam. 16:11) or training (cf. Num. 12:3). It thus implies, but is not identical with, self-control.
Enkrateia—“temperance” (AV, RV) or “self-control” (NEB, etc.)—figures among the objects of pursuit in the list of virtues in 1 Pet. 1:5–7 and formed an important topic, together with righteousness and the coming judgment, in Paul’s discussion with Felix (Acts 24:25). It is part of the strict discipline which every athlete, not least the spiritual athlete, goes into (1 Cor. 9:25) and is an indispensable qualification of the elder (Tit. 1:8, where the adjective, enkratēs, is used). The opposite of self-control is self-indulgence (Mt. 23:25, akrasia), the quality of being “without self-control” (2 Tim. 3:3, NASB, NIV; akratēs), the inability to keep one’s passions under control or to resist temptation. Paul teaches that unmarried persons and widows who lack self-control should marry (1 Cor. 7:9). A married couple should not deprive each other except by mutual consent and temporarily for the purpose of undistracted prayer, lest they be tempted by Satan because of their lack of self-control (1 Cor. 7:5).
There is, however, no ascetic flavor to the self-control enjoined by Paul: he himself did not exercise self-control for its own sake; rather, in order that he might carry out his commission it was necessary for him to cast aside everything which might hinder him from reaching his goal (cf. 1 Cor. 9:25–27). Nor is self-control in the NT identical with the concept of self-control in Greek philosophical ethics, which “achieves its ethical significance from the humanistic understanding of life which has freedom as its goal”; behind that concept stands the ideal of the free and autonomous person who in self-mastery controls all things and in self-restraint maintains his freedom in face of evil passions and pleasures. The NT, on the other hand, refers to “self-control” as the mastery of the self and the fashioning of one’s life in the way which God desires.
It has been observed that “the word-group is more often used with a sexual connotation than otherwise; hence `chastity’ can usually be a suitable rendering.” It may be that in our passage too Paul has the sexual aspect primarily if not exclusively in view. Just as “goodness” may be regarded as an antithesis to “envy,” “self-control” may be taken as being in contrast with the sins of “fornication, impurity, and indecency” and “drinking bouts” and “orgies”—all of which either are sexual offenses or might involve uncontrolled sensual passions.147
A few observations may be made on this list of ethical graces as a whole. (a) The nine items are more difficult to classify than the fifteen in the preceding list of vices. One may divide them into three groups of three, referring respectively to Christian habits of mind in their more general aspect, special qualities affecting a man’s relations with his neighbor, and general principles of Christian conduct. But love in the first group and fidelity and gentleness in the third have much to do with interpersonal relationships, so this division is a trifle too neat, although it certainly makes for easy memorization. Perhaps the best we can do by way of classification is to recognize that the first three items are directly associated with the Holy Spirit in Romans (5:5; 14:17), while the remaining six have to do chiefly with personal relationships. Patience, kindness, and gentleness appear in 1 Cor. 13:4–7 as characteristics of love; perhaps Paul regarded love as the origin and motivating principle of the other virtues affecting personal relationships, even though we hesitate to go so far as to concur that “it includes all the other gifts within itself.”151 It is surely a significant indication of Paul’s experience of the Spirit’s work in his own life that four aspects of the fruit of the Spirit are mentioned in his description of his apostolic ministry in 2 Cor. 6:4–10: patience, kindness, love and joy (vv. 6, 10).
(b) H. Ridderbos152 points out regarding these nine graces and other virtues mentioned in, for example, Phil. 4:5, 8; Col. 3:12–15, that
even though they occur in the same terms in the non-Christian Greek ethic, in Paul’s epistles [they] are always brought under the viewpoint of brotherly communion and the upbuilding of the church, and not, as in the Greek ethic, under that of character formation; they are always understood therefore as the fulfillment of the requirement of love and thus approached from the liberty and obedience in Christ.
(c) The fruit of the Spirit is not the same as the gifts of the Spirit. Only the term pistis is common to the list of graces here and that of spiritual gifts in 1 Cor. 12:8–11, and its meaning is not the same in both cases (“fidelity” and “faith,” respectively). While both the graces of character and the gifts for ministry are alike products of the Holy Spirit, it is ethical graces more than spiritual gifts which represent Paul’s distinctive understanding of the Spirit: the Spirit’s most important work in the believer is to enable him to become holy. We cannot say that Paul ethicized the Spirit, as if the early Church had regarded the Spirit as a non-ethical, mysterious, miracle-working power, which Paul then reinterpreted as the Christian’s moral dynamic; already the primitive Church’s conception of the Spirit clearly had an ethical aspect to it (e.g., Acts 5:1–5). Nevertheless a comparison with his treatment of spiritual gifts in 1 Cor. 12–14 suggests that Paul did distinguish the ethical aspect of the Spirit’s activity from what may have been a less unambiguous understanding of the Spirit, and did shift the emphasis from the more outward spiritual gifts to the inner qualities which control conduct.
(d) While these virtues are presented as the product of the Spirit, it is worth emphasizing again (cf. on v. 18) that the believer is not without responsibility, “by attentive openness to God,” to allow the Spirit to produce these graces in him.
23b “Such things as these” (tōn toioutōn) shows that the list just given is, again (cf. “and the like” in v. 21), not exhaustive but representative. In Paul’s statement, literally “against such there is no law” (AV, RV, RSV), “such” means “such things,” if it is taken as neuter as in NASB and NIV, or, less probably, “such people,” if it is taken as masculine.156 The primary thought suggested by the statement is that while law exists for the purpose of restraint (cf. 1 Tim. 1:9) there is nothing in the manifestations of the Spirit to restrain. This easily leads to the thought represented by the NEB rendering, that the manifestations of the Spirit belong to a sphere with which law has nothing to do. It is possible, however, to go further and, with E. D. Burton, to regard this as “an understatement of the apostle’s thought for rhetorical effect”: the mild assertion as it stands “has the effect of an emphatic assertion that these things fully meet the requirements of the law (cf. v. 14).” But as “these things” are “the fruit of the Spirit,” Paul’s words ultimately mean that “the law is not against those who walk by the Spirit because in principle they are fulfilling the law.”160 This interpretation of v. 23b, which is in full accord with Paul’s teaching in Rom. 8:4, understands that although the word nomos is without the article and could be a general reference to any law, Paul is probably still thinking of the Mosaic law and his words are directed against the Jewish claim that the law is the divinely-given means of helping man’s inclination for good to overcome his inclination for evil. He is saying that submission to the Spirit’s leading is a superior way (cf. on v. 18).
22–23 In bold contrast to the “desires of the sinful nature” is the “fruit of the Spirit.” “Fruit” (karpos, GK 2843) is used metaphorically here and is said to be “of the Spirit” (tou pneumatos) as contrasted to the above “acts of the sinful nature” (erga tēs sarkos). It has been suggested that Paul uses the notion of fruit rather than acts in order to emphasize the character of these qualities as “received” from God (Burton, 313). But this view implies an ethical lassitude on the part of the believer that does not fit the context (cf. vv. 13–14, 16, 25) or the picture of the Christian life elsewhere (cf. 2 Co 9:8; Php 2:12–13; 2 Pe 1:3–8). These are God-given qualities, to be sure, but the believer is to be actively engaging this fruitfulness in service to others (5:13–14).
Paul begins his discussion of the fruit of the Spirit with “habits of mind in their more general aspect,” including “love” (agapē, GK 27), “joy” (chara, GK 5915) and “peace” (eirēnē, GK 1645). “Love” is listed first because Paul undoubtedly believed it to be the most important of the virtues (cf. 1 Co 13:13) and because all of the others may be understood to be included in it and to flow out from it. Indeed, love is to be the operative dynamic of the Christian life, as has been emphasized throughout this section (cf. vv. 6, 13, 14). The term agapē is the customary NT word for the quality governing personal relationships, and it reflects the manner in which God has chosen to deal with sinful humanity in the person, word, and work of Jesus Christ (though the notion of this word reflecting only “God-like, self-sacrificial love” is a misconstrual; cf. Jn 3:19, where agapē is used of humanity’s “love” for moral darkness due to the evil of its deeds). “Joy” (chara) was a word often used generally to describe religious feeling arising out of a conscious relationship to the gods (Burton, 314). But for Paul, joy has its basis in the presence of the Spirit in one’s life and is associated with “righteousness,” “peace” (Ro 14:17), and “hope” (Ro 5:2, 11). The term “peace” (eirēnē) indicates wholeness in relationships, most notably one’s relationship to God. Believers in Christ receive this peace, which guards one’s mind (Php 4:7) and one’s relationships (Col 3:15) and is to be the chief relational dynamic in the home (1 Co 7:15) and in the church (1 Co 14:33).
The “special qualities” affecting interpersonal relationships are listed next. These are “patience” (makrothymia, GK 3429), “kindness” (chrēstotēs, GK 5983) and “goodness” (agathōsynē, GK 20). “Patience” is expressed in being long-suffering, in enduring hardship or wrong without complaint or thought of vengeance (cf. 2 Co 6:6; Eph 4:2; Col 1:11; 3:12; 2 Ti 3:10; Heb 6:12). It is the virtue especially enjoined for Christians to exercise toward one another in the body of Christ (Eph 4:2; Col 1:11; 1 Th 5:14). “Kindness” is an attribute of God himself (cf. Ps 34:8; Lk 6:35; 1 Pe 2:3) and is to be practiced by the believer by means of reflecting God’s kindness when relating to others (Eph 4:32). “Goodness” may be for the most part parallel to “kindness,” but in this context it probably also carries the additional nuance of generosity, however that is expressed (Bruce, 253–54).
The final triad in Paul’s depiction of the fruit of the Spirit relates to Christian conduct more generally. These include “faithfulness” (pistis, GK 4411; used elsewhere in Galatians with respect to one’s trust in God for deliverance in Christ but in this context assuredly referencing an ethical virtue), “gentleness” (prautēs, GK 4559), and “self-control” (enkrateia, GK 1602). “Faithfulness” speaks to the issue of one’s dependability, the quality of reliability in various circumstances. It may suggest here constancy in the face of persecution or devastating personal loss. “Gentleness” indicates a mildness that is not easily provoked or angered (cf. Nu 12:3; Mt 5:5; 11:29; 2 Co 10:1) and includes the notion of showing consideration for others (Burton, 317). “Self-control” is the quality of mastery over one’s impulses and faculties, lending aid in one’s struggle in resisting temptation.
Paul ends his catalog of the fruit of the Spirit with the notation that “against such things there is no law.” These words are something of a mild understatement for rhetorical effect, reinforcing the apostle’s earlier assertion that the manifestation of this fruit of the Spirit fulfills the law (5:14). As such, this catalog of fruitfulness closes Paul’s virtue chain with a subtle augmentation of the superiority of life in the Spirit over a life of law observance.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (5:22–23)
Contrasted with the deeds of the flesh is the fruit of the Spirit. Deeds of the flesh are done by a person’s own efforts, whether he is saved or unsaved. The fruit of the Spirit, on the other hand, is produced by God’s own Spirit and only in the lives of those who belong to Him through faith in Jesus Christ.
The spiritual behavior of walking by the Spirit (v. 16) has the negative effect of causing the believer to put away the habitual, ongoing evil deeds of the flesh and positively causes him to bear the good fruit produced by the Spirit.
The first contrast between the deeds of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit is that the products of the flesh are plural, whereas the product of the Spirit is singular. Although Paul does not mention the truth here, there is also a contrast between the degrees to which the deeds and the fruit are produced. A given person may habitually practice only one or two, or perhaps a half dozen, of the sins Paul mentions here. But it would be practically impossible for one person to be habitually active in all of them. The fruit of the Spirit, on the other hand, is always produced completely in every believer, no matter how faintly evidenced its various manifestations may be.
The Bible has much to say about fruit, which is mentioned some 106 times in the Old Testament and 70 times in the New. Even under the covenant of law, a believer produced good fruit only by God’s power, not his own. “From Me comes your fruit,” the Lord declared to ancient Israel (Hos. 14:8).
In the New Testament such things as praise of the Lord (Heb. 13:15), winning converts to Christ (1 Cor. 16:15), and godly work in general (Col. 1:10) are spoken of as spiritual fruit produced through believers. But such action fruit must come from attitude fruit, and that is the kind of fruit Paul focuses on in Galatians 5:22–23. If those attitudes are characteristic of a believer’s life, the fruit of active good works will inevitably follow.
The Spirit never fails to produce some fruit in a believer’s life, but the Lord desires “much fruit” (John 15:8). As an unredeemed person, possessing only a fallen, sinful nature will inevitably manifest that nature in “the deeds of the flesh” (v. 19), so a believer, possessing a redeemed new nature will inevitably manifest that new nature in the fruit of the Spirit. But it is always possible for the believer to bear and manifest more fruit if he is receptive to the Spirit.
The Spirit’s provision of fruit might be compared to a man standing on a ladder in an orchard, picking the fruit and dropping it into a basket held by a helper below. No matter how much fruit is picked and dropped, the helper will not receive any unless he is standing under the ladder with his basket ready.
The fruit of the Spirit is the outward indicator of salvation. A believer’s sonship to God and citizenship in His kingdom (cf. v. 21) are manifested by the fruit the Spirit produces in his life. “You will know [men] by their fruits,” Jesus said. “Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit” (Matt. 7:16–18).
In verses 22–23 Paul lists nine representative characteristics of the godly fruit produced by the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life. Although many attempts have been made to categorize these nine virtues in various groupings, most such schemes seem artificial and irrelevant. Whether or not satisfactory classifications of them can be made, it is important to remember that these are multiple characteristics of but one fruit and are therefore inextricably related to one another. They are not produced nor can they be manifested in isolation from each other.
Rather paradoxically, all of the nine manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit are also commanded of believers in the New Testament. Also in every case, Jesus can be seen to be the supreme example and the Holy Spirit to be the source.
Love. The first characteristic of spiritual fruit is love, the supreme virtue of Christian living (1 Cor. 13:13). Some commentators insist that in this context love is a synonym for fruit and therefore encompasses the other characteristics in the list. In any case, love is clearly dominant. As Paul has just declared, “the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’ ” (Gal. 5:14; cf. Rom. 13:10).
Agapē love is the form of love that most reflects personal choice, referring not simply to pleasant emotions or good feelings but to willing, self-giving service. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). In the same way, the most extreme sacrificial choice a loving person can make is to “lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13). The apostle John expresses those two truths together in his first letter: “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). But love is tested long before it is called on to offer that supreme sacrifice. As John goes on to say, “Whoever has the world’s goods, and beholds his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?” (v. 17). A person who thinks his love is great enough to sacrifice his life for fellow believers but who fails to help them when they have less extreme needs is simply fooling himself.
True agapē love is a sure mark of salvation. “We know that we have passed out of death into life,” John says, “because we love the brethren.… Everyone who loves is born of God and knows God” (1 John 3:14; 4:7). By the same token, as John repeatedly makes clear throughout the same letter, having a habitually unloving spirit toward fellow Christians is reason for a person to question his salvation (see e.g., 2:9, 11; 3:15; 4:8, 20).
Jesus Christ is the supreme example of this supreme virtue. It was not only the Father’s love but also His own love that led Jesus to lay down His life for us, demonstrating with His own self-sacrifice the love that gives its life for its friends. And before He made the ultimate sacrifice, He demonstrated the same self-giving love in many lesser ways. As Jesus saw Mary and the others weeping because of Lazarus’s death, He, too, wept (John 11:33–35). He did not grieve for the fact that Lazarus had died, because He purposely delayed coming to Bethany until His dear friend was dead, in order to demonstrate His power to raise him from the grave. Jesus wept because of the great evil, destruction, and human misery caused by sin, whose final wages is always death (Rom. 6:23).
For believers, love is not an option but a command. “Walk in love,” Paul declared, “just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph. 5:2). Yet the command cannot be fulfilled apart from the Holy Spirit, the source of this and all the other manifestations of spiritual fruit. “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us,” Paul explained to Roman believers (Rom. 5:5), and it was for such “love in the Spirit” that he gave thanks for the believers in Colossae (Col. 1:8).
Joy. The second manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit is joy. Chara (joy) is used some 70 times in the New Testament, always to signify a feeling of happiness that is based on spiritual realities. Joy is the deep-down sense of well-being that abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well between himself and the Lord. It is not an experience that comes from favorable circumstances or even a human emotion that is divinely stimulated. It is God’s gift to believers. As Nehemiah declared, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10). Joy is a part of God’s own nature and Spirit that He manifests in His children.
Speaking of how we feel about the Lord Jesus Christ, Peter wrote, “Though you have not seen Him, you love Him, and though you do not see Him now, but believe in Him, you greatly rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory” (1 Pet. 1:8). Joy is the inevitable overflow of receiving Jesus Christ as Savior and of the believer’s knowing His continuing presence.
Joy not only does not come from favorable human circumstances but is sometimes greatest when those circumstances are the most painful and severe. Shortly before His arrest and crucifixion, Jesus told His disciples, “Truly, truly, I say to you, that you will weep and lament, but the world will rejoice; you will be sorrowful, but your sorrow will be turned to joy” (John 16:20). To illustrate that truth Jesus compared divine joy to a woman in childbirth. “She has sorrow, because her hour has come; but when she gives birth to the child, she remembers the anguish no more, for joy that a child has been born into the world. Therefore you too now have sorrow; but I will see you again, and your heart will rejoice, and no one takes your joy away from you” (vv. 21–22).
God’s joy is full, complete in every way. Nothing human or circumstantial can add to it or detract from it. But it is not fulfilled in a believer’s life except through reliance on and obedience to the Lord. “Ask, and you will receive,” Jesus went on to explain, “that your joy may be made full” (John 16:24). One of John’s motivations in writing his first epistle was that his joy might “be made complete” (1 John 1:4).
Jesus Himself is again our supreme example. He was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isa. 53:3; cf. Luke 18:31–33), but, just as He had promised for His disciples, His sorrow was turned into joy. “For the joy set before Him [He] endured the cross, despising the shame, and has sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Heb. 12:2). Despite the misunderstanding, the rejection, the hatred, and the pain He endured from men while incarnate among them, the Lord never lost His joy in the relationship He had with His Father. And that joy He gives to each of His followers.
Although joy is a gift of God through His Spirit to those who belong to Christ, it is also commanded of them. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” Paul commands (Phil. 4:4; cf. 3:1). Because joy comes as a gift from Him, the command obviously is not for believers to manufacture or try to imitate it. The command is to gratefully accept and revel in this great blessing they already possess. “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17).
Peace. If joy speaks of the exhilaration of heart that comes from being right with God, then peace (eirēnē) refers to the tranquility of mind that comes from that saving relationship. The verb form has to do with binding together and is reflected in the modern expression “having it all together.” Everything is in place and as it ought to be.
Like joy, peace has no relationship to circumstances. Christians know “that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Rom. 8:28). Because God is in control of all aspects of a believer’s life, how his circumstances may appear from a human perspective makes no ultimate difference. That is why Jesus could say without qualification to those who trust in Him, “Let not your heart be troubled” (John 14:1). There is absolutely no reason for a believer to be anxious or afraid.
Jesus was the Prince of Peace, both in the sense that He was supremely peaceful Himself and in the sense that He dispenses His peace to those who are His. Even when He confronted Satan face-to-face in the wilderness, Jesus had perfect peace, knowing His heavenly Father was continually with Him and would supply His every need (Matt. 4:1–11). It is His own peace that He bequeaths to His disciples: “Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give to you” (John 14:27).
“The things you have learned and received and heard and seen in me, practice these things,” Paul said; “and the God of peace shall be with you” (Phil. 4:9). Because they have the God of peace in their hearts, believers need “be anxious for nothing,” having “the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, [to] guard [their] hearts and [their] minds in Christ Jesus” (vv. 6–7).
Patience. Makrothumia (patience) has to do with tolerance and longsuffering that endure injuries inflicted by others, the calm willingness to accept situations that are irritating or painful.
God Himself is “slow to anger” (Ps. 86:15) and expects His children to be the same. Just as believers should never “think lightly of the riches of [God’s own] kindness and forbearance and patience” (Rom. 2:4), they should themselves manifest those attributes of their heavenly Father.
In the last days, arrogant unbelievers will taunt Christians by asking, “Where is the promise of [Christ’s] coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Pet. 3:4). In their sin-darkened minds unbelievers will fail to see that, just as in the days of Noah, when God patiently delayed the Flood in order to give men more time to repent (1 Pet. 3:20), it is also because of His 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 confessed that, as the foremost of sinners, he found mercy in God’s sight “in order that in [him] as the foremost, Jesus Christ might demonstrate His perfect patience, as an example for those who would believe in Him for eternal life” (1 Tim. 1:15–16).
Believers are commanded to emulate their Lord’s patience. “As those who have been chosen of God, holy and beloved,” they are to “put on a heart of … patience” (Col. 3:12), especially with fellow believers, “showing forbearance to one another in love” (Eph. 4:2). Like Timothy, all Christian teachers and leaders are to minister “with great patience” (2 Tim. 4:2).
Kindness. Chrēstotēs (kindness) relates to tender concern for others. It has nothing to do with weakness or lack of conviction but is the genuine desire of a believer to treat others gently, just as the Lord treats him. Paul reminded the Thessalonians that, even though he was an apostle, he “proved to be gentle among [them], as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children” (1 Thess. 2:6–7).
Jesus’ kindness is the believer’s example. When “some children were brought to Him so that He might lay His hands on them and pray; and the disciples rebuked them, … Jesus said, ‘Let the children alone, and do not hinder them from coming to Me; for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these’ ” (Matt. 19:13–14). On another occasion He said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls” (Matt. 11:28–29).
Just as their Lord is kind, His servants are commanded not to “be quarrelsome, but [to] be kind to all” (2 Tim. 2:24). And just as He does with all the other manifestations of His divine fruit, the Holy Spirit gives God’s children kindness (2 Cor. 6:6).
Goodness. Agathos (goodness) has to do with moral and spiritual excellence that is known by its sweetness and active kindness. Paul helped define this virtue when he observed that “one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die” (Rom. 5:7). A Christian can be morally upright but still not manifest the grace of goodness. He may be admired and respected for his high moral standards and might even have a friend who would risk his life for him. But the upright person who also has goodness is much more likely to have self-sacrificing friends.
Joseph was such a righteous and good man. When he learned that Mary was pregnant but did not yet know it was by the Holy Spirit, “being a righteous man” he could not bring himself to marry her, assuming she had been unfaithful. But being also a good man, he could not bear the thought of disgracing his beloved Mary and therefore “desired to put her away secretly” (Matt. 1:19).
David had a deep understanding of God’s goodness, as he repeatedly reveals in his psalms. “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever,” he rejoiced (Ps. 23:6). He confessed that he would, in fact, “have despaired unless [he] had believed that [he] would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living” (Ps. 27:13).
As with every grace the Spirit provides, believers are commanded to exemplify goodness. Later in the letter Paul exhorts, “While we have opportunity, let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10). “To this end also we pray for you always,” he wrote to the Thessalonians, “that our God may count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the word of faith with power” (2 Thess. 1:11).
Faithfulness. Pistis (faithfulness) is the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit that pertains to loyalty and trustworthiness. Jeremiah declared that “the Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22).
Because Jesus was faithful, He “emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. And being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” And because of the Son’s faithfulness, the Father “highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name” (Phil. 2:7–9).
And as He was faithful when He came to earth the first time, He will be faithful to come again “in just the same way as you have watched Him go into heaven” (Acts 1:11). “Faithful is He who calls you,” Paul said, “and He also will bring it to pass” (1 Thess. 5:24). In his great vision on Patmos, John saw Christ seated on “a white horse, and He who sat upon it is called Faithful and True” (Rev. 19:11).
The “servants of Christ, and stewards of the mysteries of God” are to be like their Lord in being “found trustworthy” (1 Cor. 4:1–2). “Be faithful unto death,” the Lord assures His followers, “and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
Gentleness. Prautēs includes the idea of gentleness, but is usually better translated meekness. In his helpful volume Synonyms of the New Testament, R. C. Trench writes that prautēs does not consist in a person’s “outward behaviour only; nor yet in his relations to his fellow-men; as little in his mere natural disposition. 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” (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1953). It is that humble and gentle attitude that is patiently submissive in every offense, while being free of any desire for revenge or retribution.
Of the nine characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit, this one and the one following do not apply to God as God. The Old Testament never refers to God as being meek, and in the New Testament only the Son is spoken of as meek, and that only in His incarnation.
In the New Testament prautēs is used to describe three attitudes: submissiveness to the will of God (Col. 3:12), teachableness (James 1:21), and consideration of others (Eph. 4:2).
Although He was God, while He lived on earth as the Son of Man, Jesus was “gentle [prautēs] and humble in heart” (Matt. 11:29; cf. 21:5; 2 Cor. 10:1). Like their Lord, believers are to actively pursue meekness and gentleness (1 Tim. 6:11) and to wear them like a garment (Col. 3:12).
Self-control. Enkrateia (self-control) has reference to restraining passions and appetites. As with meekness, however, this grace does not apply to God, who obviously does not need to restrain Himself. “For I, the Lord, do not change,” He informs us (Mal. 3:6). In His eternal being, the Lord “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today, yes and forever” (Heb. 13:8). Perfect holiness possesses perfect control.
But in His incarnation Christ was the epitome of self-control. He was never tempted or tricked into doing or saying anything that was not consistent with His Father’s will and His own divine nature. Again like Jesus, believers should “exercise self-control in all things” (1 Cor. 9:25; cf. 7:9), “applying all diligence, in [their] faith [to] supply … self-control” (2 Pet. 1:5–6).
Against such things there is no law, Paul says. Even unbelievers do not make laws against such things as those which the fruit of the Spirit produces. The world does not make laws against such behavior, but generally prizes it. Even if some consider such things to be signs of weakness, they cannot escape recognizing that they are never harmful.
There is certainly no law of God against such things, because those are the very virtues He wants all men to have and that He gives to them when they put their trust in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior. “For if these qualities are yours and are increasing,” Peter explains in regard to a similar list of virtues, “they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ” (2 Pet. 1:8).
The believer who walks in the Spirit and manifests His fruit does not need a system of law to produce the right attitudes and behavior—they rise from within him.
 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2006). The MacArthur study Bible: New American Standard Bible. (Ga 5:22–23). Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson Publishers.
 Stanley, C. F. (2005). The Charles F. Stanley life principles Bible: New King James Version (Ga 5:22–23). Nashville, TN: Nelson Bibles.
 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1894–1895). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.
 Utley, R. J. (1997). Paul’s First Letters: Galatians and I & II Thessalonians (Vol. Volume 11, pp. 60–61). Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International.
 Rapa, R. K. (2008). Galatians. In T. Longman III &. Garland, David E. (Ed.), The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: Romans–Galatians (Revised Edition) (Vol. 11, pp. 630–631). Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan.
35 So Jesus said to them, “For a little while longer the Light is among you. Walk while you have the Light, so that darkness will not overtake you; he who walks in the darkness does not know where he goes. 36 While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light.36 While you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of Light. These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them.” John 12:35-40 (NASB) Read verses 37-40 and Isaiah 6:8-10 on the site.
God is Sovereign. In John 12:40 the Apostle quoted Isaiah 6:8-10. I placed both passages in context at the top of this post. Notice John 12:39, “For this reason they could not believe…” This is the NASB rendering. The NA28 Greek text for this part of v39 is, διὰ τοῦτο οὐκ ἠδύναντο πιστεύειν….
Here is my rendering, “Through this they were not able to believe.” The word translated here as “not” is οὐκ (ouk), which is an absolute negative. Therefore what it is defining is absolutely negated and that verb is ἠδύναντο, which is the 3rd person, imperfect tense, indicative mood, middle voice form of δύναμαι (dunamai), which means “to be able, either intrinsically and absolutely, which the ordinary signification; or, for specific reasons.” The third part of this is the word “believe” which is a translation of the verb πιστεύειν the present tense, infinitive mood, active voice form of πιστεύω (pisteuō), “to have faith.” The way this is structured my brethren it is plainly a work of God that these people were not able “to have faith.” View article →
Exodus 29:12 – Blood is found 363 times in the Old Testament. We’ll read about blood sacrifices quite regularly. Hebrews 9:22 tells us “without shedding of blood is no remission.”
Exodus 30:9 – In a few days we’ll see how seriously God took a violation of this command (Leviticus 10:1).
Matthew 26:14 – Who is Judas? Chafer Theological Seminary published a helpful overview of the life of Judas Iscariot. (By the way, a good friend of mine did an interview with the new president of Chafer – keep our seminaries and Bible colleges in prayer that they hold faithful to the Word of God!)
Matthew 26:28 – As you read thru this passage, feel free to underline this verse. Jesus’ blood was shed for remission of our sins.
Psalm 31:24 – Sixteen times in the Old Testament we see “good courage.” What’s the conditions? Hope in the Lord (Psalm 31:24), Wait on the Lord (Psalm 27:14), Finish all the work for the Lord (I Chronics 28:20), fulfill the statutes of the LORD (I Chronicles 22:13),
Proverbs 8:22 – From John MacArthur: “As long as there has been God, there has been wisdom.” While Jehovah’s Witnesses claim this refers to Jesus, Stand to Reason shows why this doesn’t refer to Jesus but just a personification of wisdom.
Share how reading thru the Bible has been a blessing to you! E-mail us at email@example.com or call and leave a message at 414-885-5370.
You shall therefore keep my statutes and my rules; if a person does them, he shall live by them: I am the Lord. – Leviticus 18:5
Scripture reading: Leviticus 26:1-13
Participating in God’s mission for His glory is a participation in faith that leads to the obedience of faith. This was the case with the first participants, Adam and Eve. If they entrusted themselves to God and lived in communion with Him, being receptive to His voice, open to His provision and available to His leading, they would continue to enjoy the blessed life God had given them; if not they would die (Genesis 2:17-18). This is also the case for Israel. If she entrusted herself to God and lived in communion with Him, being receptive to His voice, open to His provision, and available to His leading, she would live and enjoy the blessings of a secure and healthy life in the Promised Land. In the light of the New Testament, we can say that they would also inherit eternal life.
To understand this dynamic of faith, it is helpful to realize that the contrast in Scripture is not between faith and works, but between faith and no faith. Those who have faith are expected, by God’s grace and Spirit, to manifest their faith in the obedience of faith. In the light of the New Testament, we can say that those who are grafted into Christ, by faith, will naturally produce the obedience of faith through the working of the Holy Spirit. Thus, there are not two opposing ways to life, one through faith and the other through works, but only one way: the way of faith that leads to the obedience of faith.
Suggestions for prayer
Ask your heavenly Father to enable you to be receptive to His voice, open to His provision, and available to His leading so that you are able to participate in His mission for His glory through the obedience of faith.
Rev. Dick Moes is pastor emeritus of the Surrey Covenant Reformed Church in Surrey, BC. He and his wife Elsina have five children and 14 grandchildren. This daily devotional is also available in a print edition you can buy at Nearer to God Devotional.
We use the word love in all kinds of contexts such as “I love chocolate”, “I love watching football”, “I love going to the beach”. The love we have for our husbands, wives and families as well as our friends is another use of the word. For many, exquisite antiques or the incredible architecture of a building brings lavish words of love. All these things bring the word love to our lips. But, do we ever stop and consider the true meaning of love – the unconditional love that God has for each one of us. It is spoken about so often in the bible and yet, I think, so often we simply glance at these words and never stop to think about the true implications.
We know so well the incredible words in 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13:4-8 which are often used in the celebration of marriage, but do we heed them at other times in our lives?
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails.
When someone wrongs us do we turn to Proverbs 10:12? These words speak for themselves. With so many terrible acts of violence in the world today, this is the word of love that we should be speaking.
Hatred stirs up dissension, but love covers over all wrongs.
There are so many passages speaking of love in the bible and these are just 2, but there is one more I would like to emphasize particularly as we approach the glorious resurrection morning and that is in the First Letter of John, Chapter 4:18-19:
WE LOVE BECAUSE HE FIRST LOVED US.
Prayer: Loving and Compassionate Christ, help us to understand the true meaning of the word Love and so follow your teaching and your example throughout our lives. Enable us to put your words into action every day, no matter what situation in which we find ourselves. Give us the courage to speak your words of love to all people. Amen
By Terry Stead
Used by Permission
Learn more about knowing Jesus at: https://thoughts-about-god.com/four-laws/
1 Corinthians 13:4
“Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up;”
We all have people we do not like. This is part of human life. There is nothing inherently wrong with this. While each person bears the image of God, God crafted that image in complete uniqueness. We all have different temperaments, interests, and personalities. Thus, in any given group, crowd, or community, there are bound to be people who do not mesh well together.
Too often, people choose to dismiss or reject those who are fundamentally different than them; the “other” as we might say. This dismissal can be based on anything, really: race, politics, theology, social status, hair color; these things become justifications to disregard the person. In its worst form this is called “cancel-culture”: we cancel the voice or experience of a person simply because they do not line up our own perspectives. We routinely see this played out in politics, the news, and on social media.
We Christians, however, are called to live differently than the culture around us. We follow the way of Jesus. Jesus never cancelled those who were around him; never did he reject another for being outside the acceptable norm. To those who were sinful, Christ was forgiving. To those who rebuked him he was patient; to those who rejected him, he was kind. Christ was never rude, boastful, nor prideful. In all things, he expressed the qualities of faithfulness, hope, and above all else, love.
This is the model Christians are called to follow, and it is this Paul speaks to in his famous passage on love. Like Christ’s well-known parable of the Good Samaritan, it is toward the very people we would choose to avoid that we must be lovingly patient, kind, forbearing, and hopeful.
This is more radical than it seems. The way we treat others is rooted in how Jesus treats us. Thus, the call to love is not a call to sentimentality. It is the willingness to live like Jesus. If more people truly embraced this call, the whole world could be transformed. Amen.
By Rev. Kyle Norman
Used by Permission
Learn more about knowing Jesus at: https://thoughts-about-god.com/four-laws/
Learn from David to take no step without God.
When David made this inquiry, he had just fought the Philistines and gained a classic victory. The Philistines came up in great numbers, but, by the help of God, David had easily put them to flight. Note, however, that when they came a second time, David did not go up to fight them without inquiring of the Lord. Once he had been victorious, and he might have said, as many have in other cases, “I shall be victorious again. I may rest quite sure that if I have conquered once I shall triumph yet again. Why should I delay by seeking God?”
Not so David. He had gained one battle by the strength of the Lord; he would not venture upon another until he had ensured the same. He inquired, “Shall I go up against them?” He waited until God’s sign was given.
Learn from David to take no step without God. Christian, if you would know the path of duty, take God for your compass; if you would steer your ship through the dark billows, put the tiller into the hand of the Almighty. Many a rock might be escaped if we would let our Father take the helm; many a shoal or quicksand we might well avoid if we would leave it to His sovereign will to choose and to command.
The Puritan said, “As sure as ever a Christian carves for himself, he’ll cut his own fingers.” This is a great truth. Another old divine said, “He that goes before the cloud of God’s providence goes on a fool’s errand,” and so he does. We must mark God’s providence leading us; and if providence delays, wait until providence comes. He who goes before providence will be very glad to retreat.
“I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go,”1 is God’s promise to His people. Let us, then, take all our perplexities to Him and say, “Lord, what will you have me do?” Do not leave your house this morning without inquiring of the Lord.
— Read on info.truthforlife.org/on-a-fools-errand
To what degree are admiration and ambition a driving force behind our activity in life? Do we need to redirect our motivation & resources to invest in things that matter?
And I saw that all labor and achievement spring from man’s envy of his neighbor. This too is meaningless, a chasing after the wind.
How accurately this records what is happening in human history! People really do not want things; they want to be admired for the things they have. What they want is not the new car itself but to hear their neighbors say,
How lucky you are to have such a beautiful car!
I clipped from Newsweek magazine an article by a reporter on life in Washington, D.C. Here is what she says drives people in the nation’s capital:
Ambition is the raving and insatiable beast that most often demands to be fed in this town. The setting is less likely to be some posh restaurant or glitzy nightclub than a wholly unremarkable glass office building, or an inner sanctum somewhere in the federal complex. The reward in the transaction is frequently not currency at all, but power, perquisites, and ego massage. For this, the whole agglomeration of psychological payoffs, there are people who will sell out almost anything, including their self-respect, if any, and the well being of thousands of others.
This quote confirms exactly what this ancient Searcher is saying. The drive to be admired is the true objective of life. But, he says, this too
is meaningless, a chasing after wind.
Sometimes, however, when people become aware of this, they flip over to the opposite extreme: they drop out of society, and let the government support them. But that is not the answer either, the Searcher says:
The fool folds his hands and ruins himself (Ecclesiastes 4:5). Many young people who were part of the youth revolution, the counterculture society, have found this to be true: that when you sit in idleness you ruin yourself, your resources disappear, and your self-respect vanishes. They had to learn the painful lesson that the only way to maintain themselves, even physically, let alone psychologically, was to go to work and stop ruining themselves.
It would be much better, says the Searcher, to lower your expectations and choose a less ambitious lifestyle: Better is a handful of quietness than two hands full of toil and a striving after wind (Ecclesiastes 4:6).
Yet so powerful is ambition and the desire to be envied that people actually keep working and toiling even when they have no one to leave their riches to:
Again, I saw something meaningless under the sun: There was a man all alone; he had neither son nor brother. There was no end to his toil, yet his eyes were not content with his wealth. ‘For whom am I toiling,’ he asked, ‘and why am I depriving myself of enjoyment’? This too is meaningless–a miserable business (Ecclesiastes 4:7-8)!
How true! Some people keep on toiling although they have no one to work for and nothing to do with the money they make. They even deny themselves the pleasures of life in order to keep laying up funds. What a sharp example is given to us in the story of billionaire Howard Hughes. He did not know what to do with his money. His heirs, whom nobody can even identify for certain, are left to squabble over it. Such is the folly of toiling for riches.
Lord, forgive me when the motive of my work is simply to be seen and recognized. Teach me to invest my life in that which matters.
In this episode Dinesh revels in the impeachment circus, a clown show aimed not at truth but solely at public spectacle. Dinesh dives into what really happened, exposing the fact that all 5 deaths in the Capitol takeover were of Trump supporters. The chutzpah of Liz Cheney, who now couldn’t get elected dog-catcher in Wyoming, telling us why Trump has no place in the GOP’s future. How #MAGA activists became America’s first modern political prisoners. And Dinesh reveals the ominous historical precedent for Bank of America marching in lockstep with the feds to rat out who attended Trump’s DC rally.
— Read on m.youtube.com/watch
Trey Gowdy joins “America Reports” to discuss the Senate impeachment trial which will begin tomorrow.
— Read on m.youtube.com/watch
The President’s push to pass a COVID nearly $2 trillion relief bill. What’s included in the package and why some republicans are pushing back. Plus a controversial Congresswoman, stripped of committee assignment over past statements.
— Read on m.youtube.com/watch
Good news in the battle against COVID19 with the number of cases going down and what we can expect next with vaccines. Congressional Democrats work to pass a trillion dollar stimulus package to put more money in the hands of Americans to help …
— Read on m.youtube.com/watch
Rep. Maxine Waters is now claiming she never used violent rhetoric to describe President Trump and supporters; ‘The Five’ reacts. #FoxNews
— Read on m.youtube.com/watch