“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Gal ch 5 v 22 – 23)
This is such a well-known passage of Scripture. For some people it is a passage which brings encouragement and hope but to others it is a source of challenge and condemnation. Why is that? Let’s have a look.
First, let’s look at the background of the Letter to the Galatians. It is written by the Apostle Paul, who wants to assure the church of his authority as an Apostle. A group of Jewish Christians had come into the church at Galatia and tried to discredit Paul by saying he had no authority, that at least as Jews they were descendants of Abraham and in turn had seen Jesus for real. Paul lays it down straight from the beginning of the letter as to whose authority he is writing in.
“Paul, an apostle—sent not from men nor by a man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead” (Gal ch 1 v 1)
He just wasn’t just part of any congregation but he was chosen by God, set apart and appointed. He is assuring the churches in Galatia that he speaks with the authority of the one who sent him. He also wants to defuse any fears that the church might have about him being a lone wolf, prowling around doing his own thing. He is writing the letter along with those who are with him. Not just on his own authority but with the backing of others.
“and all the brothers and sisters with me,” (Gal ch 1 v 2)
He treats the usurpers to his authority with contempt.
“As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!” (Gal ch 1 v 9)
Paul is incredibly angry and calls them foolish for listening to teaching that obviously is so against the teaching of grace that he brought to them.
Are you so foolish? After beginning by means of the Spirit, are you now trying to finish by means of the flesh? (Gal ch 3 v 3)
“So again I ask, does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you by the works of the law, or by your believing what you heard?” (Gal ch 3 v 5)
The letter sets out to show how Jesus came to remove the traditions of the law and bring freedom and liberty in life. Paul explains that it is only because Jesus died on the cross that we have eternal life and not by external actions. It is by faith in Jesus that we have Life.
“For all who rely on the works of the law are under a curse, as it is written: “Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.” Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.” (Gal ch 3 v 10 – 11)
“So in Christ Jesus you are all children of God through faith,” (Gal ch 3 v 26)
“You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope” (Gal 5 ch 4 – 5)
It is in this context that we have our verse. The Law of Moses v Grace and Faith. Flesh v Holy Spirit.
“So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” (Gal 5 v 16 – 18)
The Flesh brings immorality
“sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.” (Gal ch 5 v 19 – 21)
but the Holy Spirit brings His Fruit!!!!
“love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” (Gal ch 5 v 22 – 23)
One of the interesting points to notice is that when Paul talks about the result of living in the flesh he calls it ‘the works of the flesh’, works which is plural, and yet the result of partnering with the Holy Spirit brings fruit, singular. Works is plural because each act of wickedness is inconsistent with the next, not connected. Conversely, fruit describes consistency and connectedness. Love doesn’t grow quicker than gladness or forbearance. They grow at the same rate and one doesn’t grow without the other. One grows, they all grow. It is the sole result of having the Holy Spirit living in us. It is the Holy Spirit that causes the growth dependent on God’s grace and mercy. The fruit doesn’t grow faster if we do extra things for God. If we help the needy, love our neighbour, volunteer more or help old ladies across the street. The fruit of the Spirit becomes more noticeable in our lives when we seek after Jesus.
I don’t want to go into each of the fruit individually, as I feel they are self-explanatory. I might return to it at a later date. I really want to look at our reaction when we can’t seem to find the fruit growing anywhere. We see plenty of the works of the flesh, being quick to anger, jealousy , selfishness, bitchiness, dislike, distrust, unforgiveness and the rest, but often no sign of fruit. The strange thing is that we can easily recognise the works of the flesh more easily than we do the fruit of the Spirit.
The bottom line is that the fruit of the Spirit will only be missing from your life if the Holy Spirit has decided to take a vacation and left you to fend for yourself for a while. The fact that He doesn’t need to rest and as he has moved over the face of the whole earth, so doesn’t need to go sight-seeing, is a fair indication that this is not the case. So if He has not gone anywhere the fruit is still there. Have a look at joy for example. How many times do we go about miserable, depressed and saddened and ask ourselves where is our joy? The joy is still there, it hasn’t moved, it hasn’t shrunk in size, so what has happened?
Firstly let’s not equate joy with earthly happiness. There is a difference, although, I must add,what the difference is has been a bone of contention among Bible scholars for a very long time. The problem is that the Bible itself doesn’t differentiate between the two words. Words like joy. gladness, happiness, blessed, delight are all interchangeable. The New Testament was mainly written in Ancient Greek, and the word for joy in our passage is χαρά or in its anglicised form chara which is also translated as gladness or delight. You see the problem? I believe there is a form of happiness which is very shallow. It is brought on by earthly pleasures and is very fleeting. Often when the feeling goes there is emptiness. We go to church and have a great time in praise and worship, the songs are great, the band and singers are also good and we leave church feeling euphoric. We get home but that feeling doesn’t last and we feel let down that the joy has gone. We are back in the same place again. Where is the joy?
The solution is simple.When we were worshiping we have somehow missed the point of worship. Praise and worship is takes us into the presence of God and there we can commune with Him, which enables Him to do the work He needs to do in us. Often in the Old Testament the musicians and singers were sent first into battle to prepare the way for the rest of the army. They weren’t cannon fodder!!! They were as much a part of the army as the cavalry or the foot soldiers. They prepared the way for God to do His work! If we treat church as a Rock Concert then all we get back is the same euphoria you get from listening to your favourite band and it only lasts for a short while.We need to go deeper into God’s presence and from there we will find the joy of the Holy Spirit.
I am sorry to go into such detail with joy but I feel this is such a good example of why we can’t always see the fruit of the Spirit in our lives. The answer again is simple. We need to look to God. I know I should have said that at the beginning and saved you a lot of time but I needed to take you on a journey. You see God wants you to look to Him first. He wants you to understand that He has the answers for you. After all He is the Creator of everything so logically He is the one with the answers to everything. If we go back to the reason for the letter, we see that Paul was trying to show the church that it is not ‘the doing’ that gets us closer to God but His Grace.
The Holy Spirit enters us when we first ask Jesus to come into our lives and ask Him to forgive us for going our own way. Then each day after we continually ask Him to fill us with His presence daily. We keep on being filled with the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit is there, the fruit is there also, growing at the same rate in connectedness. It is your choice. Look around and find fulfillment in other things, and not God, and you will lose sight of the Holy Spirit’s work in you. It is all about trust. God has said He has placed His Spirit in us, so trust He is there. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is God’s character in a nutshell and so the more we become closer to Him, the more like Him we become.
Remember the fruit of the Spirit is not affected by outward circumstances. It is not dependent on what we feel like. We can go through the worst situations and still know that because we have the Holy Spirit in us, gladness, peace, forbearance and love are still there. They are all attributes of God and He lives in us.
If we want the character of God to shine through, then seek Him. Go into His throne room boldly and talk to Him! Praise and worship Him. Read about Him in His word and find out from His word how much He loves you. You will find the fruit shooting about all over the place. Seek Him!
“May the Lord bless you
and take good care of you.
May the Lord smile on you
and be gracious to you.
May the Lord look on you with favor
and give you peace.”
(Numbers ch 6 v 24 – 26)