COMMENTARY ON GALATIANS
LESSON NUMBER 54
Gal 5:22 "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." (Gal 5:22-23)
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
When it comes to the manner in which one lives, there are only two modes available to mem: "in the flesh" and "in the Spirit." These modes cannot be mingled because each one has unique traits that cannot transfer to the competing realm. There is no such thing as a manner of life that is basically spiritual, but allows for being fleshly. Nor, indeed, is there such a thing s a "walk" that is fundamentally fleshly, but allows for some occasional spirituality. While it is true that personal choice and personal preferences are involved in life, there is a particular perspective that is being developed in Paul's latter to the Galatians. He ties living to the kind of teaching the people have received - not teaching about living, but teaching about Christ and the New Covenant. The Galatians had been subjected to "another gospel" that had caused them to begin walking in the flesh, for one cannot "walk in the Spirit" while embracing a false gospel. The Gospel of Christ is the basis of our perception of Christ, in whom we are made complete (Col 2:10). If that Gospel is distorted, everything that is tied to the Gospel becomes distorted - and the unavoidable result is to be thrust into the flesh. This is exactly what happened in Galatia - the people were walking in the flesh - religious flesh. They were seeking perfection in the flesh (Gal 3:3). They were in bondage, which related them to the child of the bondwoman, who was "born after the flesh" (Gal 4:23,29). Solemnly the apostle will, write to them that if they sow to the flesh, they will reap corruption, not eternal life (Gal 6:8).
When "the flesh" becomes the environment in which one walks, there are no moral depths to which that one is not capable of sinking. This is because such a person is no longer in the realm of the Spirit, Who works in strict concert with the Gospel. In order to identify the impact of faith in the one who has faith in real Jesus, Paul now speaks of "the fruit of the Spirit." The absence of these characteristics indicates the dominancy of the flesh. Their presence confirms the comportment of faith, and a life that is being lived in the Spirit.
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, #1
Gal 5:22a "But the fruit of the Spirit . . . " Other versions read, "the spiritual nature produces," GWN "the fruits of the Spirit," MRD "the Holy Spirit produces," NLT "When the Holy Spirit controls our lives He will produce this like of fruit," LIVING "the Spirit . . . brings a harvest," WEYMOUTH "the product of the Spirit," WILLIAMS "the harvest-fruit of the Spirit," MONTGOMERY "the fruit of the [Holy] Spirit [the work which His presence within accomplishes]," AMPLIFIED "the Spirit makes us," CEV and "when we live God's way . . . He brings gifts into our lives." MESSAGE
Some of the versions miss the point. The God's Word version takes this to be the fruit of the spiritual nature, or new man. The LIVING Bible considers it the result of the Spirit's control. The MESSAGE version sees this as the result of living as God has directed us.
The Holy Spirit, like the Father and the Son, is a prodigious Worker. Speaking of spiritual gifts, Paul wrote, "But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will" (1 Cor 12:11). He "quickens" our mortal body, so that we live in a manner that is pleasing to God (Rom 8:11). He leads the people of God in the mortification of the deeds of the body (Rom 8:13-14). He helps our infirmities (Rom 8:26-27). He "searches all things" (1 Cor 2:10). He teaches words (1 Cor 2:13). He has "washed," "sanctified," and "justified" us (1 Cor 6:11). He "changes" us from glory to glory (2 Cor 3:18). He is the Author of unity (Eph 4:3). If He is not quenched, grieved, or resisted, the Spirit continues His working without interruption. The point here is not the work itself, but what is PRODUCED by the work. This is the effect of the Spirit's presence and work, and it is produced in those in whom the Spirit dwells. One of the traits of false teachers, Jude affirms, is that they are described as "having not the Spirit" (Jude 1:19). Addressing the church, Paul wrote, "Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His" (Rom 8:9). The point here is that the "fruit of the Spirit" presumes the presence the Holy Spirit, and His presence presumes He is at work.
FRUIT FOR GOD. First, let it be clear that while fruit is produced in us, there is a sense in which it is primarily for God. As it is written, "Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God" (Rom 7:4).
THE SPIRIT'S FRUIT. This fruit does not flow out from our own nature - even our new nature, or new man. It is expressed in the "new man," but it does not originate there. The Spirit produces the fruit. It is expressed through the "new man," that is perfectly capable of expressing that fruit without modification or dilution. While this is admittedly a technical point, it does need to be emphasized. This is fruit that is completely devoid of any pollution or contamination. It is therefore described in this manner: "For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth" (Eph 5:9). If there is any kind of inadequacy, it is found in the body, which is the flawed part of the redeemed. If the fruit was not primarily for God, this would introduce a serious problem. However, God knows the heart (Acts 15:8; Rom 8:27), and sees things as they really are, even though the body hinders the perfect expression of the fruit of reference. When I say the body "hinders the perfect expression," I do not mean that the expression is misleading, or that it is mixed with the imperfections of the flesh. Rather, the expression is not as thorough as we would have it. What men behold of the fruit is partial What God beholds and receives is thorough, for He, as His Word also does, knows "the thoughts and intents of the heart" (Heb 4:12).
The apostolic doctrine concerning the "fruit of the Spirit" is the inspired elaboration of Christ's teaching on abiding in Him and bringing forth fruit (John 15:1-8). Technically speaking, bearing fruit is not the objective of the disciple himself. Rather, the aim is to abide in Christ, and Christ abide in us (John 15:4). When this takes place, bearing fruit is inevitable. It is what God has ordained, and it cannot fail of fulfillment. It is true that a person can, in a sense, be in Christ, yet not be abiding in Him - but that experience is short-lived. Jesus spoke of a branch "in" Him that did not bear fruit (John 15:2). Such an one was not abiding in Him (John 15:6). That is, that person's connection with Jesus was only on the surface. There was no flow of Jesus' life through him, and the person's life was not blended with life of Christ, being dead to sin but alive to God.
In the case of the Galatians, faith had ceased to be in Christ as they became dependent upon the principle of Law. No longer was their life sustained by abiding in Christ by faith, but they had been diverted to a system of works in which they relied on what they did, not Him in whom life is found. The consequence of this diversion was that there was no perceived need for the working of the Holy Spirit. He was consequently "quenched" and "grieved," for the Holy Spirit will not work for good in those whose dependence has been shifted to works and humanly conceived methods and routines.
Without the "fruit of the Spirit," there is really nothing in men that God can receive. He will not accept hollow obedience that leaves the person imagining they can abide in Christ without the "fruit of the Spirit," which God has ordained. That fruit will surely be produced if the individual maintains a proper focus and absolute dependency upon the Lord Jesus Christ.
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, #2
5:22b-23a"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law."
Some versions use the word "fruits," or MRD "gifts." MESSAGE Nearly every other version uses the word "fruit," the singular form of the term being correct. Here, "fruit" refers to what grows on the Vine, or the kind of fruit that is produced by the tree of justification. It is multiple in the two senses: first, all of these grow on the tree, or the vine. Second, the fruit itself has multiple layers, or components - like a piece of fruit (stem, outer epithelial layer, peel, pulp, core, and seed). These are to be considered as a whole, and not as independent components.
LOVE (benevolent affection). This is a love that focuses on giving rather than receiving. In regards to God, it involves the giving of self - spirit, soul, and body - to the Lord. As pertaining to men, it involves doing good to all men, especially those of the household of faith (Gal 6:10). Having received so much from God that is, strictly speaking, undeserved, the Spirit enables the individual to love beyond mere human capacity.
JOY (cheerfulness, calm delight, gladness). This is a rationale joy, not fleshly exhilaration. The "joy" is primarily in God Himself ("joy in God" - Rom 5:11) because of His great salvation. It also involves rejoicing "in hope of the glory of God"(Rom 5:2; 12:12), and in being counted worthy "to suffer shame for His name" (Acts 5:41). Working through one's spiritual understanding, the Spirit enables the believer to rejoice in Christ Jesus, perceiving that Christ loved him and have Himself for him (Phil 3:3; Gal 2:20). Spiritual benefits are perceived as trumping all sorrow, adversity, and trial.
PEACE (quietness, rest, stillness). This is a peace that results from knowing we have been justified by faith, and consequently are at peace with God (Rom 5:1). Because God is "greater than all" (John 10:29), the trusting soul is not rattled by human confrontation, or even the oppositions of the wicked one. The heart is calm and settled in an unsettled world. This peace contains an awareness that God is going to eventually settle all accounts.
LONGSUFFERING (forbearance). This is the ability to suffer for a long time - even though it is "suffering wrongfully," or for reasons that are not valid (1 Pet 2:19). It also includes being forbearing with the people of God, who may not have conducted themselves admirably in all cases. The Holy Spirit enables the believer to fulfill the requirement of the King: "Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye" (Col 3:13). Such manners cannot be taught by routine. The Holy Spirit, if not quenched or grieved, will produce this quality. It will probably be present for a time before the person so blessed perceives it has taken place.
GENTLENESS (usefulness, kindness, good). Here is a trait that enables a person to not crush others, all the while being firm while uncompromising. It is the human side of not breaking a bru\sed reed or quenching a smoking flax (Matt 12:20). It is avoiding the quest to have dominion over the faith of another (2 Cor 1:24). The powerful effects of gentleness is seen in the Davidic expression, "Thy gentleness hath made me great" (Psa 18:35).
GOODNESS (beneficence). This is kindness joined with uprightness of heart and life. God Himself is "abundant in goodness" (Ex 34:8), making this a Divine quality in which men participate. Paul commended the brethren in Rome for being "full of goodness" (Rom 15:14). This is confirmation of the great work that takes place in the saved, for by nature "there is none that doeth good, no not one" (Rom 3:12).
FAITH (persuasion, conviction, fidelity). The word from which "faith" is translated is the regular word for faith (pistis). Doctrinally the word is defined as "the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen" (Heb 11:1). It speaks of consistent confidence, steadfast assurance, strong conviction, thoughtful persuasion, and a strong and unrelenting trust. There is no doubt in faith, no lack of confidence, and no uncertainty. There is expectation in faith, and the persuasion that what God has promised, He is fully able to do.
MEEKNESS (humility, mildness). Meekness also postulates great strength that is harnessed for the glory of God. Meekness is not timidity, but is rather the inclination and willingness not to use one's strength to accomplish his own will. Meekness is submissive to God, and is glad to be humble. All of this is the result of spiritual discernment,
TEMPERANCE (self-control; mastering one's desires and passions). It is a virtue that is to be added in the energy of faith to our lives (2 Pet 1:6). Temperance is keeping under our body and bringing it into subjection (1 Cor 9:27). It is rejecting ungodliness and worldly lusts (Tit 2:11), willingly and zealously mortifying the deeds of the body.
All of this boils down to a change in character - and it is all wrought by the Holy Spirit, as declared in Second Corinthians 3:18. We ought to emphasis again that where the Spirit is not grieved or quenched, this fruit will be produced. Wherever it is missing, the message of the Gospel has not been truly embraced, and "another gospel" has subverted the hearers.
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, #3
5:23b " . . . against such there is no law." Other versions read, "There is no law against such things," NRSV "No law can touch things as these," NJB "there is no conflict with Jewish laws," LIVING "Against such things there is no law [that can bring a charge]," AMPLIFIED "There is no law against behaving in any of these ways," CEV and "Legalism is helpless in bringing this about; it only gets in the way." MESSAGE
There is Law against the works of the flesh - all of them (17). They are all condemned. However there is no law against, or condemnation of, the nine aspects of "the fruit of the Spirit." None of them are forbidden or in any sense condemned.
Here is one of the chief distinctions between the Old and New covenants. The old majored on prohibition, and was thus called "the ministry of death" and "the ministry of condemnation" (2 Cor 3:7,9). It was not a covenant of participation, but of restraint and judgment. Ponder the commandments that forbad the doing of a thing. "Thou shalt have no other gods before Me . . . thou shalt not make unto thee any graven image . . . thou shalt not bow thyself down to them nor serve them . . . thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain . . . thou shalt not do any work (in the Sabbath) . . . thou shalt not kill . . . thou shalt not commit adultery . . . thou shalt not steal . . . thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor . . . thou shalt not covet" (Ex 20:3-17).
The Law condemned the people for what they were. It prohibited what they were inclined to do by nature. It gave no liberty to the people. It accented how they were fundamentally unlike God. It was given "that every mouth might be stopped, and all the world become guilty before God" (Rom 3:19).
The New Covenant, however, is addressed to a changed people, a reconciled people, a forgiven people. They have a new nature, and the Holy Spirit works to bring that nature to express itself in the good works in which God has ordained the people should walk (Eph 2:10). There is no law against what this nature desires or expresses. There is no limit on how much they can do. It is not possible to do too much in the areas that are mentioned. In the flesh a person can be too fleshly, but he cannot be too spiritual. There is no spiritual impulse that is to be denied or suppressed, while all ungodliness and worldly lusts (fleshly impulses), are to be denied.
When a person is "dead with Christ," the primary emphasis is not prohibition - i.e. "Touch not, taste not, touch not" (Col 2:21). There is actually more to do than there is NOT to do! The crucifixion of the flesh fully addresses all of the Divine prohibitions (Gal 5:24).
The Jewish teachers who had moved the Galatians to remove themselves from the One who had called them "into the grace of Christ" had led them into the domain of restriction, condemnation, and bondage. By putting them under Law, they had awakened the flesh, or the sinful nature. This, in fact, let "the old man" off the cross, where he had been crucified when the people were baptized into Christ (Rom 6:6).
Notice the kind of activity to which we are called in Christ Jesus. "Seek the things that are above . . . add to your faith . . . lay hold on eternal life . . . "run the race with patience . . . "perfect holiness in the fear of the Lord . . . lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven . . . ask, and it shall be given unto you . . . desire the sincere milk of the Word . . . run that you may obtain (the prize) . . . grow in grace" (Col 3:1-2; 2 Pet 1:5-8; 1 Tim 6:12; Heb 12:1-2; 2 Cor 7:1; Matt 6:10; 7:7; 1 Pet 2:2; 1 Cor 9:24; 2 Pet 3:18). Think of the glorious promises given to those who are in Christ Jesus. "All things are yours . . . ye are complete in Him . . . your lives are hid with Christ in God . . . we have boldness and access with confidence . . . I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me" (1 Cor 3:21-22; Col 2:10; 3:3; Eph 3:12; Phil 3:13).
These things are a facet of the "against such there is no law" perspective. This manner of instruction and admonition takes into consideration the removal of sin, the reconciliation of the people, and the reception of a new nature that is created in righteousness and true holiness. The New Covenant approach differs radically from that of the Old Covenant because prior to Christ the people were enslaved to sin and were alienated from God. Under the law we read of the "fruit of the womb" (Psa 127:3), "the fruit of the land" (Lev 23:39), "the fruit of the tree" (Lev 27:30), "the fruit of the earth" (Deut 26:2), "the fruit of the wicked" (Prov 10:16), and "the fruit of tghe ground" (Jer 7:20). A single time there is reference to "the fruit of the righteous" (Prov 11:30), and once God speaks of Himself creating "the fruit of the lips" (Isa 57:19).
However, the Old Covenant never speaks of the people bringing forth fruit to God. There is no mention of "the fruit of the Spirit." It was a different people, a different day, and a different manner of covenant. Bondage and condemnation were dominant among the people of the Old Covenant, and that covenant pointed the condition out to the people.
Even though those who prefer law may extend some noble efforts to please God, they simply cannot do so, for the commandments of the Law cause sin to revive, and death to result (Rom 7:9). That is what happens when people are removed from the Lord - by their religion!