We’re into the home stretch of our study of Walking in the Spirit in Galatians 5:16-25. Lord willing, we’re going to take two weeks to look at Paul’s list of what he calls “The Fruit of the Spirit” in verses 22 and 23. Here’s the notes from last night, part one of that study.
General Observations about the Fruit of the Spirit
1. It is “Fruit” as opposed to “works”. It is not that there is no “working” in the life of the Spirit (see Gal 5:6, 6:4, 6:10, 2 Cor 9:8, Phil 2:12). But it is that this fruit comes from a natural outflow of the Spirit’s. So the Fruit of the Spirit is what happens in our life when were changed and led by the Spirits desires. Or, the Fruit of the Spirit is what we become, and what we do when the Spirit has His way.
2. Paul uses a singular verb “is” to speak of the following nine words. So this is all one thing, really, with different manifestations. One life that comes out in many ways…They all overlap and include each other.
3. What the Spirit wants is for me to be this kind of person, or more exactly, for He wants to manifest (bear the fruit) in my daily life (walk) that I am this kind of person. It is not that the Spirit wants, negatively, to make me simply avoid the works of the flesh, it that He, positively, wants to form me into a person who can actively manifest His (divine) goodness. He wants a person with God’s own qualities (His own) who can do God’s work in the world. So what will the Spirit make you do if you follow His desires? He’ll make you apply God’s character to every situation you find yourself in. He’ll make you bear this fruit at every turn.
4. ..So, what is at stake is not simply if I’ll avoid sin or not, but if I’ll positively manifest God’s character into every situation. In other words, there are good things to do, which need to be done, which can easily be done by the Spirit bearing His fruit. Will we bear His fruit or not? Will we be His instruments for bearing His good fruit in the world or not? How much good must get left undone, while we think the battle is over whether we will sin or not!
The First Four
As we look at each one of these words Paul uses to describe the fruit of the Spirit, we’ll be asking these two questions:
- How is this the fruit of the Spirit?
- Why and how does the flesh desire the opposite of this quality? (here we’re applying v.17 to v.22-23)
The fruit of the Spirit is Love. A definition: “Selfless, committed affection for others, actively seeking their highest good.”
The Spirit is God. God is love—committed to actively seeking my highest good. In Christ He did it selflessly. So the Spirit is in me, all love. And the Spirit desires to “lead” me in the way of love—to manifest (by bearing visible “fruit”) His love at every step of my life’s “walk.” All I have to do is be led by His desires and I’ll be a person of love.
The flesh works against this, because it is committed to nothing except its own desires. It seeks only its own highest good. A look at the flesh’s works shows they all break down love.
The fruit of the Spirit is Joy. A definition: “Fulfilled, overflowing happiness.”
The Holy Spirit is God, who is supremely happy in Himself. So the fruit of His joy will be manifested in any and all circumstances, to any and all people. Because no matter what, God is always God, and always in me, so the joy is always there, independent of what’s happening to me.
The flesh desires the opposite. Of course my flesh wants to be happy–but then, my flesh also wants to reserve the right to not be happy at any point where it does not get its own way. And, it has no real interest in the joy of others, only that they would serve my own happiness. That is because the flesh is not interested in being happy in anything outside of gratifying its own desires (v.16). Its happiness isn’t based on being fulfilled in God, but on a constant intake of the things that satisfy its desires.
But with God in me, I won’t reserve the right to get unhappy or discontent with anything, because the Spirit is leading me by His joy. He’ll lead me to be full of, and to manifest, and to foster in others that same contented happiness in God.
The Fruit of the Spirit is Peace. A definition: “Settled contentment.”
Similar to joy, this must mean that the desires of the flesh are against peace. Sure enough, a glance at Pauls list reveals things like “enmity, strife, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, fits of rage.” The flesh is that volatile energy which wants to be free to disrupt anything for the sake of gratifying its desires.
But the Spirit is God, who is totally at rest in Himself—content, confident, settled—and He gives us this peace as well. As A.B. Simpson says: “True peace is nothing less than the deep, divine Tranquility of His own eternal calm.” The Spirit, with His “eternal calm” comes into a life and brings the very peace of God. “Peace, be still” he speaks into our souls which are “like the troubled sea, casting up its own mire” (see Isaiah 57). If the Spirit is leading me, His peace will become my peace, and as He desires, it will work itself out of my life into the situations around me.
The Fruit of the Spirit is Patience. A definition: “the ability to wait.”
My lexicon defines this word as “the state of remaining tranquil while awaiting an outcome, or of being able to bear up under provocation.” The flesh desires against this patience, ad its works are often the outflow of an inability to wait—for provision, for vindication, for pleasure, for its own way—or an inability to bear provocation (strife, rivalries, etc.).
But the Spirit, who is God in all His long-viewed, slow working patience, desires me to manifest His ability to wait. And really, it is not so much waiting in the Human scope, as if the outcomes are unknown, but a yielding to God who is working out His plan in His timing. God seems patient because He has eternity in view and His own power to depend on. He does not need to “force” things or be hasty because He can work world-changing things in a minute, and if He chooses to do less it is because He has better ways to accomplish His purposes.
Thus, if I am led by the flesh I’ll need to stress and strive and “get things done” despite any obstacle. But if I am led by the Spirit in all His patient power, I will be filled with His patient peace, and I will be able to wait while God works, and bear up under provocation because no matter how I’m treated, God is not losing. He’s always winning.