Fruit of the Spirit
Now Paul is going to contrast the flesh with the Spirit.
This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh [Gal. 5:16].
This verse states the great principle of Christian living -- walk by means of the Spirit. The word for walk is peripateo, which means just "to walk up and down." This Greek word was used for a school of philosophy in Athens, Greece, in which the founder walked up and down as he taught. The principle for us is walking in the Spirit. If we do, we will not "fulfil the lust of the flesh."
The word lust in our usage today has an evil connotation, which the Greek word does not have. Lust of the flesh refers to the desires of the flesh, many of which are not immoral, but are of the flesh (music, TV, internet, hobbies, sports, etc.). There are many things which in themselves are not evil, but they can take the place of spiritual things. Some Christians can get wrapped up in a hobby which takes them away from the Word of God. Many Christians spend a lot of time worshiping before that little idiot box we call TV. Now don't misunderstand -- I watch TV. I am not under any law that says I can't watch TV. There are a few programs one can enjoy. But watching TV is a desire of the flesh. If it takes you away from that which is spiritual, then it is wrong.
For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would [Gal. 5:17].
Lusteth=warreth. This is very important to see -- the flesh wars against the Spirit, and the Spirit wars against the flesh.
A believer has a new nature. This is what our Lord said to Nicodemus when He said, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit" (John 3:6). The believer still has that old nature of the flesh, and he won't get rid of it in this life. The idea that we can get rid of that old nature is a tragic mistake. John said, "If we say that we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us" (1 John 1:8). If the truth is not in you, then you must be a liar. That puts the "perfect" individual in the position of being a liar.
We have two natures -- the old and the new.
There is a song we sing entitled "Come Thou Fount" by Robert Robinson.
It is a wonderful hymn. In the last stanza are these words:
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to leave the God I love;
After this song was written, someone looked at it and said, "That is not my experience -- I'll change that." So in some hymnbooks we find these words:
Prone to worship, Lord, I feel it,
Prone to love the God I serve.
Which is true? Well, both are true. I have a nature that is prone to wander, prone to leave the God I love. There are times when this old nature of mine wants to wander away from the Lord! Have you had this experience? Also I have a new nature that is prone to worship the Lord. There are times when I am riding along alone in my car, and I just cry out to Him, "Oh, Lord, how wonderful You are! I love You and worship You." That is the expression of my new nature; my old nature never gets around to praising Him or loving Him. Every believer has an old and a new nature.
This week Mars was in very clear view. I worshipped for hours different nights when everyone was asleep.
There are some who say, "Well, I can't tell whether I am walking in the Spirit or not." Don't kid yourself about this. You can know. Paul has spelled it out here so that you cannot miss it.
But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law [Gal. 5:18].
The Holy Spirit of God brings us to a higher plane.
Now Paul makes clear what the works of the flesh are:
Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God [Gal. 5:19-21].
This is an ugly brood of sensual sins, religious sins, social sins, and personal sins.
Adultery -- omitted from some manuscripts. [Why? Duh.]
Fornication -- prostitution, any sexual sin.
Uncleanness -- (akatharsia) impurity, sexual sins including pornography
Lasciviousness -- brutality, sadism (we see this abounding in our day)
Idolatry -- worship of idols (this includes money and everything that takes the place of God)
Witchcraft -- (pharmakeia) drugs (drugs are used in all heathen religions)
Hatred -- enmity
Variances -- eris (the Greek Eris was the goddess of strife) contentions, quarrels
Emulations -- (zelos) rivalry, jealousy
Wrath -- (thumos) a hot temper
Strife -- factions, cliques (little cliques in a church hurt the cause of Christ)
Seditions -- divisions
Heresies -- parties, sects
Envyings -- (phthonos)
Murders -- (the Lord said if you hate you are guilty of murder)
Notice that Paul concludes this list of the works of the flesh by "and such like," which means there are many others he could have mentioned.
"They which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God." "Which do" indicates continuous action. Our Lord gave the illustration of the Prodigal Son who got down in the pig pen but didn't stay there. The only ones that stay in a pig pen are pigs. If a son gets there, he will be very unhappy until he gets out. If you can continue to live in sin, you are in a dangerous position. It means you are not a child of God.
Now, having listed the works of the flesh, Paul will list the fruit of the Spirit. Notice the contrast: works of the flesh and fruit of the Spirit. The works of the flesh are what you do. The Ten Commandments were given to control the flesh. But now the Christian life is to produce the fruit of the Spirit.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law [Gal. 5:22-23].
The Lord Jesus Christ talked about the fruit of the Spirit in John 15. Vine/Branches - We are to 'abide' in Him and stay connected for Him to flow thru us. He said that without Him we could do nothing. And fruit is what He wants in our lives. He wants fruit, more fruit, and much fruit. In His parable of the sower, He spoke of seed bringing forth thirtyfold, sixtyfold, and an hundredfold (see Matt. 13). He wants us to bear much fruit. Now the fruit is produced by the Lord Jesus using the Spirit of God in our lives. He wants to live His life through us. You are never asked to live the Christian life. You are asked to let Him live through you. No believer can live the Christian life himself. The old nature cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit.
Paul makes it clear in Romans 7:18 that the new nature has no power to produce the fruit of the Spirit. He said, "...to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not." That is the problem with many of us. How do you do it? This is not a do-it-yourself operation. But how are we going to let the Spirit of God produce the fruit of the Spirit in our lives?
The subject of fruit bearing is an interesting one. I have observed that fruit is produced by the tree, not by self-effort. As far as I can tell, the branches never get together and say, "Let's all work hard and see what we can do." As far as I can tell, these branches that bear fruit just open up themselves to the sunshine and to the rain. A bloom appears, then the little green fruit forms, grows, and then ripens.
Another thing that I have noticed is that the limbs never leave the trunk of the tree -- they don't get down and run around. Our Lord said, "...As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me" (John 15:4). Our problem is that we offer ourselves to God as a living sacrifice, but when the altar gets hot, we crawl off. That's why they had flesh hooks in the OT. We are to abide in Christ if we are to produce fruit.
Paul is stating the principle of fruit-bearing so that we can understand it. The fruit is produced by yielding -- by yielding to the sweet influences that are in us. We are to yield to the Holy Spirit who indwells us. The Holy Spirit wants to produce fruit -- it is called the fruit of the Spirit.
"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace." Notice it is singular: is, not are. You can argue about the grammar used here, but it happens to be singular in the Greek. This indicates that love is the fruit, and from it stems all other fruits. Love is primary.
Paul says that without love we "...become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal" (1Cor. 13:1). 1 Corinthians 13 was never intended to be removed from the Bible, beautifully framed, and hung on the wall. It belongs to the gifts of the Spirit, and the gifts are not to be exercised except by the fruit of the Spirit, which is love. You cannot exercise a gift without doing it by the fruit of the Spirit. Love is all-important. Paul continues to say in 1 Corinthians 13 that if you give your body to be burned and give everything that you have, but don't have love, you are a nothing. We need to recognize the importance of what Paul is saying.
Another thing that Paul says in 1 Corinthians 13 is that "love never seeks its own." Love is always doing something for others. A gift is always to be exercised in the church. It is a manifestation of the Spirit to all believers. All believers have a gift, and it is to be exercised for the profit of the body of believers.
We need to recognize that no gift apart from the fruit of the Spirit is to be exercised -- and that fruit is love. This is the kind of fruit the Lord Jesus was talking about in John 15. The fruit is the fruit of the Spirit.
"against such there is no law" (vv. 22-23).
There is "no law" against them, and no law which will produce them. You cannot produce any of these by your own effort. Have you ever tried being meek, for instance? If you tried being meek, and accomplished it, you would be proud that you became meek, and then you would lose your meekness and humility.
For a moment let us look at the fruit of the Spirit. It should characterize the lives of believers. "I am not to judge you, but I am a fruit inspector, and I have a right to look at the fruit you are producing." The question is, are you producing any fruit in your life?
Now love ought to be in your heart and life if you are a believer. But, friend, if there are sensual sins in your life, you will never know what real love is. There are many young people today who know a great deal about sex, but they know nothing about love. Love is a fruit of the Spirit, and God will give this love to a husband for his wife, and to the wife for her husband. I don't think anyone can love like two Christians can love. My, how they can love each other!
I shall never forget the night I proposed to my wife. [porch swing / fireflies / iced tea / trips to bathroom!] I really beat around the bush 'cuz I didn't want to blow this, and I was so nervous for it to be right and for her to say yes! We have a very special love.
When we lost our first baby, I did not want the doctor to tell my wife -- I wanted to tell her. When I gave her the news, we wept together and then we prayed. Love like that is the fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Joy is a fruit that the Lord Jesus wants you to have in your life. He came that we might have joy -- that we might have fun. I wish we had more fun times in our churches today. The world has what they call the "happy hour" in cocktail parlors all across our land. People don't look too happy when they go in, and they sure don't look happy when they come out! They are a bunch of downers, if you please. That's not joy. John says, "And these things write we unto you, that your joy may be full" (1John 1:4). These things were written that you might really enjoy life. Are you really living it up today, friend? I hope you are as a believer.
The third fruit is peace, the peace of God. Religion can never give this to you. Only Christ can give you deep-down peace -- "...being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ" (Rom. 5:1).
There are some other fruits. Are you longsuffering -- that is, patient and long tempered? This is an area where I need some help, and only the Spirit of God can do it. I found out that I cannot do it.
Then there is the fruit of gentleness, which means kindness; there is goodness, which means kind but firm.
Faith, in this list, means faithfulness. If you are a child of God, you will be faithful. If you are married, you will be faithful to your husband or wife. If you are an employee, you are going to be faithful to your job and to your boss. If you are a church member, you are going to be faithful to your church. You are going to be faithful wherever you are and in whatever you do.
Next comes meekness, and that does not mean mildness. Two men who were truly meek were Moses and the Lord Jesus Christ. Perhaps you don't think Moses was meek when he came down from the Mount, found the people were worshiping a golden calf, and administered disciplinary judgment (see Exod. 32). But he was meek. Was Jesus meek when He ran the money-changers out of the temple? Meekness is not mildness and it is not weakness. Meekness means that you will do God's will, that you are willing to yield your will to the will of God.
Finally, there is temperance, which is self-control -- Christian poise is so needed today.
And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts [Gal. 5:24].
When was the flesh crucified? When they reckon that when Christ died, they died, they will yield themselves on that basis. In Romans 6:13 Paul says, "Neither yield ye your members as instruments of unrighteousness unto sin: but yield yourself unto God, as those that are alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness unto God."
"For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God" (Col. 3:3). "I am crucified with Christ: nevertheless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me" (Gal. 2:20). In all of these passages the thought is that when Christ was crucified, the believer was crucified at the same time. The believer is now joined to the living Christ, and the victory is not by struggling but by surrendering to Christ. The scriptural word is yield; it is an act of the will.
This is the key to it all:
If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit [Gal. 5:25].
Here "walk" is a different Greek word. It is stoichomen, which is basic and elemental, meaning "to proceed or step in order." In verse 16 we were given the principle of walk; here in verse 25 it means to learn to walk. Just as we learned to walk physically by the trial and error method, so are we to begin to walk by the Spirit -- it is a learning process.
Walking is putting one foot in front of the other. Look at this knock-kneed preacher. One knee says to the other, "If you let me by this time, I will let you by next time." That is walking, putting one foot in front of the other. This means to learn to walk. How did you learn to walk? Were you given a lecture on the subject? Did you go to a school and take a course in learning to walk? No, we learn by trial and error, but trying and failing and falling.
This is the way we are to learn to walk in the Spirit -- by trial and error. I know people who have attended spiritual life conferences, and Bible conferences; they have their notebooks filled with notes on how to live the Christian life. Still they are not living it. What is the problem?
You have to learn to walk in the Spirit, which means you are to start out. Why not start now? Say, "I am going to walk in the Spirit. I am going to depend upon the Holy Spirit to produce the fruits in my life." Perhaps you are thinking that you might fall down. I have news for you -- you are going to fall. It will hurt. You say, "How many times will I fall?" I don't know. I am still falling. But that is the way you are going to walk in the Spirit, and that's the only way. You need to step out today and begin leaning upon the Spirit of God. Yield yourself to Him; it is an act of the will.
Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another [Gal. 5:26].
"Let us not be desirous of vain glory" -- you and I are never going to be wonderful saints of God. He is wonderful. Oh, how wonderful He is! He is worthy of our worship. Let's start walking, depending on Him like little children. That's what He wants us to do.
"Provoking one another" is challenging one another. We are to get down from our high chairs and start walking in the Spirit. The Christian life is not a balloon ascension with some great overpowering experience of soaring to the heights. Rather it is a daily walk; it is a matter of putting one foot ahead of the other, in dependence upon the Holy Spirit.
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