Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Galatians Journal: Chapter 5, verse 22

It's been a while since I've updated the Galatians Journal. I've been busy with a project (which is a very good thing).

Galatians 5: 22 “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,”

Paul now shifts gears. After his list of “vices,” the “acts of the sinful nature,” he now contrasts that with the “fruit of the Spirit.” The metaphor of God’s people bearing fruit was not new (see, e.g., Isaiah 27:6, Hosea 10:1 & 14:8). But this is a perfect picture of how the miraculous transformation of a living relationship with Christ – being truly born again – works . Paul contrasts the “acts” of the sinful nature (or “works” as translated in the King James Version in 5:19) with the concept of the “fruit” of the spirit. Fruit is something that is produced by the tree because of its nature, in the natural course of the tree’s life. The tree doesn’t strive to produce fruit – it just happens, because that is what the tree was designed for, it’s what the tree does, indeed, it’s what the tree IS!!. Paul is emphasizing that it’s the believer’s nature that has been transformed – made new at a foundational level – in Christ (see 5:24). Its fruit “of the Spirit” because it’s the Holy Spirit dwelling in the believer that produces righteous, “Christian” character traits as opposed to the mere moral discipline of trying to follow the law. As briefly discussed at the end of the entry on the previous verse (5:21), Paul’s arguments throughout this letter (indeed, in ALL of Paul’s letters) clearly lay out the premise that justification by faith does not result in the ability to sin as we please ,because God is bound to always forgive us (see Romans 6). The Holy Spirit, living inside the believer, produces the Christian virtues – the “fruit of the Spirit” – in each believer’s life.

“love” The Greek word here is “agape.” This is unconditional love, love that does not seek return or reward. It’s the highest, noblest form of love.

“joy” This could also be translated “gladness.” But it also implies greatness in joy and gladness, as the word itself in the Greek can be used as an adverb, meaning “greatly” or “enormously.” The joy that comes through the Holy Spirit is deep and over powering.

“peace” The original Greek work here has many meanings, just as “peace” in English does. It can be used to describe peace between nations, as in the peace that follows a war. That would imply exemption from and freedom from the rage, havoc, and fear that comes with war. The reality of the concept that life is a spiritual battle means a relationship with Christ brings an oasis in that battle. It also means a peace between individuals – the Holy Spirit fosters healing in relationships. It implies safety, security, and prosperity, because true peace makes and keeps things safe and prosperous. The peace of Christ, the “fruit” of peace, is the tranquility of our soul knowing and being sure of our salvation through the promise of Christ, not fearing God’s retribution because we have a relationship with Jesus and a sense of contentment with our lot in life here and now.

“patience” The King James Version translates this as “longsuffering.” In the literal meaning of the original Greek, there are two concepts. First is constancy of character, “patience” in the sense of endurance, consistency, steadfastness, and perseverance. It’s not giving up or giving in when the going gets tough. Second is the concept of “longsuffering,” that is, the ability to endure unfairness and wrongs, forbearance, patience in dealing with the faults of others, slowness in getting angry, and not feeling a need for revenge. It’s the ability to forgive, and continue to forgive, even when the other person fails to change or recognize they’re doing wrong.

“kindness” The KJV translates this as “gentleness,” and the original Greek literally means moral goodness and integrity. It also means being kind, benign, and yes, gentle. Proverbs 15:1 speaks of a “gentle answer turning away wrath.” The transformed character of a Christian doesn’t avoid confrontation, but wisely uses “kindness” in the fruit of his or her life to deal with issues, rather than the corresponding “acts of the sinful nature” such as “fits of rage” or “discord.” (See 5:20)

“goodness” Both this and the previous word could be translated as “goodness,” or “kindness,” but they’re different. The previous word implies a gentle approach to contention, and right behavior and ethical reaction in the face of wrongdoing. The meaning of this term is literally “uprightness of heart.” This is the essence and nature of moral goodness, and implies benevolence and selflessness. It would appear that the fruit of “kindness” is aimed at dealing with those who are opposed to us, or have an issue with us, or who need moral guidance. The fruit of “goodness” seems to aimed more at those who need help, at charitableness, and laying down our lives for others.

“faithfulness” The KJV translates his as “faith,” and that is the essence of the word. First and foremost, it is conviction of truth – truth involving one’s relationship to God, and the trust and passion connected to the belief in that truth. If is the absolute conviction that God exists, that He created the world, that He rules the world, and is our provider and the giver of all good things. It is the absolute conviction that Jesus is the Messiah, the Son of God, and the only means of salvation in God’s Kingdom. In a more general sense, it means fidelity of character – the transformed Christian life is one of consistency and reliability. The fruit of “faith,” or “faithfulness,” therefore, means we are consistent in what we believe in, rely upon, and exhibit as behavior. It means others can rely on that consistency – rely on the fact that we have been changed, and are walking with Christ. They can rely on our word and morality, and rely on our loyalty and friendship. The fruit is shown in our faith in God and his Word, and his work in the body of Christ – and in how others can have faith in the “faithfulness” shown in our lives!!

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