Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Galatians Journal: Chapter 5, verse 23

Galatians 5:23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

Paul closes out his list of the fruits of the spirit with the last two items.

“gentleness” The King James Version translates this as “meekness.” There has already been a word in this list that could have been translated as “gentleness,” the New International Version translated it as “kindness.” The word here does indeed literally mean “gentleness,” but implies meekness, and especially humility. This is mildness and evenness of temper – not easily provoked, patience under duress, injury or offense; not proud, vain or haughty. Numbers 12:2 speaks of Moses as being meek. I think the key concept to understanding what “gentleness” is, as one of the fruits of the spirit, is humility. That is, submissiveness to God, and humble in spirit. It also implies a strong sense of nurturing – a parental sense of love, and to lead and nurture others in gentleness and humility.

“self control” The King James renders this as “temperance.” This word conveys the essence of a person who has mastered his or her desires and passions, especially sensual desires. This is the utmost in self restraint. Interestingly, one of the primary uses of this word in ancient Greek culture was to describe “continence” – a word that can mean to control carnal desire, but as a medical term refers to the voluntary control of the bowels. Its amusing in a way – the Holy Spirit produces fruit in the believer that amounts to a sort of spiritual “potty training” if you will – we grow and develop in our ability to choose not to sin. This was a big deal in the ancient world. The ability to abstain from vice, to discipline one’s own body and personal desires was probably one of the most highly respected virtues of the ancient Roman world. The fear of lawlessness – the freedom to sin to one’s delight – was one of the primary criticisms of the doctrine of “salvation by grace.” But Paul emphasizes that those who are transformed through Christ fulfill the morality of the Law by the inspiration of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:14).

“Against such things there is no law.” I Timothy 1:9 states that the Law was not designed for the righteous, but for sinners. There is an implication in the English translation of this phrase that there is more – “no law – that can bring a charge.” The power of a transformed life in Jesus is just that – our sins are wiped away and there is nothing to bring a charge against. The Law becomes practically unnecessary, because the fruit of the Spirit produces the righteousness of Christ in us – the “new creation” we are in Jesus comes through the power of the Spirit, not through obedience to the law.

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