I want to begin this by claiming that I am not qualified to go through these fruits. Let me begin the same way as the post on the fruits of the flesh. We’ll examine the text around the list of the fruits, and then we’ll list off the fruits and put forth a couple ideas.
It captures me that the statement immediately following the fruits of the flesh is, “those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” Immediately after the fruits of the Spirit is the statement, “Against such there is no law.” Is it possible that these statements are somehow being paralleled? Is there something inherent within “the Kingdom of God” that requires “against such things there is no law”? Certainly the whole sweep of Galatians would propose this. We begin with Paul expounding to us that the law is more than just Leviticus and Deuteronomy, for I confess that I delight in such books (as did Paul). Law is something other, it is putting anything in between you and Christ. It is exploring traditions, whether like the Pharisees or like evangelicalism, and in that exploration suggesting that the fullness that people seek is within something utterly outside of Scripture and Christ.
You who want to know Jesus more deeply, where do you think this comes from? It isn’t from going to church more often, for I’ve done that. It isn’t from serving more, for I’ve done that. It isn’t from Bible college or seminary, for I’ve done that. It isn’t from having such and such big name pray over you, for I’ve done that. It isn’t from getting baptized in the Spirit to pray in tongues, for I’ve done that. It isn’t in louder, or “more intimate” worship, for I’ve done that. It isn’t in becoming an elder, or a deacon, or some other higher appraised position in your church (I haven’t done this one lol).
All of these things may have their place (some are questionable), but what I’ve found is that none of them bring the satisfaction that I continually sought. I kept praying for more of Jesus, more of God’s Spirit, more of God’s power, more submission to God, more of God’s presence, more of “more”, but I’m not sure what “more” is…
This is once again where it is actually really simple, but we’ve made it so complicated. What does Paul say? “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.” Where in there do you find, “put to death the sinful nature”? Where in that statement do you find, “Always keep searching for something more, something deeper”? Where do you find, “Do this, don’t do that”? It isn’t there. It is simply, you’re in Christ, and therefore you’ve crucified the flesh and its lusts. You live in the Spirit (I’ve also read “by the Spirit”), so therefore walk in the Spirit. This last statement isn’t about rules or “don’t do this”, but a natural outworking of what Paul has just said. It’s like saying, “You’ve been given a body that has certain needs, so make sure to take care of yourself.” If you add on the end, “Don’t smoke, and don’t drink”, it isn’t a command, or “law”, but the simple obvious example of what it means to “take care of yourself”.
So, where do we find the satisfaction that so many are looking for? IHOP and other ministries are actually based entirely upon this seeking.
Satisfaction to the uttermost is found in everything that it means to be “in Christ”. What is it that God wants you to do with your life? He wants you to be “in Christ”, and therefore not in the flesh. What does God approve of? Jesus says that God’s will is this: “To believe on Him whom He has sent”. What about all of the amazing glory-cloud, and visions, and dreams, and prophecies, and tongues, and gifts, and corporate worship, and serving, and evangelism, and…? That stuff is not the foremost, but the secondary. It is the outworking of that which is foremost: being what God has told you to be.
If you are what the Bible marks out for humanity to be, and you simply uphold what Jesus taught that we should live, then go in peace. You already are “deeper” than most people. Here is what I’ve found: the Bible maps out for us a progression. God has been working in the earth since its formation. He rested on the seventh day, and Hebrews 4 then takes that idea and claims that we can also rest from our works, thus entering into the cosmic rest that God has already established (from the foundation of the world). God has been revealing Himself more and more through history, and I dare say that Jesus walking upon the earth was a greater revelation than what Adam and Eve saw in the Garden. Yet, there is an even greater revelation still: Jesus’ second coming and the establishment of God’s Kingdom upon the earth. And yet, there is a greater “unveiling” still: the New Heaven and New Earth, where heaven and earth are one, and where God is in unadulterated splendor before all creation, and where Spirit and flesh are married.
Here is the question, then: How can we be a part of what God is already doing to bring all things unto that ultimate climax and revealing of God? To answer that question is to know what it means to be a “saint”, and specifically a saint in our own day and age. It is answered in knowing God’s heart, and basing our understanding of everything in theology (but especially our end times perception) off of that heart and character. When we know what God is up to, then we can work hand-in-hand with Him, and this is the satisfaction so many are craving.
So, what are the fruits, that we might better understand what to do/be here and now?
I’m sure you’ve heard that “agape is God’s love”. This isn’t true. If you’ve ever looked into the Greek words more deeply than just the way they are used in Scripture, you’ll know agape was a Greek word before the New Testament began using it. It is true that agape is often used as God’s love, but agape is also commanded. Therefore, it was already understood to have a certain connotation. What is love? Love is the essence of what it means to be human. It is the act of reconciliation with all things (God, humanity, and creation). It seeks to perceive more than just circumstances, and in that to perceive to the very heart and essence of the other, cherishing that very essence. It is for this reason that 1 Corinthians can give us things that love does and doesn’t do – because it sees beyond just flesh and outward experience/circumstance.
I’ve heard it said that joy and happiness are different. Happiness can fluctuate, but joy remains. While this might be true, we need to recognize that there is still a deeper way of expressing what joy is. Joy is the result of satisfaction in Christ. It is the result of freedom. It is the result of being in the Kingdom of God, and no longer in the kingdom of darkness. Joy is the result of working hand-in-hand with God, to be the saints of God in your own generation.
Blessed are the peacemakers, because they bring conflict wherever they go. They realize that true peace is not avoidance of the issues, but rather the result of dealing with issues. To be a peacemaker is to have the ministry of reconciliation; peace is reconciliation. As much as it is up to you, live at peace with all men.
Other translations call this “patience”. Longsuffering instills the image of being nagged excessively, and yet just bearing it for a long time. That attitude is not longsuffering. It isn’t patience. Patience requires that we can perceive beyond the circumstances, to realizing that we are an eternal people, and that though time itself might bring aggrevating conditions, God is the one in charge. Instead of getting angry at so and so, we know that there is something else at play (demons, their immaturity in Christ, they are of this world and therefore acting like this world, etc). Instead of getting angry about being late, or persecution, or whatever is out of our control, we know that “there is but one God, from whom all things came” (1 Cor 8:6, and see Eph 4:6 and Hebrews 10:32-35).
Chréstotés, which comes from chréstos, and means (loosely) to be well fit for what is truly needed. Chrestos means useful, and therefore this “kindness” isn’t about not being mean or cruel, but about perceiving what is truly necessary, and to act according to that need. In this, I think Shakespeare had said something remarkable in Hamlet, “Sometimes one must be cruel in order to be kind.” It isn’t cruelty for the sake of being mean, but cruelty for the sake of snapping someone into reality. In this, we find Jesus and all the prophets railing against the religious in Israel, and speaking such harsh statements, which we would all find to be absolutely “unkind”, and yet fully revealing kindness and love.
Agathosune (ag-ath-oh-soo-nay) means “inherent goodness”. Notice the suffix “syne” (sune), which in the Greek suggests a condition or quality. It isn’t that goodness is something that we work on, or attempt to be, but that this fruit of the Spirit demands that we simply are. We have the condition, or the quality, of being good, and therefore can do no other. So, what is “goodness”, which I’m sure that all of you are thinking you fall way short of? This word seems to be specific to the New Testament, and from what I understand is not a word found in secular Greek manuscripts. Agathos is what originates and emanates from God, and is impowered through His life. I would like to suggest that it is the very condition that we all know. When you woke up the day after coming to Christ, did you experience a different set of morals? I did. I no longer desired to live the way I had always lived. That is agathosune.
This comes from the word “faith”, which is a pursuasion of that which you believe. It might well be that faith is not faith when you can see it with your own eyes, but is revealed as faith when you trust it, even if you can’t tangibly prove it. Faithfulness is the act of faith. It is the pursuasion of your confession, and the lifestyle bent toward God in all things. God is real, Jesus has saved my soul, and now I shall eternally cry, “All to Jesus”. That is faithfulness – to do the things God desires, even when it is unconvenient and difficult.
I met a man from Sweden with such gentleness and quietness. When he spoke, it was barely louder than a whisper. Yet, when he spoke, everyone shut up to listen. His words were charged, and in them were the most beautiful things. His eyes were always red, because he from when I met him, he was always crying. In him was gentleness, and that was his strength. There was strength shown in this man that I had never seen before, and it paradoxically came most powerfully from his meekness.
This is our discipline to do that which God demands.
These are freedom, and it isn’t a requirement. This is the “symptom” of freedom. All is permissible, but not all is beneficial. Some acts of freedom are your last act of freedom. Therefore, do the things that freedom is, and in that, live as you already are: free.