We are in a series studying the book of Galatians. Today, we are going to begin looking at the fruit of the Spirit. In chapter 5, Paul contrasts for us the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. He says, “these are opposed to each other…” (v. 17). The key for us as believers is found in verses 16 and 25 when he says, “walk by the Spirit” and “live by the Spirit.”“The works of the flesh are obvious” (v. 19). These are the types of things that mark the lifestyle of non-believers. We as Christians still have the propensity to lapse into those things in our unredeemed flesh. Our flesh will not be redeemed until we receive our heavenly home and a glorified body. The question is, are we regularly practicing these things or is the fruit of the Spirit growing in us?
Life under the law, under legalism, produces these vices: sexual immorality, moral impurity, promiscuity, idolatry, sorcery, hatreds, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish ambitions, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and anything similar (v. 19-21). Life under the Spirit produces these virtues: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and such things (v. 22-23). The “deeds” of the flesh are plural. A person does not commit all these sins at the same time. The fruitof the Spirit is singular. It comes as a total package. Not every believer has every gift of the Spirit, but every believer has all the fruit the Spirit.
Fruit is an image seen throughout Scripture. In John 15:5 Jesus says, “I am the vine, you arethe branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” The key is abide. The branches are not straining harder. Some of you are trying to live the Christian life in your own strength. The key is to abide in the life, the source of the vine. The fruit is not produced by us but in us.
Let’s look at the first three virtues Paul lists. The first is love. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength and the second is to love your neighbor as yourself. The greatest evidence that the Spirit lives in you is not performing signs and wonders, or speaking in tongues. The greatest evidence is love. Man’s love is based on attraction or earning it. But Deuteronomy 7:7-8 makes it clear that the love of God has nothing to do with our merit.God’s love takes the initiative. It does not ignore the needs of a brother. It forgives with or without apology. It is more than an emotion or feeling. It is a decision that we make and an action that we take.This love is the permanent priority of the Christian life.
Love and joy are linked.“This is my commandment that you love one another that your joy may be full.” Joy is not happiness. Joy does not depend on circumstances. The joy of the Christian is unique because it is based on salvation. David prayed, “restore unto me the joy of thy salvation” (Ps. 51:12). 1 Peter 1:8-9 says, “Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy, for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.” Joy to the world the Lord has come! The gospel is good news. Real joy is based on salvation. Man’s guilt plus God’s grace leads to eternal gratitude.
Joy and peace are also connected. Numbers 6:26 says the Lord will give you peace. Isaiah 26:3 says, “God will keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on Him.” Philippians 4:4 says, “Rejoice in the Lord always” and verse 7 says, “the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” As Christians we can have peace with God and peace with others. Peace is found in God. Man’s problem is we are alienated from God. There is no peace apart from God. Jesus said in John 16:33,“I have told you these things, so that in meyou may have peace.”He is the Prince of Peace.
How do we know if we are walking in the Spirit or in the flesh?It is not mystical. It is obvious. Paul gives two lists for us to use to examine our lives. When you look into the mirror of God’s word, do you see more of yourself in the vices or the virtues? Is Jesus producing His fruit in you or are you trying to live the Christian life on your own?If you are looking for love, joy, and peace, it is found in Jesus.