The Fruit of the Spirit, Part 2

Walking in the Spirit: A Study in Galatians

by   |     |   president@bju.edu   |  
Walking in the Spirit graphic

Galatians 5:22
But the fruit of the Spirit is . . . longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

One of the greatest problems with believers is a desire to be fully mature—now. We live in a gotta-have-it-now society and sadly, that mentality has filtered over into our Christian lives. That’s why we have to remember the significance of the fact that these qualities we are studying are called fruit.

God has sovereignly designed that we grow day by day as we, by His grace, persevere in our obedience to Him. We cannot be foolishly looking for some super-sanctified, immediate, no-more-problems kind of experience. And people who teach that those things are possible do more to damage than to help.

The truth is that we grow as we learn to walk in the Spirit. That means we are allowing our lives to be dominated and directed by God’s Spirit as He brings His Word to bear on our hearts and minds. The opposite, of course, is being dominated and directed by the flesh. That’s why the promise of Galatians 5:16 is so crucial to grasp: when we submit to the Spirit’s leading in our lives, we will not fulfill the desires of our flesh.

The fact is that submitting to the Spirit’s leading in our lives will produce a beautiful, multifaceted fruit that reflects the life of Jesus Christ. We have noted that the facets of love, joy and peace are manifested as we related to God. But this fruit is also manifested in how we relate to others—with long-suffering, gentleness and goodness.

The Fruit of the Spirit and My Relationship with Others

Long-suffering

In the Greek, long-suffering is actually a very colorful word based on two root words: makros means long or far, and thumos means burning or passionate wrath.

Does that give you an idea of what long-suffering is? In our vernacular, we might refer to this type of person as having a “long fuse.” Long-suffering has the capacity to be wronged and not retaliate. It reflects an emotional calm in the face of irritation, defers anger when provoked, and refuses to retaliate when mistreated.

Do you see how practical walking in the Spirit is? This is not an ethereal, mystical experience that takes place over your head. True spirituality is a matter of everyday life. The freedom from giving in to your fallen, sinful nature is a real thing! And that’s good news, because the world is full of irritating people and frustrating circumstances. True spirituality, though, is not counting to ten and letting it go. Neither is it a fatalistic, “whatever will be, will be” attitude. True spirituality submits to the Spirit in the face of those irritations and, by grace, responds like Christ.

Are there people you need to ask for forgiveness because of a lack of Spirit-filled long-suffering? If so, write out who they are and ask for God’s help to reconcile with them biblically.

Gentleness

This facet of the fruit of the Spirit is a gracious, kind and caring attitude that originated with God Himself. Read Titus 3:1–6.

We need to understand that this is more than a passive disposition; this is an active choice to cheerfully do the useful, profitable thing for others—especially those who are not gentle to you. Are we really reflecting Christ if we’re simply kind and gentle to those who reciprocate?

This isn’t kindness that comes because you are paid or motivated to put on a nice smile. And it isn’t being gentle because you are told to be nice to people. True gentleness only comes as you learn to be dominated and directed by the Spirit of God; and then, and only then, will this gentle kindness come out as an aspect of His fruit in your lives with others.

Goodness

The ultimate goodness comes from our God, who gives every good and perfect gift. (See James 1:17; Ps. 34:8.) True biblical goodness refers to that which is most beneficial and useful. To show goodness to others is to do things that are of true benefit to them.

Goodness is fundamentally a spirit of generosity that is in no way natural to man; it can only be produced by the life of God’s Spirit working in our lives. When Spirit-filled believers deal with other people, they will manifest patient, gentle and generous living.

The Fruit of the Spirit and My Personal Responsibility

The final triplet in this multifaceted fruit of the Spirit describes believers in their personal responsibilities and daily walks. However, these traits do noticeably overlap with those describing our relationship with God and others.

Faith

This faith is not necessarily depicting faith in God and our trust in Him; this word is actually describing being worthy of other people’s trust. The word conveys the idea of faithfulness, loyalty, trustworthiness or dependability. And the Spirit cultivates this fruit in us because this is truly the character of our God.

Read the following verses and note the aspects of God’s faithfulness.

Numbers 23:19
God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man, that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or hath he spoken, and shall he not make it good?

Psalm 33:11
The counsel of the LORD standeth for ever, the thoughts of his heart to all generations.

Lamentations 3:22–23
It is of the LORD’s mercies that we are not consumed, because his compassions fail not. They are new every morning: great is thy faithfulness.

Hebrews 13:5, 8
Let your conversation be without covetousness; and be content with such things as ye have: for he hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee. . . . Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and for ever.

James 1:17
Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.

1 John 1:9
If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

This is a quality that can only be brought about by the Spirit’s working in our hearts. And really, this should be an obvious fruit in our lives because of our faithfulness and loyalty to God. A lack of dependability is truly the sign of those who are failing to allow their lives to be led by the Spirit and are instead being controlled by fleshly impulses.

Think about it: Would the ones who know you best describe you as trustworthy? When you tell someone you are going to do something, do you do it? Are there unfulfilled responsibilities right now in your life? Would you say you have a tendency to be faithful only if things are going your way?

Meekness

This is a difficult word to define, but in a sense it has to do with the way in which you react to the situation of life in which God places you.

Fundamentally, a meek person understands that God is in control and that He allows people and circumstances into our lives for the purpose of growing us into Christlikeness. Instead of operating in the wisdom of the world and living in arrogant aggravation and frustration (James 3:14–16), we are to operate in God’s wisdom and live in pure, peaceful, gentle, teachable and meek ways (James 3:17–18)—even in the difficult circumstances of life.

Meek people do not retaliate, rebel or react. They are careful and patient. Whether dealing with difficult friends, unreasonable authorities, or downright difficult circumstances, meek people sweetly submit to what God is doing instead of resisting it.

Our flesh pulls at us to get irritated and frustrated. However, when we submit to the fact that God is in control and trust Him, the Spirit produces meekness in our lives that reflects the beauty of Jesus Himself. When the Spirit is in control, we will learn from our mistakes, receive instruction well, and live in humble submission to God in every aspect of our lives.

Temperance

Simply put, temperance is self-control. However, this self-control is not merely a matter of will power, neither is it a struggle of the flesh. It is a fruit of the Spirit. That means we should look at temperance more along the lines of Spirit-control instead of self-control. So, what may look like self-control is actually a matter of letting Someone Else take control. As with all of the fruit of the Spirit, it is an issue of submitting the control of ourselves to the Spirit of God.

We all know the flesh battles in the realm of desires. The Spirit allows us to overcome those sinful appetites and selfish desires and have the ability to say “no” to the flesh—and this comes right down to where we live.

The truth is that this is all a part of Spirit-filled living. There is no area of our life which the Spirit’s control will not affect. That is why walking in the Spirit is the only way to live the Christian life, and nothing else works!

No Law in Relationship to the Spirit’s Fruit

As Paul concludes his painting of this multifaceted fruit of the Spirit, he uses and interesting phrase—“against such there is not law.” What is that all about? It won’t hurt to review the concept at this point.

In one sense, you could say that man has never come up with laws against these kinds of qualities. You’ll never see a society that outlaws love and gentleness. If so, you can be certain that something extremely weird is going on. But the gist of what Paul is actually writing is that no laws exist that will actually create these qualities in a person. You cannot put laws on people to make them have self-control. That can only be produced by the life of the indwelling Spirit. So Paul’s statement at the end of Galatians 5:23 tells us that while there are no laws that can create the fruit off the Spirit, walking in the Spirit is going to produce everything that the law requires.

This clearly explains, then, why it is that the believer is not under the law. But does that mean we have the freedom to break the law? Of course not!

What Paul is helping us understand is that the law cannot in any way produce spirituality. But that does not mean the law is wrong or obsolete. It does give us an understanding of God and His nature.

We have to conclude that the problem, then, is not the law. The problem is our flesh! That’s why the flesh cannot be dealt with by placing rules and regulations on it or by dismissing any principle of living. The only One that can deal with the flesh is the Spirit of God, and that is why when we walk in the Spirit we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh.

God has exposed us to the fruit of His Spirit so that we would know it and desire it in our lives. But we can’t just acquire an appetite for these things; the Spirit must—and does—put within believers an appetite for these qualities because they are clear reflections of the life of our Lord Jesus Christ.

So how does a believer actually see these things come out in his life? Well, if you have been carefully considering this, you will see that we have been dealing with the answer all along. But Galatians 5:25 is going to tell us specifically what it looks like to walk in the Spirit.


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Steve Pettit traveled for many years with the Steve Pettit Evangelistic Team before becoming president of Bob Jones University. His ultimate goal for BJU is to prepare students to serve and love others, no matter their vocation.