The Fruit of the Spirit (Part 1)

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit (Galatians 5:16-25).

The gift of the Spirit is given when a penitent person is baptized into Christ (Acts 2:38), marking him as belonging to God and providing a down-payment on the full fellowship of God in heaven (Ephesians 1:13-14). But it’s not like a Christian has a visible mark or glows a different color. How is the gift of the Spirit known?

One way is when a Christian begins to display the fruit of the Spirit in his life. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:6). A Christian’s nature changes, but not by a mystical one-time zap from the Spirit. I wish! Then I would come up out of the water never again to use the Lord’s name in vain, lose patience, or fall short of a promise! (This would also mean no non-Christian could behave patiently, gently, or peacefully.) A Christian’s nature changes as he renews his mind. As I follow Jesus, I re-align my priorities, and His ways become more and more evident in me.

A person may become saved and partake of the spiritual nature of Christ, yet fail to produce spiritual fruit, sadly still exhibiting the deeds of the flesh. For this reason, Paul addressed the Corinthians as “saints,” holy ones of God (1 Corinthians 1:1), but soon chastised them for being infants in Christ still living as “mere men” and walking in accordance with the flesh (1 Corinthians 2:14–3:3). This should not happen! And while God is patient, eventually this leads to being pruned away and cast aside, even burned up (Luke 13:6-9, Romans 11:17- 21).

“The deeds of the flesh.” What the human nature produces is plain to see:

• A group of sexual sins. Immorality (porneia, a general term for all sexual sins including fornication and adultery); impurity (akatharsia, a very broad term, simply meaning the opposite of pure; it would include all things such as pornography); sensuality (aselgeia, denoting an absence of restraint, being ruled by one’s sexual passions; Lenski translates it “unbridled conduct”).

Idolatry (the worship of a man-made god); sorcery, (pharmakeia, the practice of magic and potion-making). Both of these have the sense of man-made religion that exalts the self rather than the true God of heaven.

  • A group of relationship sins. Enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger. All of these are problems with our attitude toward other people.

  • A group of sins of party-ism. Disputes, dissensions, factions (outright splits), envying (like some who were jealous of Paul’s work and drew disciples to themselves).

  • Drunkenness, carousing. More excess and lack of self-control. Wild parties and drug abuse would be modern equivalents.

    “Will not inherit the kingdom of God.” Paul gives a general and serious warning, that those who live by the flesh will reap the destruction of the flesh—they will not go to heaven. You may want to behave this way, but that’s the flesh talking. A Christian can’t always do “the things that you please.” There is a higher calling. Do not be deceived!

    “If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.” Now obviously, there is a “law of Christ” (1 Corinthians 9:21) which must be obeyed, and against which our lives will be judged. But a Christian has a changed nature, a nature which yearns to follow the person of Jesus, that Person which is shown to us in the gospel word (Galatians 6:2, James 2:12). You’ll recall that those who followed the Law of Moses quite often didn’t circumcise the heart nor become conformed to the image of God (Romans 2:25-29, Hebrews 8:8- 12, 9:9, Matthew 5:20, 2 Corinthians 3:6). But those who partake of the Spirit of Christ and who set their hearts to embody His ways, for them, in a sense, no law is necessary. For the New Testament word is simply a reflection of the person of Jesus Himself.

    Those who belong to Jesus have “crucified the flesh” and are set free to live like Jesus lived. You will see it in their lives, in the fruit of this Spirit, in their demonstrations of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. For the next eight parts of this bulletin series, we will study each of these fruit of the Spirit in turn.

    –John Guzzetta