The Christian way of life is based on the good news of Jesus, and it develops through that same good news. Christ died and rose again to set us free, and by the Holy Spirit he continues to set us free. What Jesus Christ does for us is good; in fact when compared with the works of the flesh, it is tremendously, beautifully, overwhelmingly, surpassingly, stunningly good. “When we walk with the Lord, in the light of his Word, what a glory he sheds on our way.” Yes, it is glory begun to share in the Lord’s character now. What better thing can there be for us than to be like him? Savor the excellence of the excellent fruit spoken of here. Yet, why do we have so much trouble with what Christ is doing in us by the Spirit? We used the illustration last week that the Spirit is Christ’s resident remodeling contractor in his people. Why do we show such resistance when he starts to rip the moldy, cracked lath and plaster (remaining sin) out of our lives? Why are we so reluctant to see likeness to him as attractive, pleasant, and refreshing in our lives? I trust that this study will bring a new delight and desire for conformity to Jesus Christ in each one of us.
I. The Holy Spirit starts the production of his fruit in a Christian’s life at the time of regeneration.
A. The Spirit brings new spiritual life in the inner person of the believer.
1. A radical change occurs as the Spirit unites us with Christ. The old self is put off and the new self is put on (Eph 4:22-24; Col 3:10). We have new desires for holiness and righteousness.
2. As the old inner self had a natural desire to express itself in the works of the flesh, so the new inner self has spiritual desires to express itself in the ways of Christ. In other words, the new self likes to wear new clothes (Col 3:12-17).
B. The Spirit unites the called person to the living Christ, the Risen One, the Almighty, Sovereign Lord of glory. To such a person, changes begin to happen, even if the believer cannot explain what is happening.
1. We have been joined to the Risen Christ in order that we might bear fruit for God (Rm 7:4-6). We are married to a Husband who is potent and able to produce godly fruit in us.
2. Christ does this by the ministry of the Holy Spirit; in other words, this is the fruit of the Spirit.
Point: When we talk of the fruit of the Spirit, we are in the realm of the supernatural, the realm of God’s almighty power. We experience the power of the Creator anew. God is at work.
Apply: We must think according to who we now are in Christ (Rm 6:11). We can face hard tasks in life, because Christ’s power is active in us by the Holy Spirit. We can tell others about Christ. We can have a joyful marriage. We can be patient and kind. We can say no to overeating. We can live in confident anticipation of the Lord’s return. We are more than conquerors through him who loved us (Rm 8:37).
II. The Holy Spirit brings about a godly way of life in Christ’s followers.
The apostle lists nine character traits in these verses. There are more than these nine, but these were especially relevant to the situation in the Galatian congregations. There is no obvious grouping of these traits, but we will consider them in two general groups. This is a brief overview. If you study these on your own, beware of trite and timeworn assertions that a careful study of the Greek words and their usage in the NTS will not support.
A. Basic traits
1. Love is essential to the Christian way of life. Love means to set your affections on someone, so that you give yourself sacrificially for their good. So then, love fulfills the law and serves one another.
2. Joy is a deep emotion of delight, pleasure, and satisfaction. It is a glad feeling or happiness. Joy is based on the finished work of Christ (Rm 5:11) and looks forward to the glory of God (Rm 5:2). One of the striking characteristics of this joy from Christ that the Spirit produces is that enables us even to rejoice in our sufferings (Rm 5:3-5). “Joy is an essential ingredient of all true Christianity” (New Dictionary of Theology, p. 354), and joy is “a consistent mark of both the individual believer and the believing community” (Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, p. 588).
3. Peace is more than the absence of war or strife. It is “the presence of the rich blessing of God” (Morris). Since we justified believers have peace with God, we are to let the peace of Christ rule in our hearts (Col 3:15). This means the gatherings of God’s people are to be marked by blessing. We should experience encouragement, spiritual, refreshment, renewal, and restoration when we come together in our big group or our small groups. You might come in from the world feeling rather fatigued and perhaps downcast. When you leave, you ought to feel reinvigorated! But guess what? This won’t happen if you hold yourself away from others. You need to draw near in faith.
B. Community traits
1. Patience is waiting calmly. If we had the word “long-tempered”, as an antonym to “short-tempered”, it would help us grasp some more of its meaning. Life is filled with struggles and stress; so is life in a gospel community. We need to wait calmly for others to grow, to walk through the struggles of life together, and for each other to lay hold of and practice Biblical teaching.
2. Kindness is a gracious attitude that seeks the well-being of others.
3. Goodness is a synonym of kindness, but it communicates more of the outward expression of doing what is for the true benefit of others. It has the idea of generosity.
4. Faithfulness is the quality of trustworthiness. The faithful person can be relied on by others.
5. Gentleness is the quality of friendship. It does not mean “a lack of spirit, courage, vigor, and energy that its translation as ‘meekness’ (AV, RV) or even as ‘gentleness’ (RSV, NASB, NIV, NEB) might convey in modern English” (Fung, p. 269). The gentle person does not try to impose his/her will on a situation, but submits to God’s will. It is to show courtesy and to be non-self-assertive. Clearly, this quality is necessary to promote unity and true friendship in gatherings of Christ’s people.
6. Self-control is closely related to gentleness. If the gentle person controls his/her anger, the person who is self-controlled controls his/her sensual passions. He or she is in control of one’s desires and appetites.