The Fruit of the Spirit Part 1

There can be no better example of God’s grace than His gift of the Spirit and the clear manifestations of His presence in our lives. Galatians 5:22-23: Love, Joy, Peaceful, Longsuffering, Kind, Good, Faithfulness, Meek, and Self-controlled

The Language of Christian Love

The Fruit of the Spirit are relational. They are expressed in a relationship with the Lord or each other. Let’s start with Agape love. Love is characterized by a joy in being with the person loved. Joy is peaceful [there is no joy in tension and war]. But for peace to exist we must learn to tolerate and accept others [which is what this word means]. Longsuffering exhibits a kindness [by its very nature] and kindness is kind because it is good [conduct in harmony with Scripture. Bad people by nature are not kind]. But to be in harmony with God’s Word, one must be faithful to it and faithfulness is a natural expression of meekness, a desire to be faithful [never by accident]. This kind of love requires that we walk in the Spirit and not the flesh [carnality wars against this kind of love]. 

It is a formidable task God assigns language, out of necessity of His love, to alert us to our need of a Savior. Formidable because we are living in another realm where the meanings of words are upside down. For this reason, the classical definition of a word designated as a Fruit of the Spirit [Galatians 5:24-25] may lack the appropriate nuance that would represent the mind of the Spirit who authored it. Richard Trench calls them graces:⁠1 love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance.

  1. Love is a Biblical word not found in any earlier writings.⁠2
  2. Joy which Peter says is so glorious words are inadequate to define it⁠3 [1 Peter 1:8].
  3. Peace which Bishop Lightfoot wrote “surpassing every counsel of man … which is far better, which produces a higher satisfaction, then … all anxious forethought.”⁠4 [Philippians 4:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:16].
  4. Longsuffering “… occurs in the Septuagint, though neither there nor elsewhere exactly in the sense which in the N.T. it bears.”⁠5
  5. Gentleness which Richard Trench called “a beautiful grace“ of which “Calvin has quite too superficial a view of when commenting on Col. 3:12.”⁠6
  6. Goodness* was a word unknown before the writing of the Bible.⁠7
  7. Faith Lightfoot demurs, “seems not to be used here in its theological sense ‘belief in God.’ Rather… the passive meaning ..trustworthiness.”⁠8
  8. Meekness Trench wrote that this word has “a depth, a richness, a fulness of significance which they were very far from possessing before.”⁠9
  9. Temperance is defined everywhere in a secular sense, “self-control, to force one’s self to do something, to exercise control over, be master of, with a strong hand.”⁠10

Do we credit Paul with forethought in the choice of these 9. He left out an entire catalog of saintly qualities that, to our way of thinking, might easily deserve a place in this list (godliness, humility, mercy, even righteousness, patience, and purity, to name a few)? Or do we credit the Spirit with this list in which these words have particular significance and meaning to God? Has He pressed these terms into service having elevated them to a higher spiritual plane to speak of a spirituality they were not, until now, capable of describing.

One thing is obvious that Paul is contrasting the Fruit of the Spirit with at least (Paul added “and such like”)⁠11 17 “works fo the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21. Of These 9 graces Lightfoot says “the difficulty in classification in this list is still greater.”⁠12

Some terms like virtue and religious, and even to bow down in worship, have such a limited use, especially with Paul, that we are led to think that God’s grace served a much loftier purpose than could be explained using these terms. As the prophet foretold,

“For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.” [Zephaniah 3:9].

Perhaps, it is reasonable to ask: Are the Fruit of the Spirit as part of a Christian testimony evidence of the infilling of the Spirit? This is not to disparage any doctrine but to encourage a deeper enquiry into the meaning and significance of these 9 Christian characteristics as descriptive of our spirituality and salvation.

Part 2: Temperance

1 Richard C. Trench Synonyms of the New Testament (Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company,,Grand Rapids, MI: 1975)  page 232.
2 Joseph Thayers. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon. (Hendrickson Publishers,  1996), page 693.
3 Ibid. page 44.
4 J. B. Lightfoot,  Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Philippians. (Zondervan Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, MI: 15th printing. 1976) page 161.
5 Richard C. Trench Synonyms of the New Testament (Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company,,Grand Rapids, MI: 1975)  page 196.
6 Ibid. 232f.
7 Joseph Thayers. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon. (Hendrickson Publishers,  1996), page 693.
8 J. B. Lightfoot, The Epistle of Saint Paul to the Galatians. (Zondervan Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI:1974), page 213.
9 Richard C. Trench Synonyms of the New Testament (Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company,,Grand Rapids, MI: 1975)  page 151.
10 Henry George Liddell & Robert Scott. compl. A Greek-English Lexicon. (Oxford University Press. London:  1976), page 473.
11 ejusdem generis -as the same kind
12 John Peter Lange..Genesis (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI: 7th printing, 1980) Vol XI, Page 139.
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