Galatians 5:13-26: The Fruit of the Spirit
May 24, 2023
TODAY'S BIBLE READING:
2 Samuel 22, Psalm 117, Mark 15:42-47, Galatians 5:13-26
If we are set free from legalism, does this mean that the Christian has no responsibility to live a moral life? Not at all! There are two dangers frequently fallen into by the unwary. On the one side of the path is the ditch of legalism. Paul has spent much of the Book of Galatians so far warning against falling into this ditch of legalism. But on the other side of the gospel path is another ditch, that of license or antinomianism. In either case, we are falling off the straight and narrow path of following Christ by faith. The old slogan is good to remember to keep your mind clear at this point: We are saved by faith alone, but not the faith that remains alone. Or think of it in terms of Jesus’ teaching about a good tree bearing good fruit and a bad tree bearing bad fruit. If we are regenerate, born again, have Christ’s new life by His Spirit renewing and regenerating us, then we will bear the fruit of increasing Christlikeness. Or as Paul puts it here, we are “called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love.”
How then in practice can we bear the fruit of increasing Christlikeness? Paul tells us to “walk in the Spirit.” Walking is an activity that takes work. He does not tell us to lay back and relax in the Spirit. He tells us to walk in the Spirit. As Paul elsewhere puts it, he works with His energy that is so powerfully at work in him. Even though we are born again, we still have the “flesh” (the old sinful nature) at work pulling us back to immoral and ungodly desires and actions. But, as Christians, we also have the Spirit within us leading us towards following Christ. They are in conflict with each other, these desires. The state of the Christian in this world is then one of perpetual battle. What we must do is seek to obey the Spirit—and as the Bible elsewhere teaches us, the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God. Fight temptation as Jesus did: by quoting Scripture. That is why it is so important to read and memorize the Bible. You are unlikely to have a Bible right at hand or be able to find the right Bible verse when you are hit with a flaming dart of the evil one in temptation. Know the Bible by heart, so that you can walk in the Spirit.
By contrast, the works of flesh (while the fruit of the Spirit—singular, note, “fruit” is a glorious unity)—the works of the flesh are an ever degrading confusion and conflict and vicious vile hate of others, of self, and of God.
But then see the fruit of the Spirit: the concatenation (a series interconnected) of interlocking fruit that is the character of Christ increasingly formed within us. How do we bear this fruit? By coming to Christ, we crucify the flesh. That is, we commit to Christ. We commit wholeheartedly and completely to Christ as our Lord. We surrender to Him. We submit to Him. We are his, and in exchange he forgives our sins and accepts us into restored relationship with God now and forever. And now we are his disciples, bearing the cross. We keep in step with the Spirit by reading the Bible and praying and working out our salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God at work in us to will and act according to his good purpose. But even as we increasingly walk down that road of Christlike character, there is a danger—that of jealousy and provocation of each other, trying to be better and defeat each other in godliness, as if that were possible. No, follow Christ and bear his fruit in your life and serve one another humbly in love.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Josh Moody (Ph.D., University of Cambridge) is the senior pastor of College Church in Wheaton, IL., president and founder of God Centered Life Ministries, and author of several books including How the Bible Can Change Your Life and John 1-12 For You.
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