The Fruit of the Spirit

By James L. Morrisson

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IV. THE NINE ASPECTS OF THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT

"The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law." (Galatians 5:22)

Paul speaks of the fruit (singular) of the Holy Spirit. He lists 9 aspects of that fruit, but it is still one fruit. There is nothing that suggests that one person is to have one aspect and another person another aspect. Just as a peach is one fruit with several aspects - such as size, texture, shape, color, odor, flavor, juiciness, keeping ability - so the fruit of the Spirit is one fruit with a number of aspects. As we look at these aspects in detail we shall see how closely interrelated they are.

Vine comments that the singular form suggests "the unity of the character of the Lord as reproduced in them." If we are to be transformed into the likeness of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3:18), "put on the new man, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness" (Ephesians 4:24), and "partake of the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), we need to cultivate all of these qualities.

Note that in 1 Corinthians 12 Paul speaks of the gifts (plural) of the Holy Spirit, and says that "the Holy Spirit gives them to each one just as he determines." An individual may have one or a few gifts of the Spirit in which he or she operates consistently, but we are expected to show all of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit.

A. LOVE.

          1. Definition. The Greek has several words for "love". The one used here is agape, Strong's #26. It means a selfless love that desires what is best for the other person without any thought of a reward. Unger's Dictionary calls agape "the antithesis of selfishness."

Vine's Dictionary says of it, "Christian love, whether exercised toward the brethren or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself on those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, Rom 15:2, and works no ill to any, 13:8-10; love seeks opportunity to do good to 'all men, and especially towards them that are of the household of the faith' Gal 6:10." (p. 693)

          2. The two dimensions of love. Love has two dimensions:

  • Vertical - the love of the Father for us and our love for him, and
  • Horizontal - our love for each other.

Jesus said that the two greatest commandments are to love our Father with all our heart, soul, mind and strength (vertical), and to love our neighbor as ourselves (horizontal) (Mark 12:30-31). "All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments" (Matthew 22:40).

John emphasizes that these two commandments go together. "We love because he first loved us. If anyone says, 'I love God' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command, Whoever loves God must also love his brother" (1 John 4:19-21). Again he says, "This is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands" (1 John 5:2).

Almost every aspect of the fruit of the Spirit deals with our relationships. Scripture has a surprisingly large number of passages dealing with our relationship to "one another". God wants to build us up into a single body, a single Bride for his Son. How we deal with one another is very important.

          3. The central importance of love. "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:8). He has loved us with an everlasting love and drawn us with loving-kindness (Jeremiah 31:3). "His love endures forever" (Psalm 136). God is "abounding in love" (Psalm 103:8). If we would be "imitators of God" (Ephesians 5:1), if we would "participate in the divine nature" (2 Peter 1:4), then we must love. Jesus Christ has given us the greatest example of love in coming to earth and dying for our salvation, and he has told us to love one another as he has loved us (John 13:34-35).

"Do everything in love" (1 Corinthians 16:14). Be "rooted and established in love" (Ephesians 3:17). "Live a life of love" (Ephesians 5:2). "Be united in love" (Colossians 2:2). "Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers a multitude of sins" (1 Peter 4:8). Love binds all the other aspects of the fruit in perfect unity (Colossians 3:14).

Love is the motivator that releases the dunamis power of the Holy Spirit within us. Love for God motivates us to want to become like God in character. Love for our fellow men motivates us to want to show them kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness and patience. Without love our gifts and actions are nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-3). They need the powerful motivation of love to be effective. "God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit, whom he has given us" (Romans 5:5), and it is that love that releases the power of the Holy Spirit to work within and through us.

          4. Agape love is a decision; it does not depend on feelings. God loves "the world" (John 3:16), and we are told to be Imitators of God" (Ephesians 5;1). Jesus commands us to love one another (John 13:34), love our neighbor (Mark 12;36), and love our enemies (Matthew 5:44). We have a choice whether to obey or to disobey these commands. We love our fellow man, not because we are attracted to him or drawn to him, but because God commands us to love and we have decided to obey God's commands. After we have made that decision the feeling may come, but we love whether or not it comes. This means that we can learn to love.

          5. The nature of love. "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers" (1 John 3:16). Are we willing to do that?

               a. 1 Corinthians 13:4-8.

An examination of 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 will show much about the nature of love, and its relationship to the other aspects of the fruit of the Spirit.

"Love is patient". Patience is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. Ephesians 4:2 says "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love."

"Love is kind." Kindness is another aspect of the fruit of the Spirit.

"It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud." (In this sense it is related to gentleness, which includes humility.) Jesus Christ is the greatest example of love and he "humbled himself and became obedient to death" (Philippians 2:8).

"It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered." Self-control is another aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. So are kindness, gentleness and peace.

"It keeps no record of wrongs." God blots out our transgressions (Psalms 51:1, 103:12); so we need to forget the wrongs others have done us.

"Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth." "Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ" (Ephesians 4:15).

"It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails." Faithfulness is one of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. God's "love endures forever" (Psalms 106:1, 118:1, 130:7, 136; Lamentations 3:22-23). "From everlasting to everlasting the Lord's love is with those who fear him" (Psalm 103:17). God's love is unfailing. If we are to be like him, then our love must endure and not fail. It needs to be always there for those whom we love.

               b. Other Scriptures.

Love is sincere. "Love must be sincere" (Romans 12:9; see also 2 Corinthians 6:6). Sincere means that there is no pretense, sham or cover-up; "what you see is what you get."

Love builds up. "Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up" (1 Corinthians 8:1). Scripture repeatedly emphasizes the importance of edification, building each other up. "Therefore encourage one another and build each other up" (1 Thessalonians 5:11). "Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification" (Romans 14:19); "encourage one another daily" (Hebrews 3:13); "try to excel in gifts that build up the church" (1 Corinthians 14:12; see also 1 Corinthians 14:3-4, 26).

Love unites. "My purpose is that they may be encouraged in heart and united in love, so that they may have the full riches of complete understanding, in order that they may know the mystery of God, namely, Christ in us, the hope of glory" (Colossians 2:2). "Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and in purpose" (Philippians 2:2).

Love drives out fear. "There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear" (1 John 4:18). "For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline" (2 Timothy 1:7). Note the relationship between love and self-control.

          6. Love expresses itself in action. 1 John 3:18 declares. "Let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth." Vine says, "Love can be known only from the actions it prompts."

Self-sacrifice. "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers" (1 John 3:16).

Obedience to God's commands. One of the essential aspects of agape love is obedience to God. Jesus said, "If anyone loves me, he will obey my teaching" (John 14:23, see also v. 15). I John 5:2 says, "this is how we know that we love the children of God: by loving God and carrying out his commands." 1 John 2:5 says "If anyone obeys his word, God's love is truly made complete in him."

Thankfulness. "Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits" (Psalm 103:2 KJV). "Give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:18). Not only does our thankfulness express our love for God, but as we decide to be thankful and recognize the blessings he has given us we realize more fully how much he loves us, and our love for him increases. Similarly, thankfulness to others increases our love for them.

Compassion. At one point Jesus withdrew to a solitary place, but when a large crowd followed him "he had compassion on them and healed their sick" (Matthew 14:14). Then he fed them. John says, "If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him?" (1 John 3:17; see James 2:15-16).

B. JOY.

Joy is also a command. "Be joyful always" (1 Thessalonians 5:16). "Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice" (Philippians 4:4). We must decide to rejoice regardless of the circumstances, and regardless of whether we feel like it. Our joy does not depend on the circumstances. It rests on our relationship with the Father. We can have joy, no matter what the circumstances, because we are the adopted sons and daughters of our Father in Heaven and we know that He loves us and desires our companionship. It is because He has given us "new birth unto a living hope" (1 Peter 1:3) that we can be joyful (1 Peter 1:8-9). There is a song that says about joy, "the world didn't give it and the world can't take it away". That's good news.

Jesus wants us to have the "full measure" of his joy (John 17:13). He wants our joy to be "complete" (John 15:11, 16:24). Paul desired that the joy of the Philippians would "overflow" (Philippians 1:26). Peter speaks of "inexpressible and glorious joy" (1 Peter 1:8).

We find joy by being in the presence of the Father. "In thy presence is fullness of joy" (Psalm 16:11 KJV). "You have made him glad with the joy of your presence" (Psalm 21:6).

"Be joyful always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). As we pray we acknowledge our relationship with the Father and come into His presence. Giving thanks is crucial. In any situation we can decide whether to give thanks or to complain. Complaining brings misery and giving thanks brings joy.

"The joy of the Lord is your strength" (Nehemiah 8:10). If we lack joy, there is something lacking in our walk with the Lord, and we will not have the strength he wants us to have. Paul prayed that the Colossians would be "strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience, and joyfully giving thanks to the Father" (Colossians 1:11-12).

Joy is directly related to several other aspects of the fruit of the Spirit: Love (Psalm 31:7), peace (Romans 14:17), faith (Philippians 1:25; see 1 Peter 1:8), and patience (Colossians 1:11-12).

After the disciples had been flogged by the Sanhedrin, they left "rejoicing because they had been counted worthy of suffering disgrace for the Name" (Acts 5:41). When Paul and Barnabus were in Pisidian Antioch, the Jews "stirred up persecution" against them and expelled them from the region; "and the disciples were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit" (Acts 13:50-52). "We rejoice in our sufferings" (Romans 5:3).

"Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds" (James 1:2). We do not enjoy the trials, but we recognize that they are part of a process by which God is teaching us and shaping us to become the person he wants us to be, and we take joy in the fact that he cares enough about us to want to shape us. We can indeed rejoice always and give thanks in all circumstances because we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who are the called according to his purposes" (Rom 8:28). We are in a win-win situation!

A look at the acts of the sinful nature makes it clear that none of them involve true joy. The more we find the genuine joy of living the Spirit-led life, the less we will seek the false gratifications of the acts of the sinful nature.

C. PEACE

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid" (John 14:27). God is the "God of peace" (Philippians 4:9).

Peace, eirene, Strong's #1515, is translated "one, peace, quietness, rest". Strong suggests that it may be derived from a verb meaning to join. Peace is crucial. The one who is at peace can have joy, can be patient, can be self-controlled, etc. The one who has no peace is prone to yield to every kind of impulse from the flesh. The one who is at peace can hear clearly from God; the one who has no peace is confused by every kind of static.

We need to look at several aspects of peace.

          1. Peace as the result of right authority in force. Jesus is the Prince of Peace. But in Revelation chapter 19 we see him coming as a warrior, leading the hosts of heaven. Even when he came to earth in Nazareth 2,000 years ago, his coming was a frontal attack on the enemy's kingdom (Luke 11:20). 1 John 3:8 tells us that the reason Jesus came was to "destroy the devil's work."

In the world today there are two kingdoms: the kingdom of darkness and the kingdom of God (Colossians 1:13). There can be no genuine peace between them. "What fellowship can light have with darkness?" (2 Corinthians 6:14). This is why Jesus made the startling statement, "Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace on the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" (Matthew 10:34). True peace can come only when satan is completely overthrown and the New Jerusalem is established.

In each individual believer there is, as we have pointed out above, a state of warfare between the sinful or flesh nature and the Holy Spirit. It is only as the Holy Spirit obtains control over our spirit, soul and body that we can find true inner peace. The enemy would tempt us to think that all is well and that there is no need to do battle, and that temptation is insidious and attractive. But we need to remember Jeremiah's warning against those who "Dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace' they say when there is no peace" (Jeremiah 8:11).

In this sense, real peace in a person's life is evidence that the Holy Spirit is in control of his life, and that the influences of the sinful nature have been overcome and cast out. It is the fruit of a Spirit-led life. "Great peace have they who love your law" (Psalm 119:165). "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on thee" (Isaiah 26:3 KJV).

          2. Peace as unity and harmony among believers. "How good and pleasant it is when brothers live together in unity" (Psalm 133:1). Jesus' final prayer before he died was "I pray also for those who will believe in me... that all of them may be one... May they be brought to complete unity" (John 17:20-23).

A number of Scriptures speak of this aspect of peace. "For he himself is our peace, who has made the two one [Jews and Gentiles] and has destroyed the barrier, the dividing wall of hostility..." (Ephesians 2:14). "It was he [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God's people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-13)."Make my joy complete by being like-minded, having the same love, being one in spirit and purpose" (Philippians 2:2). "For since there is still jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly?" (1 Corinthians 3:3). "God is not a God of disorder, but of peace" (1 Corinthians 14:33).

          3. Peace as freedom from anxiety. Scripture tells us in many ways not to be anxious. And it tells us how to avoid anxiety. The key is to set our hearts and minds on things above and not on earthly things (Colossians 3:1-2).

"Do not worry, saying 'what shall we eat?' or 'what shall we drink?' or 'what shall we wear?'... But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well" (Matthew 6:31). "Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you" (1 Peter 5:7). "Rejoice in the Lord always. I will say it again, rejoice! Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near. Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 4:4-7).

Philippians 4:4-7 gives us a strategy for finding this kind of peace, which involves several aspects of the fruit of the Spirit:

Be joyful. "Rejoice in the Lord always". Our joy is in the Lord.

Be gentle. "Let your gentleness be evident to all."

Remember that the Lord is always near. He is "an ever-present help in trouble" (Psalm 46:1).

Do not be anxious about anything.

Pray. In everything present your requests to God. 1 Thessalonians 5:17 tells us to "pray continually."

Be thankful. "With thanksgiving". 1 Thessalonians 5:18 says, "Give thanks in all circumstances."

Rest in God's peace. "And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus."

Again, this kind of peace does not rest in or depend on the circumstances. It goes beyond the circumstances. We can achieve it "in all circumstances". It "transcends understanding". It recognizes that "What is seen is temporary but what is unseen is eternal" (2 Corinthians 4:18). The circumstances are temporary; God's character, his faithfulness, his promises are eternal. When in the natural there seems to be no peace, we can find the peace of God which goes beyond the natural. The peace of God is not a quiet, gentle thing which makes you feel good when things are going well. It is a strong gyroscope which keeps you on course and sustains you when everything seems to be falling apart. Indeed, Philippians uses a military metaphor, when it says the peace of God will "guard" your heart and mind. The image is that of an armed soldier or body of soldiers, patrolling an area and standing guard to protect it and to repel all invaders.

If the circumstances seem impossible and overwhelming, we need to fix our eyes on the God who is greater than the circumstances. When Elisha's servant saw their city surrounded by enemy troops the circumstances looked very bad. But Elisha said "those who are with us are more than those who are with them." Then he opened his servant's eyes so that he could see "the hills full of horses and chariots of fire all around Elisha" (2 Kings 6:16-17). To the Israelites Goliath seemed huge, but David saw that God was greater and that "the battle is the Lord's" (1 Samuel 17:47).King Jehoshaphat said, "We have no power to face this vast army that is attacking us", but God's prophet said, "Do not be afraid or discouraged because of this vast army. For the battle is not yours, but God's" (2 Chronicles 20:12, 15). No matter how big our problems may seem, God is always bigger. "Nothing is impossible with God" (Luke 1:37). No circumstances are too difficult for God to handle. When we focus on the greatness and faithfulness of God, rather than on our physical circumstances, we can find the peace that "transcends understanding". This aspect of peace is related to the first; when we recognize that the right authority of God is in force we need not fear or be anxious.

Psalm 46:1-3 declares that "God is our refuge and strength, an ever-present help in trouble. Therefore we will not fear, though the earth give way, and the mountains fall into the heart of the sea, though its waters quake and foam and the mountains quake with their surging." In the midst of an earthquake, when the mountains fall into the sea and the sea roars and foams, when everything around us seems to be falling apart, we can stand steadfast trusting in our God who is far above all these disturbances. When everything is being shaken, we focus on the "Kingdom that cannot be shaken" (Hebrews 12:28). That is the peace of God.

D. PATIENCE.

Patience has the sense of perseverance, endurance, long-suffering. Makrothumia, Strong's #3115, the word used here, relates especially to patience in respect of persons. KJV translates it "longsuffering". Another word translated "patience", hupomone, Strong's #5281, relates especially to patience in respect of things.

Patience, in both senses, means seeing things in God's time perspective, not ours. We expect quick results; we live in a "fast food" society. We want God to answer our prayers and fulfill our prophecies "right away"; we want others to change their character and behavior "right away". God's time schedule is often slower, but his schedule is always right.

Patience also is a command. "Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2). "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience " (Colossians 3:12),

From these Scriptures we can see the close relationship between patience and other aspects of the fruit of the spirit such as love, gentleness and kindness.

Patience, perseverance and longsuffering have several aspects:

We keep on keeping on. "Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up" (Galatians 6:9). "We do not want you to become lazy, but to imitate those who through faith and patience inherit what has been promised" (Hebrews 6:12). "Let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us" (Hebrews 12:1).

We stand firm in the face of obstacles. Be "strengthened with all power according to his glorious might so that you may have great endurance and patience" Colossians 1:11. "After you have done everything, to stand" (Ephesians 6:13). "By standing firm you will gain life" (Luke 21:19). "Stand firm in the faith (1 Corinthians 16:13). "Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, faithful in prayer" (Romans 12:12).

We wait for the Lord's timing. "Be still before the Lord and wait patiently for him" (Psalm 37:7; see also Psalm 27:14). "They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength" (Isaiah 40:31 KJV). "But if we hope for what we do not have, we wait for it patiently" (Romans 8:25).

We believe that God's purpose will come to pass no matter how long it takes. "Commit thy way unto the Lord; trust also in him and he shall bring it to pass" (Psalm 37:5 KJV). "Against all hope, Abraham in hope believed and so became the father of many nations" (Romans 4:18). "For the Lord Almighty has purposed, and who can thwart him?" (Isaiah 14:27)."No plan of yours can be thwarted" (Job 42:2). "The Lord is not slow in keeping his promise, as some understand slowness. He is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance" (2 Peter 3:9).

Patience, longsuffering and perseverance are essential qualities of the Christian life. We can expect tribulations and difficulties in the world (John 16:33). But, as James 1:2-4 says, we can take joy in our troubles because the testing of our faith develops perseverance and "perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything." Matthew tells of the troubles to expect in the end times and then says "he who stands firm to the end will be saved" (Matthew 24:13. See also Revelation 2:11, 17, 26, 3:5, 12, 21). As we have said earlier, the Spirit and the flesh are at war for our souls. As we allow the Spirit to have control, as we become Spirit-led, as we become mature and complete, we will increasingly develop and show the fruit of patience.

Patience is a key. "In your patience possess ye your souls" (Luke 21:19 KJV). Most, if not all, of the acts of the sinful nature involve a yielding to instant gratification. The Spirit-led life looks, not to the immediate instant, but the longer range. Only through patience can we find peace, self-control, true love and joy, and the other aspects of the fruit of the Spirit.

We can learn patience when we consider God's great patience toward us. "God is slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness" (Psalm 86:15; see Psalm 103:8). "[God] is patient with you, not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance... Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation" (2 Peter 3:9,15). "But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his unlimited patience as an example for those who would believe on him and receive eternal life" (1 Timothy 1:16).

Because God first loved us we can love both God and our fellow man. Because God has forgiven us we should forgive our fellow man. Because God has shown extraordinary patience with us we can show patience to our fellow man. As we learn patience we can overcome the temptation to immediate gratification.

E. KINDNESS.

The Greek word, chrestotes, Strong's #5544, implies moral excellence in character or demeanor, goodness. It has been defined as "the grace which pervades the whole nature, mellowing all which would have been harsh or austere". Luke 5:39 uses it of wine which is mellowed with age. God is kind to believers (Romans 2:4, 11:22) and we should be kind. Ephesians 2:7 speaks of "The incomparable riches of [God's] grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus" (see also Titus 3:4). Kindness is a command. "Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you" (Ephesians 4:32). "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience" (Colossians 3:12).

F. GOODNESS.

Goodness refers to uprightness of heart, virtue. It is an active goodness. It is not always mellow or gentle; it can show itself in rebuking, correcting or chastising, as when Christ drove the moneychangers out of the Temple. "We constantly pray for you, that our God may count you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may fulfill every good purpose of yours and every act prompted by your faith" (2 Thessalonians 1:11).

G. FAITHFULNESS (FAITH).

The Greek word, pistis, Strong's #4102, is faith. In this passage it is translated "faith" in the KJV; in most modern versions it is translated "faithfulness". Vine's Dictionary points out that the two are aspects of the same concept. In the active sense pistis means "believing, trusting, relying" - what we usually call faith. In the passive sense it means "faithful, to be trusted, reliable" - what we usually call faithful (p. 402). When we consider it as an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit it can be taken in both senses.

We are dealing here, not with the faith that brings one to salvation, but with the continuing faith that enables a saved person to live out his Christian life. This kind of faith means believing God's word. It means believing in God's character. As we step out in faith we increase our faith. Faith, like love, undergirds everything we do. Our prayer should always be, "I do believe; help me overcome my unbelief" (Mark 9:24).

          1. The central importance of faith. "Without faith it is impossible to please God" (Hebrews 11:6). "Be on your guard; stand firm in the faith; be men of courage; be strong. Do everything in love" (1 Corinthians 16:13). "I tell you the truth, anyone who has faith in me will do what I have been doing. He will do even greater things than these because I am going to the Father" (John 14:12).

          2. Faith is believing God's word and his promises rather than the circumstances. "We live by faith, not by sight" (2 Corinthians 5:7); "Now faith is being sure of what we hope for and certain of what we do not see" (Hebrews 11:1). "By faith Abraham, even though he was past age - and Sarah herself was barren - was enabled to become a father because he considered him faithful who made the promise" (Hebrews 11:11; see also Romans 4:18).

          3. We are called on to grow in faith. "But you, dear friends, build yourselves up in your most holy faith" (Jude 20). " So then, just as you received Jesus Christ as Lord, continue to live in him, rooted and built up in him, strengthened in the faith as you were taught, and overflowing with thankfulness" (Colossians 2:6). Abraham "did not waver through unbelief regarding the promise of God, but was strengthened in his faith and gave glory to God" (Romans 4:20). "We ought always to thank God for you, brothers, and rightly so, because your faith is growing more and more, and the love every one of you has for each other is increasing" (2 Thessalonians 1:3).

          4. We are warned against unbelief. Hebrews 3:12 warns "See to it, brothers, that none of you has a sinful, unbelieving heart that turns away from the living God." This passage refers to the time when the Jewish people failed to believe the prophetic promise of God that he would give them the land of Canaan. Their unbelief is referred to as "rebellion" and "disobedience" (Hebrews 3:16, 4:6), and as "contempt" for God (Numbers 14:11).

James 1:6 reminds us that when we pray we "must believe and not doubt." He who doubts is a "double-minded man" who cannot expect to receive anything from God.

          5. Faithfulness includes dependability. The dictionary defines faithful as trustworthy, dependable. This also is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit. "God... is faithful" (1 Corinthians 1:9, 10:13). "Great is your faithfulness" (Lamentations 3:23). "For great is his love towards us, and the faithfulness of the Lord endures forever" (Psalm 117:2). "The Lord's unfailing love surrounds the man who trusts in him" (Psalm 32:10). "For no matter how many promises God has made, they are 'Yes' in Christ" (2 Corinthians 1:20). God "will remain faithful, for he cannot disown himself" (2 Timothy 2:13). Abraham trusted in God's promise for a child, "because he considered him faithful who had made the promise" (Hebrews 11:11).

Since God is faithful, we also should be faithful in our dealings with God and with others. "Well done, good and faithful servant!" (Matthew 25:21, 23). "Now it is required that those who have been given a trust must prove faithful" (1 Corinthians 4:2). "The Lamb will overcome... and with him will be his called, chosen and faithful followers" (Revelation 17:14).

H. GENTLENESS.

Praotes, Strong's #4236, can be translated "gentleness, humility, meekness".

The dictionary gives us these definitions:

Gentle - mild, not severe, rough or violent, polite. Refers to absence of bad temper or belligerence. (Note the relationship to both peace and self-control.)

Meek - implies a submissive spirit. Some would describe it as power under control.

Humble - not proud or arrogant; modest; having a proper opinion of one's self. Being humble means agreeing with God; not having too high and opinion of yourself but also not denying the value that God places on you.

I. SELF-CONTROL.

Egkrateia, Strong's #1466, comes from a root that means "strength, dominion". This suggests that self-control implies exercising dominion over, or power against, those impulses which come from the flesh.

When we fail to control our flesh, we "give the devil a foothold" (Ephesians 4:27). We allow satan to tempt us because of our lack of self-control (1 Corinthians 7:5). When we live by the Spirit and put to death the things of the flesh, then we can begin to say, as Jesus did, that the "prince of this world" (the devil) "has no hold on me" (John 14:30). Note that 1 Peter 5:8-9 (using a different Greek word) says. "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith." Self-control is necessary if we are to succeed in spiritual warfare.

When the flesh has power over us, we find ourselves in the position that Paul described in Romans 7:14-25, "What I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do", "I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out", I am "a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members." What Paul describes is the opposite of self-control. As we become able, by the power of the Holy Spirit in us, to live by the Spirit and put to death the things of the flesh, we become self-controlled.

Romans 6:13-14 illustrates true self-control. "Do not offer the parts of your body to sin, as instruments [literally weapons] of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments of righteousness. For sin shall not be your master, because you are not under law, but under grace."

In a sense, self-control sums up all the other aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. To develop the fruit of the Spirit is to allow your spirit (in which the Holy Spirit dwells) to be in control of your soul and your body. To the extent that we achieve this we become mature and complete, we become single-minded, we achieve inner peace, and we become fully submitted to God.

A common characteristic of all the acts of the sinful nature is a lack of self-control. As we develop self-control and learn the genuine satisfaction and joy of living a Spirit-led life, the power of these sinful impulses will decrease.

J. THE UNITY OF THESE NINE ASPECTS

An example may illustrate the unity and interrelatedness of these nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit.

We often encounter trials and difficulties. They may come because of things we have done, because of things others do to us, or because of natural circumstances. They may be attacks from the enemy intended to shut us down; they may also be things the Lord allows and uses to test and strengthen us. They may be physical illnesses, financial problems, difficult or broken relationships, concern for our children or others close to us, frustration in a job or ministry situation, or any of a number of other things. What is important is how we deal with them. As someone has said, they can make us bitter or better.

(1) We can become angry and bitter at God, or at the person who we think has injured us, or at the world's injustice, or at the circumstances. This underlying anger and bitterness can cause us to become angry at and to reject our family and friends and those who seek to help us or minister to us. We can become fearful and lose our trust in God. We can condemn ourselves and become discouraged and depressed. We can become disillusioned. Our anger and bitterness can lead to "hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage,... dissensions and factions". Our anger at or disillusionment with God can lead to "idolatry and witchcraft". Our frustration, disillusionment and discouragement can lead to seeking the immediate gratification of "sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery" and of "drunkenness, orgies, and the like". This way of reacting leads to the "acts of the sinful nature" listed in Galatians 5:19-21.

(2) The other way of reacting is the Scriptural way. It sees our trials and difficulties as things God uses to strengthen us and develop our character. James tells us to "consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith develops perseverance. Perseverance must finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything" (James 1:2-4). Paul says, "we also rejoice in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; perseverance character; and character, hope. And hope does not disappoint us because God has poured out his love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom he has given us" (Romans 5:3-5). Peter tells us that our trials "have come so that your faith ... may be proved genuine and may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed" (1 Peter 1:7). Hebrews tells us that God's discipline "produces a harvest of righteousness and peace for those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11). Jesus wrote to the church in Laodicea, "Those whom I love I rebuke and discipline" (Revelation 3:19). This way of dealing with trials rests on faith in God's promise that "in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose" (Romans 8:28). Instead of complaining about our trials and difficulties, and asking God "Why me?", we ask, "What can I learn from this? How can I grow from it?"

Joseph endured great suffering and injustice for many years. His brothers, out of jealousy, planned to kill him and then sold him into slavery. His master's wife accused him unjustly and he was thrown into prison. The cupbearer promised to speak to Pharaoh about him but forgot and let him languish in prison for another two years. Scripture does not record any complaints by Joseph about his situation. He saw all that happened as part of God's plan for him (Genesis 45:5,7,8). And at the end, he was able to say to his brothers, "You intended to harm me, but God intended it for good" (Genesis 50:20). Joseph dealt with injustice and suffering in a Spirit-led way.

Let us look at the Spirit-led way of dealing with trials and difficulties in the light of the nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit.

Love. Because we see trials and difficulties as an expression of God's love for us, and as an opportunity to learn and grow in strength, we are able to accept them. We do not reject God or become angry at him. We also do not become angry or bitter at our fellow-men, but are able to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us (Matthew 6:44).

Joy. James tells us to consider it pure joy when we encounter trials. We are to "Give thanks in all circumstances" (1 Thessalonians 5:18).

Peace. Hebrews tells us that God's discipline yields a harvest of peace. In the midst of difficult circumstances we can have the "peace that passeth understanding" because we know that a good God is in charge and that all things will work for good for those who love the Lord.

Patience. Both James and Romans tell us that God uses trials to develop our patience and perseverance. We can have patience in the midst of trials because we know God is in charge.

Kindness. Because we are free of anger and bitterness we can be kind.

Goodness. Because we have inner peace we can show goodness.

Faith. Peter tells us that our trials test and develop our faith. We can handle trials and difficulties because we have faith in the character and promises of God. Because we know that he is faithful, we can remain faithful to him.

Gentleness. Because we are free of anger and have peace we can be gentle.

Self-control. As we have seen, self-control is both a prerequisite to and a result of the other aspects of the fruit of the Spirit. One of the major tests of self-control, and one of the ways of learning to become self-controlled, is to be able to handle trials and difficulties in a godly way.

Jesus said, "In this world you will have trouble. But take heart, I have overcome the world" (John 16:33). When we live by the Spirit whom Jesus has given us, and allow His mighty power to work within us and mold our character, we can overcome any trials and difficulties we may encounter.

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Copyrightę 2001 by James L. Morrisson
  

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     08/19/2007