FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT, INTRODUCTION, Series Post No. 1

This is the first post in a series of thoughts about the fruit of the Spirit found in The Bible at Galatians 5:22-23.   I plan to post this series each Friday, if the Lord grants it, and we will take time to think about what the Scripture says, and how it applies to my daily life.

 

I have used a number of references in preparation for this study, but throughout this study we will be specifically referencing Dr. R. C. Sproul’s teaching series Keeping in Step with the Spirit, CD Teaching Series; and Developing Christian Character, CD Teaching Series, both of which are available from Ligonier Ministries at http://www.ligonier.org. I will also make frequent reference to Jonathan Edwards’ sermons collected in the excellent book Charity and Its Fruits, available through The Banner of Truth Trust at https://banneroftruth.org/us/. Another reference that I have referred to in this study is the Westminster Shorter Catechism. This is an incredible reference for understanding our Christian theology, not just the fruit of the Spirit. I would encourage you to obtain a copy of the Shorter Catechism together with proof texts at http://www.pcaac.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/11/ShorterCatechismwithScriptureProofs.pdf.

 

WHAT DOES SCRIPTURE SAY?

 The first question we need to ask is “Why study the fruit of the Spirit?”

 

We know that the Westminster Shorter Catechism teaches that the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever. Catechism Answer Number 1.

 

The Catechism also teaches that God created man, male and female, “after His own image in knowledge, righteousness and holiness” with dominion over the creatures. Catechism Answer Number 10.

 

However, because of Adam’s fall, sin entered the world and all mankind lost the “knowledge, righteousness and holiness” that had been given to us at creation. Catechism Answer Number 18.

 

Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:22 says it this way:

 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

 

No longer do we have the righteousness and holiness that we had when mankind was first created. But all is not lost. The Catechism again comes to our aid by explaining that sanctification is the work of God’s free grace by which we are renewed in the image of God and are enabled more and more to die to sin and live to righteousness.

 

Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, to make you obey its passions. Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness.  For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.

Romans 6:12-14

 

Paul continues to consider the Christian transformation in Colossians 3:10 where he says that we “have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge in the image of its Creator” and Ephesians 4:24 says that our new self was “created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness.”

 

So, how important is righteousness?     God calls each of his children to righteousness. Remember the first catechism answer – our primary purpose is to glorify God … we do that through the practice of righteousness.

 

At this point, some are asking “what in the world does all this righteousness talk have to do with the fruit of the Spirit?”   Listen to the words of Jesus.

 

Jesus prioritized the disciples’ concerns in Matthew 6:33: they were not to worry about what they would eat or wear — they were to “seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness” and all the other needful things would be added to them.  Jesus explicitly stated that our goal is righteousness.

 

In his book The Holiness of God, Dr. R. C. Sproul says “the goal of all spiritual exercise must be the goal of righteousness.[i]

 

So, how do we know if we are growing in righteousness? Dr. R. C. Sproul continues to provide this answer:

The fruit of righteousness is that fruit that is exercised in us by the Holy Spirit. If we want to be holy, if we have a real hunger for righteousness, then we must focus our attention on the fruit of the Holy Spirit. [ii]

* * *

[The virtues listed in Galatians 5:22-23] are the marks of a person who is growing in holiness. These are the virtues we are to cultivate. … In this list of the fruit of the Spirit, the apostle gives us a recipe for our sanctification. … The fruit of the Spirit – that is where our focus must be. [iii]

 

HOW DOES THIS APPLY TO MY DAILY LIFE?

 

Martin Luther explained righteousness in practical terms by saying that “Every Christian is called to be Christ to his neighbor.” We understand this to mean that we should live our lives to conform to God’s will so that when people see us, they see the reflected holiness of Christ in our lives – people will see us reflecting Jesus’ love to others and, in so doing, they can see Him living through us.

 

We all sin every day, or more likely every moment of every day. But for the believer in Jesus Christ, that sin is covered by His righteousness and we are made children of God through His work on the cross. Therefore, we can follow our chief end, which is to glorify God and to enjoy Him forever, by growing in righteousness. This is done by allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our minds and hearts so the fruit of the Spirit becomes recognizable in our life.

 

Our search for righteousness leads us directly to the Holy Spirit and the fruit that He promises to provide and grow in our hearts.

 

So, for now, I would challenge you to read Galatians Chapter 5 and focus on the comparison between the acts of the natural man and the acts of the believer in Christ Jesus who has the Holy Spirit working in her heart, specifically verses 19-23.

 

Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.

——————–

[i] The Holiness of God, R. C. Sproul, published by Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., © 1998 R. C. Sproul, page 166.

[ii] Ibid., page 167.

[iii] Ibid, pages 169-70.

ON THE RELEVANCY OF JOHATHAN EDWARDS IN 2016.

 

In preparing a Bible study on the fruit of the Spirit, other than Scripture, one of the primary references that I consulted was an incredible book entitled Charity and Its Fruits, that compiled Jonathan Edwards’ sermons that he preached in the 18th century  [edited from the original manuscripts with an introduction by Tyron Edwards, first published 1852 (The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005)].

 

Jonathan_Edwards[1]
Jonathan Edwards, Puritan Preacher from the 1700s.

Jonathan Edwards was born in 1703 and lived until 1758. [Picture from Wikipedia article, Jonathan Edwards (theologian) and from the front cover of the book Charity and Its Fruits.]

 

He was a Puritan theologian, pastor, and devout Calvinist, whose conversion centered on his coming to the realization that God is sovereign over all things. Many consider him to be the most significant American churchman of the 18th century, as he was a Preacher who was a leading figure in the (first) Great Awakening of the United States.

 

While I was in high school, I read one of his sermons entitled “Sinners in the hands of an angry God” that had been reproduced in my American Literature class textbook. I suspect many people know of this sermon, in which Edwards says:

“The God that holds you over the pit of hell, much as one holds a spider, or some loathsome insect, abhors you and is dreadfully provoked.”

 

Clearly, his intent was to describe the reality and nature of Hell so that the hearer would turn to the Lord Jesus Christ.   His writings are way more extensive than just that one sermon, however!

 

In Charity and Its Fruits, Edwards talks about the work of the Holy Spirit in the Christian’s heart and virtually each page challenges us to live a life in the power of the Holy Spirit as we exhibit love [charity] to those around us.

 

Here are a couple of passages for you to consider today as you meditate on your Christian walk.

Regarding the Christian’s attitude about suffering and difficulties in this life.

From Scripture:

For this light momentary affliction is preparing for us an eternal weight of glory beyond all comparison as we look not to the things that are seen but to the things that are unseen. For the things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal. 

2 Corinthians 4:17-18 [ESV]

From Jonathan Edwards:

They that are truly Christians, have that faith whereby they see that which is more than sufficient to make up for the greatest sufferings they can endure in the cause of Christ. They see that the excellency in God and Christ, whom they have chosen for their portion, far outweighs all possible sufferings. And they see, too, that glory which God has promised to them that suffer for his sake – that far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory which their sufferings for Christ’s sake work out for them, and in comparison with which, the heaviest sorrows and most enduring trials are but “light affliction, which is but for a moment.” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

 

  • Do I gripe about the sufferings that I must go through in this life?
  • Do I accept sorrows and trials in the knowledge that I am in God’s hands even then or do I search for answers to the “why me” questions that I posit?
  • Do I even stop, for one moment, to consider the suffering that my Savior, Jesus Christ, endured form my sake?
  • Do I count it a privilege to suffer for Jesus’ sake, or do I want my own creature comforts so much that I avoid suffering at all costs?
  • Do I really believe that the “excellency in God and Christ … far outweighs all possible sufferings”?

 

Easter in Canterbury (C)
Love is shown most strongly when we look at the cross and the empty tomb!  Easter in Canterbury, England

 

On love as being the “sum of all Christianity”.

From Scripture

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant … .

1 Corinthians 13:4 [ESV].

And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mind to do what ought not to be done.  They were filled with all manner of unrighteousness, evil, covetousness, malice. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, maliciousness. They are gossips, slanderers, haters of God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents, foolish, faithless, heartless, ruthless.  Though they know God’s righteous decree that those who practice such things deserve to die, they not only do them but give approval to those who practice them.

Romans 1:28-32 [ESV]

From Jonathan Edwards:

 A Christian should at all times keep a strong guard against everything that tends to overthrow or corrupt or undermine a spirit of love. That which hinders love to men, will hinder the exercise of love to God… If love is the sum of Christianity, surely those things which overthrow love are exceedingly unbecoming ChristiansAn envious Christian, a malicious Christian, a cold and hard-hearted Christian, is the greatest absurdity and contradiction. It is as if one should speak of dark brightness, or a false truth!

 

  • Am I jealous of the position others possess, or of their possessions, or their families, or their figure?
  • Am I hard-hearted, arrogant, boastful?
  • Do I empathize with the injured or hurt person before me or do I simply nod my head and then move on to the next topic?
  • Do I share of the abundance that God has given me or do I hoard it in case of a need down the road?
  • Do I speak unkindly of those I hardly know, simply to put myself in a better position with those to whom I am speaking?
  • Am I friendly to others, only to make malicious comments about them to my friends?
  • Do I hinder love to man, and then expect God to accept my offering of love for Him?

 

When reading Jonathan Edwards, it seems as though he is speaking to me directly, notwithstanding the hundreds of years since he penned these words. It certainly is clear that the human experience has not improved in the intervening years! Once again, repentance is in order so that I can be cleansed so that the mirror of my life will reflect Christ’s love to those around me.

 

Do you see yourself in Edwards’ words?

 

If so, Beloved, repent and be restored to fullness of life in the Spirit of our Lord and Savior.

 

Sovereign God, thank You for giving us men such as Jonathan Edwards who gave us a clarion call for repentance, for devotion to your Son, Jesus Christ, and for guidance in living a life in grace and in the power of the Holy Spirit. Father, forgive me when I have ignored your Spirit and have acted in such a manner as to mar my witness for Jesus Christ. May these words be used to bring glory to You today.