Recently I had an opportunity to prepare a Bible study on the fruit of the Spirit as found in Galatians 5. Prior to the actual start of my studies I had imagined that my devotional talks would probably involve a definition of each segment” of the fruit, and then discussion on how one could work toward producing this fruit in his or her life. But not very far into my studies I realized that such a plan would be insufficient and even downright heretical.
If someone had asked me what the nature of the Galatian heresy was, I would have responded, “Salvation by works rather than salvation by faith.” And I would have been partially correct. However, much to my surprise, my study revealed that this was only part of the problem in the Galatian church. Paul also addressed the equally dangerous issue of sanctification by works instead of sanctification by faith.
This theme is most clearly revealed in Galatians 3:3, where Paul asks, “Are you so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?” Or, to paraphrase the passage, “Are you that dumb? Having been saved by receiving God’s Spirit in you through faith, are you silly enough to think that you can become what God wants you to be by virtue of your own effort?” This concept totally altered my perspective on what the fruit of the Spirit is, and how we can expect to see it manifested in our lives.
Without defining, detailing and explaining each segment, let’s deal with one thing they all have in common: they are all attributes of the Messiah himself. Jesus exemplifies these things, and in a real way they all come from him. When we think of seeing the fruit of the Spirit manifested in our lives, we ought not to think in terms of developing it as individual character traits, but as developing an intimate personal relationship with God that will become apparent to those around us.
Yeshua himself taught that the secret to bearing fruit was abiding in him. Paul picked up on this truth when he spoke of walking by the Spirit and not by the flesh. When we try to live a life pleasing to God based solely on our own strength, that is by walking by the flesh, we will not reap the fruit, but all sorts of rotten things, like anger, hate, strife, etc. When we walk by the power of God’s Spirit within us, we will bear the fruit of the Spirit. The Lord himself will be manifested in us. It is obvious that this was Paul’s desire for the Galatians, as we read, “My little children, of whom I travail in birth again until Christ be formed in you…” (Galatians 4:19).
Paul was concerned that the Galatians would fall prey to the idea that having been saved by faith, it was then up to them as individuals, by their own efforts to bring about their own sanctification.
The formula for avoiding such a heretical idea is found in Galatians 5:25: “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” In the Greek this is a first class conditional, which assumes the fulfillment of the condition. So a paraphrase might read something like this: “Since we are saved by God’s Spirit indwelling us through faith, let us also through faith live a life pleasing to God by means of His Spirit who indwells us.”