nurturing and harvesting the fruit of the spirit
There are three essential principles for one to know and understand so as to give purpose and meaning to his life.
- 1st) Life is for Learning.
- 2nd) Everything that happens in life is for the sole purpose of teaching us something.
- 3rd) The reason for all of this learning is so as to prepare us for that next life, after our resurrection.
Firstly, and before all else we must come to realize that Life is for Learning, not for lounging. We have not been placed here on this planet so as to acquire our bucket list, nor to pursue trivial pleasures or treasures. Our life's purpose is to learn, to discover and grow from the lessons with which we are presented. Thus, Yeshua's (Jesus') admonition to His followers to "Seek ye first the kingdom of GOD" (MATTHEW 6:33) should be our guiding principle throughout our lives.
Secondly, everything that happens in this life is for the sole purpose of teaching us something. Yeshua told His followers that even the very hairs of their head were all numbered (MATTHEW 10:30). If this is so then we can have confidence that the Creator is well able to craft our experiences so as to teach us the necessary lessons we require. All of our experiences, the good as well as the bad, the pleasant ones as well as the aggravations, are designed for our learning.
The apostle Paul wrote in his epistle to the believers at Rome that all things work together for good to them that love GOD (ROMANS 8:28). This means that even if an experience may seem distasteful or even stressful at the time, in time it will work itself out for our benefit.
Likewise, the apostle James wrote that his readers should be joyful when they fell among various trials or temptations. This statement might seem like nonsense until we read the next verse where he added that the temptations could be considered a joy as long as his readers recognized that this trying of their faith accomplished in them patience (JAMES 1:2-3). In that case the temptation produced or resulted in something useful, something fruitful.
Thirdly, the reason for all of this learning is so as to prepare us for that next life, after our resurrection. There would be no point to all of our struggles and challenges if this earthly existence was all there was. As Paul wrote, if there was no resurrection, then they would be of all men most miserable (1 CORINTHIANS 15:19).
There would also be no point to all of our learning and training if it was all forgotten or set aside when we were resurrected. But, when we are given new bodies (PHILIPPIANS 3:21), then our minds, those renewed and renovated minds, will journey with us into the kingdom of GOD in heaven (see the Study New Bodies but Same Minds). There, in HIS heavenly kingdom we will make use of all of the spiritual fruit which we have acquired in this life. Thus, this earthly existence is designed to teach us how to produce this spiritual fruit; fruit like love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance (GALATIANS 5:27-28).
So in this Study we want to dive more deeply into this whole notion of Nurturing and Harvesting this Fruit of the Spirit. We will first consider some passages in the apostle Paul's epistle to the Galatians, where he described some of the keys necessary to acquiring and preserving this fruit.
- GALATIANS 5:16-18 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.
Several important things are to be noted in Paul's instruction here. He first told them to walk in the spirit and then he encouraged them to be led of the spirit. Walking and being led indicate a movement. They were not told to just dwell in the spirit, or to meditate on the spirit, but rather to move along with the spirit.
Walking is defined as making one's way, or to make progress, hence to make due use of an opportunity (Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon). Thus when one walks in the spirit, him and the spirit are going somewhere. They are moving through life's experiences towards a final goal, that no doubt ultimately being the believer's resurrection. As such we should be growing and maturing with each step we take, with each advance we make, even with each setback we face.
Paul noted also that as they walked in the spirit that they would not then be inclined to fulfill the lusts or the desires of the flesh. We are always gravitating towards one or the other, either the lusts of the flesh or the fruit of the spirit. We can't think two separate thoughts at the same time, nor can we move in two different directions simultaneously. Either we will be led by earthly desires or we will be led by heavenly desires. We are the ones who choose which it shall be.
Even so, when we today think of some lust of the flesh, we most naturally think of sensual pleasures or physical desires, and these are definitely some of the lusts of the flesh, but Paul in this epistle was also referring to another desire of the flesh. He was writing of a craving where the individual is striving to become acceptable to GOD by works of the flesh, specifically in the Galatian's case it was circumcision. Some of them were evidently considering whether or not this work of the flesh was something which might help them to stand approved before their Maker.
Paul had previously placed the works of the flesh in this exact context.
- GALATIANS 3:1-3 O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you? This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith? Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?
Of course they were not trying to be made perfect by illicit sexual activity or in some other base way of satisfying the physical desires of the body. They were trying to be made perfect by first becoming circumcised and then fulfilling the other requirements of the Mosaic Law. This was an important aspect of what these works of the flesh referred to in this epistle. It was the other gospel (1:6) of the Jew's religion (1:14). It was the dissimulation with which Peter and the other Jews, even Barnabas were carried away (2:12-13). It was the works of the Law (2:16; 3:2, 5), the righteousness of the Law (2:21), the curse of the Law (3:10, 13).
This perfecting of the flesh was the weak and beggarly elements wherein they had been in bondage, and now desired to return; to all of the pagan and Jewish ritualisms, rights and ceremonial observances (4:9-10), and so it was to be justified by the flesh (5:4). It was the covenant of bondage (4:24); the yoke of bondage (5:1). It was what Paul termed the leaven which leaveneth the whole lump (5:9). Is was the flesh working against the spirit (5:17), the sowing to the flesh (6:8) and therefore to glory in the flesh (6:13).
Much of Paul's letter to the Galatians dealt specifically with the desires of the flesh being, not some base and degrading sin, but rather what they thought was the right way in pleasing GOD, what they thought was the righteous way to satisfy and accommodate their Maker. They were willing to undergo a painful procedure as well as other discomforts by first becoming circumcised and then attempting to work out their own righteousness by the other rules and regulations of the Jewish religion.
The unhealthy consequence of these particular works of the flesh was that they often led to what we today might call elitism. This is where one thinks that because he had performed some deed or accomplished some special task, that he has then arrived at a place where he has satisfied what GOD might require of him. Perhaps even worse, he now considered himself a cut above and perhaps a little closer to GOD than others. Yeshua was forever denouncing this theology by pointing out the hypocrisies of the Pharisees, Sadducees and scribes who often stood aloof from other men because they earnestly believed that they were somehow more godly or more righteous than others (MATTHEW 15).
For the modern Christian this elitism might manifest itself in other works of the flesh, such as being water baptized, or perhaps becoming faithful members and donors of some particular Church, or even by being ordained a Minister of our chosen denomination. Other times it might be where one separates himself into a club or fraternity where the members are often welcomed into what they think are privileged or prestigious societies, with grandiose or lofty initiations. Yet it is generally the blind leading the blind.
Thus when Paul instructed them to walk in the spirit so that they would not be fulfilling the desires or lust of the flesh, he was not so much reproving them of illicit sins, but more so he was endeavoring to steer them away from thinking that some physical act was going to stand them approved before their Maker. Specifically, he was attempting to teach them to live by faith (GALATIANS 2:20; 3:11; 5:6), to be justified by faith (GALATIANS 2:16; 3:8, 24) and not to live or be justified by what the religious leaders from Jerusalem might think.
Paul was giving the Galatians the only true and authentic key for obtaining righteousness, which was to live by faith (GALATIANS 3:6-7). He was teaching them not to try to be justified by following the peculiar precepts of their religion, nor by adhering to the various doctrines of their particular denomination. Rather, being led by and walking in the spirit was the path of faith, the only genuine way to their perfection.
So what does it precisely mean to walk in the spirit or to walk after the flesh? We have our answer in Paul's letter to the believers at Rome.
- ROMANS 8:4-6 That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. For they that are after the flesh do mind the things of the flesh; but they that are after the Spirit the things of the Spirit. For to be carnally minded is death; but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.
Evidently then, to be walking after the flesh is to be carnally minded and to be walking after the spirit is to be spiritually minded. The word after has been translated from the Greek word kata and means "according to", or "in harmony with" and reflects a horizontal motion (Companion Bible). They that are after the flesh are those whose lives are in harmony with fleshly desires and those walking after the spirit are those whose lives are in harmony with spiritual things.
The two phrases in the above passage, carnally and spiritually minded simply mean having something in mind, the thought (Vine's Expository Dictionary); i.e. the thoughts and purposes which are thought about (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon). Thus, if I am dwelling upon and seeking out fleshly or earthly things then I am being carnally minded but if I am dwelling upon and seeking out spiritual or heavenly things then I am being spiritually minded. Simply put, if I am thinking that some work of the flesh will make me pleasing to my Maker, then I am being carnally minded. But if I am diligently seeking to please my Maker by living by faith and thereby developing and nurturing the fruit of the spirit, then I am being spiritually minded.
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We are reminded of Yeshua's command to lay up treasure in heaven and not on earth (MATTHEW 6:19-21). This portion of His Sermon on the Mount is so pivotal in our Study, that we would do well to devote a little time to understanding just what it was that Yeshua was intending.
We should first note that the Greek word thesauros, translated treasures, probably didn't refer to the actual gems and coins and garments which were thought of as costly. Rather it was the receptacle, the repository of those valuables, "a place of safe keeping" (Vine). The first usage of this word (which usually gives us important clues as to its meaning) is when the Magi opened their treasures, their thesauros, to display their gifts (MATTHEW 2:11). They didn't open the riches but they opened the container which contained the riches. Thus, in His sermon Yeshua was instructing His followers to lay up in heaven a repository, a treasure chest for that which was valuable.
But to what valuables was He referring. What riches can be laid up in heaven. Some students might assume that He was referring to good works, but there is no indication in His sermon that this was in His thinking. Bishop Pallai on the other hand might be closer to the truth when he suggested that Yeshua was proclaiming an eastern orientalism that these two treasures represented a person's thoughts, either being upon earthly things or heavenly things (Orientalisms of the Bible, pages 1-7).
Even so, as we consider the context of His sermon, we notice that He had been repeatedly speaking of earthly and heavenly rewards. Yeshua had told them that they were blessed, even though men might revile and persecute them and speak against them falsely, for great was their reward in heaven (MATTHEW 5:16-17). Then in verse 46 of that same chapter He asked them what reward could they expect if they only loved those who loved them, implying that if they loved those who didn't love them that they would then have a reward in heaven.
We should keep in mind that rewards weren't gifts but they were wages paid for that which had been earned (1 TIMOTHY 5:18 REVELATION 22:12). See also Morison's Practical Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, page 64; Vine's Complete Expository Dictionary, page 533; Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon, page 415; and Bullinger's Figures of Speech Used in the Bible, page 67.
In the next chapter Yeshua referred to these rewards seven more times, teaching in the very first passage for them to "take heed" not to do their alms before men because then they shall have no reward from their heavenly Father. And then in the second verse He revealed that those who make sure that their alms are recognized by other men, have already received the only reward that they can expect. In case any of His listeners had failed to get His message, Yeshua immediately repeated that if their alms were done in secret, then the Father would reward them (6:4).
Thus, these two rewards are explicitly described here as being either from their Heavenly Father or from the men of their community. They could thus expect either heavenly rewards or they could expect earthly rewards. Surely these two rewards are to what He was referring when He instructed them to lay up their treasure chest in heaven and not on earth. These treasure chests were to the receptacles for their rewards.
Yeshua repeated this same message of heavenly and earthly rewards when speaking of making prayers (6:5-6). Prayers designed to impress other men have their own reward, but prayers done in secret are rewarded by GOD. Again, the two rewards are wages paid either in heaven or on earth, they are either heavenly rewards or they are earthly rewards.
No doubt the treasure chests to which Yeshua referred were receptacles for rewards for things of which He had just speaking; the alms, prayers and fasts. Some alms, prayers and fasts were to be rewarded here on earth, by the approval of our fellow man, thus they were earthly treasure chests filled with earthy rewards. But other alms, prayers and fasts were to be rewarded in the next life, evidently after one's resurrection. Those were the heavenly treasure chests filled with heavenly rewards.
We can either do our deeds before men to be seen of them, having their acclaim as our reward, or we can do our deeds only in the sight of GOD, being then rewarded by HIM after our resurrection. A reward laid up on earth was a fleeting reward paid on earth while a reward laid up in heaven was an eternal reward paid back in heaven.
Yeshua was commanding them to be motivated not by what their neighbors might think of them, but rather what their Maker might think of them. Their motivation should always be about what pleased GOD, not what might please men. Most men are not spiritual but carnal and are motivated by earthly rewards. Thus, we must be on our guard not to allow what motivates them to direct our course. We must be determined to walk after the spirit, to be motivated by spiritual thoughts, by the word of GOD.
Yeshua went on to teach them that where one's treasure chest is, there will his heart be also. Thus, if we are striving to fill up an earthly treasure chest with earthly rewards, then our hearts will be on earthly things; as Paul would say, walking after the flesh. But if we are earnestly seeking to fill up a heavenly treasure chest with heavenly rewards, then that is where our hearts will be. As such, what drives an individual in his daily pursuits reveals exactly where his heart is, whether he is spiritually minded or carnally minded, whether he is walking after the flesh or walking after the spirit.
This is the whole key to walking after the spirit. What are we seeking after? What are our goals and ambitions? What have we set our mind upon to accomplish? Naturally, when we were young and immature we were more inclined to seek out that which satisfied the flesh. Thus, at that tender age we were overly concerned with, even consumed by what our peers might think.
But then as we develop and grow spiritually, we should more and more begin to change our focus. We should adjust our sights and ambitions to rather desire spiritual things over fleshly things. This is what it means to renew, to renovate our minds (ROMANS 12:2). This is to a great degree what it means to put away childish things (1 CORINTHIANS 13:11).
The apostle John preserved for us an important and consequential teaching in which Yeshua revealed that the words which He spoke were spirit and life (JOHN 6:63). This remarkable passage was of course part of a lengthy discourse which Yeshua had just had with some of His followers and disciples (6:22-71). He was speaking to a specific audience and we are wisest to interpret His words in the context within which they were spoken.
The literal rendering of His statement in the said passage is "the words that I have spoken to you" (NRSV), or perhaps "the things about which I have been speaking to you" (The Aramaic Origin of the Fourth Gospel by C. F. Burney, page 150-151). Which words was He referring to when He said that His words were spirit and life? Which words were spirit and life?
Surely He was not saying that every word which He had ever spoken were words which gave life unto the world. When He asked His disciples how many loaves they had (MATTHEW 15:34), were those words spirit and life? When He told the mother of her dead son to weep not (LUKE 7:13), were those words intended to give life to the world? When He invited His disciples to come and dine with Him (JOHN 21:12), were those also words of the spirit? These and many other sayings were just casual remarks made in the daily course of living.
But the words which gave life unto the world were words which revealed the true way in which they were to live and think. Thus, He was recalling that which He had just said, about Him being the true bread from heaven, the bread of GOD, which gives life unto the world (JOHN 6:32-35).
Of course GOD is spirit (JOHN 4:24) and man is not (LUKE 24:39). So in order for GOD to guide and direct HIS creatures, HE designed our minds to be capable of hearing and acting upon HIS words. HIS words can work upon our minds so as to create within us a new man (2 CORINTHIANS 5:17 EPHESIANS 4:17-24 COLOSSIANS 3:1-10), a renewed mind (ROMANS 12:2). Thus, these words from a spiritual GOD can implant spiritual truths into an earthly, physical mind, thereby producing the fruit of the spirit.
As GOD's agent and representative Yeshua often spoke those words which GOD gave Him to speak (JOHN 18:8, 14). If His earthly followers would consume this bread, these words, then they also would find spiritual life and develop spiritual fruit. These words which Yeshua received from GOD were spirit, and these words brought new life. Thus, he that eats of this bread, he that feasts upon these words of GOD, which Yeshua spoke, shall find true life and thereby live forever (JOHN 6:58).
As such, if we today are to walk by the spirit then we must hold in our minds the words which He taught. With every step we take, with every advance we make, with every action we contemplate we must learn to be motivated by the word of GOD. We must be guided by that light, we must be led by that spirit.
Yeshua even more explicitly laid this out for His followers in His teaching of the true vine and the necessity of its branches bearing fruit.
- JOHN 15:1-6 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman. Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
- Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
- I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
Reading these words should shock us into the realization of the importance for us to be fruit producers and not just nominal Christians. We have failed to walk worthy of the Lord if we do not strive to nurture and produce this fruit of the spirit. This is the true aim for all of our trials and tribulations, for all of our experiences, for all of our achievements and accomplishments.
It is therefore imperative that if we are to produce this spiritual fruit then we must abide in Him, which means that we must adhere to His teaching, we must follow His way, we must obey His commands (JOHN 15:10). Our aspiration is to bear and produce fruit, not to just live in ease and comfort. Our lives are to be a grand pursuit of the spiritual harvest, not a grand pursuit of earthly pleasures and treasures.
Yeshua further taught this important truth in His parable of the Sower and the Seed. In that teaching He described seed which was sown upon four different soils. Some of the seeds fell by the wayside where the fowls of the air came and devoured them. Other seeds fell upon stoney ground where they had not much earth for their roots to grow and when the sun arose they were scorched and withered. Other seeds fell among thorns and the thorns sprang up and choked them. Then other seeds fell into good soil and brought forth fruit in abundance (MATTHEW 13:1-8).
He taught that His followers were likewise four different kinds of hearers. Some received the word but not understanding it they later disregarded that which was sown in their heart. Others received the word with joy but without being well rooted, when tribulation or persecution came they abandoned that which they had learned. Still others heard the word but the cares of this world, or the deceitfulness of riches choked the word and they produced no fruit. But the fourth group of hearers received the word, understood it and brought forth fruit in abundance (MATTHEW 13:19-23).
Not all that hear the Gospel are changed by the Gospel, for scripture testifies that "unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it" (HEBREWS 4:2). Evidently only a few followers become fruit producers and as such we can expect that only a few will find themselves fully equipped for that resurrection life when they will be called upon to serve the Lord there.
Paul often instructed his readers to set their thoughts upon heavenly things (COLOSSIANS 3:2), even spelling out for them specifically what they were to think about.
- PHILIPPIANS 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.
Back in his epistle to the Galatians Paul then goes on to list some of these works of the flesh.
- GALATIANS 5:19-21 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
To digress a moment, we note that Paul ends this list with what should be a most disturbing statement for many of those who suppose that we are currently living in a so-called age of grace, where a Christian can pretty much live as he pleases. This whole theology, that it is no longer such a big deal to sin, that we can simply confess our sin and not look back, is a dark and crafty invention of modern religion. It surprises many students that the phrase age of grace is not even found in scripture (for further on this see the Study, The True Meaning of the Grace of GOD).
But back to our Study, let us take time to minutely go through these works of the flesh which Paul lists in GALATIANS so as to understand a little better exactly what he was intending with each of them.
- Adultery is not in the best and oldest manuscripts of GALATIANS. It was probably added to the text by a later scribe or translator because he recalled how Yeshua had included adultery in His lists of sins (MATTHEW 15:19 & MARK 7:21). Nevertheless, it can appropriately be classed with the next sin which Paul lists first, Fornication.
- Fornication means illicit sexual intercourse (Vine). Paul elsewhere groups it with other lusts which he calls vain and foolish (ROMANS 1:29).
- Uncleanness results in the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living (Thayer).
- Lasciviousness is the absence of restraint (Vine). It is translated as wantonness in ROMANS 13:13.
- Idolatry is to be a slave to the ideas which the idol represents (Vine), from which Paul elsewhere instructs his readers to flee (1 CORINTHIANS 10:14).
- Witchcraft involved the use of drugs and incantations as an attempt to keep the applicant from the power of the demons (Vine). It is rendered as sorceries in REVELATION 9:21.
- Hatred is simply the opposite of love. It means enmity.
- Variance means contention, strife or wrangling (Thayer). It is rendered strife in 1 CORINTHIANS 3:3 where Paul groups it with envying and divisions which he labels as carnal because they were saying "I am of Paul" while others were saying, "I am of Apollos". It is also translated debates in 2 CORINTHIANS 12:20 where Paul groups it with backbitings, whisperings and tumults, which paints for us a graphic picture of men which attach themselves and follow the ministers of the word instead of the word itself. See also 1 TIMOTHY 6:4.
- Emulations in this context means an envious and contentious rivalry (Vine). Elsewhere it has both a good and mad connotation. In JOHN 2:17 it was used to describe Yeshua's zeal in driving out the merchandisers from the temple. Later it was used in connection with Paul's thankfulness for the believers' fervent mind towards him (2 CORINTHIANS 7:7). It was translated envying in JAMES 3:14 and 16, where he called it earthly, sensual and devilish, from which comes "confusion and every evil work". Paul used it to describe his own zeal in persecuting the Church (PHILIPPIANS 3:6) and Luke used it to describe how the High Priest was motivated when he and his cohorts threw the apostles in prison, where it was translated indignation (ACTS 5:17).
- Wrath suggests not only anger, but an anger which is boiling over, a hot anger or rage, bursting forth as a flame (Bullinger).
- Strife is rendered by the New English Bible as selfish ambitions.
- Seditions imply a standing apart (Vine), a division. See ROMANS 16:17.
- Heresies is the end result from a dissension which began as a diversity of opinion (Thayer). It is a self-willed opinion which is not submissive to the truth (Vine). But it is not simply a difference of opinion but has more to do with a factious party spirit as the result of a difference of opinion (Early Days of Christianity, by Farrar, page 494). Paul himself was labeled a member of a heresy by the Jewish authorities (ACTS 24:5, 14).
- Envyings has to do with those who desire to deprive another of what he has (Vine). See TITUS 3:3 and 1 PETER 2:1.
- Murder is another of these works which though is a sin of the flesh was probably not in Paul's original list in GALATIANS. It was no doubt added by some scribe or translator because of its association in other passages with these lusts of the flesh (MATTHEW 15:19 & REVELATION 9:21).
- Drunkenness according to Vine is an habitual intoxication. See LUKE 21:34.
- Revelings is a consequence of drunkenness. It is associated with drinking parties which were protracted till late at night (Thayer).
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Circumcision, nor the other rules and regulations of the Mosaic Law were not going to help the believer overcome these works of the flesh. Nor is water baptism, or faithful Church attendance. The key to putting off this old man and putting on the new man is to have the mind renewed, meaning to have it renovated (EPHESIAN 4:22-24 ROMANS 12:2 COLOSSIANS 3:10). That happens when we plant new seeds of thought which eventually crowd out the old thorns and thistles which have been strangling us.
All of these works of the flesh begin as a simple temptation, which we encounter as we go about our daily lives. But we only sin if we entertain them, if we enter into them. Simply being tempted is not the sin, but entering into the temptation, that is the sin (MATTHEW 6:13; 26:41 1 TIMOTHY 6:9). Thus, entering into a temptation with which we have been exposed is the fatal step taken which could very well lead to our demise (JAMES 1:14-15).
These temptations are first presented to the individual as a thought, which if not dwelt upon will no doubt pass away. But when we think about and consider them more deservedly, then we are in peril of entering into them. It is the entering into temptation which causes our fall, not the simple exposure to the temptation. Indeed, the temptation itself can be profitable if not entered into, because it builds within us enduring qualities and virtues.
When we are faced with temptations, we are more able to endure and overcome them if we replace the tempting thought with another thought, a righteous thought. This is the great importance of having the words of truth in our minds (JAMES 1:18); receiving with meekness the engrafted word, the implanted word (JAMES 1:21), which the apostle wrote is able to save our soul.
Thus, if we are to be free from sin then we must continue as disciples (disciplined ones) in His word (JOHN 8:31-32 COLOSSIANS 3:16). Yeshua's instruction and guidance and directives must saturate our minds. We must have something rich and deep to draw from when we are confronted with a temptation. Yeshua Himself demonstrated this when faced with His own temptations in the wilderness by declaring, "It is written". Instead of His mind considering the profit or allurement of the temptation, He simply refuted it by recalling scripture to His mind.
Driving our minds into His words instead of just letting our thoughts drift or flow freely around, here and there, gives us the necessary metal to overcome the temptation. This is a great key to producing and nurturing the fruit of the spirit. If we are to produce spiritual fruit, then we must be spiritually minded, we must think spiritual thoughts. This can only be accomplished if we have first placed that spiritual word in our heads.
As such, if I have Yeshua words in my mind that I am to love my neighbor as myself (MATTHEW 22:37-39), how then could I hate him, or envy him or have hot anger towards him? And if I am to love GOD with all of my heart, soul and mind (MATTHEW 22:37), how then could I devote myself to other frivolous pursuits? We must be determined in our minds to bring all of our thoughts into obedience to His word, His teaching.
Even so, we should note and acknowledge that our hearts and minds have a natural tendency to desire these carnal things, these lusts and desires of the flesh. Our bodies and minds seem designed to desire them, but then we are taught by scripture to push them away and not seek to acquire them. Of course the reason for all of this is so to teach us, to train us to control our passions (1 CORINTHIANS 9:24-27). GOD has so engineered our minds that we can be taught and therefore learn self-control. That is the whole point of it all, for us to learn self-restraint. HIS intention is not simply to remove us from any temptation, as many religions try to do, but rather it is profitable and necessary for us to learn to control our emotions and passions when faced with these temptations.
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As such, the aim of life is not for us to shield or hide ourselves from every form of temptation, thus artificially becoming sinless. When we attempt this we find ourselves as weak to the temptation as we ever were. Rather, the purpose of life is to teach us, to train us to overcome the temptation (REVELATION 3:5). We are to learn to rise above any temptation, to steel our minds to any trial. Instead, too many try to isolate or remove themselves from temptations by withdrawing into solitude and seclusion, or perhaps into a monastery or convent of some kind. Others force their women to totally cover themselves with black sheets. Some ban all alcohol so that they never have to be tempted by their desires. Rather, we are to take life by the throat, so to speak, and learn to overcome all of its temptations.
Renewing the mind, renovating the mind, is accomplished by simply changing what we are thinking. Instead of acting upon the first or initial desires of the flesh, we are to grab hold of our minds and drive ourselves to act upon the word of GOD. Each time we do this it develops a new and renewed pattern in our thinking. We are beginning to turn from the old carnal ways and we begin heading in a new and better direction. Less and less do the childish impulses drive us and more and more we see the fruit of righteousness grow within us.
This mindset is essential if we are going to begin to nurture and produce the fruit of the spirit. How can we ever hope to be able to do GOD's bidding and function as HIS ambassadors (2 CORINTHIANS 5:20) if we aren't capable of controlling our fleshly desires. In the next life, after our resurrection, we may and probably will be called upon to perform important missions and ministries for the Lord (1 CORINTHIANS 6:2-3). How will we qualify for the task if we have not yet learned to subdue our carnal instincts?
This is why we are going to be given new bodies in the resurrection, but not new minds. The new minds are developed in this life, while we are being exposed to all of the trials and temptations. Thus we need to develop our renewed minds now so as to be able to function in those new capacities which await us in the next life.
Paul then goes on to list for his readers in Galatia some of the fruit of the spirit.
- GALATIANS 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance . . . .
Developing the fruit of the spirit is the end result for our earthly existence. This is the exact and precise reason for all of our experiences and learning. This is why we have been called unto the Gospel, why we have been given grace to find and learn the great truths which our Maker would have us know.
But we won't acquire this fruit just by reading about it. The fruit only grows within us as the result of the words of truth being implanted within our minds (JAMES 1:20-25). Then, as we dwell upon those words, as we think upon them and repeatedly act upon them, then we eventually begin to see the fruit sprout and thrive as it is cultivated in the fertile soil of our minds.
As with the works of the flesh let us go through each characteristic of this fruit of the spirit to see more in depth exactly what Paul was referring to.
- Love (agape) as the first fruit of the spirit listed by Paul implies obedience (Vine). It is not based on feelings as are other kinds of love (erros or phileo), but agape is a deliberate determination to do that which is for the benefit of others. Yeshua rarely talked of His love for the Father but when He did, it was always in the context of His obedience to GOD (JOHN 14:31; 15:10). The believer's love is likewise manifested by his obedience to the word of GOD (JOHN 14:15, 21, 23-24; 1 JOHN 5:2-3; 2 JOHN 6).
Paul comprehensively sets forth exactly what it is to love in his first letter to the Corinthians, chapter thirteen, where in the KJV agape is translated charity. But this fruit of righteousness needs time to grow and mature and abound (PHILIPPIANS 1:9-11; 1 THESSALONIANS 3:12; 2 THESSALONIANS 1:3; 1 JOHN 2:5; 4:12). Perhaps Peter brought this whole topic together in a most complete and perfect summation in his second epistle.
- 2 PETER 1:3-11 According as his divine power hath given unto us all things that pertain unto life and godliness, through the knowledge of him that hath called us to glory and virtue: whereby are given unto us exceeding great and precious promises: that by these ye might be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust.
- And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness; and to godliness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity [love, agape].
- For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. But he that lacketh these things is blind, and cannot see afar off, and hath forgotten that he was purged from his old sins.
- Wherefore the rather, brethren, give diligence to make your calling and election sure: for if ye do these things, ye shall never fall: for so an entrance shall be ministered unto you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
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Thus, these Christian virtues are what ushers us into the everlasting kingdom of the Lord. Having first received an understanding of these things through the knowledge of HIM who has called us, we strive to become partakers of HIS divine nature. Clearly, this divine nature is evidenced by the fruit of the spirit.
- Joy has much to do with what delights us (Vine). The works of the flesh might bring pleasure and even happiness, but only joy, as a fruit of the spirit brings true delight. Yeshua described this joy in a most perfect way with His parable of the man who finding treasure hid in a field, no doubt referring to the word of GOD, sold all that he had so as to obtain that treasure (MATTHEW 13:44). Thus it is with us. Others may think we are bonkers or misguided for giving our all to obtain that field, but they don't realize what we do, that there is true and immeasurable treasure buried there.
- Peace reflects an harmonious relationship, both with GOD and others, thus it is being free from molestation (Vine). It is the state of untroubled, undisturbed well-being (Bullinger). This is a peace that the world knows little of (JOHN 14:27). This is more than just one nation or people not being at arms with another. This is to have peace with our Creator (ROMANS 5:1), to be no longer fighting against HIS will for our lives. Indeed, as James wrote, these fruit are sown in peace (JAMES 3:18), for unless we first have peace with our Maker we cannot nourish the fruit of the spirit.
- Longsuffering means a slowness in avenging wrongs (Thayer). It is the place where an individual's mental state is, long before becoming angry (Bullinger).
Most if not all of the attributes of the fruit of the spirit are the divine characteristics of GOD. They are HIS traits. Surely, as any earthly father would want his children to be like him, so it must be with our Heavenly Father. HE wants us to be successful in our pursuit of righteousness, not worthless miserable creatures forever wallowing in our inability to rise above our sin. We must remember that HE is preparing us for that other life, that eternal life in HIS heavenly kingdom. Thus, as HE is loving HE wants us to be loving. As HE is long-suffering so we are instructed to be long-suffering. It is important to note that Paul said that the long-suffering of GOD is part of that which leads us to repentance (ROMANS 2:4). Surely our long-suffering towards our fellow man might also lead him to a more worthy endeavor.
- Gentleness is a kindly disposition to others (Lightfoot). Bullinger described it as the usefulness of persons towards others. Along with long-suffering it is another of the three attributes of GOD which Paul said brings us to repentance (ROMANS 2:4). See also COLOSSIANS 3:12 where it is translated kindness.
- Goodness is the kindly activity on others' behalf (Lightfoot). It is uprightness of heart and life (Thayer). Bullinger described it as the quality of him who is ruled by and aims at the good, moral worth, and sterling goodness apart from attractiveness.
- Faith is the conviction which is based upon hearing, not upon sight or knowledge (Bullinger). Thayer associated it with fidelity and faithfulness. It is curious that the apostles once asked the Lord to increase their faith (LUKE 17:5) and he answered that if they would simply obey that which they had already been instructed to do, then they would not need to worry about their faith being increased.
Our walk of faith should be a progress as we move along life's path. Our experiences are given to us by our Creator and as we diligently apply what we have learned from the scriptures to each occasion, we grow in faith. Faith is not somehow magically increased, but rather it grows and develops within us are we march through life. See the Studies, The How of Believing and The Way of Faith.
In his opening and closing remarks in his epistle to the Romans, Paul spoke of this obedience to the faith (ROMANS 1:5; 16:26). Faith is developed as we diligently obey the words of GOD. These are the obedient steps of Abraham of which Paul wrote (ROMANS 4:12); it is the walking by faith (2 CORINTHIANS 5:7); the following of faith (2 TIMOTHY 2:22).
Scripture tells us that without faith it is impossible to please GOD (HEBREWS 11:6). The passage further states that we must first believe that GOD exists, but then we must go on from that and realize that HE is a rewarder of those who diligently seek HIM. Diligently seeking GOD is what nurturing the fruit of the spirit is all about. Diligently seeking GOD is more than just believing in HIM. It is more than just faithful Church attendance. It is devoting ourselves to adhering to HIS commands. It is to continually dwell in Yeshua's words. It is to walk in the spirit, to be led by the spirit.
We can abound in faith (2 CORINTHIANS 8:7), and our faith can be increased (2 CORINTHIANS 10:15), and it can even grow exceedingly (2 THESSALONIANS 1:3), but it is all to do with a natural growth as a result of the believer's walk. We should note that the word used by Paul in 2 CORINTHIANS 10:15 which has been rendered increased (auxano) by the translators is a completely different word than the one which Luke used to describe the apostles request from Yeshua to increase (prostithemi) their faith.
- Meekness is to be free from a haughty self sufficiency (Bullinger). It is not self assertive, but always accepts GOD's dealing with us as good. It does not contend with GOD (Vine). It is not weakness, but rather describes one who is coachable.
- Temperance is manifested in self control (Vine). One who is temperate has mastered his desires and passions (Thayer).
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All of life's earthly pursuits are only trivial pursuits. When we are chasing after earthly things we are only killing time, wasting away. And yet, even these blind alleys and dead ends can be opportunities for us to awaken to the true way. As the prodigal son had to suffer the loss of all that he had thought was important, so sometimes we too must lose it all before we begin to see life's purpose in its true perspective (LUKE 15:15-32).
Life's experiences, which are ordered by our Creator, are the chastening, the instruction we sometimes need to reprove and correct us when we wander off course. It is that which calls us back to the narrow way towards the straight gate.
Yeshua had told Paul that it was hard and troubling for him to kick against the pricks (ACTS 9:5). The prick or goad was a sharp object attached to the end of a stick which was used to keep the plowing ox fixed upon its task. When it wandered off to one side or the other, the plowman would prick the ox to prod it back on course. Howbeit, sometimes the animal would kick back at the goad which only caused it more pain. Thus it was for Paul. He had been kicking back against the prodding of the Holy Spirit.
- HEBREWS 12:11 Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.
This is by design. Our Creator knows that during the course of our lives we will need to be chastened and guided as we are learning to be righteous. HE has therefore designed our minds to be able to receive reproof and correction thereby returning us to the right way. This learning process is exactly parallel to an athlete who by discipline and training prepare themselves for an event. The disciplined routine of the practice is not always pleasant but the contender's hope is that afterward all of his efforts are rewarded when he is finally in the arena. For the believer however, his life's efforts produce the fruit of righteousness, the fruit of the spirit.
Paul often wrote of this truth, but perhaps no more efficaciously than in his epistle to the believers at Ephesus.
- EPHESIANS 1:4 According as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before him in love.
The reason for Paul's readers being chosen by GOD to hear and understand HIS word, to learn and be trained to develop the fruit of the spirit, was so that they could become holy and therefore without blame before HIM when they arrived in HIS heavenly kingdom. Howbeit they weren't going to be found worthy and blameless by the touch of a magic wand, but rather by their faithfulness to HIS word. By leaning not to sin and thus developing the fruit of the spirit they were going to become pleasing to their maker.
This passage beautifully sets forth all which we have endeavored to consider in this Study. GOD fore-ordained the believer prior to even the foundation of the world. But it was all with a specific purpose. It was so that he could learn to be holy and without blame, which is essentially to learn to be righteous, producing the fruit of righteousness. All of this is with a view for us someday, after our resurrection into HIS kingdom, to stand before HIM in love.
Paul also wrote the believers in Ephesus that they should fully apply themselves to the task at hand, because their days were numbered.
- EPHESIANS 5:15-16 See then that ye walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise, redeeming the time, because the days are evil.
Walking circumspectly is to walk accurately. It is probably from the same Greek word used of a mountain climber who was ascending a dangerous cliff (Bullinger). Each step must be weighed with the upmost diligence. The consequences can be fatal. But don't let the daunting task cause you to linger indefinitely. Instead, push on ahead redeeming the time because the days are evil, which means that time is not standing still, our clock is ticking and winding down. We each have only a limited number of days to nurture this fruit of the spirit before the final harvest comes.
Paul continued his encouragement to the Galatians with this most important message.
- GALATIANS 6:7-8 Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
Our Creator expects us to grow up and become men and women of GOD. HE has not called us to remain helpless infants wallowing in our dirty diapers. We must climb up out of our playpen and begin to learn not to sin. We must not devote ourselves to simply chasing after earthly and carnal things. We must be trained as disciplined spiritual athletes, winning in the contest set before us.
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