by Wayne Barber
We all have a choice every day of our lives when it comes to living the Christian life. Either we admit we can’t live the Christian life and we say “yes” to Christ and to His Word—which releases His life in us as Paul has told us in Galatians 2:20—or we choose to try to do it our own way. Failure is when we seek to fulfill the desires of our flesh. It is then that we stop fulfilling the desires of the Spirit.
Paul addressed this so simply in Galatians 5:16: “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.” In our last two articles we saw the counterfeit lives the flesh produces when we choose to obey it’s desires. As we read on in Galatians 5 we see such a contrast between the works the “flesh” produces and the fruit of God’s Spirit in a yielded life.: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (Gal. 5:22,23).
There is something that is so important to understand here: The word “fruit” in verse 22, is singular. Paul is not listing the “fruits” (plural) of the Spirit, but, the “fruit” of the Spirit. Also, Paul in describing the “fruit of the Spirit” does not refer to what one does but to what one is. He changes from “works” to “fruit.” When we live after the flesh we must “work,” and in the context of Galatians, this is what the Law demands! When we work, we will produce the deeds that we just studied. Paul says that “the “wages” of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23). You work for wages! But, when we live by the Spirit, God produces His character in us. We are something, before we do something. It is Christ living in us.
Wow! This is so important. We are always looking to see what a man or a church does but we forget to look at the man and see what he is! Anybody can do things, even good things, but only Christ can produce His character in us—which is love that qualifies the things done.
The word “fruit” in the phrase “fruit of the Spirit” is karpós in the Greek. It is the normal result of a branch yielding to the vine. Fruit is produced by the tree or vine and draped on the branch. The fruit does not produce itself. It is the result of something else. Here, it is the result of one who is yielded to the source. Jesus addressed this in John 15:1-8: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.... Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit… As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you, unless you abide in Me.... I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing.... By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be my disciples.”
The fruit of Christ living in us is His love. The eight qualities mentioned in verses 22 and 23 are simply descriptions of this love. If Christ is living in someone’s life then His love is present! Why? Because Christ is God and God is love (1 John 4:8, 16)!!! When Christ lives in us, He is Love.
Now…if He lives in us and His love is present, then there will be eight qualities that are also present. You see, there is no definite article before the word “love.” Paul is seeking to “qualify it” rather than just identify it. In our next article we will begin to examine Christ living in the life of a believer. Meanwhile, is Christ being seen in your life?
Wayne Barber is senior pastor of Hoffmantown Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico.