The Fruit of the Spirit

There are a few things to consider when we read Paul’s list of the the fruit of the Spirit; context, the author’s intention and the ordinary meaning of the nouns Paul uses to describe the fruit of the Spirit (paying careful attention to Paul’s use, and the acceptable use of these nouns in the NT). There is no merit in trying to import meaning from outside of the NT just because the history of the a given word has at one time or another been employed toward such a meaning. In other words, we want to respect the NT and biblical context.

The historical context of Galatians is a battle Paul is having with a group of Judaizers who have come in behind him, trying to pursuade the recent Gentile converts at Galatia that unless they also convert to Judaism, they are not fully saved. Paul, a Jew of Jews, lays down his credentials for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ minus circumcision and other Jewish markers (cf. Gal. 1-2). He refuses to countenance Gentiles being made to adopt any aspect of the law to suplement their salvation by grace through faith in Christ alone (Gal. 2:21; 3:21; cf. Eph. 2:8-9). In fact he warns his readers that to adpot the law is to reject Christ, and the grace of God that leads to salvation (Gal. 2:21). He goes further and depicts adherence to the law, and faith in Christ as spiritual freedom (Gal. 5:1).

His premise is that the power of the Spirit takes charge in the believers life where the law left off. The utter failure of the law to produce righteousness (cf. Rom. 8:3-4), is the glaring flaw in Judaism and Israel’s historical failure to satisfy the requirements of God, in regard to obedience, is demonstrable in the OT cf. Heb. 8:8-9). As a result God promised his people a new covenant, one that would involve a transformation of the heart and the action of the Spirit (cf. Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:24-27; Heb. 10:15-18).

The writer of Hebrews says that if the law could have produced righteousness, then there would have been no need for God to promise a new covenant (Heb. 8:7 ). But because the law could not produce righteousness (Gal. 2:21; 3:21), God introduced the promise of a new covenant, functioning, not by law, but by the power of a transformed life and the indwelling Spirit of God (Jer. 31:31-34; Ezek. 36:24-27). This new covenant would overcome the impediment of the flesh toward producing righteousness in the context of human life and spiritual devotion. The fruit of the Spirit, then, is a description of the righteousness that is produced by the Spirit in the life of the believer in Jesus Christ, under the operation of the new covenant, which involves grace and faith.

To see this passage and the fruit of the Spirit as merely a list of vices and virtues, is to miss the point and to move in the direction of a new legalism. Paul did not envision his converts being saved from sin, freed from the law, only to become slaves to concepts of virtue and morality administered like clubhouse rules! These are not virtues we are to strive to possess, they are the naturally growing fruit of the Spirit led and empowered life. Just as the vices are a list of what flows out of the flesh as a natural outflow of a sinful heart, so the fruit of the Spirit are the overflow of a saved and sanctified, in which the Holy Spirit operates. In Romans 6-8, Paul deals with this more systematically and theologically. However, in summary he indicates that the the impulse of the flesh or carnal life, the natural born disposition of every human being, produces an impulse toward sin.

In Romans 7 Paul describes how even a religious, good man cannot overcome that impulse even if he desires to live a righteous life. he is doomed to spiritual failure repeatedly because he is sabotaged by the impulses of the flesh. It is only through the deliverance of a transformed life, that the Spirit of God can take up a place of indwelling in the life and heart and mind of the believer. This presence of the Spirit replaces the law of sin and death (the impulse to sin) with the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus (the impulse toward righteousness). Out of that trasnformed life, because of the operation of the holy Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit or righteousness of God is produced. It flows fromthe transforamtion that comes from salvation and indwelling presence of the Spirit that is the deposit of God in the life of every believer (2 Cor 5:5, 17).

Galatians 5:13-26

One key to understanding a particular verse of scripture, in this case the list of the Fruit of the Spirit, is to examine the entire passage (periscope), to see how the “logic” of the argument holds together. Paul offers a closely reasoned argument that ends with the list of the fruits of the Spirit, so that the list is the culmination of his logic not just an arbitrary list thrown together as a weak example of Christian virtues. To see this list as Christian virtues is to fail to understand Paul’s point.

Chapter 5 starts with a statement about freedom. It is for the purpose of being free that Christ has set us free. We were not set free to go back into bondage, but in order to live free from the original bondage from which we have been delivered. Neither are we delivered so that our new freedom from a moral code creates an opportunity to indulge and sinful nature. We were not freed to simply become religious adherents nor to become lawless and morally unrestrained. The deliverance that we have in Christ was intended to become permanent and to become a lifestyle where the highest moral standard, what the Bible calls righteousness, are up held. We can go even further, in stating that the freedom that Paul has in mind is freedom from the law of God as a moral code of ethics governing our lives, and freedom from sin that dominates the flesh, because of desire (Gal. 2:19-21). In other words, Paul states that we are not bound to produce morality based on guilt and fear produced by the law, and we are not bound to moral defeat and failure because of the power of the flesh that arouses desire. Why? What liberates us?

The answer is, and always will be in Paul, the Spirit! Those who live or walk by the Spirit will not satisfy the desires of the sinful nature (16). That is, the will not be morally defeated because of the desires of the sinful nature taking them into sin. Paul states here what he also restates in Romans 8, that sinfulness and righteousness are totally exclusive to one another, and that to engage in one is to be an enemy to other (17). To indulge the flesh is to be at war with God (Rom. 8:7-8). What Paul does here is to set the sinful nature ruled by human desire against the life influenced by the inward power and presence of the Spirit. The one is the natural human condition at birth, and the other is the condition of the believer at new birth! To live by the Spirit, means to consciously and consistently submit and yield to the impulse of the Spirit in your life, leading to righteousness (cf. Rom. 6; 8:1-19).

To live and to walk are both figurative terms for behavior and conduct. They refer to the way behave in terms of action. At this point we are getting very close to our two lists, the actions of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit. Paul is urging his reader not to fall into the trap of relying upon a religious/moral code to produce righteousness, but rather to rely upon the indwelling presence and influence of the Holy Spirit. Adhering to a moral code is to go back into bondage, and to rely personal moral strength to produce the righteousness that God requires; and Paul has demonstrated here and in Romans that God’s OT people have failed in this endeavor since the inception of the nation. The law never worked when used in this way. To miss the point and say you can live any way you desire because you are free from the law, the moral code, is to fail to understand that God still demands righteousness and morality from his people. It is not an optional extra. To indulge sinful desire is also to fall back into bondage, the bondage of sin from which we were originally delivered by faith in Christ. No, righteousness is the invariable demand of God, and it is achieved through the influence of the Spirit not the guilt brought about by a moral code (18). The one is the product of grace, the other the product of human effort (works).

At this point we need to take a closer list at the two lists and compare them in how they function and are introduced to us. Paul introduces the list of vices as acts of the sinful nature and the list of virtues as the fruit of the Spirit. The lists are different in kind, but similar type. To understand the fruit of the Spirit, we have to understand by Paul places the lists side by side (juxtaposed). To call the vices, acts of the flesh, Paul is drawing attention to the fact that the fruit of the Spirit are similarly acts, but produced by the Spirit not the flesh. They are similar in type. If the vices are acts, then the fruit of the Spirit are also acts, and not merely internalized emotions. We congratulate ourselves, as believers that we are mature and have the fruit of the Spirit, because we can internalize them and claim to have the inward Spirit of love, joy, peace, and so on. But if the flesh is marked by the outward acts, so that the evidence of fleshliness is sexual immorality, impurity, debauchery, and so forth, then the life lived under the influence of the Spirit is similarly marked by the outward demonstration of love, joy, peace, and so on. In other words, both vices and virtues are primarily practical manifestations in the way we live our lives, they are not primarily internalized emotions.

This is made even clearer when Paul, states that against the virtues no one has written law. Well of course not! We say! What he is saying is that when people behave like the fruit of the Spirit, they do not break the law (23b). This is about behavior!

How can this come about, we say? How can a person experience such a radical change in their behavior? Paul mentions two things that have to do with our experience of salvation in Christ. First, those who belong to Christ have crucified the sinfulness nature. That is they have willingly brought the impulses of the sinfulness under the power of the death of Christ, through faith in Jesus Christ, in order that through the transforming power of God by his Spirit, they might raised into a new life (lifestyle) (born again). Secondly, the resurrection to a new life in Christ through surrender, brings the new life under the impulse and leadership of the Spirit of God who now dwells in the believer (cf. 16, 25).
This change of spiritual management from the sinful nature to the influence of the Spirit results in a change of behavior. The results coming out of the Spirit led life are totally opposed to and different from what the life controlled by the sinful nature produces. Hence there are two different lists of behaviors, one produced by the sinful nature, when it is governor over the life of an unsaved human being, and the other list are actions produced when the Holy Spirit is governor over the life of a born again believer.

In other places, Paul indicates by certain statements that this difference is not automatic, and in Romans 6 he indicates that even believers can be leave room for sin in their lives if they are not careful. There has to be a commitment of cooperation to the life of the Spirit, and the new life has to be embraced by faith as fully as salvation is originally embraced.

(Galatians 5:22-23a)

Again before launching into a dissection of each fruit, let’s make a couple more general observations. The second half of verse 23 says that there is no law against such things as these fruit that Paul enumerates. This is a vital clue as to how Paul views the fruit, that they are “acts” that flow out of the life of the believer, that Paul primarily sees them as demonstrable and tangible indications of godliness and righteousness, or life in the Spirit. This observation is very important, because a key element as we will see in these fruit is attitude. You cannot legislate against an attitude, only against an act. No amount of law making can prohibit a man’s inward mindset or attitude. So when Paul says that no one makes laws against things like these fruits, like they would against some of the vices he lists earlier, he has primarily in mind something that produces a tangible outward result in the life of the believer. Although character is inward, it must find outward expression in the believer’s life.
It is not enough for believers to boast about their love, if they never serve others and seem to lack compassion. Even Jesus said if you love me you will keep my commandments. Love needs to produce tangible results. A believer cannot boast about joy if his demeanor is continually joyless and morose! You cannot boast about the peace of God if your life is ruled by anxiety and fear every day, and the tyranny of a 1000 things that surround your soul with disturbance. The first thing we must say at this point is that the fruit of the Spirit has primarily to do with a tangible outflow from the life of the believer that can be measured or observed by others in terms of behavior, that indicates a sanctified character, a life led by the impulse of the Holy Spirit (not the flesh) and a resolute faith and trust in God.

The reason that Paul calls the marks of godly character fruit is precisely because fruit is something tangible produced mysteriously from the inner workings of the life of a plant. The kind of fruit that the plant produces is indicative of the character of the plant. The plant is known by the fruit it produces. The assessment of the relative merits of a plant, whether it is good or bad plant, are made based on the fruit it produces. No one assesses the plant based on its looks alone (cf. Matthew 7:16-20; Mark 11:12-21; Luke 6:43-44; 13:6-8; John 15:1-16; James 3:12).
Secondly, we want to observe that this list of fruit, like the list of vices (flowing out of the character of a life led by the impulses of the flesh – footnote sanctification is about which impulse is in control) is an ad hoc list, similar to a list of things, similar to a list that a preacher would enumerate in a sermon. Paul does not intend for it to be exhaustive, but representative. These are the kinds of things that flow out of the character of a life led by the Spirit. In two other places Paul also lists of virtues, which he calls fruit and they include other things than those that appear here. In Ephesians 5:9 Paul calls the list the fruit of light, where goodness, truth and righteousness are clearly like the fruit of Galatians, the tangible outflow of godly character. Similarly in Colossians 1:6 he calls tangible manifestations of godliness in the life of the believer the fruit of righteousness. In verse 10 he speaks of good works as fruit, or the outflow of a godly life. The common thread in these lists is that Paul has in mind what Jesus also had in mind, that the life of the righteous man or woman, meaning those who are led by the Spirit (this is the premise of Galatians), should produce tangible demonstrations of inward character, as a result of their submission and obedience to the leading of the Spirit of God. The fruit of the Spirit is a list of such tangible demonstrations.

We must make one further observation about this passage that has to do with the life of the church as a community in relationship to the fruit of the Spirit. Paul is concerned about the Galatians situation, because those who have brought in the teaching about submitting to the law to supplement their faith in Christ, have effectively divided the church. There was confusion, maybe even arguing and struggles within the fellowship over the new teaching. People were talking about one another, and so Paul warned them that if they continued to snap and bit at one another they would eat one another up, and totally destroy the church, because it would disintegrate through disunity (Gal. 5:15). Disunity was a serious problem cause by tension in the relationships. Paul was not very tolerant of disunity and those who were responsible for keeping it alive, the talkers, the backbiters, the gossips and those who undermined others. The list of vices earlier majors on things that cause disunity and that disrupt relationships between people, for example hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissentions, factions, envy, etc. Similarly the fruit of the Spirit major on what supports and enhances unity, for example love, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness (reliability), gentleness and self-control (opposite to fits of rage) (Witherington III, Ben. Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998. p. 389).
In Ephesians 4:3 Paul instructs his readers to make every effort, to put some considerable amount of energy into keeping the unity (maintaining and developing relationships in the church) that the Spirit of God has established in the first place. In other words, God intended his people to have unity in their relationships, not uniformity, but unity. He has established that unity through Jesus death on the cross, and Paul shows how God even made one church, one new body of believers, to be God’s people, out of Jews and Gentiles (Eph. 2:14-18). But we as believers are to play our part to maintain or keep that unity fresh and alive. That is the impact of godly character that produces the fruit of the Spirit in terms of concrete, outward behavior toward one another. Indeed Paul’s argument draws the conclusion that those who stay in step with the Spirit will find themesleves in unity with one another, producing the fruit of the Spirit, which is the very righteousness that God demands from his people (Witherington III, Ben. Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998. p. 389).

Paul seeks to demonstrate to the Galatians that the law (OT Torah), was totally ineffectual for producing righteousness, which is the fruit of a godly life, and something God desires from his people. Gordon Fee points out that the law failed in terms of righteousness, both to produce right-standing with God and right character (inner sanctification marked by outward acts consistent with God’s demands) (Fee, Gordon. God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul. Peabody, Massachusetts; Hendricksons Publishers, 1994. p. 421). Galatians far from being a book of divisions (an autobiographical defense of Paul’s ministry, a doctrinal section, concluded with exhortations), it is unified whole with Paul sticking closely to his argument throughout; that when it comes to righteousness, the law has been replaced by the Spirit, and the Galatians should not allow themselves to be brought under the rules and regulations of a Jewish religious system, that was ultimately historically powerless to produce among God chosen people. But the Spirit does in fact, through grace and faith, produce the righteousness of God in the NT believer, as the believer keeps in step with the Spirit (Fee, Gordon. God’s Empowering Presence: The Holy Spirit in the Letters of Paul. Peabody, Massachusetts; Hendricksons Publishers, 1994. pp. 420-421). Fee also says that this section answers the question Paul asked earlier, “Having begun in the Spirit, do you intend to end in the flesh (by keeping the law)?” (Gal. 3:3). The obvious answer is of course not, what was begun in the Spirit, through grace, faith and salvation, will be brought to completion through the Spirit as a result of grace and faith. The mechanism by which this is accomplished is that of replacing the impulse of the flesh with the impulse of the Spirit, being led by the Spirit, so that righteousness is produce as the believer keeps in step with the leading of the Holy Spirit, by obeying his lead.

Therefore, as Fee puts it, life in the Spirit stand in opposition to life in the flesh, and in contra distinction to life under the law (Fee. p. 422). Fee goes on to say that the Spirit has initiated a new era, and the law and the flesh have been “…crippled by Christ’s death and resurrection” (p. 422). By identifying with the death of Christ, the believer dies to the flesh and dead to the law (Gal. 2:19; 5:24), and is empowered by the Spirit to produce righteousness, which reflects the character of God. The law never produced righteousness, but the Galatians experience of the Spirit can and does. Far from being lawless, they are under the leadership and restraint of the Spirit, living in obedience to God, as that is reflected in the fruit of the Spirit (Fee, p. 422)!

The Fruit of the Spirit Itself: Lists of virtues were not uncommon in Greek literature. Interestingly enough only the last three in Paul’s are virtues that Greeks would have been recognized as virtues, the first six are virtues almost exclusively in the context of the New Testament (Witherington III, Ben. Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998. p. 407). This underscores of course that whatever interpretation we place on these virtues; we must pay proper attention to their NT context. It is the NT that gives these virtues their meaning, not the etymology, current of classical Greek usage and derivations. In other words, these nouns mean what they meant in the NT, in context of the morality and truth taught by Christ and his apostles, which often contradicts the morality and supposed virtuosity of the secular world.Bearing in mind then that the root idea connected to the fruit of the Spirit is action, what flows out of a godly, Spirit-led character and life, we now turn to consider each of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned. It is worth noting at this point that the because the fruit of the Spirit are grounded in action, that the nouns themselves point to things that have a lot to do with the frame of mind of the believer, as a result of becoming a Spirit lead person. This frame of mind could also be called attitude. We could say that the nouns used of the fruit of the Spirit describe the attitude behind the actions that flow out of the Spirit led life. Actions are volitional, and depend on the will. Here is where legalism broke down under the OT system of the law. Fallen human nature, the flesh, weakens any resolve toward righteousness (Rom. 8:3; Gal. 5:16-18). It sabotages the volition, or will and brings it into bondage to desire or the appetites of the body, serving them even if it means violating the standards of God’s holiness and righteousness. The indwelling Holy Spirit changes the balance of power in the human heart, and when the believer submits to being led by the Spirit, whose inner presence has overpowered fallen human nature (cf. Rom. 6:1-11; 2 Cor. 5:17), the will is bent toward obedience to God, and toward producing the fruit of the Spirit. So when we acknowledge that a decision of the will lies behind the fruit of the Spirit, we already know that such an impulse is under the direction of the Holy Spirit, producing what the Bible calls righteousness and what Paul here calls the fruit of the Spirit.

LOVE: What is love, really? To define the fruit of the Spirit we must start with our own perceptions and cultural assumptions in order to determine if they describe what the Bible is describing or not. In American and western culture in general, love is entirely existential; that is love is experience, almost entirely in terms of emotion and desire. Although there is room in popular culture for concepts of loyalty, friendship and companionship, the romantic and sexual aspects of love had dominated landscape to the point of being overwhelming irresistible today. From the popular cultural perspective love is the excitement, happiness, compatible companionship, friendship, an inner intangible, sometimes deep, appreciation and warm feelings toward a person; it is predominately portrayed in the media and Hollywood by sexual arousal. All other love is brought under suspicion of being too good to be true, insincere or even psychotic and unhealthy, unless it is permissive and without moral constraints (i.e. a father’s love for his children must come without moral strings attached, and without firm discipline).

It is interesting to note that in the Bible, while such things are acknowledged as being part of the human condition after the fall, biblical love, that is love for God and God’s people, is never thought of in purely existential terms. Although love does indeed involve feelings, feelings never comprise the greatest part of love in the Bible. To understand this we need to take a little time out to consider some of the earliest instances where love is spoken of in the scripture.

Before we embark on what is basically a word study of the nouns for love, we must again reiterate some of the limitations and guidelines. It is easy to be sidetracked by a discussion of the four Greek terms translated by the English word love, as though a dictionary definition will exhaust the meaning of the author. We instinctively know that is not true, even in English. If I say I love apples, it does not mean the same as saying I love my wife. Love for my wife involves feelings, loyalty, friendship, companionship, relational fulfillment romance, physical enjoyment and so on. Almost none of those things are true about my stated passion for apples. I simply mean that apples give me a great deal of pleasure and I crave them often! The context is clearly important, and provides a great deal of the background information on how we should understand the use of the term.

This leads to the “Greek-root” fallacy, the idea that whatever a word has meant, does mean and can mean, is what it means in the Bible. That is simply not true. Context is king, and we must understand the intentional use of the word by the author in his context, before we have correctly understood his meaning.

Our first task for a consideration of Paul’s use of love, a huge subject in scripture, is to simply makes some observations about the way the word is used in the Bible, both Old and New Testaments. Paul operated primarily in a Biblical context. His background is the scripture, and so his concepts of love are rooted in his understanding of love from the perspective of God’s dealings with Israel, and his knowledge of God in Jesus Christ. Paul is not interested in love from Greco-Roman cultural view point, any more than we can discuss biblical love from an American cultural view-point!
We must first acknowledge that in Paul’s Galatian context love is bound up with the influence of the indwelling Holy Spirit, providing leadership to the life of the believer. Therefore, Paul has in mind here not love in very broad and general terms, but love in narrow terms of our relationship to God and toward one another in the body of Christ. He may also have in mind love toward other people, who need Christ, but do not know him yet. In other words Paul is not interested in the full spectrum of what love can mean or be, in all of its various forms and contexts, but in love that is connected to our faith in and relationship with God. His concern is narrow in comparison. So we will confine oursleves to looking at love in the context of faith in God, and begin by considering two representative ideas from early in the OT.

The first books in the Bible provide the foundation of God’s revelation of himself to humanity. So we begin our study of pauline love by looking at the basic concept of love between God and his people. Strangely, the English word love in the context of God’s relationship with his people occurs first in Exodus 15:13, in the song of Miriam and Moses after the Egyptaisn have been destroyed in the Red Sea. The orginal term is the Hebrew, hesed, meaning loyalty, and faithfullness (Stuart, D. K. (2007). Vol. 2: Exodus (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers), and conntates mercy and kindness as well. For that reason hesed occurs in contexts that have to do with God’s covenant or faithfulness and kindness toward his people (cf. Ex 15:13; 20:6; 34:6, 7; Num. 14:18-19; Deut. 5:10; 7:9, 12; 2 Sam 7:15; 1 Kings 8:23; 1 Chron. 16:34; 41; 17:13; 2 Chron. 5:13; 6:14, 42; 7:3, 6; 20:21; Ezra 3:11; Neh. 1:5; 9:17, 32; 13:22; Job 37:13; etc. 115 times in Psalms). God is favorably disposed towards his people because of his grace and mercy and that translates into a covenant of faithful and reliable kindness.

Hesed, occurs 248 times in the OT. By far the greatest number of times in the NIV it is translated by the English word love (129), by 41 times by the word kindness! If agape is the characteristic Greek word used for the love of God in the NT, then hesed is the characteristic Hebrew word in the OT. The implication is that a certain amount of tenderness in the way people are treated is implied in the word. It is translated 32 times by the phrase unfailing love, implying that in large part the word also implies constancy, faithfulness, loyalty and steadfastness. This love is characterized by tenderness that has a high degree of reliability. This is especially when God is the source, as in Exodus 15:13; where the deliverance of Israel by God’s power is anticipated as the characteristic way that God will relate to his people in the future. He had redeemed them and not delivered them. In his celebration Moses rejoices in the fact that God will be faithful to Israel, constantly protecting them from their enemies.

This same love is then enshrined in the covenant that God made with Israel on Sinai, involving the ten commandments. In that context God speaks of himself as the God who delivered them from Egypt and who shows love to a thousend generations (his love will never be exhausted by time) of those who love him in return (Ex. 20:6). God declares that his love, his reliable kindness, tenderness, grace and mercy, in favor toward Israel, will not ever be exhausted.

Later after the incident of the golden calf, in the very same context, an exhuasted and discouraged Moses asked God for some kind of sign or revelation of God’s glory, something to go on, to sustain him under the burden of the leadership of this disobedient people (Ex. 33:18-23). While God refused to show Moses the full extent of his glory, he did give him a glimpse of it. When God passed by and announced his presence, describing what his glory and presence looks like, before Moses was allowed to see, God says this of himself, “The Lord, the Lord, the compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, maintaining love to thousands, and forgiving wickedness, rebellion and sin. Yet he does not leave the guilty unpunished; he punishes the children and their children for the sin of the parents to the third and fourth generation.” (Ex. 34:6-7). The dsame word for love is used here. The leading characteristics of God’s nature are bound up in his love toward his people. And it is that love that is the foundation of his patience and forgivenss! But it is not a love that will leave the persistently guilty unpunished. Love will not eliminate wrath altogether, but will provide grace and forgiveness to deal with sin, in order to provide deliverance from it.

What we have seen is that God’s love toward his people is essentially his favor toward them interms of the practical outflow of kindness and mercy. God’s mercy brings forgivenss, provision and victory, so that love is essentially expressed in terms of the practical overflow of God’s behavior toward those who belong to him. We call it providence, or the blessings of God, but we should never forget that blessing implies love and and is the overflow of love. While in God’s heart there is a tenderness (what some might call it emotion, but really is favorable dispostion) toward his people, his love consists not primarily in “feeling” but in graceful , kind and merciful action toward his people.

As we might expect the idea of love flows in both directions, from God to his people and from his people toward God. The covenant at Sinai states this explicitly (cf. Ex. 20:6; 34:7) . God’s connection to people who love him faithfully and are loyal to him cannot be exhausted ever by time. Notice in the Sinai covenant how God offers his love, faithfullness (hesed – love) to those who love him, and obey his commandments. If God’s love is expressed in action by his kindness and mercy toward his people, so God expects his people to love him in similar action terms, by obeying his commandments (cf. Ex. 20:6; Deut. 5:10; 7:9). The Lord even instructed his people that if they loved him they were to keep his comandments (cf. Deut. 11:1, 13, 22; 19:9; 30:16; Josh. 22:5; Neh. 1:5; Dan. 9:4). In Deuteronomy 19:9; God expressly associates Israel’s love for him as obeying his commandments.

In this way love for God in the OT is tied to obedience, or more specifically righteousness. A right heart producing right action. It is no exaggeration to say that this how God measured their love for him. Their protests of love were not enough, even when they continued in the temple rituals, when in their behavior they were far from obedient to his word (cf. Isa. 1). The word for love used of the love which reciprocates the love God has for his people is ahab. Ahab occurs some 217 times in the OT and the NIV translates it love 93 times. At least on the surface this word appears to have more of the range of meaning we are accustomed to in English. It is used of love for God, the love of a lover, attraction, freinsdhip, etc. In the scriptures that speak of God’s faithful covenant love (hesed) toward his people, those who are said to love him and obey his commandments are said to have this love (ahab) for God (cf. Deut. 11:1, 13, 22; 19:9; 30:16; Josh. 22:5; Neh. 1:5; Dan. 9:4). This is consistent throughout the OT, so that the ahab in terms of oebying God’s commandments is the response God is looking for when he bestows his hesed interms of reliable kindness on his people.

Therefore, we have this clear picture of what biblical love is all about. God lovingly providing for his people, and his people lovingly responding in obedience to God. When we look back with this knowledge at Genesis 1-3 we begin to realize what was really happening in the Garden of Eden. God provided everything that was needed by Adam and Eve, that was love, and he required them to obey him and not eat of the fruit from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. That too was love! It was more than affection it was deep loyalty that God demanded from and gave to them. This loyalty encompassed in it a deep mutual affection, and friendship, involving companionship and repeated, regular communion (Gen. 3:8), but at its core relies upon a practical expressions through action.

Jesus took this definition of love and made it the standard of NT love for himself and for God. He told his disciples that if they really loved him they would obey him (cf. John 14:15, 21, 31; 15:10). Jesus therefore established NT love under the same terms as OT love, namely that if those who are saved love him, they will obey him. Now the flip side of this is articulated by Jesus in John 3:16, where he tells Nicodemus that God so loved the world that he gave (action) his One and Only Son. In John’s gospel the parameters of love are clearly defined in the same terms as they are in the OT. Later on John would remind his readers just before his death, that if they truly loved God they would keep his commandments or obey him (cf. 1 John 5:3; 2 John 1:6).

Now, the law failed to provide the impetus and power for Israel and God’s people to truly love God through obedience to his commands. Paul has already told the Galatians that the Spirit has replaced the law as the impetus and power for righteousness in the life of the believer. So effectively the Holy Spirit has essentially abridged the gap, and through the Spirit led life, God’s presence in us provides the impetus for us to express our love to God in the way he desires, through obedience. Indeed, righteousness is a love issue for God, and the Spirit enables saved and spiritually transformed human beings to obey God, and thus to give expression to their love for him in the way God desires and is looking for. In this way love for God is not coerced, but is given freely as believers yield, bend their will or make the choice to follow to the leadership of the Spirit in doing righteousness and bearing the fruit of the Spirit. It is in this way that the first of the fruit of the Spirit strikes at the very heart of what Paul calls the life led by the Spirit. Love for God means observing and obeying the commandments. But that is impossible for those who are under slavery to the impulses of the flesh. By the power of the indwelling Spirit, God has provided the impetus for his people, transformed by salvation, to produce the righteousness of the law, effectively obeying its moral demands, and therefore properly loving God (cf. Rom 13:8; Gal. 5:6, 14)! So love is the essence of the Spirit-filled life and of holiness or what Paul and the OT call righteousness, just as John Wesley argued. It is on this basis, then, we will investigate NT love more deeply.

Peter, Jesus and Love – An interesting conversation between Jesus and Peter occurs in John 21 after the resurrection of Jesus and his appearance on the shore of Galilee early in the morning. The impatient Peter, waiting for Jesus declares that he is going fishing (3a), and several other disciples go with him. However, all night long they catch nothing (3b). In the early morning twilight they spot a fire on the beach and an indistinct figure on the shore (4, 9). The man calls to them, asking if they had caught anything (5). The way the question is framed, the expected answer is negative. Jesus knew they hadn’t caught anything, and he is letting them know that the night had been fruitless. They answer, that they had not. He then calls back to lower the net on the right side of the boat, which they do and they catch 153 fish (6, 11)!

You can sense from the text that this is something more. All night without Jesus is fruitless, but suddenly in a single cast with him at his command, they incur tremendous results. Since this had happened before, John immediately realizes it is Jesus. When Jesus had called them he told them that he would make them fishers of men, so they abandoned their nets to follow him. Is this a second invitation, a sort of message to Peter, don’t go back to fishing, I still intend for you to fish for men? In any case after John told Peter that it was the Lord (7), Peter jumps from the boat to swim ashore (7b). Peter was not interested in fishing if there was any chance that he could serve the Lord, or be with the Lord. Jesus is on the shore to greet him, with breakfast cooking on the fire. But so that they do not misunderstand and think that he was a “vision”, he tells them to bring some of their fish to the meal, which he eats in front of them, proving he is real (10-13)!

As remarkable as this scene is this is not the essence of what John seeks to show. All of this is preparation for the conversation that will follow between Jesus and Peter. John is giving to us the restoration account of Peter. How Jesus restored him to leadership and ministry. The conversation between Jesus has been characterized in a number of ways, many times downplaying the significance of the details in the text. However by looking at John’s writings, and the meticulous detail of the run up to the conversation, we are alerted to pay close attention to every word. Indeed, for John words and themes are significant. All through his gospel he has been playing off of certain words, light, darkness, faith, glory, bread, life, etc. To suddenly claim, as some do that John’s choice of words in this last passage is merely “stylistic” or accidental, rather than purposeful and deliberate, is to deny the style of the book as a whole. In this one chapter John interchanges synonyms. The conversation precedes in the form of a triad, with Jesus asking Peter the question, “Do you love me?” and Peter replying, “Yes, Lord you know that I love you.” This is followed by Jesus commissioning Peter to assume a place of ministry and leadership again. It could be conjectured that because peter had denied Jesus three times (John 18:12-27) that Jesus’ threefold questioning of Peter’s love for him was designed to restore him past what was a painful and difficult failure. There is merit to this idea we think.
John interchanges synonyms throughout the exchange. For example, as is widely known, John uses two different words for love (agape, phileo), but he also uses synonyms for shepherding (bosko, poimaino), for sheep (arnia, probaton), and for knowing (oida, ginosko). What is even more remarkable is the use and sequencing of the words, and phrases that cannot possibly be stylistic (without meaning, merely for aesthetics), but must be deliberately places to communicate specific meaning. The lesson in the passage is very a powerful and poignant message about our love, and the love God expects from us!

It is common knowledge in NT circles that Greek has four synonyms translated into English by the noun love. Two of those appear in this passage, agape, the famous word for love, often called Bible love, or God’s love, and phileo, no so widely known, but often used in the NT in contexts of fellowship between believers. Indeed, in secular Greek phileo was the usual word for love, often meaning deep affection or great loyalty (Mounce, William D. Mounce’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Word. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishers, 2006. 427). In secular Greek before Christ, agape had little depth of meaning, and was “use frequently as a synonym for eros (sexual love) and phileo (the general term for love). If it had any nuance, it was love for the sake of its object.” (Mounce, 427). Bill Mounce conjectures that this “neutrality of meaning” may have had something to do with why the NT writers adopted it as their term of love, by investing in it all of the meaning of love in the context of God, salvation, mercy, grace and fellowship among believers, as well as using it as the term for other forms of human love in the context of family (Mounce, 427). “In other words, its meaning comes not from the Greek but from the biblical understanding of God’s love.” (Mounce, 427) We look in vain to Greek to understand agape in the NT.

Of course God is love (1 John 4:8), meaning that he is characterized by agape. the nature of that love has to be fleshed out in the contexts where it is described and appears. So when we read agape we must derive the meaning from the context. For example, what is God’s love like? Jesus said, that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, so that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life” (John 3:16). Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it but to save it, the initiative of which salvation was taken by God, at the great expense of giving up his Son as a sacrifice for the sins of the world, to die on a cross (John 1:29). God’s love is not condemnatory (cf. John 3:17-18), but salvific, characterized by grace and mercy toward the lost, and is capable of paying the fullest price for the reconciliation of its object to himself (Gal. 2:20; Eph 2:4; Titus 3:4). Nevertheless, God is capable of correcting and disipling his children, not out of vindictiveness, but because he loves them (Heb. 12:6). God’s love for sinners was so deep that he was willing to give his Son to die before there was any conciliation on their part; while they were still his enemies, God’s love took the initiative toward their salvation, reconciliation, and redemption (Rom 5:8). There are other descriptions of God’s love in the NT, but this gives us the idea of how we are to arrive at the correct understanding of it (cf. Rom. 8:39; Eph. 3:19; 1 John 3:1).

Every believer is called upon to return this same kind of love to God (cf. Matt. 6:24; 22:7; Mark 12:30; Luke 10:27; 16:13; John 16:27; 1 Cor. 2:9; 1 Thess. 1:3; 4:9-10; 1 John 4:16; . It is love that transcends self and puts its object ahead of itself (1 John 2:5). It is deeply loyal, totally self-sacrificial and hopelessly committed to obedience and righteousness, loving God through obedience that springs from the power of the indwelling Spirit.

Believers are to imitate God by loving one another with the same kind of love, love that takes the initiative in relationships, reconciliation and fellowship, love that is loyal and seeks the best for its object (Gal. 5:6, 13; Eph. 1:15; 5:2; Col. 1:4; 2:2; 1 Thess. 3:6; 2 Thess. 1:3; Heb. 6:10; 1 Pet. 2:17; 2 Pet. 1:7; 1 John 3:10; 4:7-12; 16; 20; 21; 5:1-3). (Mounce, 427). Jesus commanded such love among his followers, and as a witness of who truly belong to him (John 13:34-35). Such a love honors others above yourself, and puts them first in your considerations (Rom. 12:10) and by serving them humbly (Gal. 5:13). Love maintains unity and keeps the peace in relationships (1 Cor. 13:11). Love is patient in the context of the relationship, and bears with the idiosyncrasies of others (Eph. 4:2). Love must come from the heart, not duty alone, motivated by genuine concern, kindness and compassion for one another (1 Pet. 1:22 ; 3:8). Believers are even to love all people, not just other believers and to love their enemies (cf. 1 Cor. 16:14; 1 Thess. 3:12; 2 Pet. 1:7; Matt. 5:44 ; Luke 6:35). This kind of love transcends feelings and inclinations, and is rooted in choice and commitment to God and others (1 Cor. 13; cf. 2 Cor. 5:14).

In the NT Phileo covers much more territory, and describes love in its various context, including family love, love between friends, lovers and other quite ordinary forms of affection and attraction, including toward things than are not human (Mounce, 428). John 12:25 speaks of loving your life to the point of losing it, whereas by giving up ones life for the sake of Christ one can live eternally. So phileo is what most readers would identify are the ordinary word for love, including noble and sometimes selfless, altruistic and deep love, commitment and loyalty. However, in the NT agape trumps phileo, by taking love even further, to the point of being willing to endure personal hurt and harm in order to promote the object of that love (cf. Rom 5:6-11).

No back to Peter and his conversation with Jesus on the beach. When Jesus first asked Peter the question, “Do you love me,” Peter’s reply is interesting. Jesus asked Peter, “Do you agapas me?” Peter replied, “Yes, Lord, you know that I phileo you?” To which Jesus replied in turn, “Then feed my sheep.” A little later Jesus, asked Peter again, “Peter, do you agapas me?” Peter replied in exactly the same way he had before, “Lord, you know that I phileo you!” Then, Jesus said, “Rule over, guide, lead and care for my sheep.” Sometime later, Again Jesus asked Peter the same question, but with a noticeable difference. “Peter, do you phileo me?” Peter is stung in his heart, having denied Jesus three times, repudiating his association with him, Jesus has asked Peter if he has the deepest and most significant love a man can have for him, the kind of love that is rooted in God himself, and that is the expression of love that comes out of the experience of salvation in Christ, and is the result of a relationship with God. But the best Peter is willing to state is that he loves Jesus to the fullest extent of what he he feels he is capable of, within the boundaries of failed and frail human experience!

When Jesus asked Peter the third time, he was asking him, Peter do you love me to the fullest extent that you are capable of expressing right now. This is when Peter broke down in bitter repentance, and said Lord you know (oida) all things, because you are God and know my heart, you know (ginosko) by experience and recent events that all I can claim is that I phileo you! Peter had learned his boundaries. he no longer claimed he would die for and with Christ, but was honest in the expression of his love to Christ, and so Jesus restored him to ministry and leadership. Interestingly, the first time Jesus told Peter to feed (bosko) his sheep, possibly lambs (arnion). The second time he told him to lead, guide and care for the sheep (probaton), to shepherd them (poimaino), implying, leadership, ruling and exercise of authority. Jesus was restoring Peter to a place of leadership. Lastly, Jesus told him to feed (bosko) his sheep (probaton). Now that Peter could be real about his love for Jesus, understanding how flawed his love might be, what God’s love is like, the love God desired he should have for Jesus, Peter is ready to take back the full range of ministry to which Jesus had called him in the first place, feeding and leading his sheep!

Excursion on Love: The first epistle of John has two major themes, sin and love. The noun agape appears 17 times in the epistle and the verb, agapao, 26 times. Five times John calls his readers beloved or agapetos (1 John 3:2, 21; 4:1, 7, 11). John had something to say about love! There are three perspectives on love in John, the love God has for us (1 John 4:10-11), the love we have for one another (1 John 2:10; 3:10, 11, 14, 18, 3:23; 4:7, 8, 11, 12, 20; 5:1, 2) and our love for God. (1 John 2:15; 4:10; 19; 20; 21; 5:1, 2). In speaking of God’s love for us, John makes a number of important observations, but is surprisingly economical on the subject (1 John 2:15; 4:10, 19). He reserves the bulk of his 53 references to love for our love of God and toward one another. Only two instances of love have to do with anything other than God or others, except that they have an indirect reference to our loyalty to God (cf. 1 John 2:15).

God’s Love: What does John say about God’s love for us? First, John says that God has lavished his love on us, demonstrated by the fact that we have become and are called children of God (1 John 3:1). Without deserving it, through forgiveness based on faith, confession and obedience, we have become God’s children (1 John 1:8-2:6). God loved us first , before we loved him (1 John 4:19). It was God who took the imitative in the relationship we now know him as sons of God (cf. 1 John 1:7; 4:7-8). To know God means to have a relationship. But that relationship depends on walking in the light, obedience to God (1 John 1:7). It is, therefore, necessary for us to accept the terms of that relationship, which are that we consistently love one another and obey God.

Our Love For God: We love God because he first loved us and took the initiative to send his Son to die on the cross for our sin (1 John 2:1; 4:14). Love is part of the nature of God, it is uniquely characteristic of him (1 John 4:8, 16). So God has approached us with the proposition that his Son Jesus has become the sacrifice for our sin (1 John 2:2), that if we are willing to confess our sins, he is willing to forgiven them (1 John 1:7-9). God’s love stands as the initiating factor that produced the relationship with us as children, because he dealt with sin. God’s love resulted in a practical outcome, and was not merely a declaration. Indeed, we know what love is like because we see it in God’s action of sending his Son to die for us (1 John 3:16). Our love for God is a response to that initial love, and requires similar action on our part, loving others and obedience (1 John 3:17)! It is because of this forgiveness that we find ourselves called the children of God, with the expectation that we will imbibe and demonstrate the characteristics that represent God, who has become our Father, obedience to his will (purity) and love, chiefly toward one another.

Our Love For One Another: Undeniably one of John’s chief concerns is that God’s people love one another (cf. 1 John 3:11). As a result of salvation we now love God! He was first, but we have responded to God’s love with our love toward him. Now, what is remarkable about John’s epistle is how firmly John binds our love for God to our love for one another. John makes it absolutely clear that any claim to love God that does not follow up with a genuine love for one another is a false claim (1 John 4:20-21; 5:1-2).

John even makes our love for one another a mark or sign of our salvation (1 John 3:14; 4:7-8). John bluntly asserts that hatred for your brother is a an indication that you are not saved! Failure to love, hatred of ones brother, is the same attitude that caused Cain to murder his brother Abel, it will exclude a person from eternal life (1 John 3:15).

In an important link that is often missed, John joins love to obedience as the two indispensible elements of our ongoing relationship with God. In 1 John 2:3, he says that we have come to know God when we obey his commands. John is referring to the a life consistently lived in obedience to the will of God, particularly with respect to purity or holiness. Indeed, the man who consistently obeys God has been made complete in God’s love (1 John 2:5). Later John says that if our love for our brother is defective, then we cannot claim to know God; that is to claim to have a relationship with God, to know him, love for others must be an integral part of our character, like it is God’s (1 John 4:7-8, 12, 16, 20-21). John makes the point that as a result of salvation two things characterize us as the children of God, loving one another and obeying God. They are co-equal marks of our spiritual identity (1 John 5:2). This is how important love for one another is. Indeed we can say that John’s letter has a progression from a life of sin (loving the world) (1 John 1:1-2:10) to a life of loving God (demonstrated in consistently loving one another) (2:11-4:21). These are two antithetical lifestyles. The one is the life of loving the world and the other of loving God. The life of loving the world is demonstrated in consistent disobedience to God and the other by consistent love toward one another.
John goes even further. He describes the action that accompanies love. Love for one another is expressed in practical terms of meeting one another’s need (1 John 3:17-18). The essential love that we have for our brother, that is integral to our claim that we love God, cannot be mere lip service or words. It must be a love that produces practical concern and provision for one another, in terms of the material things of this world! Just as God loved us and sent his Son into the world, a practical gesture to deal with our sin, so we are to love one another in practical terms (1 John 3:17; 4:10).

JOY: Joy is very difficult to define if we think of it in purely personal, emotional, human terms. However, the introductory clues to our passage have already alerted us to the fact that joy, as well as the other fruit of the Spirit, have more to do with action than internalized emotion, and as a result they focus largely on attitude. So to understand joy we should probably be looking at it from this perspective, which begs the question, how does joy translate into action and attitude?

Let’s begin with the basic definition of joy, and then take a brief look at joy in the Bible and joy in Paul’s letters. The noun joy (chara) in Greek refers to gladness, excitement, and rejoicing and focuses on the emotional state of exultation (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies). It is a condition of the human spirit which exults and brims over with a sense of euphoria and happiness, or what we would call excitement. Many things can cause joy to arise in the human heart. Usually these have to do with favorable circumstances, treatment or a turn for the better in one’s situation. Joy can also arise as a result of a sense of wellbeing, and satisfaction with one’s lot in life, or enjoyment of one’s possessions or family. The bottom line is that joy, more often than not is a result of something external to the person, but is felt internally and personally, resulting in a characteristic outward bodily expression (smiling, laughter, etc.).

In the OT joy is also conceived of as having a cause and finding expression (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). The greatest cause of joy for God’s people is Israel’s relationship with God, particularly as that is expressed in their covenant with him. The festivals and feast days, as well as Israel’s worship, were to be occasions when that joy could find expression in acts of worship and adoration toward God. The ritual of the law was never to be sterile religious observance, but the vehicle for the joyful expression of a nation that was in relationship to God! In the context of this relationship, joy can come from God’s word, from knowing and abiding by his law (Ps. 119:114). Joy is particularly characteristic of the coming eschaton, when God will subdue all of Israel’s enemies and establish his kingdom on earth. The ebbing and flowing of joy that characterized Israel’s history will be swallowed by an age when joy will be constant and permanent (Zech 9:9).

The OT speaks frequently of rejoicing “before the Lord,” by which it means assuming an attitude of exuberant worship (cf. Le. 23:40; Deut. 12:7, 12, 18; 14:26;16:11; 26:11; 32:43; 1 Chron. 16:11; 2 Chron. 6:41; Ps 5:11; 9:14; 14:7; 31:7; 32:11; 33:21; 34:2; 35:9; Ps. 40:16; 51:8; 53:6; 63:11; 64:10; 66:6; 68:3-4; 70:4; 85:6; etc.). This kind of rejoicing is a matter of attitude and commitment, and is not primarily reactive. Indeed in the OT rejoicing is most naturally associated with Israel’s feast days and rejoicing in worship. Joy is uniquely the demeanor of the worshipper of God, in contradistinction to the pagan worship of the nations around Israel, which engaged in exuberant, but immoral behavior in their worship. Israel was to worship the Lord’s in holiness, or moral and spiritual purity, in the beauty of holiness (1 Chron. 16:29; Ps. 29:2; 96:9; Isa. 29:23; Ezek. 36:23). Joy is the pure and holy exuberance of the worshipper of YAHWEH, and is primarily connected to worship because of Israel’s unique relationship to God. Joy is a not a free-floating emotion that ebbs and flows with the moods and circumstances of God’s people, but a settled attitude toward God as a result of their closeness to him, and the covenant they enjoy with him. It would not be too much to say that in the OT joy is primarily a worship word!

In secular culture, of the Greek world, Kittle describes joy as a self conscious state of euphoria (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). The root of the word joy in Greek is the same as the root for grace (char). The two are related to one another at the basic level of the idea of beauty and pleasantness. Joy was used as a greeting, meaning something like “joy to you.”
Chara, the noun, occurs 61 times in the NT, with 38 of these undoubtedly referring to elation and gladness of heart and spirit (cf. Matt. 2:10; 13:20, 44; 28:8; Mark 4:16; Luke 1:14; 2:10; 8:13; 10:17; 15:7, 10; 24:41, 52; John 3:29; 16:20, 21; Acts 8:8; 12:14; 13:52; 15 :3; 20:24; Rom. 14:17; 15:32; 2 Cor. 7:4, 13; 8:2; Phil 1:29; 4:1; Col 1:11; 1 Thess. 1:6; Heb. 10:34; 12:2, 11; 13:17; James 4:9. 1 Pet. 1:8; 3 John 4). This translates to 62% of the time. Other instances also infer a spirit of rejoicing and elation. In this respect, joy is sometimes stand in opposition to heaviness of sadness of spirit (cf. John 16:20, 22; Heb 10:34; 12:2; 11; Jam 4:9). Even in the NT, joy has does imply gladness, wellbeing, rejoicing and happiness. There is no need to altogether “spiritualize” joy so as to sanctify it and separate from the human experience (as some preachers have done by the false homiletic distinction of joy vs happiness). The point that should be made is that the mere experience of joy as human beings ordinarily know it, by no means exhausts what the NT calls joy in connection with salvation. The occurrence of the noun joy is spread evenly through the writers, Luke 13 times, Paul 20 times, and John 14 times. For this reason we might say that joy was not something that Paul or Peter or even John contributed to NT theology of salvation, but that is was universally part of the experience and preaching of the early church from the beginning. Indeed Jesus himself had a great deal to say about joy in connection with the salvation and kingdom of God he offered (cf. John 4:36; 15:11; 16:20, 21, 22, 24; 17:13). Joy was a genuine and pervasive component of the early church’s experience of salvation and the power and presence of the Holy Spirit.

If we add the verb chairo, the picture is even clearer. Ignoring the infinitive and other forms used as a greeting, Luke uses the verb rejoice about 16 times, and Paul 26 times. The verb is in greater use by Paul than the other writers. Paul is more likely than the other writers to encourage his reader to rejoice (Rom 12:15; 1 Cor. 13:6; 2 Cor. 6:10; 13:9; Phil 3:1; 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:16). Nevertheless Peter does encourages his readers to rejoice in their salvation, in much the same way Paul does (1 Pet. 4:13). For Paul to be able to “command” joy, the quality of salvific joy must be quite different from what joy is perceived to be in our modern culture. In this respect, NT joy appears to be more of a preemptive attitude to things and to life, rather than a passive emotional reaction to circumstances. For example, joy can be chosen and engaged in, rather than passively experienced, and this is particularly true of the community of believers (cf. Rom. 15:3; Phil 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:16). In the NT, joy is primarily conceived of as a community experience, and only secondarily as personal, individual. Maybe there is a sense that when one may not be personally rejoicing, but the joy of the community can bring great encouragement and victory.

It is in respect, with its biblical and especially NT context, that joy takes on a meaning that is altogether full, going beyond the mere feeling of an exultant human spirit. In Luke/Acts joy is found a good number of times. Prominence is given to its connection with the Holy Spirit and this cannot be accidental. The covenantal source of joy in the OT, whereby God’s people rejoice in their relationship with God, is represented by his presence in the temple, particularly with the ark of the covenant (cf. 1 Sam. 4:4; 6:2; 1 Chron. 13:6; Psalm 80:1; 99:1; Isa. 37:16; Heb. 9:5). But in the NT this is replaced by the personal and community experience of the actual presence of God through the Holy Spirit in their lives (cf. John 7:38; Acts 13:53). As a result, joy is not merely festal, but a settled condition of the redeemed heart and life, in which the Holy Spirit is at work, perfecting God’s purposes in his saints. And for that reason suffering cannot diminish the joy of the church (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

In 1 Thessalonians 1:6, Paul speaks of the joy of the Holy Spirit, by which he means, probably, joy that has its origin in the Holy Spirit. In other words the Holy Spirit is the supplier of joy, he is its source. It is even more significant when we realize that Paul speaks of the joy of the Thessalonians as coexistent with their suffering persecution for Christ and his message. Their joy is not circumstantial, but wholly sourced in God, and is capable of being real and of having manifestation even when they are suffering from trials. Peter asserts the same thing, when he says that if God’s people bear suffering well, and remain firm in their faith to the end, God is pleased (joyed) with them (1 Peter 2:20). To have joy in suffering is to derive something from the relationship we have with God, by way of a sense of victory and wellbeing, whereby the spirit of faith and confidence is not crushed or destroyed by trouble. This alerts us to there being something different in the nature of biblical joy as compared to merely human joy. To have joy while at the same time suffering is not what we would normally expect. Joy as the Bible conceives of it has a wholly different source, operates differently and in unlikely environments; it is even being capable of co-existing with great hardship.

Therefore, the basic idea of OT joy carries over into the NT is evident, since joy is primarily connected to and derived from the relationship the believer has with God in or through Christ, often mediated through the Holy Spirit (cf. Luke 10:21; Acts 13:52; Rom. 14:17; 15:13; 1 Thess. 1:6). It is the relationship the believer has with God, as a result of the new covenant (salvation) that provides the basis for this joy. Biblical joy is not a euphoric state of mind or high spirits producing a sense excitement and wellbeing. Rather, biblical joy is a deep sense of wellbeing which derives from the relationship the believer has with God through Jesus Christ (cf. Romans 5:1). And joy, if it is a genuine fruit of the Spirit, like all of the rest, must produce both right action (forward movement) and right attitude (deposition toward people and circumstances), so as to bring glory to God, and build his kingdom.

Joy as the Fruit of the Spirit: Paul speaks of joy as characteristic and indeed derived from the faith a believer has in God (Phil. 1:25). Faith in Jesus Christ has the effect of producing joy, a sense confidence, wellbeing and peace. Godly joy, the fruit of the Spirit, is so different than the ordinary human, emotional equivalent, that it can be commanded by Paul the Apostle from his readers (Phil. 4:4). Ordinarily joy rises and falls unbidden in the human heart, but Paul commands his readers to rejoice in the Lord. The idea of making the Lord the basis for rejoicing points to the heart of what joy as the fruit of the Spirit is. It is not circumstantially arisen, but it arises as a result of the relationship a believer has with Christ. If like the Thessalonians the believer is suffering, joy is not crushed or wiped out because the source of that joy is not what is happening, but the underlying relationship the believer has with Christ.

It is in this sense that Paul can say that the kingdom of God does not consist in, does not depend on, is not sustained by, does not derive its significance from, will not reach its goals by meat and drink (what the produces human joy), that is religious ritual that focus on material performance, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). He is saying that joy along with righteousness and peace, is a fundamental principle in the kingdom of God. Joy as a fundamental sense of wellbeing and confidence in God, and in Christ, is a chief characteristic of the kingdom of God. This joy, sense of wellbeing and victory, stands in contradiction to the predominant human spirit of pessimism that abounds among people. It is easier for human being to be pessimistic than optimistic. NT joy is not merely optimism, it is an exultant spirit and sense of welling derived from a relationship with God that transcends circumstances, even severe ones! Joy as the fruit of the Spirit is an irrepressible confident sense of wellbeing derived from Christ in the life of the believer. This is why peace and joy are linked as key elements of the kingdom of God.

For this reason, joy as Paul conceived it causes the believer to carry on even under pressure (Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books). The ability of the believer to go forward and make progress does not depend on an inward fortitude derived from how well things are working out, but from an inward fortitude that derives from his or its relationship with God, through Christ. Therefore, joy always produces forward movement; it does not retire, even under pressure. The whole difference is found in the source from which joy is derived (Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans).
We must say one thing further, joy as a component of the Christian life is universal in the NT, but it seems to be particularly connected to NT church community (cf. Act 8:8; 13:52; 15:3; Rom. 14:17; 15:13; 2 Cor 7:13; 8:2; Gal 5:22; Phil 1:25; 2:29; 1 Thess. 1:6; Heb 10:34; Jam. 1:2; 1 Pet. 1:8). Joy is not highly personalized and individualized as it is in with us in our culture, it is often the spirit of the community of those who love Christ and serve God! It is a prevailing and dominant attitude in the church, whereby the saints live as a community in victory and confidence, rather than in defeat and pessimism. There is something in these two first fruits that hint at an important principle linked to the fruit of the Spirit, that is they do not necessarily have to do with individual feelings, but the attitude of the community, the church (Witherington III, Ben. Grace in Galatia: A Commentary on Paul’s Letter to the Galatians. Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1998. p. 389). The fruit of the Spirit in the church is love and joy! The community of believers is not characterized by heaviness and defeat but joy! The fact that the context of Galatians 5 is the community of faith in Galatia, gives great support to the idea that we are not supposed to highly individualize these fruit of the Spirit, but to see them as what characterizes the church in this world. Of course this necessarily translates down to personal experience, but it is the community that exhibits love and joy as an outflow of the Spirit!

Joy as a community experience among believers is particularly linked to the activity of the Holy Spirit in Acts (cf. Luke 1:41-44; Luke 10:17; 21; Acts 5:41; 13:52; 15:28-31) Paul likewise associates joy and rejoicing with the Holy Spirit and his presence in the church and lives of believers (Rom 14:17; 15:13; Gal. 5:22; Phil 3:1; 4:4; 1 Thess. 5:16-19). Joy or rejoicing is the special mark of the activity and presence of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer to be sure, but it is characteristically so of the community of those who believe. The experience of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power brings joy, exultation and a sense of victory to the church.

What is even more remarkable, a state of joy is not incompatible with suffering or hardship in the life and circumstances of those who believe, particularly the church as a community of believers (cf. Acts 4:31; 5:41). Outside of the NT joy and suffering are antithetical, but in the NT they are perfectly at home with one another through the Holy Spirit and his presence among God’s people, and personally indwelling their lives. Paul makes the apparently ludicrous statements, “I am glad when I suffer…” (Col 1:24), and “I am happy in my suffering,” (2 Cor. 7:4), or that he is filled with joy in his own personal suffering because of the Thessalonian believers (1 Thess. 3:9), and that he has joy when he recalls his sad and tearful parting from Timothy (2 Tim. 1:4)! Paul even encourages his readers who are suffering the most to rejoice (1 Thess. 1:6; 2:19, 20; 3:9; 5:16; 2 Thess. 1:4). James makes the equally ridiculous statement that his readers should rejoice when they suffer as a result of trials (Jam. 1:2). The point is in the NT joy trumps and transcends suffering, adversity and setbacks. It particularly does so as a predominant characteristic of the believing community, whereby they rejoice in victory because of the activity and power of the Holy Spirit among them. And thereby they encourage one another to steadfastness of spirit and patience in their trials. In this way the discouragement of one believer is offset and helped through the joyful support of the others.

Peace: Again we find outselves trying to define something that is difficult to define. What is peace? What kind of peace does Paul have in mind? Is it inner peace? Is it freedom from war and conflict? Is it absence of anxiety? These are some of the questions we are confronted with inevitably when we try to define peace.

The first thing that we are confronted with in considering our passage and the reference to peace, is that traditional interpretations have individualized Paul’s reference to peace here, making it tantamount to peace of mind. In other words, peace here refers to victory over anxiety, inward restfulness of spirit and soul. But is that really what Paul had in mind as a fruit of the Spirit in this context?

The earliest resferences to peace in Greek refer to cessation from war and a condtion of law and order (Brown, Colin, ed. The New International Dictionary of New testament Theology. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House, 1986. p. 776). However, peace came to also mean peaceful conduct, particularly toward other, where philia (love) is a synonym (Brown, p. 776). Calmness of mind was denoted by a different word, and spiritual peace in the sense we are familiar with it today, arose with the Stoics (Brown, 776). Colin Brown notes, however, that in the OT eirene is used most frequently to translate the Hebrew term shalom (777). The significance of this is that shalom embraces many of the ideas that we commonly associate with peace, including freedom from worry, anxiety, resfulness, trust in God, and general well being (Brown, 777). Brown goes on to observe that peace is not merely the absence of war in the OT, as it may primarily be in Greek, but the absence of any disturbance in the community of God’s people, such as might make it necessary to go to war (Brown, 777). This is a significant observation, because we know that the NT carry over many of the deeply rooted themes and ideas of the OT.

For the Jew shalom is not merely inward rest, but it is total well-being and wholeness, embracing everything that has to do with a person’s life (Douglas, J. D. organ. ed. New Bible Dictionary. Leicester, UK: InterVarsity Press, p. 901). When everything is right with God, in the community and with the world, this is peace! Peace includes harmony and absence of discord in nthe community (Douglas, 901-902). Interstingly enough, OT peace is linked to righteousness and truth, so that wickedness and falsehood bring discord and disunity (Douglas, 902). Peace, therefore, flows out of an individual’s and community’s right relationship with God, that results in right action from a right heart. This answers the question as to why there is so much disharmony and discord in the world, because outside of the community of those who belong to God, sin and wickedness reign. In this respect, the greatrest era of peacfe is yet to be ushered in by the coming of the Messiah, who will establish rightousness and integrity to God’s creation, thereby producing peace in the full orbed splendor of its full realization (Douglas 902). This peace will be peace with God because sin will have been abolished. It will be peace in the community among men, because ambition, jealousy and rivalry will have been abolished, in favor of total trust and loyalty toward God. It will be inner peace because ebb and flow of personal ambition, and uncontrolled desire will come under the control of God. What produces the absence of peace will have been itslef abolished by the king who comes in the Name of the Lord!

The NT continues to reinforce the OT force of peace, not merely the Greek, by associating peace with righteousness, truth and grace (Douglas, 902) (cf. Rom 14:17; Gal. 5:22; 1 Thess 5:23). Eirene occurs 92 times in the NT. 19 times Jesus uses the word peace in the gospels, several times Jesus wishes or declares peace to either his disciples or those who has healed, and they are tamtamount to the form of a greeting (Mark 5:34; Luke 7:50; 8:48; 24:36; John 14:27; 20:19, 21, 26). In each instance Jesus is addressing the condition of the heart and life of a person, wishing them wholness in the OT sense of shalom. Those who are healed are brought out from under the burden of their sickness with all of the discordance that this brings. The disciples, on the other hand, after Jesus death, are wished peace from the risen Christ, to replace the anxiety and uncertainty, even lack of unity and harmony among them, that has fallen upon them since that terrible night in the garden. The greeting, peace, is a wish for such to be the experience of person greeted, and has much to do with wishing for good, harmonious and advantage circumstance to follow them.

Strangely enough Jesus said that his coming was not intened to bring harmony and balance at any cost. On the contrary, his teaching and message would bring conflict and disharnmony as truth and righteousness challenged darkness and sin (Matt. 10:34; Luke 12:51)! Peace at any cost is not Christ’s goal if it means compromise with evil and wickedness although peace will be the ultimate outcome of the triumph of the kingdom of God (cf. Luke 1:79; 2:14; 19:38; Rom. 14:17). In the short term, on at least a superficial level there will be no peace on the earth until Jesus reigns as king.

Grace and peace form the typical NT greeting used to reflect the Hebrew Greeting shalom, no doubt, a wish for harmony and welling being, principally in the context of the respective community (Matt. 10:13; Luke 10:5; 19:38; 24:36; John 20:19, 21, 26). These greetings are espeically prominent in the epistles, where the unity and harmony of the community is paramount to the Apostle Paul (cf. Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; 5:23; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4; Phile. 3; 1 Pet. 1:2; 5:14; 2 Pet. 1:2; 2 John 3; 3 John 14; Jude 2; Rev. 1:4). 28 of the occurrences of eirene can be considered greetings with a spiritual implication that God would grant wholeness, harmony and unity to the community of believers. Jesus makes ironic references to peace on earth, by which he obviously means the harmony, balance, unity and wholeness of the messianic age, which he denies that he has come to produce (Matt. 10:34; Luke 12:51). Later he opines that his followers and the crowds could not understand the implication and significance of the moment he rode into Jerusalem, that messianic peace was at the very threshold ready to take over the world, but he knew that it would soon be rejected by those very crowds (Luke 19:38). Peter also speaks of this age of peace to Cornelius (Acts 10:36).

The greetings in the epistles appear to serve a double duty; peace to the community in the sense of a pryer for unity and harmony, and as a result, a prayer tranquility among the believers. (cf. Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor 1:3; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; 5:23; Phil. 1:2; Col. 1:2; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:2; 1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2; Titus 1:4; Phile. 3; 1 Pet. 1:2; 5:14; 2 Pet. 1:2; 2 John 3; 3 John 14; Jude 2; Rev. 1:4). We must remember that in such instances the peace that is offered is usually to the entire church, not an individual (with some notable exceptions of course), and given the primary emphasis, this can only mean a prayer for relational unity, harmony and tranquility or well-being in the church. In this respect Paul often offeres a corresponding blessing or benediction at the close of his epsitles, that refer to the “God of peace,” being among them, by which he probably means God who is the source of peace, producing peace (i.e. harmony, unity) in the community of believers (Rom. 15:3; 2 Cor. 13:11; Gal. 6:16; Eph. 6:23; Phil. 4:9; 1 Thess. 5:23; 2 Thess. 3:16; cf. Heb. 13:20; 1 Pet. 5:14; 2 Pet. 3:14).

The remainder of the uses of eirene are interesting. Paul often uses peace in the sense of the cessation of hostilites between God and the beleiver, in other words peace is he the result of salvation. In Romans 5:1, Paul says that we have peace with God, because we are justfied. This he goes on to explain in chapters 5 and 8, by saying that we were enemies of God, but our relationship to him has been changed through Christ and our faith in Christ which has reconciled us to God (Rom. 5:10; 8:7-8; Col 1:21). Peace with God is the state of being reconciled to God. The opposite of peace is hostility, which is the result of the carnal and unsanctified mind, controlled by the sinful nature. In this instance, Paul is using peace in a familiar sense, to refer toan absence of hositility between two warring factions! Paul goes on with even wider implications to use the same type of figure, when he calims that in Christ Jews and Gentiles are reconciled to God and one another based on salvation through Christ (Eph. 2:11-22). In that passage this peace Paul decribes as a nearness to God, and his inclusion in his cosmic purposes along with his own people Israel, on the same basis, so that both Gentiles and Jews are now one unified people of God in Christ. The destiny of God’s people has been made available to reconciled Gentiles, who are joined to God along with believing Jews through Christ, so that God’s purpose to contruct a people for himself is realized in a single, unifed, redeemed company! This is peace indeed, God with his people and his people with one another.

As a reult of this purpose of God, Paul continually calls upon the church to exercise great care to guard the unity of the fellowship of beleivers. In Ephesians 4:3 he exhorts his readers to engage every effort possible to keep the unity which God has establhsied among them by the power and presence of his Spirit, of which he is the origin. In Colossians 3:15 the believers are to let the peace of God rule in their hearts, by which Paul can hardly inward tranquility as much as he means harmony and unity in the fellowship, since the context is the inclusion of Jew and Gentile, circumcised and uncircumsised, barbarian, slave and free in Christ. In 2 Timothy 2:22, Paul encourages Timothy to purse peace as well as righteousness, faith and love, along with other like minded people. Outside of Paul, the writer of Hebrews eshorts his readers to pursue peace with all men (harmonious relations) (Heb, 13:20). James talks about the peace that comes from those who make peace (Jam. 3:18), by which he cam only mean harmony and unity in raltionships. Where Peter is speaking about believers endeavoring to maintain harmony with even unbleievers for the sake of the gospel, he quotes the OT, that his readers should seek peace (1 Pet. 3:11).

Eirene is used in the typical Hebrew sense by Luke in Acts 9:31, when he notes that the church had rest from persecution. Everything was well in the community of beleivers at that time. Paul and Barnabas were sent off from Antioch to continue their mission with the blessing of peace, that is with a sense of unity, and harmony following the circumcision controversy that had disrupted the community and threated to produce disunity among the beleivers (Acts 15:33). After Paul and Silas had been imprisoned for causing and uproar when Paul cast out the demon from the demon possessed girl, they were dismissed in peace, that is with the balance of law and order, harmony and unity of the city restored (Acts 16:36). The same idea of law and order is reflected in Tertullus opening remarks when he address Felix (Acts 24:2). Other uses of peace are references to related ideas, like safety of ones property (Luke 11:21), making a treaty to avoid war (Luke 14:32), resortation of harmony between quarrelling individuals (Acts 7:26) and cessation of hostilities between rival cities (Acts 12:20).
It should be abundantly clear from our discussion that NT peace is not primarily inward tranquility, even though it is sometimes implied and included. Popular sentiment notwithstanding, the majority of the uses of peace in the NT, do not refer to inward tranquility, but have to do with harmony, unity, balance or wholness and the absence of hostility and rivalry in the community of believers. Therefore, to jump to the conclusion that the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22 has to do first of all with inward tranquility is really not warranted. Given the context in Galatians 5:13-15; 6) , surely Paul means that where the Holy Spirit is Lord (cf. Gal. 5:1, 16, 18), and the lives of the beleiver are characterized by walking under the impulse of the Holy Spirit, as opposed to the impulse of the flesh, there is harmony, unity, love and peaceful relationships in the community of God, the church (Gal 5:13-15).

Patience: Immediately we are alerted to the the relational context of Galatians 5 by the mention of patience. If patience is anything it is an attitude of tolerence toward people. Patient edurance of trials may also be included, but because of the context (love, joy, peace, don’t bite one another, bear one anothers burdens, etc.) we cannot escape that patience as a fruit of the Spirit has more to do with how we relate to others than with pesonal endurance under the harships of this life.
In Proverbs patience has a strong relational component. It has the power to avoid quarreling (Pro. 15:18). Pateince overlooks an offense, avoids the acromony and upheaval of knit-picking every little thing, by pateintly enduring it without a word (Prov. 19:11). In Proverbs 25:15, Solomon reminds us that with pateince, even the prince can be pursauded. Two things become obvious. The emphasis on realtionships that we find in in proverbes in connection with pateince carries ovr to the NT, where unity in the church and the community of Christian fellowship are paramount and integral to the operation of the church as a redemptive body in this world. Patience partners with love to set a premium on maintaining relationships, rather than allowing them to be destroyed, even when the behavior of one peson may put pressure on that relationship (1 Cor. 13:4). So pateince is the tool that love uses to maintain unity! Secondly, patience cannot be the passive thing that many beleive it to be!
There is something about patience in Proverbs 25:15 that jumps out. If by patient persistence someone is trying to influence the mind of a leader, then patience is hardly the passive thing we have traditionally thought it to be. Patience can be a persistent attempt to change circumstances, pursuade leaders or influence outcomes, all the time without giving into defeat and hoeplessness! Patient persistent pressure is what is envisioned in Proverbs, so that patience is seen as an offensive weapon and not merely a defensive posture. Although pateince obviosuly involves passive endurance, that is by no means an exhuastive explanation of what the Bible means by patience.

One of the key characteristics of God is his patience, principally if not exclusively with human beings and their pesistent unbelief and disobedience. The Bible extols the patience of God and describes it as the reason for his offering salvation to lost humanity (Romans 2:4). God is amazingly tolerant and patient with his people, even when they are overtly disobedient and uncomplient (Neh. 9:30; Rom. 9:22). Nevertheless the patience of God has a breaking point at which he will no longer hold back judgment in hopes that his people will respond to his mercy (Isa 7:13). Indeed, it is not too much to say that the story of redemption is the story of God’s patience with humanity’s disobedience in hopes of thier responce the offer of salvation through Jesus Christ (John 3:16-18; 1 Peter 3:20; 2 Peter 3:9, 15). However, God’s patience is not totally without and ending place whereby he will act ultimately in judgment on the persistently resistive and unbeleiving. Paul exalts the pateince of Christ with him, that even though he was a horrible and brutal persecuter of the church, Christ persistently went after him, convicting him and bringing him to the the knowledge of salvation through faith in his name (1 Tim 1:16).

We must forever put out of our mind then that pateince is a passive fallback position or attitude when we are under pressure. Rather pateince is the persistent pressure that we apply to our lives and the work of the kingdom of God that moves it forward inspite of resistance and opposition. God’s patience persistently pressed the plan of redemtion to the point of his Son’s death on the cross! He has never given up on salvation because of a lack of patience.

God’s patience with human disobedience and unbelief, is the foundation and example of how patience should operate in the heart of the disciples of Jesus Christ. Where Paul ‘speaks of patience he often means patience in the relational sense of beleivers living in community with one another in the church (2 Cor. 6:6; Eph. 4:2; Col. 3:12; 1 Thess. 5:14; 2 Tim. 3:10). Biblical, NT patience is first of all a relational attitude toward others in the church. Beleivers are called upon to activily do good to one another, even when relationships in the church are strained or difficult, and your patience is being tried by the attitudes, behavior or opposition of others (Matt. 12:12; Mark 3:4; Luke 6:9, 35; Gal. 6:10; 1 Tim. 6:18; Heb. 13:16; 1 Pet. 3:11). This makes pateince active not passive, seeking to not simply endure bad or inconvenient behavior, but making those who are responsible for such the target of grace and love!

Patience does also, of course come up in the context of personal suffering and the hardships of this life. Job complaisn that there was no indication when his trials would come to an end, no visible hope that he should patiently endure his trials (Job 6:11). A lack of restaint and quick temperedness is indicative of a spiritual, character flaw that is more charactersitic of folly (disregard for faith in God), that of faith in God (Pro. 14:29). Pateince is an indicator of faith and spiritual character and maturity. In this respect the psalmist charaterizes patience in adversity, not as passively putting up with adversity, activley trusting God, as waiting for him to act, in his time, on our behalf (Ps. 37:7; 40:1).

In the NT Paul has much to say about believers enduring the hardships of this life. Jesus made this promise, in this world you will suffer pesecution and hardships, but take heart I have overcome the world (John 16:33). He was obviously expecting his disciples and followers to endure and work through the difficulties they would encounter trying to serve him in this world. The promise indicates that hardships and trials are only temporary and ultimately he had defeated and overcome them all. The beliver is not consigned to endless endurance of harships, but is promised that there will be a day of victory and power, if only they will endure in the short term. In this respect Paul reminds the Romans that we are patiently waiting for the culmination of the redemption of Christ, the glorification of our bodies (Rom. 8:25). This is the ending place, the NT speaks of, when mortality will be swallowed up in the immortalioty of a new body raised into the eternal presence of Jesus Christ for all eternity (1 Cor. 15:50-55; 1 Thess. 4:13-17).

The NT concept of pateince is expressed by a number of words, that are translated by the english patience or endurance. The original word found in Galatians 5:22 translated pateince occurs 14 times, all as a noun, and a couple of times adjectively. The same basic word is used verbally 10 times, translated patentient or having the concept of waiting for something. the adjective occurs once. The related concept endurance, a different word, occurs 31 times, with the idea of putting up with something, by gritting your teeth to make it through! This word (hupmone) means “to remain under.” They idea is that we stand firm or remain in place under presurre and adversity. It is hupomone that comes closest to the concept that we have when we speak of pateince. In that sense, our common notion of patience is closer to the biblical idea of endurance.
One definition of the Greek word is “a state of emotional calm in the face of provocation or misfortune and without complaint or irritation—‘patience.’” (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies). Although this may be an adequate base definition, it does not exactly what Paul seems to have in mind when he speaks of patience in the context of the church and its relationships. This definition seems to imply the absence of passion altogether, with a corresponding calmness of mind and spirit.

But surely this is not implied by the way the word is compounded and the context we find it in! Kittle says that the word in secular Greek was rare, an implied resignation and acceptance of one’s circumstances and lot (fate), and is used of the unalterable human condition or of a siege, etc. (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). However, as we have observed before the Bible see patience as active not passive at all. The Word of God took this word and invested in it a fuller meaning that it orginally had. Plutus used it of a soldiers steadfastness in duty under difficult circumstances, until the goal is acheived (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).
Marcothumia translates the OT Hebrew terms meaning pateince, which mean ‘to delay an outbreak of anger’, or be ‘long suffering’ (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). This delaying of wrath is how God describes himself to Moses in Exodus 34:6, one who delays his wrath out of love and mercy (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). It is a picture of God restraing judgment in order to offer salvation and reconciliation to those who are willing to yield in repentance and accpet it. God’s patience does not signal that God has totally waivd his wrath on account of sin, but that he exercises restraint in expressing it, withholding judgment until a future point (cf. Rom. 2:4-5). This puts mercy and wrath in tension with one another, with wrath restrained on account of mercy ((Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Futhermore in the parable of the indebted servant Jesus takes the patience of God to the next level as the basis for how God’s “fellow servants” should treat one another (Matt. 18:23-35). The one servant was so deeply indebted to his master that in spite of his protestations, he could never pay beack what he owed (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). He pleaded for the pateince of his Lord, who promptly forgave his entire debt! However, he himsefl was unwilling to forgive the relatively tivial debt of his fellows servant, and held him rigoroulsy to account. The point is obvious, and here again we meet patience and mercy in a context that has to do with our relationships with one another.
Curiosly enough Paul chooses this as the fruit of the Spirit. God’s own pateince toward human beings is to be mirrored in our patience toward one another in the context of the church. Paul is not speaking simply of remaining in place under pressure (hupomone), but a much more aggressive restraining of our anger and irritation in the context of the realtionshiups we have with one another. It is the refusal to allow emotion to easily burst the banks of self-control. The word pateince is a translation of the Greek word macrothumia. It is a compound word made up of two words, macro, great and thumos, a violent up rsuhing of air, by association, passion. Thumos means that something has exploded or gone up in smoke. A stylised view of this word would be that it mean taking a long time to go up in smoke or exploding, to be not easily provoked to explode!

Far too many people, even in the context of church fellowship are simply too volitile, they explode at the first bump, or at the mildest heat. We all know who thesre people and re we avoid them like the plague, because we don’t want to lose a limb or an eye in the resulting explosion!
As with the other fruit of the Spirit, patience is linked to love on the one hand and self control on the other. The fruit of the Spirit hang together, and are not free floating vitues which can be picked or rejevcted at will. In our context patience is the cement that gives peace a chance occur. love, pateince, peace are the three strong arms that produce unity in the church.

Kindness: We are again faced with another unmistakable indication that the fruit of the Spirit has far more to do with the characteristics of a Spirit led community, composed of Spirit filled people, than simply being a measure of personal spirituality or maturity. Kenneth Wuest, many commentators make the assumption with out dues consudieration, that this has to do with the inward life of the beliver, calling it a sort of inward mellowness (Wuest, K. S. (1997). Wuest’s word studies from the Greek New Testament : For the English reader. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans). This is such a disappointing and weak definition of something that is ultimately rooted in the strength of the character and nature of God as one of his primary attributes. To think of God’s kindness as simply “mellowness” is nauseus! The fruit of the Spirit is not the yardstick for measuring how spiritual you are, they are the functioning attritbutes of a community of Jesus’ disciples living together with one another in unity. Kindness is not merely an inward attitude, it the the action of one person toward another that extends mercy and grace.

Kindness (chrēstotēs) is first of all, like all of the fruit of the Spirit, a characteristic of God himself (George, T. (2001). Vol. 30: Galatians (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers). In fact, the phrase fruit of the Spirit can be be understood either subjectively or objectively. These charactersitics are either objectively fruit that come from the Spirit, or subjetively fruit that is charactersitic of the Spirit of God. Paul surely means both here. The fruit of the Spirit are the attributes of God imparted into the community of believers through the presence and activity of the Holy Spirit among them. So our first question should probably be, what does the kindness of God look like?

In Romans 11:22, Paul speaks of the kindness and sternness of God George, T. (2001). Vol. 30: Galatians (electronic ed.). Logos Library System; The New American Commentary. Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers). This interesting juxta positionng of two opposite characteristics seem incongruous to us at first blush. Except when we realize that the Bible never, portrays God as a sentimentalist, whose forbearance is tantamount to indulgence. On the contrary, God’s mercy is extendd to the sinner with great patience in hopes that it will lead to repentance and salvation, but the sternness, or resolve of God never waivers where sin is involved, and ultimately those who refuse to respind to his grace will face his wrath. Paul makes it clear that where the mercy and kindness of God is repudiuated people, even those who profess to be God’s people, will be cut off.

Kindness in the context of the attibutes of God can be seen once again in God’s self disclosure to Moses in Exodus 34. There God speaks of his love, compassion, mercy, and pateince. The NT calls God kind, gentle, mild and tender toward people, meaning that he restrains sternness, which Kittle says in only in exceptional cases used of the greek gods Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). The tenderness of God’s dealings with people, based not on their sin, but on his love, grace and mercy are the outflow of his kindness. Indeed kindness can be conceived of in terms of the concrete manifestation of God love, grace and mercy. So while Greeks avoid imputing kindness to their gods because of the perception of weakness involved in such an idea, God is unashamed to possess and advertise this as one of his attributes! Kindness is, as we have said before, an action word, and it focuses how one person treats another. When God treats sinners with love, mercy and compassion, and his action toward them withholds judgment, and by grace provides them with wtiness and opportunity to respond to his offer of salvation, that is kindness. The alternative is to eventually face the org, wrath of God, which is inevitable when his kindness has been repeatedly and finally rejected. Kindness is the reaching out of God’s patience. Peter quotes the psalm that exhorts people to test the kiondess or goodness of God (cf. Psalm 33:9; 1 Pet. 2:3).

When it comes to the life of the community and beleiver, kindness is about how we act toward one another, the spirit in which we act and the outcome of that action. Paul expects beleivers to show kindness to one another because of the kindness of God that each was has personally reived, resulting in salvation (Eph 4:32). Kindness is patient and tolerant of the offenses of others, not overlooking them, but making allowance for them in order to secure the relationship, and maintain the unity. Kindness is action that puts grace and mercy ahead of harshness and retaliation, even when it is justified. It is supported by pateince, which restrains passion at an offense or difficulty in relationships. In this respect, Paul exhorted the Ephesians to be kind and tenderhearted toward one another, in the same way God was tenderhearted toward them and forgave them (Eph. 4:32). To the Thessalonians Paul said that they should be kind to people ourtside the church who were treating them badly (1 Thess. 5:15). The message amplifies this passage “‎Be patient with each person, attentive to individual needs. And be careful that when you get on each other’s nerves you don’t snap at each other. Look for the best in each other, and always do your best to bring it out.”

Kindness overlooks and gets past offenses committed against us. That is one aspect of it. However, kindness also does good to others. The root idea in kindness is help or helpfulness, providing benefit to someone else. To act kindly is to act in a way that is helpful to others, in ways that are good for others (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies). A closely associated idea is eleos, mercy, and it is realtional at it core, meaning gentle, freidnly, kind toward other people (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). In the OT this word usually translates the Hebrew meaning useful, servicable, and carries with it the idea of being freidnly or kindly desposed to someone (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

Kindness is a dispositional word that has more to do with how we treat people, than with an inwardly expereinced emotion. It is a charactersitic of our culture that we interpret so much of the things we read in the Bible individually and personally, when in fact they are actually relational and corporate. Even commentators read back into the scriptures this highly personal perspective. However, with the advent of the church, and based upon the community of God’s people in the OT, the relationships between God’s people are a critical and central aspect of spirituality and our redmetive experince of God himslef. We are not saved to be individual beleivers, but to be believers in community, livng not to serve our own interests, but the interests of others. there is a change of worldview in salvation that reorients the beleiver away from his own interests to be concerned for the intersts of others. This change is readily seen in the way beleivers treat one another. Paul exhorts the Colossins to show kindness to one another as a result of expreincing the kindness of God themselves (Col. 3:12). in that sense kindness is evidence of salvation, of having received and accepted God’s onw mercy. Kindness is bothe outklfow and evidence of salvation. In this respect jesus said people willknow you are my disciples if you love one anotehr” (John 13:15).

Goodness: Nothing sounds less precise and weaker than the term goodness. What on earth does it mean to be good? Like beauty, good is in the eye of the beholder, and everyone has a different opinion about who and what good is. To say that someone is good usually implies a context, he is good because… she is good at… they are good when… we will be good if we…. Unless a context is supplied no one cannot really define what it means to call someone or something good. The world has no absolute standards to measure goodness (cf. Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). At its most basic level, however, we instinctively think of “good” as whatever benefits or whatever is of positive value to human life, and well-being. This challenge defining goodness is reflected in the ancient Greek world too, with Plato and Aristotle having different opinions (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). However, even there the concept is pervasive with an almost instinctual understanding, implicit maybe, of what goodness is. For secular Greek society, acting nobly or generously, that is probably a indication of goodness.

Our current culture in America, on the other hand, does what the Bible rails against, we call good evil and , evil good, right wrong and wrong right, righteousness sin and sin righteousness, bitter sweet and sweet bitter (Isa. 5:20). American social sophisticates and intellectuals resist the concept of right and wrong, that a person can have the quality of goodness. They mock and scoff at the idea of goodness. The Greeks prized nobility and goodness, generally as a personal strength, although their definitions certainly do not reflect the biblical concepts we would recognize. But in western cultures goodness is a liability, a quality of a weakness, especially religious weakness. In order to get around goodness as a desirable moral trait, our society has redefined goodness to reflect its own values, and this is particularly evident in the language of political correctness where, for example, any moral opposition to sexual tolerance and freedom, pro-choice abortion rights and the gay-lesbian agendas has become in itself societally and politically immoral.

There is a jealousy and subtle shame that goes with the realization that as human beings we are not really good. Goodness as a quality of character, integrity and what the Bible calls righteousness, is not naturally occurring in human nature. In fact, by nature and birth the opposite is true; we are by nature sinful, selfish, and conniving. Evolutionists have laid this lack of an intrinsic moral goodness in human nature to the instinct of survival and self preservation. Scientists argue that all morality is a false construct created to restrain the impulses of human beings for the good of society, and that any moral goodness in a person has more to do with societal wellbeing and order than with personal character and integrity. And yet it cannot be denied that goodness and morality, when properly exercised with compassion, love and benevolence toward others is not only greatly praised in society, but produces a great deal of personal satisfaction and joy. This is because God created for this kind of thing. And while the image of God in us has been distorted, it has not been totally obliterated. While the intellectuals in our culture question the existence of goodness, ordinary people know that goodness as a human trait is real.

But that is not the same as saying goodness predominates in our culture. It does not. It is the not the dominant force driving our cultural values and value system of American society. As Christians we know why this is, human beings are born in sin, and so our morality flawed natures, regardless of what the intellectuals say, drive our values and value system. We are basically focused on self-realization, and that often means that wickedness and sin abounds, or manifests itself. Nevertheless, goodness is not altogether missing in our human nature. The fact that we can conceive of goodness is witness to the reality of a moral impetus in our nature, that exists at the same time with our flawed natures. Human beings are often tortured by the battles that rage around the moral dilemmas we face. We frequently find goodness in conflict with assertion of our own self-interests, and that is where bad behavior or sin originates (Jam. 1:13-15). So what are we trying to say or point out? Human nature is primarily driven by self interest, which the Bible calls sin, flesh or carnality (Rom. 7:14, 18, 21). However, the human heart and spirit are not without an element or sense of goodness, both as a matter of conscience and as a matter of inward impulse to act morally (Rom. 7:18b). It is this tension between sin and goodness that forms the basic background for Paul’s much talked about narration of the moral struggle that people faces before they are delivered by Christ from sin, through salvation (Rom. 7:7-8:4).

Goodness can be defines at first blush as a sense of positive morality, and is linked to the idea of generosity flowing out of the inward goodness of a person (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies). Goodness is acting fairly and positively toward someone, and implies some grace which brings benefit to the recipient (Swanson, J. (1997). Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains : Hebrew (Old Testament) (electronic ed.). Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc). Goodness is both dispositional and practical. Kittle says that in the Greek world, goodness took on the idea of religiousness toward God and kindness toward human beings (favorably disposed, gentle, generous) (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). Goodness may also imply the action of a person in concrete terms that originates from the inward moral quality of person. Indeed, this is the sense that agathosune has in the LXX (Septuagint, the Greek version of the OT used by the apostles and quoted by Jesus).

In the OT the confession, “Give thanks to the Lord for he is good,” is part of a recurring national anthem (1 Ch. 16:34; 2 Ch. 5:13; Ps. 118) (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). Goodness like all the other moral qualities found in humanity, goodness finds it origin and definition in the character and nature of God. Goodness is what God is and it is defined by his own possession of a good disposition and the expression of that quality to his people. The goodness of God is particularly understood in God’s dealings with his people, Israel, how he treats them, handles them, protects them and provides for them. That God freely and without coercion or necessity does good things for the benefit of his people, out of a selfless love and desire to better their lives, is a mark of his goodness. It is both inward quality of his nature and the outward expression of his generosity in terms of what he does for them. God’s goodness in the OT is particularly expressed in God’s salvation of his people. Salvation is both deliverance from their enemies and Israel’s moral and spiritual redemption. Both of these will find their greatest fulfillment in the eschaton, or coming age (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). In the meantime God works with his people to produce the qualities of righteousness and holiness in them, while using Israel as a witness to the nations about himself; his purpose is that Israel will become a light to the Gentiles with respect to his ultimate plan, salvation offered for and to all men (Isa 42:6; 49:6; cf. Gen. 12:1-3). That God desires goodness in his people, in terms of moral uprightness and generosity of action cannot be denied. The OT law reverberates with such demands and Micah confirms that God is not interested in the religious precision of the law if the spirit of goodness (righteousness) is missing in terms of generosity and fairness of spirit and behavior toward one another (Micah 6:8).

When Jesus was asked the question by the rich young ruler, who called him good master or teacher, Jesus, without repudiating his own goodness or sinlessness, out of honor for God, referred him to his Father as the only truly Good One, the source of all morality and goodness (Matt. 19:17) (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). In the NT God’s goodness is reflected in the redemptive sacrifice of Son, given for the sins of the world (John 3:16-19). Jesus expressed the incredibly important truth that God by sending him, has acted not in condemnation, but in redemption and goodness toward the world, desiring the salvation of people, not their destruction. This is the essence of God’s goodness, and the cross is the quintessential expression of it. Salvation in the NT is principally the spiritual deliverance of the soul from sin and the power of sin. And The death of Jesus is the final culmination of God earlier redemptive/salvation activity with respect to Israel in the OT. God’s OT redemptive action has found its fulfillment in Christ, and therefore salvation is now available to whoever believes in God’s Son (John 3:16). With the arrival of Jesus the kingdom of God has come (Mark 1:15), and salvation is now for the Jews and the Greeks (Gentiles) (Rom. 1:16). At the same time, there is a future time when the kingdom of God that has come, but is not yet fully realized, will indeed reach its fullness, and at that time there will be a new heaven and a new earth in which the goodness of God will reign supreme, and all sin will have been displaced by righteousness (Isa 65:17; Rev. 21:1-8). Nevertheless, even in the NT, God is still a God of provision. His goodness in terms of the outflow of his heart in concrete benefit to his people still occurs even before the fullness of the coming of his kingdom. Believers are called upon to trust in and pray for such manifestations of God’s goodness. The NT exhorts us to have faith in God for him to provide for us and to meet our needs. We are encouraged to believe that he will protect and deliver us from danger and temptation (Matt. 6:9-13).

As a result of Christ’s teaching and his death and resurrection, there is no doubt that the NT brings a new perspective to bear on goodness as a quality of morality and of the treatment of others. In his sermon on the mount, Jesus elevated behavior to the level of inward conduct and not merely outward self-restraint (Matt 5:21-43). Observing the law was not good enough; Jesus had in mind outward action produced by a genuine inward quality of goodness (morality or righteousness). Nevertheless, real goodness was more than a moral quality for Jesus, it is was action and deed expressed in humility toward others, what he called act of righteousness (Matt. 6:1). Goodness is giving alms without making a big fuss, simply for the benefit of others and not for acclamation or recognition (Matt. 6:2-4). Goodness is practicing your devotions to God, whether or not anyone sees and commends you for your piety (Matt. 6:5-18). Goodness in the NT is moral uprightness and right, generous action toward others and God. Therefore, goodness has the two the dimensions, inward disposition of goodness, righteousness, uprightness, morality, and the outward quality, producing generous action, that brings benefit to others.

In 2 Thessalonians 1:11 Paul confirms the general assertion we have just made. Paul’s prayer for his readers was that God would empower them to act in goodness that is to do the good they were being prompted to do by the Holy Spirit! Paul says to the Romans that he is convinced that they are full of goodness, by which he means fairness, generosity and morality prompted by the Spirit (Rom. 15:14). In his letter to Rome Paul was addressing the relationships between Gentile believers and Jewish believers in the church there. He is insisting that they act generously and fairly toward one another, providing benefit and care to one another, not allowing their cultural differences become a stumbling block to fellowship and relationships (cf. Rom. 14:17).

The question arises as to how goodness as a fruit of the Spirit works. As we have said repeatedly, Paul is concerned that the Galatians not be coerced into adopting the Jewish legal system as their rule for living, because the law as a set of regulations failed to produce acceptable righteousness to God in his original people. The failure was so catastrophic and decisive that even in Paul’s day the nation was under the curse of foreign domination, and in need of political salvation. To yield to a failed system of laws for the production of righteousness after a glorious experience of salvation through Christ was anathema to Paul. So he sought to demonstrate to them that the indwelling Spirit of God provides the impetus to believers for life and heart holiness and righteousness before God. In this sense, the inward impulse to goodness, to moral uprightness and generosity comes from the prompting of the Spirit, and not the natural inclination of the human spirit. Therefore, that inward dimension of goodness that produces generous and right action is not merely the weak and neutered human nature, that sin has largely overcome, but has elements of goodness in it, but it is the power of the Spirit in them (cf. Rom. 7:7-24). God’s Spirit, activates God’s own goodness in the life and experience of every believer. And as we have seen because it is linked to community, it produces acts of goodness, fairness and generosity to the members of the church, as each mutually does good to others in the fellowship.

Faithfulness: Interestingly enough, just as in English, the word faith can mean believing or faithfulness, so the Greek same words are capable of both inferences. The basic idea in the word pistis is what can be fully believed or is reliably trustworthy (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies). There is an objective and subjective side to faith. Faith is what is reliable, dependable and believable, and faith is to have confidence and trust, to rely on something (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies).
In our western and modern cultural context, faith is a strange mental exercise of construing something that we hardly have evidence for, that it is possible, or that it exists. However, biblical faith has never had that kind of connotation. Faith is not so much believing for the seemingly impossible, although scripture sometimes appears to give that connotation, as much as it is having confidence in the reliability of God. The Bible declares that the evidence for the existence of God is plain and obvious, even indisputable (Ps. 19:1-6; Rom. 1:20). Faith is a matter or reliance and acceptance of the trustworthiness of God and his existence. The Bible is not at all hung up with or concerned about the mental exercise of construing the existence of God through an exercise of the mind and will. Instead, Paul is especially fond of reminding his readers that God is faithful, worthy of trust, dependable and reliable (1 Cor. 1:9; 2 Cor. 1:18; 1 Thess. 5:24; 2 Thess. 3:3; 2 Tim 2:13). This is the focus of NT faith. Hebrews exalts the faithfulness of God, whereby Jesus is a faithful high priest of the new covenant, and God is faithful who makes promises and reliably fulfills them (Heb. 2:17; 10:23; 11:11). Peter calls God the faithful (reliable and dependable) Creator, and John says that God is trustworthy to forgive when we confess our sin (1 Pet. 4:19; 1 John 1:9). One of the significant titles given to Jesus in Revelation is Faithful or Faithful One; the one upon whom we can rely for the proper conclusion of our faith in and walk with God (Rev. 1:5; 3:14; 19:11). The emphasis in faith is on the reliability and dependability of God, so that he can be trusted. The Lord is trustworthy, worthy of our complete confidence.

In Mark 11:22, Jesus said, “Have faith in (of) God.” Much has been made of this verse as though God has faith and we should have the faith of (the type belonging to) God; that is the same kind of faith he had for example in creation through his spoken word! But that is a fundamental misunderstanding of the theology of creation and of the grammar in this verse. First of all, the Bible makes it clear that God created all things by the exercise of his own native power, not as a result of faith, as though faith has any power of its own to bring something into existence. God created the universe through exercising his power to command into existence out of nothing things that did not exist before (Heb. 11:6; cf. Isa. 40:26; 41:20; 45:12, 18; Amos 4:13; Rom. 1:20; Eph. 3:9; Col. 1:16; Rev. 4:11; 10:6). God has no need of faith, in the sense that there is something greater than him to trust in or rely upon. It is theological nonsense to speak of God’s faith, as though he exercises faith in the same way as those whom he has created exercise faith in him. And it does no good for preachers to argue that God has faith in himself. Ultimately that is a non sequitur. The only possible sense in which God can be said to have faith is in his exercise of confidence in his people, to whom he entrusts the task of representing him to a fallen world! In this Mark 11:22, this grammar clearly an objective genitive, meaning faith in God, a syntactically common use of the genitive case. Indeed, the phrase, rather than implying that there is objective power in faith, clearly demonstrates that the power to curse the fig tree lay with God, and the exercise of trust in him for such a miracle to occur was what brought the result!
It is the utter trustworthiness and reliability of God that forms the foundation of our own concept of faithfulness. The standard of dependability we seek to emulate is God himself and his trustworthiness is the foundation for our confidence in him and his Word. So when we are looking at the fruit of the Spirit, we are at first reminded of the reliability and dependability of God, and that this is ultimately what is revealed through us, as we are led by the Spirit, producing this fruit in us.
In the OT faith is basically trust or reliance upon God, rather than a mental exercise of construing his existence (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). Faith is signified in the way one organizes and orders one’s life around a confidence in God, his protection and provision, and in obedience to his word and command. Faith embodies a confident reliance upon God that makes him the focal point of living and behavior. This is especially evident in personal devotion to God in the sense of relationship and worship. And it is further evidenced in obedience to God’s will and word. Faith is not an abstract mental process for God’s people, but a confident reliance upon God.

In the NT faith in God comes out of the OT background, and becomes principally the trust someone places in God’s provision of salvation through Jesus Christ and his death on the cross (John 3:16; Rom. 1:16; 5:1; Eph. 2:8-9). Faith in the NT is focused, targeted and personal. It is reliance upon God and his objective, historical provision of salvation, and by extension, complete confidence in God for every other provision and need. In the NT faith has little to do with the mental exercise of construing the existence of God, and more to do with trusting in his reliability and dependability. Although it can be argued that believing in the existence of God is included in the idea of faith, an argument can also be made that the writer of Hebrews, when speaking of believing in God’s existence, is speaking more of confidence because of creation, than a merely mental exercise construing his existence in spite of a lack of evidence (11:6)!

Jesus’ parables about the faithful servants being rewarded, show the high value that God places on dependability (Matt. 24:45; 25:21, 23; Luke 12:42; 16:10-12). The faithfulness of the servants in these cases consisted in their consistent and reliable prosecution of the affairs of the master over the long haul, seeking to produce results that were pleasing to him. This faithfulness was not passive honesty or integrity, although both are involved and presupposed to some degree. This is active reliability that produces results through consistent and self-motivated effort. Paul implies the same thing when he uses the illustration of those who have been given a trust, and who have reliably carried it out, calling them faithful (1 Cor. 4:2). Paul tells the Corinthians that he is sending Timothy, who is reliable to them, because he is a worker (1 Cor. 4:17). Similarly Paul recommend Thychicus, Onesimus, and Epaphras as a faithful laborers (Eph. 6:21; Col. 1:7; 4:7, 9). Peter also mentions the reliability of Silvanus (1 Pet. 5:12). When Paul speaks of the saints as faithful, he means consistent and reliable in following their confidence in God by their loyal obedience to God (Eph 1:1). Paul exhorts Timothy to commit the gospel to faithful men, reliable and dependable people who will teach the truth accurately, and who will represent the gospel appropriately and consistently (2 Tim. 2:2). In Titus 1:9 In this he imputes the qualities of reliability and dependability to the Word of God.

Our word found in the fruit of the Spirit, then, has at its heart the idea of reliability, dependability, trustworthiness. As Donald Gee puts it, faith is loyalty, trustworthiness, reliability, constancy and steadfastness (The Fruit of the Spirit. Springfield: Radiant Books, 1975, 58-59). The community context of our passage makes it very unlikely that Paul has in mind objective believing (cf. Gee, 58). This fruit of the Spirit has to do with reliability in the community of God’s people. Believers should be able to trust and depend on one another. So as a fruit of the Spirit operating in the church, faith is the environment of confidence in one another, and dependability toward one another. To be confident in others is to be at rest with those with whom you have a relationship, because you know them to be reliable. To be reliable means that people with whom you have fellowship in the church find you dependable. doing what you say, not changing your mind capriciously, being true to your word, living up to your responsibilities and obligations and fulfilling your promises. The fruit of the Spirit is a reliability and dependability in our relationships with one another, so that we can lean upon and be confident in those with whom we share the fellowship of the gospel.

Gentleness: Once more we ask what is this? We instinctively know gentleness when we see it displayed in attitude and behavior, but how can you describe or qunatify it in terms of an attribute of the life of the believer. The first place to look at of course is the Lord himself. All of the fruit of the Spirit, as attributes of the beleiver find their basic root in the nature of God himself, and reflect his own attributes. Many have said that the God of the New Testament is far gentler than the God of the Old Testament. Some have even postulated that two differnt “Gods” exist! But that is a fundemental failure to understand the righteousness of God, which is at the heart of Paul’s discussion of the fruit of the Spirit.

The common perception is that righteousness is austere and unforgiving, harsh and judgmental. Whereas permissiveness is gentle, merciful and full of grace. Surely, after all it far kinder not to hold people to rigid standards or behavior with the threat of punishment, and by making them accountable for their actions. Realizing we all make mistakes, surely we should show great grace and mercy when dealing with the errors and bad behavoir of others. Grace surely includes giving people the widest latitude to make mistakes and to have the chance to correct them, without suffering the harsh consequences of the misdeeds, poor choices or out right wickedness. Such is the reasoning of our western society today. It is the essence of the political correctness doctrine. This kind of permissiveness is the essence of gentlness so the arguments goes, that seeks to avoid breaking the “fragile” psyche of others.
By contrast in the Bible, permissiveness is never offered as an approach to the problem of the wilfullness and wickedness of human beings. God does not propose a system of letting people make mistakes, commit sins, behave badly or act in an outrightly wicked way, in hopes that they will spontaneously realise their selfishness and seek address it. In fact, the Bible holds out the certainty that every wicked and sinful act will be punished without mercy. Everyone will be held up to account for their behavior and be punished for sin (cf. John 3:17-18).

The problem with the first view is that it assumes that people are basically good, and that given enough room for repentance that they will naturally repudiate bad behavior and wickedness. However, human history reflects that this is simply not true. It is hard to imagine how pschyologist and sociologists can still hold to the doctrine of the intrinsic good of humanity in the face of so much historical evidence to the contrary. If history shows us anything, it shows us that human nature is thoroughly corrupt, and corrupt in the worse possible way, totally absorbed in the pursuit of self interest, even in the most alturistic of people! It is the basic sinfulness of people that the Bible recognises as human reality, and instead of offering a false hope of eventual reform, it offers radical and immediate transformation through an encouter with a holy God, through faith in his Son Jesus Christ (cf. Eph. 2:8-9).

The charge of a lack of mercy and gentleness in God, with reard to sin and judgement, is based on two false premises. Number one, God is simply being padantic by require such righteousness from flawed human beings. Number two, when we measure our bad behavior against that of others, we discover that no one is perfect or meets the standard set by God, so it is hopeless to try and require it. Sin is really an inevitable part of the human condition that cannot be overcome, by any means. God should simply deal with the reality of our condition! The problem with these two premises is that they are based upon the idea that God is both unreasonable and that he has no right to exercise sovereingty over the race. However, on these two critical points the Bible is clear and expressive. If God is the creator then he has the right to require from his creation whatever standard he desires (which is why creation by God is denied by secularists, because ot the moral implications). In particular, as in any relationship, God has the right as creator to demand that we meet his terms if we are to have fellowship with him! He does not offer fellowship or relationship on any terms whatsoever, but only on his won terms, which are inviolable. This leads to the charge that God is pandatic. However, God’s standards, the terms upon which he will accept us in relationship and fellowship with him are based not on arbitrary conditions devised by the mind of God, but by the essence of his own inviolable nature of holiness and moral and spiritual purity, which cannot broach any compromise with or have connection to wickdness, sin and evil in any form, not at any level, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant to us. There is a spiritual impasse between human beings who are actually born into sin, and God, their sovereign creator, perfect in holiness and righteousness.

It is not a lack of gentleness when God refuses to overlook sin in the sinner, it is the principle of righteousness and holiness by which he is contrained in his own being, that cannot be compromsed and violated. The Old Testament history of Israel is a historical catalogue of God’s struggle with the sin of his people who thought that as long as they met their religious obligations in pious performace, God should overlook there behavior, and still bless them. But God’s unwillingness to reward Israel’s sin with blessing and his presence led to judgment of the most severe kind. And yet, what is also just as clear from the Old Testament, judgment does not come upon God’s people immediately, but God’s grace and mercy bore with them through long seasons of opportunity, expecting their repentance, leading to spiritual transformation, renewal and reconciliation. Sometimes that occured, but more often than not it did not, and the result was inevitable justment as God “thrust his people out of his sight,” when he could no longer bear with their sin (cf. 2 Kings 17:20; 24:20; Jer. 52:3). Actually wrath followed great patience, in the Old Testament, even in the acqusition of the Promised Land by the Jews, who exterminated entire cities, because of the wickedness of the culture. The judgment that fell on those nations only came after God bore with their sin as long as he could, until their sin reached the full meausre beyond which he was not willing to bear with it (cf. Gen. 15:16)! This pattern of punishment, judgment and wrath tempered with mercy, grace and the offer of reconciliation and salvation is set after the first sin in the Garden of Eden (Gen. 3:1-23; Deut. 9:5-6). The principle is etablished in the word of God that the pateince of God with respect to bringing judgment is not slackness of the enforcement of his standards of holiness, but mercy and grace toward the sinner in hopes that he will repent and besaved (2 Pet. 3:8-9, 11-13). Even in the Old Testament, the people of God who were tuned in, recognised the mercy and grace of God in his delay of desreved judgment, and they celebrated it (cf. 1 Chron. 21:13; 2 Chron. 6:19; Neh. 9:31; Ps. 51:1; 78:9; 103:10; Isa. 55:7; Amos 5:15; Hab. 3:2)!

The God of the Old Testament is indeed merciful. The God of the New Testament makes a display of his mercy! In the ministry of Jesus the mercy of God is on display in the miracles her performs, and the way he treats people. Outcasts, demon possessed and the sick are all delivered by the power of God, with the gentlest of touch and kindest of dispositions. Jesus reserves harshness for the unrepentant and legalistically self-righteous! His persistent gentlness carries voer to the Spirit filled church, where widows have their needs met, the sick continue to be healed, and gentleness characterises the leadership of the apostles. There is no discrepentcy, because even in the New Testament judgment can cme when it is called for (cf. Acts 5). The compassion of Christ in his earthly ministry puts a practical face on the mercy and gentleness of God, as he goes about doing what his Father would do (John 8:28; cf. John 14:8-11)!

The word prautes encompasses the idea of humility, meekness, gentleness and kindness. Its basic meaning is mild as compared to something harsh, and therefore means pleasant, or gentle (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). Prautes in secular Greek can mean to calm someone who is excited or irritable, and can mean freidnly (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). . the adverb “…is often used for the quiet and friendly composure which does not become embittered or angry…” and is the opposite to roughness(Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). This kind of disposition was highly prized among Greeks when it came to their own people or society (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). Prautes in a ruler is seen as the counter balance to strength and power (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1995). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans).
In the Old Testament, translated into Greek, the word is often used of humility. A quiet submission to authority, especially God’s authority (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). It is the calm acceptance of ones lot in life. The lowly have special favor from God, because he protects them from the unfair or unjust exercise of power against them (Ps. 37:11). There is an escahtalogical hope in humility, that expects the vindication and deliverance of God for those who wait for him (Ps. 76:9) (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans).

In the New Testament there is a scarcity of the use of the noun and adjective. Matthew uses the adjective three times ‎(5:5; 11:29; 21:5), two of which refr to the the hunmilty of Christ (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans)! As ruler and king Jesus comes not as a conquering hero, but as a peaceful savior (Matt . 21:5) (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). When paul wished to come to the Corinthians in gentleness and humility, their arrogance and pride made it necessary for him to threaten them with the harshness of apostolic correction (1 Cor. 4:21), which some took to be weakness (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans)! Paul saw no inconsistency in strong apostolic leadership and gentle humility, exercised in a spirit of servanthood.

There is an unmistakable tone in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians, that he would rather apporach them with gentleness, than in corrective harshness. Paul seems to find it prefereable to coax and coach them along to spiritual maturity and even repentance, than to threaten them with the harshness of God’s judgment on sin (2 Cor. 10:1). The association of gentleness with the view of some at Corinth, that it was a sign of weakness, underscores the nature of the word, that it is the opposite to harshness, brashness, even forthrightness. He encourages the Galatians to gently coax those who sin back into the way, with humility incase they are also tempted (Gal. 6:1). Paul leaves no room for the arrogant legalism that is being proposed to the Galatians, where one sets himself up as judge and jury ovr another in arrogant pride. Nevertheless, gentleness is not indulgence and weakness, it confronts sin, but with the spirit of a coach not the spirit of an executioner.

With this in mind, we see Paul command the Colssians to treat one another with gentleness, a patient, longsuffering, kind and humble spirit (Col. 3:12). And again in Ephesians 4:2 Paul exhorts his reader to exrcise both pateince and gentleness, or kindness toward one another. in 2 Tim. 2:25, gentleness is to be the disposition of the teacher, exercising a persistent yet kind approach to teaching that lacks abrasive harshness. This atttiude Paul exhorts in Titus should characterize the relationship of the beliver with other people, even outside of the community of faith. This Paul marries to the idea of being respectful of others.

Peter also speaks of being respectful toward others, outside of the community of faith, with a gentle spirit, in order to enhance the reputationof the gospel (1 Pet. 3:16). In 1 Peter 3:4, the gentleness and humility of the beleiving wife is a tool from God for bringing conviction to her unblieving husband. And James contrasts gentleness with the spirit of anger (Jam. 1:21). Later James invokes humility, gentleness, as an proof of faith in God to those who are ourtside of the community, looking in (Jam. 3:13).

We cannot escape the implications of what we have discovered. In connection with God’s own character, gentlness is a spirit of pateince with those who have done wrong. It is the way God treats those whom he wishes to repent, and come to a knowledge of transformation and reconcilaition. However, gentleness does not exclude judgment, and it is not weakness, because punishment will come upon those who persistently resist the gentleness of God. In the New Testament gentlenes seems to have two diementsions. It is first a quiet humility that puts others first. It is literally the opposite of abruptness, mean-spiritedness, irritability and harshness in the way we deal with one another. While the church is not expected to be indulgent, with respect to standards, we are called upon to exercise gentlness, and to avoid harshness and persistent irritability, anger and bitterness in our dealings with one another. Therefore, gentleness is a community quality, that is at home in the fellowship of beleivers when it is on display in the way we treat one another. So secondly, gewntleness is a great sign of the power of the gospel, as our repaltionships with one another provide testimony to grace and mercy of God that operates among us. In a world where anger chracrterizes the way people deal with one anotehr, this is an espcially attractive quality to those who are looking for a difernt way to live and to relate to other people.

Self-Control: Of all of the Fruit of the Spirit, even the idea of self-control is alien to the human condition and psyche. We are naturally driven to satisfy our desires as they arise, and are prepared to go to great lengths at times to do so. The idea of the denial or even the postponement of gratification is not only unpopular, but has been declared by psychologists and sociologists to be unhealthy. It is impossible to restrain desire indefinitely, they argue, and it is not even desirable to do so! They often say that young people in particular should not be sexually restrained in their early teens, but encouraged to act responsibly as sexually active human beings. But the idea of gratifying sexual desire responsibly is counter intuitive to a young person who has not yet developed the emotional and psychological framework to deal with the accompanying issues. And beside the whole notion of acting upon sexual desire that cannot and should not be restrained because it is unhealthy and undesirable, but that you should do so responsibly, is contradictory. We have set up our young people to fail at life when we teach them that self-restraint is not possible or necessary until they get older. At some point when our young people reach young adulthood, and are still unrestrained in their conduct, we condemn them, even imprison them, and yet we have not helped them develop the personal framework to exercise self-restraint! The problem of a lack of self-control did not begin on their 21st birthday, but at 13 or 14 when we as parents and a society refused to teach them self-control.
Nothing is more relevant to our world than the Fruit of the Spirit called self-control. At the same time, nothing is more needed in the church than self-control either. The church is after all a fellowship of interacting human beings who are not perfect or flawless. Inevitably in the context of fellowship problems arise that require self-restraint. These include, but are not limited to issues of resentment, friction, jealousy or envy, attraction, emotional bonding, inappropriately crossing of boundaries, gossip or loose talk, anger, misunderstanding, and acting on an incomplete knowledge of a situation or person. All of these are issues that are raised routinely in any context where human beings interact with one another!

The traditional or pious response on interpersonal issues that come up between believers is that first of all “spiritual” people should not have issues between themselves, to begin with! However, this is a patently false premise, even from a biblical perspective. Paul had an issue with Barnabas over John Mark going with them on their second missionary journey (Acts 15:36-39). The contention between these two close friends was so sharp that they parted ways, Paul taking Silas and Barnabas taking John Mark. Paul comments much later on in his ministry, just before he is executed and while he is in prison, that John Mark’s was profitable to him, and that he wanted him to come to him while he was in captivity. This may signal a softening of Paul’s attitude toward the young man with whom he had been so disappointed years earlier (2 Tim. 4:11). Luke hints that Paul was very harsh, where as the gentler Barnabas, the Son of Consolation, was more compassionate. Luke may even whisper that Paul was wrong about this! Early in his ministry, after Paul and Barnabas had established the Galatian church, Peter came through Antioch as a representative of the mother-church in Jerusalem. The Antiochan church as the first gentile church, had important Jewish representative from Jerusalem visiting from time to time. Peter routinely ate with the Gentile believers at Antioch, until he became was afraid to eat with them, because these Jewish personalities were in town. Paul strongly opposed him to his face; even more so because Barnabas and other church leaders were emboldened and persuaded to act like Peter in the matter (Gal. 2:11-14). The two letters to the Corinthian church, and the letter to the Galatians were written by Paul in the white heat of passion because of errors that threatened the church, and Paul disputed strongly with them and those who would lead them astray. The idea that good saved, and committed Christians never have issues is a clearly a false premise! It is a lie that seeks to bring people into bondage to rules of piety, and fear and intimidation, rather than into surrender to the Spirit of God.
The second response to interpersonal tension in the church is for leaders to sweep it under the rug and deny its existence. Since dealing with issues is notoriously difficult and can lead to strong disagreements, leaders seek to avoid the discomfort of those disagreements. The problem is that this approach creates a situation of festering poison, which will eventually erupt into a sore of significant magnitude, whereas tension should be addressed when it is of a more manageable size. Interpersonal tension almost never goes away by itself; it has to be addressed. By ignoring interpersonal tension, leaders and church are also ignoring and repudiating the way God’s Word tells us to handle disputes between believers, and that is by use of self-control. Self-control is a biblical tool for settling disputes in the church.

We must again remind ourselves that the context of Paul’s enumeration of the Fruit of the Spirit is not personal holiness, but community life. It impacts personal holiness, but it is intimately and contextually linked to the life and welfare of the community of believers. Self-control is the indispensible fruit restraint, whereby individuals get a firm grip on themselves, and on their emotions before they act or speak. This is clear from the context, where Paul warns his readers that if they keeping biting one another, the time will come when their lack of self-control has consumed the whole assembly and destroyed the fellowship of God’s people (Gal. 5:15). Self-control is not an afterthought, but a bedrock principle in the context of the relationships believers have with one another. We cannot eliminate tension or misunderstanding, but how we handle it indicates whether or not we are a people led by the Spirit (literally spiritual) (cf. Rom. 8:14; Gal. 5:16).

It is clear from the context that self-control is linked primarily to the relationships believers have with one another. That does not entirely eliminate the notion that self-control has a broader, personal application to a wider variety of human emotions and desires. We must acknowledge that all of the fruit of the Spirit, though in a community context, ultimately devolve to being virtues which are exercised by individual believers as they are led and impelled by the Holy Spirit. Nevertheless, the issue of desire and emotion addressed by self-control in this context has to do primarily with how believers control themselves in their relationships with one another, particularly in the sense of promoting the harmony and the welfare of the community. The goal of Paul’s argument is clearly to promote unity in the church. The Galatian church served as an example of this principle. Judaizers were creating a sense of disunity in the fellowship by teaching that believers in Christ should also follow the Law of Moses. This led to a congregation that was divided in their opinion and in practice, where one group appeared to think that it was superior to the other because of its adherence to a system of righteousness involving law and rituals. Paul can abide neither the disunity nor the fact that the grace of God has been pushed aside by a system of works-righteousness. The discussion about the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit is Paul’s answer to the question of where righteousness comes from. It comes from grace, through the power of the indwelling Spirit impelling the life of the believer. The Fruit of the Spirit is what life in the Spirit produces in terms of righteousness, and since everyone is empowered by the same Holy Spirit, and righteousness is not a matter of self-realized effort, there is no room for boasting and feelings of pious superiority. Therefore, the Fruit of the Spirit also promotes unity in the church, because it is a community where personal virtues promote the welfare of others ahead of their own.

If righteousness has its origin in the leading of the Spirit (Gal. 5:16-18), that reality produces unity among God’s people, because all depend on him equally for righteousness! No one is depending upon themselves, and no one can boast about their superior standing! Therefore, self-control as a Fruit of the Spirit is not a matter of law, but of grace, because of the power of the Spirit (Gal. 5:18), encouraging and enabling believers to exercise control over their own bodies, emotions and desires. This in turn produces unity, because where believers exercise self-control, they are far less preoccupied with self-promotion and more inclined to promoting the welfare of others. We might even say that this was the original created focus of Adam’s relationship with Eve, before sin corrupted their minds and hearts with overreaching self-consciousness (cf. Gen. 3:7-12).

The two words, self-control translate a compound Greek word, egkrateia. Older English versions of the Bible used the term temperance. It is made up of the Greek word for in and another word meaning mastery, lordship, strength or power (Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1995). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament. Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans). Loosely we might say it carries the idea of inward strength, inward power. In Greek, however, in often denotes the instrumentality behind an action, by what something is done. So the word means to control desire and action by means of one’s strength or power, or to exercise restraint. It is the power or strength within a person, whereby they exercise control over their desires and emotions. What our contemporary culture sees as weakness, not acting on every desire, but restraining desire through self control, the Bible calls inner strength. The quality of self-restraint that the world calls a liability, a killjoy, an inhibition, the Bible calls virtue, righteousness and honorable. The contrast between the philosophy of the world without Christ and the life of the believer with Christ could not be more perfectly contrasted than in the discussion of this element of the Fruit of the Spirit.

Nevertheless, let us not forget that in Galatians 5:23, as the fruit of the Spirit, self-control is something initiated and empowered by the Holy Spirit. Paul began the section on the fruit of the Spirit with the comment that those who are led by the Spirit will not fulfill the desires of the sinful nature (Gal. 5:16). Self-restraint in the life of a believer in Christ is not mere self-control. It is self-control empowered by the leadership of the Holy Spirit (Gal. 5:16). The instrumentality whereby self is restrained is linked to the indwelling of the Spirit of God, who allies himself to our will, and sense of self-discipline to make righteousness possible through the grace and power of God. It is at the same time, simultaneously personal choice and grace. It is will-power empowered by God!
The association of temperance with abstinence from alcohol in our culture often impedes a clear or properly broad definition of what Paul really means. He certainly means more than mere abstinence. Indeed, alcohol consumption is probably not his primary concern at all! His first point of reference is the interaction between believers in the fellowship with one another, that they should exercise restraint in how they speak about one another to others (Gal. 5:15). That seems to be Paul primary concern.

The word group does not occur in the Greek translation of the Old Testament called the Septuagint (LXX), except in a few of the apocryphal books. One such reference warns the reader not to give way to desire (lusts), because unrestrained lust will make you a fool and laughingstock (Barclay, William. Fruit and Spirit: An Examination of Galatians 5:19-23. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976. P. 122). Clearly the writer means the restraint of physical appetites. In another place, where Eleazer is threatened with death if he does not renege on his allegiance to the law of God, he extols temperance as the virtue of self-denial and discipline (Barclay, ibid.). Joseph restrained himself from an emotional breakdown in front of his brothers in Genesis 43:31. This seems to be the thrust of this word.
There are only four occurrences of this noun in the New Testament, one in acts, this one in Galatians and twice in 2 Peter. Paul uses this word in his discourses with the governor Felix, while he was in prison in Caesarea (Acts 24:25). The simplest definition is that self-control is exercising control over ones desires and actions, to be in command of oneself (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies). Self-control is the opposite of being out of control, whereby a person reacts and acts based on their emotions and desires alone. It is having no filter for action, through which a thought process or moral consideration is engaged to measure and evaluate a course of action, or the pursuit of a desire (this is why the Old Testament employs the term fool for a wicked man, because a lack of self-restraint often results from a failure to engage a process of consideration or thought, called wisdom and understanding in Bible’s Wisdom Literature

In 1 Corinthians 7:9 Paul means sexual self-restraint. In 1 Corinthians 9:25, Paul uses the verb (occurring only twice in the New Testament) in connection with the self-discipline of an athlete (Barclay, William. Fruit and Spirit: An Examination of Galatians 5:19-23. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1976. P. 121). An athlete exercises control over his body in order to train it to compete for the prize. Paul is arguing that the Corinthians should exercise discipline over themselves, over their choices, impulses, attitudes and behavior. It was a matter of reining in impulses, and subjecting them to the control of godliness, in order to act as Christ would have them act. The power of the Spirit is no automatic pilot! Being led by the Spirit is not the same as being absolutely compelled by the Spirit. The will still has to be exercised, and choices still have to be made. Self -control is when the believer gives room for the Spirit of God to restrain or commend action. It is when we exercise restraint that gives room for the leading of the Holy Spirit to produce the right action and choice. Lowe and Nida offer these glosses of the verb in 1 Corinthians 9:25; to hold oneself in, to be in command of oneself, to have control of one’s heart, to master one’s desire, to be able to say no to oneself Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament : Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies). Paul especially makes this virtue a criterion for becoming a church leader and exercising authority in the church (Titus 1:7-8).

Self-control results in one of two outcomes, deferring action or gratification, or outright denial of a desire to act in a particular way. Depending on the circumstances, we are called upon to engage both outcomes as a matter of self-control, whereby by sheer power of choice and an exercise of the will we behave differently than our first impulse! Self control must both restrain and constrain. As Jesus’ parable of the good Samaritan shows, sometimes self-control causes us to act positively when we might be inclined not to act at all (Luke 10:25-37). In the church, and among believers both are required, restraint that refuses to hurt another, and constraint that is determined to help and do good to the others.


Paul does not list every virtue that represent righteousness in his list of the fruit of the Spirit. In other places he lists other things that do not appear in Galatians 5, but that are very much part of the character of righteousness. We now turn to some of the other virtues or marks of righteousness that Paul lists elsewhere in his epistles.

Persistence in Doing Good (Rom. 2:7): In Romans 2 Paul is talking about righteousness, and how essential it is to salvation. Righteousness in Paul’s epistles is inward integrity that drives outward conduct. When one’s outward conduct does not reflect the holiness of God, and is sinful and wicked, it is because there is an inward problem, the lack of sanctification in the heart. Paul discusses whether the law can produce the right conditions in a human life, namely inward sanctification in order to produce outward holiness of action and life that God requires. His overwhelming conviction is that the law cannot do the job. As Jesus continually showed, the outward appearance of righteousness in the Pharisee, which was little more than religious piety, was not enough, when there was no genuine holiness of attitude, disposition and heart inwardly. The law consistently fails to produce what God requires inwardly, even when it is applied rigorously as code to live by. In cannot transform the sinful heart, and that is why it fails (Rom. 8:3a). In Romans Paul deals with how to achieve righteousness as a matter of heart and action, through the transforming power of God in salvation and the presence of the indwelling Spirit in the life of the believer. This is sanctification. In other words, Paul concludes that righteousness is the result of the power of the indwelling Spirit of God in the life of a fully cleansed and transformed believer. In Galatians the description of how righteousness is made possible is when Paul declares that those who are led by the Spirit will not gratify the desires of the flesh, or carnal nature (Gal. 5:16). In Romans 8 Paul puts it another way, saying that those who walk in the Spirit (conduct their lives by the leading and impulse of the Holy Spirit) produce the righteousness that the law of God demands (Rom. 8:1-4).

Righteousness as a matter of right action or practice is not moot for the believer in Jesus Christ. Although we realize that we are saved by grace, not by works (Eph. 2:8-9), Paul declares that we were created for good works in which we were to walk, or conduct our lives (Eph. 2:10). God purposed us for righteousness and good conduct, so that to live without righteousness, right action, doing good is to live outside of the will of God, and in disobedience to him. This is not the same, however, as saying we are saved by doing good. No amount of good works divorced from a right heart can please God, because he is looking at the whole package, heart and action when it comes to righteousness. And besides, the Bible clearly demonstrates that it is impossible to please God without faith in him, without forgiveness and cleansing (cf. Psalm 51; Heb. 11:6). Righteousness by definition is the union of a right heart to right conduct, something that only God can originate through salvation and sustain through the inward power of the Holy Spirit in us. In Ephesians 2:10 Paul asserts that God created us for the purpose of doing good works, and the fact that we are saved by grace does not exclude right action and behavior from what God expects from his people. Indeed grace requires it if salvation is not to be lost to a repeated slavery to sin (Rom. 6:15-16)! Righteousness is the complete package of a right heart producing right action and behavior, and it is this that describes the life of holiness that we aspire to in our songs, reading, preaching and writing.

The fruit of the Spirit is actually a description of righteousness and what it looks like in the context of the fellowship of God’s people. So when we talk of the fruit of the Spirit we are talking about righteousness as it plays out in our relationships one with the other.
However, the key to Romans 2:7 is the word persistent. Paul’s concern is for righteousness that is more than a flash in the pan, a momentary adherence to the law, or a religious conviction resulting from an outward show if piety. Paul is speaking of a the persistent exercise of righteousness in terms of doing good, that flows naturally out of a right heart moved by the Spirit. The key here is that righteousness is both consistent (even) and enduring (persistent). Both ideas are important. Righteousness should not be wavy, inconsistent, ebbing and flowing, but rather consistent and even in its inward quality of devotion to God and outward flow in terms of doing good. It should also be enduring, lasting over the long haul, rather than being a temporary flash of excitement, that evaporates at the first sign of difficulty or resistance.

The word persistent here is a translation of the Greek hupomone, meaning patience, or endurance. The word is derived from two words combined, hupo, meaning behind, and meno, meaning abide. It means to stay put, remain, abide under pressure, adversity and difficulty (Bromiley, Geoffery W., Ed. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Abridged in One Volume. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985. p. 581). It pictures patient endurance of adversity and opposition, not passively but aggressively. It can even have the connotation of bearing up under strain and difficulty, with an element of courage or “heroism” in it (Bromiley, Geoffery W., Ed. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament: Abridged in One Volume. (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1985. p. 582). This kind of persistence is strengthened by adversity and is embedded deeper in the life of the those who experience and endure affliction, so that it grows and intensifies under pressure and testing (Rom. 5:3-4).

In this context hupomone means enduring good works, or persistent righteousness. This is righteousness that has the quality of being consistent and enduring at all times, and in all conditions of life. It is righteousness undeterred by adversity or resistance and opposition. Paul envisions God’s people practicing courageous and heroic righteousness in a world that is opposed to God, and succeeding to produce good works to glorify God (cf. Matt. 5:16).

Others Oriented: We cannot ignore that the New Testament in particular, has a lot to say about how we are oriented in our thinking and disposition. To be self-oriented is the antithesis of righteousness in the estimation of God. Righteousness cannot thrive or live in an environment where the chief concern is self. It is how God made us originally, to be focused on him and one another, away from self. This produces the fertile ground for righteousness to thrive and grow. Paul speaks about being devoted to one another in love, in such a way that we are oriented first toward the welfare of others, rather than the things we desire for ourselves (Rom. 12:10).
προηγούμενοι main thrust is to go before, and means to consider something or someone better, or more highly. Paul says that we should love one another with such devotion, that the outcome is that we put one another first before our needs or desires (Rom. 15:1-4).

A Sharing Spirit: Similar to being “others oriented,” Paul calls upon the Romans to be hospitable, and willing to share (Rom. 12:13). One of the most outstanding characteristics of the early church was that they lived selflessly enough to share their material possessions with one another (Acts 2:44-45; 4:34-35). They were willing to sell their own property, if by the sale they could provide for the needs of others. There was a commonality in the church that is rare today, even in the church! A sharing spirit was one of the characteristics of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit.
Sharing does not come easily to us, because possession is a deeply ingrained aspect of human existence. We measure ourselves by our possessions, and we spend our lifetime laboring to get and have more stuff. Giving up what we have for others is almost always a wrench for us, and we wrestle with great issues when we are called upon by God to turn loose of our possessions for the sake of another person. But the Spirit filled church overflowed with a generosity that was uncharacteristic of the world.

Hospitality, as Paul speaks of it here, is the spirit of sharing ones material benefits with others who are in need. We must balance that out with what Paul said in 2 Thessalonians 3 that there was no room for laziness in the church among God’s people. Those who won’t work should not be allowed to eat! And widows under a certain age should not be included in the benevolence lists, until they have proven themselves to be faithful to God by serving in the church (1 Tim. 5:11-16). Paul calls upon people in the church to take full responsibility for themselves, and at the same time he expects everyone to be disposed toward one another in generosity when it is genuinely needed! Paul does not advocate a welfare state, but he does condemn greediness that withholds compassion from those in need. Hospitality is not so much having people over for snacks after church, it is generosity to those who are in need.
The way Paul words this is that we are to share in the needs of God’s people. He does not even talk about sharing our goods or material things with others, but of entering into the fellowship of their need; obviously with a view to bringing relief. It is the idea of sharing with a person’s difficulty through ministering encouragement and help to them. Paul calls this pursuing hospitality. To go after hospitality is to actively enter into the needs of others, like the Good Samaritan, refusing to turn away or to ignore it. Hospitality is to treat a stranger like family. So Paul envisions the saints treating one another like family, by caring for one another in terms of the needs we may have.

An Unquarrelsome Spirit: In Romans Paul deals with the relationship between Jewish and Gentile believers in Jesus Christ(Rom. 14:1). By now the principle of Paul’s arguments are well known to us, because the context of the fruit of the Spirit is fellowship between believers. In this passage Paul is concerned about the friction that is arising between the two groups because of the cultural and the differences in their religious backgrounds before they came to know Christ. The Jews with strict dietary laws and other scruples in their background were struggling with the looser and less stringent value systems of the Gentiles believers. The truth is, as far as Paul is concerned, the law no longer has any power over those who are in Christ. But as a matter of practicality, he recognizes that the cultural scruples of Jews are vastly different that their fellows Gentile believers.
Paul is not talking here about matters of salvation, because he has already dealt with that in the early chapters, showing that Jews and Gentiles are sinner and are saved by the grace of God on the basis of faith. What he is dealing with is the practical matter of fellowship, of relationship. And here he calls for the widest tolerance of cultural and convictional differences.

To illustrate his point he uses the issue of eating certain meats that were unclean in Jewish culture, but about which Gentiles had no particular scruples. There were other things as well, such as special days, like the Sabbath. All of these had cultural and psychological attachment to those who had come to Christ out of a Jewish background.

The principle he starts with is that meat and special days are a matter of conscience and conviction and not righteousness. Therefore, they should not be allowed to divide or sabotage the unity of the church. Gentiles should respect the convictions of their Jewish brothers. And the Jewish believers should refrain from making spiritual issues out of things that amount only to Jewish convictions, now that Christ has come and put an end to the law for producing righteousness. He says to both groups that the kingdom of God is much more than a matter of food and drink, and it is more about righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17).

What he is demanding from them is that they put an end to quarrelsomeness, the spirit of debate and criticism of other peoples convictions or their lack of convictions. He tells them to recognize the important issues upon which the kingdom of God rests, and not to allow unimportant or non-essential issues dominate the landscape or dialogue, so that they destroy relationships.

This is a matter of inward attitude and not merely holding your nose around certain people. The church has been plagued by endless debate on non-essentials, and has even had wars and fighting to the point of physically opposing one another over them. There is an unpleasant historical side to the church that brings shame to the name of Christianity in the eyes of the world. In the church today, we see such things arising still, in the form of disputes over styles of worship, appropriate dress (assuming modesty is not an issue), over buildings, leadership, organizational structures, liturgies, vision, etc. All of these issues are not matters of righteousness as much sanctified discretion, and to a large degree they vary from situation to situation, and with convictions, person to person. Paul said don’t be so quarrelsome that you undermine the unity of the church over issues that amount to meat and drink, and are matter of conviction and practice, and not of righteousness, truth and morality.

Self-Reliance: This doesn’t even sound “spiritual”! Galatians 6:4-5 makes a strange statement that at first seems to be contradictory to some of the other teaching in the New Testament. Paul tells his readers in Galatians to “carry their own load.” He seems to be saying, “Don’t burden others with your problems.” And yet in the same passage he says carry one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2-5)! Carry your own load; carry one another’s load, which is it? It’s both!

There are many truths in the Bible that seem to be contradictory, and yet two extremes can be equally valid at the same time, without canceling one another out. Here are some examples. Jesus said that he had come to set prisoners free, to bring release to those who are bound (Luke 4:18-19; cf. ) and yet the New Testament talks about disciples as servants of the Living God and of one another, where the word servant can also mean bond-slave (cf. Matt. 20:27; 24:45; Mark 10:44; Luke 12:37-48; 17:10; Acts 2;18; 4:29; 16:17; Rom. 1:1; 1 Cor. 7:22; 2 Cor. 4:5; Gal. 1:10; 3:28; 4:7; Eph 6:5; Phil. 1:1; Col. 4:1, 12; 2 Tim 2:24; Tit. 1:1; Philemon 16; James 1;1; 1 Pet. 2:16; 2 Pet. 2:1; Jude 1; Rev. 1:1; 2:20; 7:3; 10:7; 11:18; 19:2, 5; 22:3, 6). John says that God is love (1 John 4:8, 16). Jesus said that God so loved the world that he send his One and Only Son to die for the sins of humanity, to redeem and reconcile them back to God (John 3:16). And yet God is capable of wrath, anger and judgment on the wicked. Even to Jesus, the Lamb of God, is attributed wrath (Rev. 6:16-17; cf. Ex. 34:6-7; Matt. 3:7; Mark 3:5; Luke 3:7; 21:23; John 3:36; Rom. 1:18; 2:5; 3:5; 5:9; 9:22; 12:19; 13:4; Eph. 5:6; Col. 3:6; 1 Thess. 1:10; 2:16; 5:9; Heb. 3:11; 4:3; Rev. 11:18; 14:10; 16:19; 19:15; 24:14; Mark 1:15; 9:1; 12:34; Luke 8:1; 9:2; 10:9, 11; 11:52;17:20-21; 21:31; 22:29; John 3:3; 18:36; Acts 1:3; 14:22; Rom. 14:7; 1 Cor. 14:8; 4:20; Col. 1:13; 1 Thess. 2:12; 2 Thess. 1:5; Heb. 12:8). With the arrival of Jesus the New Testament teaches that the kingdom of God had come (Mark 1:14-15; cf. Matt 3:2; 4:17, 23; 7:13; 10:7; 11:12; 12:28; 16:19, 28; 25:14, 34; 26:29; Mark 14:25; Luke 13:28-29; 14:15; 22:18; Acts 1:3-8; 1 Cor. 15:24; 2 Tim 4:1, 18; 2 Pet. 1:11; Rev. 11:15; 12:10). Luke in particular builds his theology of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the truth of the arrival of the kingdom of God, as it is spoken of in Joel 2:28-30 (cf. Act 2:14-36). And yet continually the writers of the New Testament exhort their readers to prepare for the coming of the kingdom of God in the future, with the return of Christ in glory (Acts 1:11; cf. Matt. 6:10; 8:11; 13:41) Theologians call this the now – not yet theology of the kingdom, that it has come in measure, but will come in its fullness in the future with the return of Christ. Both are true at the same time.

These are a few of the many examples of paradoxes, seeming contradictions that upon close examination prove to be completely compatible and consistent with one another, within the of the gospel of Jesus Christ, and the Word of God. There are so many truths in the Bible that are held in this kind of tension that people who don’t know better accuse the Bible of being self-contradictory and therefore unreliable. Yet upon investigation, these apparent contradictions make perfect sense, even though they exist in tension with one another. God is love, but he will not compromise his holiness by accepting sin, so his wrath will eventually fall upon the unrepentant sinner. However, he offers salvation through the exercise of his grace and mercy to anyone who will call upon the name of Jesus (John 3:3, 16; Rom. 3:23; 6:23; 10:9-10). The tension is resolved in a proper understanding of God and his nature.

The New Testament makes kindness, love, grace, encouragement, hospitality and showing mercy key elements in the relationship believers have with one another in the church. The early church practiced this kind of care for one another (Acts 2:42-47; 4:32-37). Paul said that we should show kindness to one another, meaning to act toward others in grace and mercy first, instead of harshness (2 Cor. 6:6; Gal. 5:22; Col. 3:12). Hospitality is caring for the needs and comfort of others before yourself, treating other people like you would family! The fruit of the Spirit cover this concept very well, so we need not repeat that here. Paul even tell his readers to look out for one another and to help carry one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), because that is a demonstration of love.

Yet in the midst of calling for mutual sharing, intimate fellowship and concern for one another, Paul tells his readers to carry their own load! Don’t burden others with you problems. If we are familiar with scripture, the seeming contradiction is not at all surprising, and it is by no means intimidating. Both bearing one another’s burdens and carrying your own load are required by God! The first place to go is to the text and notice that the terms burden and load are synonyms, and Paul does not use the same word in both verses. This is a first clue that Paul has something particular in mind.
In Galatians 6:2 the word load or burden is baros. In Galatians 6:5 the word load or burden is phortion. Word choices are deliberate in the New Testament, and the deliberate use of synonyms to communicate subtlety in meaning is standard operating procedure among the writers. It is part and parcel of their writing styles! Paul is very capable of this kind of writing device. Baros occurs only 6 times in the New Testament (Matt. 20:12; Acts 15:28; 2 Cor. 4:17; Gal 6:2; 1 Thess. 2:6; Rev. 2:24). Baros seems, from the context, to imply a degree of weariness associated with carrying a burden or discharging a responsibility. It can mean making demands. It seems to imply being taken to the edge of one’s capacity, being tired from the exertion, etc. The basic idea is of weight, and can be used in the idiom en barei eimi to imply giving oneself weight, or to have a sense of self-importance (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies). It can also imply extent, as in tremendous, great in terms of importance (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies). Baros has an element of intensity in it, as in the labor involved in carrying a load, the exertion required, and the resulting weariness. A close synonym would be hardship (Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies).

In Galatians 6:4, however, the word is phortion, meaning load, cargo, and by metaphor, a burden Louw, J. P., & Nida, E. A. (1996). Greek-English lexicon of the New Testament: Based on semantic domains (electronic ed. of the 2nd edition.). New York: United Bible Societies). Its earliest use is found in connection with lading a ship, meaning freight, cargo, lading (cf. ‎Ac. 27:10) (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). The emphasis is on carrying or bearing the cargo that has been loaded.
Jesus combines both of these terms in connection with the religious rules the Pharisees heaped upon the people, calling them tremendous (baros) loads (phortion) that cannot be carried (Matt. 23:4) (Theological dictionary of the New Testament. 1964- (G. Kittel, G. W. Bromiley & G. Friedrich, Ed.) (electronic ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans). Jesus engages in a paradox of his own, when he encourages the weary to come to him for rest, and then tells them he expects them to carry his yoke and his burden (Matt. 11:28-30). Clearly Jesus is not promising and absence of exertion or the complete and utter removal of burdens and hardships. He is promising that by coming to him, the load will be lightened to such an extent that by comparison, life with him will be as refreshing as rest next to the wearisomeness of life without him, to a weary soul! Indeed the New Testament never promises the absence of burdens completely, nor the complete removal of hardships (cf. 2 Cor. 12:8-9). What is promised is grace in hardships, assurance of success in overcoming difficulties (cf. Rom. 8:18-39) and a sense of the sustaining power of God, so that no hardship or burden will utterly overcome the disciple of Jesus Christ (cf. 1 Cor. 10:13; Rom. 8:36-29).

Getting back to our passage…. Everyone is loaded down with issues, cares, hardships and things that go along with life as it is presently. We cannot escape obligations, requirements, necessities and even the adversities of the world, including sometimes sickness and tragedies. Paul is saying that as disciples of Christ, we must be prepared to carry our load in this world as we serve God. We cannot off-load our responsibilities or the burdens of our lives onto others. We are to be self-reliant, to man-up to what it takes to serve God and live as a disciple of Jesus Christ in this world.
This principle is particularly brought to light in the practical instructions Paul gives in two places in his letters. To the Thessalonians Paul wrote that those who refused to work, should not be allowed to eat (2 Thess. 3:10). The context is people who refused to carry their weight in the assembly and fellowship among God’s people. They were living off of the compassion and largesse of others in the church. They were non-contributors. Paul had a very low threshold of tolerance for non-contributors. If they won’t work and help in the support of the church and its fellowship, don’t feed them! Everyone has to help carry the load, and no one should expect someone else to carry their load, or to get a free ride! That is presumption! In another place Paul spoke about young widows not being included on the list of widows who received support from the church (1 Tim. 5:3-16). The context is similar to the Thessalonian one, where Paul mentions busybodies (cf. 2 Thess. 3:11; 1 Tim. 5:13), people who do not work or contribute, but who go about involving themselves in the affairs of others. They don’t carry their own load, but they are quick to tell others how they should go about carrying theirs! Apparently the widows on the list for support from the church, were required to make a vow of commitment to the church, to work and serve, and had to be over 60 years old (1 Tim. 5:10-12). The younger widows, generally were not committed to serving, and had a track record of breaking their commitment to the church, by which they received assistance, and were more concerned about remarrying than serving (1 Tim. 5:11). In other words, they ran the risk of breaking their word, their covenant, and were not carrying their weight in ministry and service. The principle is that everyone should take responsibility for themselves and not burden the church with any unnecessary drain on its resources.

However, this is balanced by Paul’s earlier instruction that we should bear one another’s burdens (Gal. 6:2)! What is in view is that wearinesomeness and tiresomeness of carrying the burden and load. We are to notice and be aware of the heavy burdens others are carrying, and are to show compassion when we can. We are not to ignore them, but to offer support, help and encouragement. We are to be willing to carry our own load, but not abdicate responsibility to assist others when they are overpowered by their load! We must care about others, to notice them, to support and assist them, especially when they load is heavy and it is overcoming them.

Anger Management: Although it is not stated in this way, Paul advocates anager management. In our culture anger management means not doing anything rash in the grip of white heat passion. It is stopping short of violence or illegal activity when expressing anger. Almost anything else is in bounds! We are encouraged to express our feelings in the strongest terms, with whatever language it takes. People often rage at one another in public. Others cut off all ties and severe relationships comepletely. Still others retreat into a personal world of bitterness, haboring illwill and resentment toward the object of their anger. Anger may be externalized in rage or it can be internalized as bitterness. Anger is a real problem, and there is not a living person who has not had a problem with anger at some point.

Anger is conceived of an being almost always negative. And yet on at least one occasion Jesus was angry enough to overturn tables and throw people out of the temple (Matt. 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-17; Luke 19: 45-46; John 2:13-17). On other occasions Jesus angrily remonstrated with the Pharisees and religious leaders (Mark 3:5; Even God is described as being angry and references are made to his wrath or anger over sin (cf. Ex. 4:14; 15:7; 22:24; 32:10-12; Lev. 6:28; Num. 11:1, 33; 25:3, 4; 32:13; Deut. 4:25; 6:15; 9:7, 18-19; 11:17; 13:17; 29:23-24; 29:28; 21:29; Josh. 7:1; 23:16; Judg. 2:14; 3:8; 2 Sam. 6:7; 24:1; 1 Kings 14:9, 15, 22; 15:30; 16:2, 7, 13, 33; 21:22; 22:53; 2 Kings 13:3; 17:11, 17; 21:6, 15; 22:17; 23:19, 26; 24:20; et. al. Isa 5;25; 7:4; Jer 4:8, 26; 25:7; et. al. Hab. 3:12; Zeph. 2:2; 3:8; 8:14; 10:3). The little incident described by Mark, just before the cleansing of the temple puts the anger of Jesus in perspective. On his way to the temple Jesus saw a fig tree and going over to it looked for fruit. Finding nothing but leaves, he cursed tree and it withered and died (Mark 11:12-14). At first blush this seems capricious, since it was not time for figs yet. Afterward Jesus entered the temple and cast out the money changers and merchants. His action was more than a fit of rage from a man who missed breakfast. Going to the tree was an illustration of the showyness of Israel’s religious piety that had yielded not fruit in terms of bringing the good news of redemtpion to the world (cf. Isa 42:6; 49:6). So when Jesus entered into the temple to angrily eject the merchants and money changers it was an illustrative act of God’s judgment, demonstrating the rejection of Israel.
In this light the actions of Jesus, although prompted by anger, were never out of control. He did not internalize his anger and become bitter. Neither did he externalize it without in some kind of outrages explosion of passion. Instead, Jesus gave exprression to his anger is a controlled way that put Israel on notivce that they had fallen out of favor with God. After he had cast out the money changers, Jesus sat down, perfectly in control of himeslf, and taught.

The Bibel is full of examples of anger, sometimes the anger of good, goldy people, other times the anger of ungodly and wicked people. Occasionally the anger of a goldy person may get out of control and produce diasterous results. Anger in an of itself is not alwasy treated as a sin by God! Sometimes anger is treated as justfied, or as neutral. Anger wrongly expressed is always negative and sinful, coming under either judgment or correction of God (cf. Jonah 4).
Paul said that when we become anger that we sould not sin, and not let the sun go down on our anger. He also said to settle the issue that has provoked your anger quickly, and do not let it fester. What makes anger sinful?

Anger that escapes self-control and that is expressed badly, or in relatiliation, or inappropriately, disproportionately, or with violence or damage done to someone else simply to exact revenge is sin. Anger that controls behavior is sin, rather than being under control. Anger should never be allowed to get into the drivers seat!

Anger that is allowed to sit and fester is also sin. When a person is caught in a cylce of becoming more and more embittered because of an intitial anger, it is sin. Paul counsels his readers to settle the issues that cause anger quickly, before the sun goes down. What he means is that the issues that cause anger should be addressed before they produce bitterness and resentment.

The aim of his instruction is the preservation of relationships. To Paul the preservation of relationships in the church was paramount. Fellowship should not be broken for any trivial reason. Unity in the church of heart and mind should be presrved by great effort and grace on the part of each beleiver in the church (Eph. 4:3). Wherever friction is introduced into relationships in the church, and where it is not handled with great patience, grace and love, it will do damage. Three things can be damaged when relationships are borken by friction and anger. First, the connection people have with one anoterh is damaged, love is lost, closeness and intimacy in fellowship in the church. What we once had in terms of closeness can be easily lost due to unaddressed and unresolved friction. Secondly, the fellowship and unity of the church can be damaged to the extent that it can hurt the effectiveness of the ministry. The church cannot be effective in doing God’s will when it energy is used up in trying to manage the bitter rvivarly or anger of a few people. Thirdly, the reputation of the kingdom of God is hurt. It is not surprizing that there are moments of disagreement in the church; we expect that, because we are human after all! What is surprising is when church people deal with anger poorly, or with more or less uncontrolled passion, so that it gets out into the community. When church people deal with anger badly it hurts the reputation of the kingdom of God. The Lord will not let you damage his kingdom! He will confront you with it! At the point that anger brings damage, we have crossed over to the place where anger has produced sin. God expects us to manage our anger to the extent that we avoid damage to the church, one another and the reputation of the kingdom of God!

Why manage anger? Well apart from the damage we have just talked about, when anger becomes sin, Satan uses it as a foothold to undermine the work of God, and the existence of the church. The church over the centuries had had a lot of exprience with anger. Anger has driven the church to wars, internal and external, tortureing one another, schisms, exiling of the saints, bitter resentments, doctrinla dn dogmatic disputes, etc., all of which has damaged the church and the repurtation of the kingdom of God. Satan has used anger as a foothold to undermine unity and relationships which destroys the effectiveness of the church. The church is the sum of its fellowship and unity, and when that is damaged it cannot effectively fulfill its role as the reprentative of God and his gospel on earth. Satan also uses anger as a foothold to do personal internal damage to the spiritual life of the beliver. Through resentment and bitterness he can undermine spirituality and purity of heart and spirit. Anger becomes the the tool that can draw a beleiver away from God, because of its poisoning effect on the spirit of the beleiver. Anytime something enters our lives that produces attitudes and dispositions that are not reflecive of the nature of God, his holiness and righteousness, then sin stands a chance of toppling us from our place with God. Anger is one of the chief tools in Satan’s arsenal to accomplish this goal.

Who should address the issue of anger? What causes anger to linger unaddress for long periods of time. The answer is simple. It goes unaddressed by the parties involved. Other than raging at one another, either openly or in private, neither party makes any kind of effort to resolve the issues that surround the anger, by seeking to engage in dialogue with the other party. So who should take the first step to resolve anger? Well, the answer almost always is, he or she should! Almsot everyone who is angry expects the other party to makes the first move! When we have been offended we expect the party who has offended us, and caused us to become angery at them to relaize we are offended and angry, and to seek reconcilation. This is a universal perception throughout humanity. Who should make the first move is the biggest stumbling block to reconcilation and resolution of anger.

It was because of this, Jesus said if a brother has something against you go and addressed it (Matt. 5:23-24; 18:14-17; Luke 17:3). Jesus places the burden of initiating reconciliation on the party that recognizes there is an issue. It is possible to not know that someone is angery with you, but a lot of the time we know it and consider it their problem. But Jesus’ puts the initiative of reconciliation on the person who knows when someone has been offended by them. The responsibility at that point is not backdown or turn away from truth or righteousness, but to open the door to reconciliation. Nowhere are we to compromise truth and righteousness even for relationships, but we are expected to make an effort to initiate restortation of relationships. The point is Jesus said it is not a game of each party waiting out the otehr until one breaks down and apologioses. We are not to be passive in reconciliation, but aggressive enough to initiate a process of reconciliation, to see it it is possible.

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