Galatians 5:16-26 The fruit of the Spirit

Notes from sermon preached on 23rd October 2011: Biblical meditation 6

Introduction: an encouragement  

16 So I say, live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 

This week is the final week in this series on biblical meditation. Biblical meditation isn’t just theory, but it’s meant to change us so we become more Christ-like.  That’s why we’ve come to Galatians chapter 5 which teaches us about the Christ-like qualities – called the fruit of the Spirit: love joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  In the last chapter of the book, Selwyn Hughes concentrates on the first three fruits: love, joy and peace.  I’m not going to repeat what he says since you can read it for yourself.  This morning I want to talk about the fruit of the Spirit in the wider context of this passage to show how Biblical Meditation can help to produce them.

My desire is to see this congregation walking in the Spirit, and to exhibit all the fruit of the Spirit.  To show the fruit of the Spirit we must first be filled with the Spirit, and then keep on being filled with the Spirit, since we leak.  We need to ask God and sometimes repent from obvious sins in our lives.  This whole passage in Galatians 5 is filled with the Spirit.  The Spirit is mentioned seven times; He is our Sanctifier who can subdue our sinful nature; and He causes the fruit of righteousness / Christlikeness to grow in our lives.

So Paul begins by encouraging the Galatians Christians to, live by the Spirit.  This is the sort of encouragement we really need especially when we realise have a foe to contend with: our sinful nature. In the older translations of the Bible the ‘sinful nature’ is called ‘the flesh’.  This doesn’t mean our material bodies are evil, it means our nature has been corrupted by sin.

The sinful nature represents the rebellion in our hearts against God.  We are born with it.  But when we are born again, born of the Spirit, the Spirit renews us and regenerates us, and gives us a new nature.  And then the Spirit remains in us.  To live in the Spirit is to live in the reality of God’s new work in our lives.  Biblical meditation is one important way to help us to this.

Main Points

1.       The inner conflict

17-18 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the law.

Paul is writing to Christians.  He says the Spirit and the sinful nature are in conflict.  It’s like a tug of war, pulling in opposite directions.  This sinful nature wants gratification, but at the same time our new nature wants to please God.

Some people say Christians shouldn’t have any inner conflict because our old sinful nature is dead and we now have peace with God.  But we live in a sinful world and we experience temptation.  We are not immune from this conflict.  In fact the experience of this conflict can be much stronger for Christians since we have a new nature.

Paul says the result of this conflict is that “you do not do what you want.”  Our spiritual and renewed nature wants to do good, but the sinful nature pulls the other way – for example we want to say sorry to someone, but our pride get in the way and we ignore it.  Our sinful nature resists everything that is spiritual, even as a Christian.  The solution is to walk in the Spirit, and this is where biblical meditation can really help.

In the book, p34, week 2, Selwyn Hughes said this:

“Many Christians are caught in the treadmill of daily gritting their teeth of do God’s will.  Such attempts to conquer our rebellion (i.e. sinful nature) will leave us exhausted.  The way to victory is to flood our minds with God’s thoughts through systematic Scripture meditation.”

2.       The acts of the sinful nature

19-21 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealously, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness and orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Now Paul catalogues the acts of the sinful nature, and it doesn’t make very pleasant reading.    Some things, like the pictures of Gaddafi’s dead body all over the papers this week, are not very pleasant.  There were probably necessary to convince everyone he was really dead.  This list of sins isn’t very nice, but necessary to convince us of our corrupt and depraved human nature.  We live in a fallen world so it should not surprise us that we see these things all around and in ourselves as well.

There are four categories:

  1. Sexual sins: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery

It’s easy just to say this means sexual intercourse between unmarried people, but it involves a lot more than that, even the thoughts of our hearts.  And especially for young people who are not married I would really encourage you to go God’s way and wait, even though this will feel like swimming against the tide.

  1. Religious sins: idolatry and witchcraft

Idolatry is the worship of false gods, and witchcraft is tampering with the secret powers of evil.

  1. Relational sins: hatred, discord, jealously, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy

These are sins against other people which result in the breakdown of personal relationships

  1. Drinking sins: drunkenness and orgies(revelry)
  2. e.       And such like: et cetera

Paul then gives a strong warning:  I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.  Salvation is by faith – we know that.  But if that faith doesn’t change the way we live, is it really saving faith?

Matthew Henry says in his commentary:

“These are sins which will undoubtedly shut men out of heaven. The world of spirits can never be comfortable to those who plunge themselves in the filth of the flesh; nor will the righteous and holy God ever admit such into his favour and presence, unless they be first washed and sanctified, and justified in the name of our Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God, 1Co_6:11.”

We all need to be washed and sanctified and justified in the name of our Lord Jesus.  This brings us onto the fruit of the Spirit.

3.       The fruit of the Spirit

22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

This makes pleasant reading!   Through our commitment to Christ, we have been washed (forgiven) and sanctified (by work of the Spirit.)  These are nine Christian graces God wants to work in our lives.

The acts of the sinful nature are a description of sin; so the fruit of the Spirit are a description of the work of God’s grace.  We can put these fruits in three categories:

  1. Love, joy, peace.  For the Christian our first love is our love for God, and this is demonstrated through love for our neighbour; our chief source of joy is the joy of the Lord; and our deepest peace is our peace with the God of all peace.
  2. Patience, kindness goodness.   Patience is sometimes called longsuffering, suffering other people for a long time.  Just as I was preparing at just this point I got a phone call from someone trying to sell me something, and I realised how little patience I have!

Kindness is our disposition towards other people to do them good.  Goodness is actually doing others good as there is opportunity.

  1. Faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  Faithfulness is reliability, loyalty, steadfastness; gentleness is being calm and humble; self-control is self-discipline over our lives.

All these are fruit of the Spirit.  Imagine a fruit tree laden with fruit.  It’s a natural part of the life cycle of the tree.  In the same way spiritual fruit in our lives should be a natural (or supernatural) consequence of the Spirit-led life.  And just as it takes time for natural fruit to grow and develop, so it takes time for the spiritual graces to grow in our lives.  Biblical meditation enables this to happen: putting theory into practice.

Conclusion: victory in Christ

24-26 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature which its passions and desires.  Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.  

Paul says here, ok, since we live by the Spirit, let’s keep in step with the Spirit; continue to walk by the Spirit; continue to be led by the Spirit.  If we do this we’ll see fruitfulness in our lives.

Paul is still very aware of the sinful nature – he uses a very strong expression to show what our attitude to the sinful nature should be if we are going to keep in step with the Spirit.

Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature.  I think this means three thing:

  1. We should have no respect or regard at all for our sinful nature, just as crucifixion was a punishment for the lowest of the low;
  2. We should realise that denial of sinful nature will at times cause pain, just as crucifixion was painful;
  3. Figuratively we should nail our sinful nature to the cross.  We shouldn’t feel any mercy for it. We should regard it as dead and crucified.  But we will still experience temptation.  Luther said, “Birds may fly over our heads, but we shouldn’t allow them to nest in our hair.”

Walking in the Spirit is setting ourselves with God’s help to follow Christ’s example.  WWJD is a good slogan to remember when faced with decisions: What Would Jesus Do?  In order to make the right decision we have to have our minds set in the right direction.

“Those who live according to the flesh have their minds set on what the flesh desires; but those who live in accordance with the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires.”  [Romans 8:5]

To help us do what Jesus would do we need to have our minds set on spiritual things, “what the Spirit desires.”

Biblical meditation (memorisation and chewing it over) helps us to do this and has a very powerful effect in our lives.  It is what used to be called, “a means of grace.”  It’s one way, together with other ‘means of grace’ like prayer, public worship, the Lord’s Supper and fellowship, to help us to walk actively in the way of the Spirit.  And it’s only by using these means that the graces or fruit of the Spirit will appear in our lives.

I commend biblical meditation to you.

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One Response to Galatians 5:16-26 The fruit of the Spirit

  1. Pingback: “FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT” ~Calling All D.U.C.K.S. To Come Out From Under The Bed~ « lordjesussaves

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