For those of us who teach God’s word, I think we all have those passages… those passages that when we hear them taught or quoted out of context it just drives us crazy. I have a few: “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength…” (Phil 4:13) I can remember writing that on my baseball hat in high school. I wasn’t following Jesus, but I sure wanted him to help me throw a fastball 95mph. Funny how that didn’t work out. Okay, so maybe I can’t do all things; maybe that’s not what the passage meant. Another passage that get to me is Matthew 18:20, which reads, “For where two or three are gathered in my name, there am I among them.” The only problem with quoting that verse at the beginning of a worship service is that Jesus is saying it in the context of church discipline. I always get a little bit excited when I hear it quoted, excited that we might just get to see some church discipline… I have always been disappointed!
Alright, all that is introductory to the passage that I wanted to write about. It’s the passage in Galatians where Paul writes about the fruit of the Spirit. Here is what he writes in Galatians 5:19-23,
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
In the context of the book, Paul has made the point that we are free from the law, and that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, in Christ alone. he makes his point pretty clear. And now in this passage he is going to describe what a life that stays in step with the Spirit looks like. And describe is exactly what he does… he doesn’t prescribe. There’s a huge difference! Paul tells us what our life will look like if we live by the Spirit, but I think so much of the time we take Paul’s list and turn it into a new law (not all that different from the law that Paul spent the first 4 chapters telling us we are free from!). I can’t tell you how many messages I have heard where we are encouraged to try to be more patient or loving or kind… and we just totally miss the point.
The point of the whole passage is that IF we walk by the Spirit, THEN we will bear the fruit of the Spirit. We are commanded to walk by the Spirit, we are not commanded to bear fruit. So, if we are not bearing fruit, it means that we are not walking by the Spirit. That’s a little bit more scary than simply needing to work on our patience. Bearing fruit comes when we are filled with worship for our savior who has saved us, not because of anything good in us, but because of his grace and mercy towards us!
I guess I’m a little bit fired up because I taught on this passage last night at theWELL. Here is a link to the audio page on our website where you can download the message.