“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” Galatians 22-23
The Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Many times these attributes have been seen as a check-list for Christian character. We often compartmentalize them as separate attributes that must be attained. I often hear people say things like, “I know God wants me to be more patient… have more joy… be more loving… etc.” But is that the message that Paul is trying to give in Galatians 5? Is he saying that in order to be good Christians we must be good, faithful, and kind?
“For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” Galatians 5:1
The heart of Paul’s words is not to encourage good moral character. In context, the point he is really trying to get at is freedom. In verse one he states that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free, then goes on throughout the rest of the chapter talking about the flesh and the spirit. Paul is writing to the Galatians in order to remind them of what it means to be in Christ. The fruit of the Spirit is not a list of requirements for acceptance, it is a list of incentives for an invitation.
Paul reminds us that it is for freedom that Christ has set us free.
He sets us free from our sin and all the consequences of it without any condition. He does it so that we can be free in him to receive all that comes with being a child of God. If we have been set free by Jesus Christ we are made new in him and have access to bear the fruit that only comes from God. Verses 22-23 are assurances that when we belong to Christ our lives and our character reflect his own. The fruit of the Spirit is a description of God’s character and only when we are in Christ can we reflect his nature.
Too often we strive to achieve upstanding moral character thinking it will get us right with God. We are called to be more like Jesus, to follow him, but it is an impossible task without him. God does not place this impossible burden on us. He wants to set us free from the one we already have placed on ourselves, hindering us from living a life of true freedom. He wants to set us free from our self-righteousness and the shame of our human failure.
Let us humble ourselves before him, allowing the desires of our flesh to be crucified with Christ and let us be raised in freedom in newness of spirit with him.
“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.” Galatians 5:16-18