“Spirit” → Wisdom → Virtue → Life

In many ways, this is a mirror image of the moral trajectory of “flesh” → folly → vice → death; here’s it’s way of life. But this time it’s not so much something that works its way out as something that works it way in. Martyn says,

We have noted that the Spirit and the Flesh are like one another in that both are supra-human powers. Whereas, however, the Flesh is somewhat like the operator of a marionette, pulling certain strings to produce certain effects (erga), the Spirit is like a healthy tree or vine that continuously bears fruit, and this fruit forms a single unit (karpos is singular), even though several of its marks can be listed.1J. Louis Martyn, Galatians, AB (New Haven; London: Yale University Press, 2008), 498.

Attempts at Organization

Some try to subdivide these into groups of threes, because they fairly trip off the tongue that way. And there’s always a desire to discover an inner logic—or at least to impose one for the sake of order.

Lightfoot’s Categories

Lightfoot admitted difficulty in identifying a clear breakdown but opted for this:2Joseph Barber Lightfoot, St. Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians. A Revised Text with Introduction, Notes, and Dissertations, 4th ed., Classic Commentaries on the Greek New Testament (London: Macmillan and Co., 1874), 212.

  1. Christian habits of mind in their more general aspect: “love, joy, peace.”
  2. Special qualities affecting a man’s intercourse with his neighbor: “long-suffering, kindness, beneficence.”
  3. Principles which guide a Christian’s conduct: “honesty, gentleness, temperance.”

Martyn’s Categories

Martyn opts for this arrangement:3Martyn, Galatians, 498.

  1. Love, joy, and peace representing the two great commandments (Deut 6:4–5; Lev 19:18).
  2. Patience, kindness, and generosity characterizing God’s Spirit (Rom 2:4).
  3. Faith, gentleness, and self-control standing in opposition to the vices.

List

I think Gerald Borchert is right when he concludes this: “This list of nine virtues resists ordering even more stubbornly than the list of vices, though it seems significant that most of Paul’s lists begin with or emphasize the virtue of love, undoubtedly the characteristic Paul prized above all others (cf. 5:14; 1 Cor 13:13).”4Roger Mohrlang, Gerald L. Borchert, Romans and Galatians, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2007), 324.

Love

agapē/ἀγάπη—Love evokes both of the two great commandments:

  1. To love God with all your heart (Deut 6:5).
  2. To love your neighbor as yourself (Lev 19:18).

It’s common to suggest that the very word agapē refers to divine, self-sacrificing love as opposed to philos, a supposedly more human love. But the two terms can both be used interchangeably for either divine love or human love. And in this case, we’re talking about both when we use agapē. On the one hand, this love is “fruit of the Spirit,” so it’s divine; on the other hand, this love exhibits itself among human beings living in a loving relationship humanity.

Joy

chara/χαρά—Joy isn’t some innate inner resource or an attitude conditioned by amenable circumstances. It’s interesting that Calvin says, “Joy does not here, I think, denote that ‘joy in the Holy Ghost’ (Rom 14:17) of which he speaks elsewhere, but that cheerful behaviour towards our fellow-men which is the opposite of moroseness.”5John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 167–68. But I think it unlikely that one or more of the things in this list could be cut out from being so directly derived from the Spirit as that.

What I mean is that “joy in the Holy Ghost” can also have its effects in our daily lifestyle. Paul tells the Roman church, “now we can rejoice in our wonderful new relationship with God because our Lord Jesus Christ has made us friends of God” (Rom 5:11). Later he reminds them that the kingdom of God is about “living a life of goodness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom 14:17). He teaches the same thing to the Philippians church, but as an imperative “rejoice in the Lord,” which he later expands, “Always be full of joy in the Lord. I say it again—rejoice!” (Phil 3:1; 4:4).

Peace

eirēnē/εἰρήνη—This peace isn’t some innate inner resource or an attitude conditioned by amenable circumstances or a natural character trait. The Old Testament background would be the promise of shalom. So in the New Testament it can refer to divinely supplied welfare (Mark 5:34; John 14:27; 16:33; 20:19, 21; Rom 1:7; 5:1; 15:33; Gal 5:22; Eph 2:14; Phil 4:7, 9; Col 3:15) and the consequent freedom from worry (Gal 5:22).6James Swanson, Dictionary of Biblical Languages with Semantic Domains: Greek (New Testament (Oak Harbor: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 1997).

Exhortation

Even though peace is spiritual fruit, Paul links it to an implied if… then relationship that requires discipleship: “Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me—everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil 4:9)

Gift of God

Elsewhere in the New Testament, we see peace described as a gift from God; even though it’s linked with faithful discipleship, it’s not a work of the flesh.

  • “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid” (John 14:27).
  • “I have told you all this so that you may have peace in me. Here on earth you will have many trials and sorrows. But take heart, because I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).
  • “Therefore, since we have been made right in God’s sight by faith, we have peace with God because of what Jesus Christ our Lord has done for us” (Rom 5:1).
  • “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” (Gal 5:22).
  • “Then you will experience God’s peace, which exceeds anything we can understand. His peace will guard your hearts and minds as you live in Christ Jesus” (Phil 4:7).
Greeting and Commission

It can be a greeting or a benediction. So when Jesus appeared to his fearful disciples after the resurrection, he incorporated the “peace” into both his greeting and into his evangelistic commission

  • “That Sunday evening the disciples were meeting behind locked doors because they were afraid of the Jewish leaders. Suddenly, Jesus was standing there among them! ‘Peace be with you,’ he said” (John 20:19).
  • “Again he said, ‘Peace be with you. As the Father has sent me, so I am sending you'” (John 20:21).
Benediction

In somewhat of a mirror of a greeting, the “peace” can serve as a Christian benediction:

  • “I am writing to all of you in Rome who are loved by God and are called to be his own holy people. May God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ give you grace and peace” (Rom 1:7).
  • “And now may God, who gives us his peace, be with you all. Amen” (Rom 15:33).
Horizontal Relations
  • “For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us” (Eph 2:14).
  • “And let the peace that comes from Christ rule in your hearts. For as members of one body you are called to live in peace. And always be thankful” (Col 3:15).

In the OT wisdom literature the sowing of discord among brothers is hateful and abominable to God (Pr. 6:19). Peace is therefore one of the marks of the children of God—not only peace with God but peace with one another: in the home (1 Cor. 7:15), in the church (1 Cor. 14:33; Eph. 4:3), in the world (Rom. 12:18), between Jew and Gentile (Eph. 2:14–18). ‘Let us then pursue what makes for peace (τὰ τῆς εἰρήνης) and for mutual upbuilding’ (Rom. 14:19); this is the way to receive the blessing pronounced by Jesus on ‘the peace-makers, for they shall be called sons of God’ (Mt. 5:9).7F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1982), 252–53.

Patience

makrothymia/μακροθυμία—Calvin describes makrothymia as a “gentleness of mind, which disposes us to take everything in good part, and not to be easily offended.”8John Calvin and William Pringle, Commentaries on the Epistles of Paul to the Galatians and Ephesians (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2010), 168. F. F. Bruce puts it this way: “If in English we had an adjective ‘long-tempered’ as a counterpart to ‘short-tempered’, then μακροθυμία could be called the quality of being ‘long-tempered.'”9F. F. Bruce, Galatians, 253.

God’s Patience with Us

Patience in this sense, of course, is preeminently a characteristic of God, who is “long-suffering” with his rebellious creatures. He is the loving Lord who in the face of obstinate infidelity and repeated rejection still says of his people, “How can I give you up, Ephraim? How can I hand you over, Israel?” (Hos 11:8).10George, Galatians, 402.[]

  • “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you fro/mfnm your sin?” (Rom 2:4).
  • “In the same way, even though God has the right to show his anger and his power, he is very patient with those on whom his anger falls, who are destined for destruction” (Rom 9:22).
  • “But God had mercy on me so that Christ Jesus could use me as a prime example of his great patience with even the worst sinners. Then others will realize that they, too, can believe in him and receive eternal life” (1 Tim 1:16).
  • “And remember, our Lord’s patience gives people time to be saved. This is what our beloved brother Paul also wrote to you with the wisdom God gave him…” (2 Pet 3:15).
Our Patience
  • “We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love” (2 Cor 6:6).
  • “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” (Gal 5:22).
  • “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” (Eph 4:2).
Benediction
Just as a benediction incorporates the “peace,” a benediction can include the promise of patience (i.e., endurance):

  • “We also pray that you will be strengthened with all his glorious power so you will have all the endurance and patience you need. May you be filled with joy…” (Col 1:11).
  • “Then you will not become spiritually dull and indifferent. Instead, you will follow the example of those who are going to inherit God’s promises because of their faith and endurance” (Heb 6:12).
Examples of Patience
  • “For examples of patience in suffering, dear brothers and sisters, look at the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord” (Jas 5:10).
  • “… those who disobeyed God long ago when God waited patiently while Noah was building his boat. Only eight people were saved from drowning in that terrible flood” (1 Pet 3:20).

Kindness

chrēstotēs/χρηστότης—The New Testament uses three closely related terms for this idea:

  • chrēsteuomai, to be good, kind, benevolent
  • chrēstos, useful, serviceable, good, benevolent, favorable
  • chrēstotēs, usefulness, good quality, goodness
Kindness, or goodness, appears to be something in short supply, at least among some of the Galatian church. George asks, “Where was this Christian grace to be seen among the Galatians who were biting, devouring, and consuming one another?”10George, Galatians, 403.
Lack of kindness/goodness

“All have turned away; all have become useless. No one does good, not a single one” (Rom 3:12).

God’s kindness (χρηστότης), or goodness
  • “Taste and see that the Lord is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him!” (Ps 34:8).
  • “… now that you have had a taste of the Lord’s kindness.” (1 Pet 2:3).
  • “Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good! His faithful love endures forever” (Ps 136:1).
  • “Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for he is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked” (Luke 6:35).
  • “Don’t you see how wonderfully kind, tolerant, and patient God is with you? Does this mean nothing to you? Can’t you see that his kindness is intended to turn you from your sin?” (Romans 2:4).
  • “Notice how God is both kind and severe. He is severe toward those who disobeyed, but kind to you if you continue to trust in his kindness. But if you stop trusting, you also will be cut off” (Rom 11:22).
  • “So God can point to us in all future ages as examples of the incredible wealth of his grace and kindness toward us, as shown in all he has done for us who are united with Christ Jesus” (Eph 2:7).
  • “But—When God our Savior revealed his kindness and love…” (Titus 3:4).
Our kindness
Us proving ourselves
  • “We prove ourselves by our purity, our understanding, our patience, our kindness, by the Holy Spirit within us, and by our sincere love” (2 Cor 6:6).
Product of the Holy Spirit
  • “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness…” (Gal 5:22).
  • “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col 3:12).
  • Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col 3:12).

Goodness

agathōsynē)/ἀγαθωσύνη—This term is sometimes translated as “goodness” (NLT, ESV, etc.), sometimes as “generosity” (NRSV). The term occurs only four times in the New Testament, twice referring to its divine source, the Holy Spirit (Gal 5:22), which Paul calls “this light within you” (Eph 5:9).

We might talk of someone who does something out of the goodness of his heart; however, like all the rest of the list, this comes not from the heart but from the Holy Spirit. Because the source is divine, Paul is able to tell the Roman church, “I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of goodness. You know these things so well you can teach each other all about them” (Rom 15:14).

So as Paul was encouraging the Thessalonian church to persevere under persecution, he told them how proud he was of their faith and love and how he told everyone about it (2 Thess 1:3–4). Then he reminded them they see God’s eternal justice in the end (2 Thess 1:5-8), and that God would bring them into his presence along with all the other faithful (2 Thess 1:10). And that prompted this prayer:

So we keep on praying for you, asking our God to enable you to live a life worthy of his call. May he give you the power to accomplish all the good things your faith prompts you to do. Then the name of our Lord Jesus will be honored because of the way you live, and you will be honored along with him. This is all made possible because of the grace of our God and Lord, Jesus Christ (2 Thess 1:11–12).

Faithfulness

pistis/πίστις—Faithfulness (pistis) is a characteristic listed not only here but also as one of the gifts of the Spirit. There it’s probably trust in God; here its the believer’s faithfulness.

What can be believed, a state of certainty with regard to belief
  • “For he has set a day for judging the world with justice by the man he has appointed, and he proved to everyone who this is by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:31).
Trust, believe to a complete trust
  • “Then Jesus said to the disciples, ‘Have faith in God'” (Mark 11:22).
  • “A few days later Felix came back with his wife, Drusilla, who was Jewish. Sending for Paul, they listened as he told them about faith in Christ Jesus” (Acts 24:24).
Christian faith, belief in the gospel content
  • “Let me say first that I thank my God through Jesus Christ for all of you, because your faith in him is being talked about all over the world” (Rom 1:8).
  • “God saved you by his grace when you believed. And you can’t take credit for this; it is a gift from God” (Eph 2:8).
  • “All they knew was that people were saying, ‘The one who used to persecute us is now preaching the very faith he tried to destroy!'” (Gal 1:23).
  • “Dear friends, I had been eagerly planning to write to you about the salvation we all share. But now I find that I must write about something else, urging you to defend the faith that God has entrusted once for all time to his holy people” (Jude 3).
Trustworthiness, the state of complete dependability
  • “True, some of them were unfaithful; but just because they were unfaithful, does that mean God will be unfaithful?” (Rom 3:3).
Promise, pledge to be faithful
  • “Then they would be guilty of breaking their previous pledge” (1 Tim 5:12).

Gentleness, meekness, humility

prautēs/πραΰτης—This is a characteristic of God himself, which takes root in the Christian life.

God’s Prior Action
  • “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience” (Col 3:12).
  • “Which do you choose? Should I come with a rod to punish you, or should I come with love and a gentle spirit?” (1 Cor 4:21).
  • “Now I, Paul, appeal to you with the gentleness and kindness of Christ—though I realize you think I am timid in person and bold only when I write from far away” (2 Cor 10:1).
Proof of Conversion

“If you are wise and understand God’s ways, prove it by living an honorable life, doing good works with the humility that comes from wisdom” (Jas 3:13).

Gentle Ministry
Work of Restoration
  • “Dear brothers and sisters, if another believer is overcome by some sin, you who are godly should gently and humbly help that person back onto the right path. And be careful not to fall into the same temptation yourself” (Gal 6:1).
  • “Always be humble and gentle. Be patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of your love” (Eph 4:2).
  • “Gently instruct those who oppose the truth. Perhaps God will change those people’s hearts, and they will learn the truth” (2 Tim 2:25).
Gentle Apologetic and Evangelism
  • “They must not slander anyone and must avoid quarreling. Instead, they should be gentle and show true humility to everyone” (Titus 3:2).
  • “But do this in a gentle and respectful way. Keep your conscience clear. Then if people speak against you, they will be ashamed when they see what a good life you live because you belong to Christ” (1 Pet 3:16).

Self-control

enkrateia/ἐγκράτεια—Self-control, a fruit reminding us that though this is the outgrowth of life in the Spirit it bears fruit in our will and behavior (Acts 24:25; Gal 5:23; 2 Pet 1:6).

While several terms in the list of the effects of the Flesh indicate lack of control—uncontrolled debauchery, outbursts of rage, bouts of drunkenness—Paul fundamentally transforms the opposite motif of self-control by referring to it as a mark of the Spirit’s fruit. In fact, that transformation is a key to the way in which Paul understands what he has listed in vv 19–21a as the effects of the Flesh. His mentioning uncontrolled debauchery, for example, does not function, in the first instance, as an exhortation for the individual to exercise greater self-control. For the strength to exercise self-control comes only in community, and specifically in the community in which the Spirit is bearing its fruit.11Martyn, Galatians, 499.

Characteristics of Love (1 Cor 13)

These virtue lists, and in particular, the fruit of the Spirit, remind us of another list in Paul’s writings, one where he describes love as the regulating principle for how the church exercises the gifts of the Spirit. So we might almost suggest that the gifts of the Spirit must be regulated by the fruit of the Spirit. And why not? If you stuck Paul’s description of the fruit of the Spirit in the middle of his regulations for exercising the gifts of the Spirit, nothing would jar and fall out of place.

Certainly Pentecostal worship is characteristically charged with joy, sometimes ecstatic and generally the rock-solid response to living the blessed life. Where the biblical pattern for exercising the gifts prevails there can also be peace, both in the sense of a peaceful atmosphere that suffuses a genuinely Christian service and in the sense of harmony among the people who gather to worship. Of course, it takes patience if everyone is to take a turn in due time and kindness if one charismatic must defer to another.

Surely goodness is an essential feature in any ministry of helping one another with the gifts of service. I think of how essential faithfulness is for the exercise of the role of pastor-teacher and the church’s deaconal ministries. Or think of how essential gentleness is for the edifying use of the gifts of administration, discerning of spirits, and adjudicating the messages of the prophets. And when we think of self-control, remember that Paul tells us, “people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can take turn” (1 Cor 14:32).

Conclusion

There is no law against these things.—Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. (Gal 5:23b–26)

No law that enables or constitutes these things.—“Paul does not simply mean that the nine virtues which make up the fruit of the Spirit are not forbidden by law; he means that when these qualities are in view we are in a sphere with which law has nothing to do.”12Bruce, Galatians, 255. It’s difficult to turn the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit into legalistic rules, as Paul hints when he says, “against such there is no law.” Yet, by both negative and positive measure, we can look to Galatians 5:16-26 and 1 Corinthians 13 for a measure of what the Christian walk in the community of Christ must look like.


Author: Dale A. Brueggemann

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