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What I Have Learned: Fruit of the Spirit Context

Updated: Jun 20, 2020

As I share what I have learned in looking at each attribute of the Fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self control) my hope is that we can fix our eyes on a God who is the SOURCE of those attributes and as we do that we can desire him more deeply as we know him more fully. As we do this we are naturally drawn more deeper into a posture of willingness to make us more like Him. Therefore, we fix our eyes on HIM and become captivated by HIS character.

Before we get into each attribute, we first must understand the context of the book of Galatians and the chapter itself . . .

Context of the Book of Galatians

Paul's letter to the churches in Galatia at the time he is writing was teaching people how to live out a new life in Christ. In writing this letter he wants to lay out for them what it looks like to live a life according to the gospel in response to accepting Jesus as their savior. Early in the letter he explains to the people the meaning of justification. “Yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.” (Galatians 2:16) This declared righteousness means that someone is in right relationship with God, forgiven, given place in God’s family and results in heart transformation by God’s grace. The point is clear here that this justification only comes from trusting in what God did for them through Jesus, not by what they do for themselves.

In the book of Galatians most of these converts who come to know Jesus are of Jewish descent. As Paul writes this letter, he is correcting a common misbelief that invades the church there from false teaching which says essentially that you have to follow Christ AND follow the old testament law for the sake of your own righteousness in order to be right with God.

Paul is telling them and reminding them of the grace of the Gospel, that it is not according to the things we do of the flesh, but it is according to the Spirit of God.

His ultimate message is that when people trust in Jesus, slowly what is true of him, becomes true of them. Paul writes, “For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. (Galatians 2:19-20)

Now this has HUGE implications to those who believe in Jesus!

Context of the Fruit of the Spirit Chapter

In chapter 5, Paul addresses how it is that Christians will learn God’s will without being under the law by explaining the power of the Holy Spirit! The thing about the law is that it is good, but we are not. We are by nature sinful people (Ephesians 2:1-2). And although the law is good, and as summarized by Jesus in the 10 Commandments and in the famous summary “love your God and love your neighbor as yourself” the law itself does not give us power to obey them. In contrast, the good news is Jesus DID fulfill the law that no one in human history had ever been able to keep - but he did so on our behalf.

Paul wants to lay out the distinction of living according to the “flesh” compared to living a life according to the “spirit.”

He wants to make it clear that Christianity is not like the Jewish religion and like the ways of the law. You are not going to the temple to seek God’s favor but God himself dwells in you through the power of the spirit. So he is clearly explaining to the people of the Galatia church the extreme contrast to life according to the flesh and life according to the spirit. Paul explains in this chapter you try to do things in the flesh for the sake of your own righteousness something drastically different will reap harvest compared to if you allow the spirit of God to be at work in your heart.

This fruit is not automatic. It is like real fruit that needs careful planting, watering, nurturing, cultivating, pruning and ultimately “keeping in step with the spirit” as Paul puts it (Galatians 5:25). Through the Spirit, Jesus makes us into people who love God and love others.

The fruit of the spirit is a summary of gospel-living and gospel power.

We are reminded in Galatians that we can NOT produce our own righteousness before God or earn his favor. There is nothing we can do to make God love us more today and there is nothing that we can do to make Him love us less today. What freedom is there in this truth!

The freedom that comes when we are in step with the Spirit does not bring about in us a nature to do whatever we please but produces in us a life of righteousness through Christ alone in faith. As we accept Christ’s invitation of amazing grace, by placing our faith exclusively in Christ we receive the in-dwelling of the Holy Spirit which is going to bear the fruit of righteousness. The fruit of that righteousness is the fruit of the spirit in us.

What a beautiful picture of the power of the gospel alive!

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