MARTIN CHEMNITZ PRESS
A MIGHTY FORTRESS LUTHERAN CHURCH
Pastor Gregory L. Jackson, Ph.D.
6421 W. Poinsettia Drive
Glendale, Arizona 85304-2419
FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT
Galatians 5:16 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. 18 But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. 24 And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.
Christians in all denominations make the same mistake. The liberals believe, teach, and confess that the conservatives are inherently sinful for various reasons. The conservatives believe, teach, and confess that the liberals are inherently sinful for other reasons. Both sides establish a legalistic framework and make their decisions based upon that and not God’s Word.
Legalism means inventing a law and making that man-made law a requirement for salvation. We are all legalistic Pharisees by nature. Our sinful nature seeks to create a scheme that makes us comfortable. The Spirit is at war against this, as St. Paul teaches here. In other words, the Word of God battles against our legalism:
First – by showing us our own sinfulness, so we cannot condemn others;
Second – by showing us the Savior, who has died for our sins and daily gives us the power to love the Ten Commandments and to follow them willingly.
Condemning legalism among the conservatives is absolutely essential, because legalism can only resolve itself in two ways. In one sense, it ends up being exactly the opposite – hedonism (pursuit of pleasure) and anti-nomianism (anti-law). The Assemblies of God used to be against makeup, cards, dancing, movies, and so forth. The same denomination ended up creating headlines with its fleshly scandals. Children raised in legalism will say to themselves, as adults do, “The Bible doesn’t condemn (fill in the blanks).” They are correct, so they tend to toss out the Ten Commandments with the legalism they hate.
Another resolution of legalism is the downward spiral of hatred, anger, strife, pride, and so forth. St. Paul was pointing this out in the works of the flesh. If people want to claim salvation on what they do, then they should look at this list. The Word of God clearly teaches that our best intentions and noblest motives are never free from sinfulness. Any claim of being superior--because of what we do--must be lined up with the works of the flesh.
The apostle was addressing the issue of circumcision in this case and with meat offered to idols in writing to the Corinthians. Both issues involve legalism, because the Word of God does not require circumcision or condemn eating food offered to idols. Therefore the Galatian trouble-makers are called Judaizers because they wanted to impose Jewish ritual law upon Christians as essential.
Many issues of today can be approached in the same legalistic fashion. Unfortunately, they are. The Law always condemns, and we can see the limitations of the Law in legalism. One certain item is denounced and made to seem essential for salvation. Either it must be done or it cannot be done. However, in each group, the item is different, so it cannot be God’s universal or natural law, the Ten Commandments, but a narrow issue. Among the Lutherans, one group insists on women wearing hats. In another one, no one is allowed to have an insurance policy from one of two fraternal insurance companies. The sins of these companies are great, but are they worse than Prudential, a company whose fraudulent practices led to a book called Serpent on the Rock?
Another aspect of legalism is turning something good into Law and then thinking only in terms of condemnation. One example is the King James Version of the Bible. Do we use it because it is the best translation or because it a rabbit’s foot to protect us from all harm? Some Lutherans think that all problems stem from not using the KJV. So I am glad to have my sinful nature surgically removed simply by the translation I use.
I can condemn anyone who does not like to garden, or I can tell people that I enjoy gardening. The Law response makes people duck for cover. (Wow. Does ever he hate people who don’t have gardens!) As one person wrote to me, he felt everyone not using the KJV was condemned on the spot. This binds people’s conscience and makes them obey out of fear or to make a show of piety. That is why legalism causes a lot of anger, strife, and hypocrisy.
When I write or discuss gardening, those who love gardening join the discussion. Some who hate gardening (my mother made me do it – one explanation) will at least listen and try. The Gospel approach opens up discussion and motivates through love.
When I was sure that the New International Version was a bad translation, based on my own experience and the comments of my son in seminary, an elderly gentleman asked me why I had NIV citations in my published articles and books. I said, “That’s the only computer Bible I have right now.” He did not condemn me. He first asked why and then said, “I have a KJV computer Bible for you. I will give it to you for free.” He did that and from then on I used only the KJV. This retired engineer, Jacob Kunstman, had more influence on my articles than a pastor who published letters in Christian News asking how anyone could belong to a denomination using the KJV. The pastor said at one point that all other translations should be burned. As Walther taught, “The Law always condemns.”
Commanding and forbidding are the functions of the Law. In contrast, the Gospel moves us to follow out of love. John Calvin, the Swiss Reformer had city ordinances passed in Geneva, Switzerland, commanding daily worship. The laws were passed and soon were ignored. It was an embarrassment. In one famous case, a Lutheran man was excommunicated because he took his son out of the church’s parochial school for one year, with the intention of putting him back in. This was to provide the child with some English schooling instead of German only.
One could condemn legalism all day, but that would be contrary to the emphasis of Christian worship. The Gospel must dominate our lives and our worship. The Savior is not a new Moses, a new law-giver, but our Redeemer from sin, our Good Shepherd who gently guides us.
In this light we can see that the Holy Spirit has given us a list to examine each and every day, the nine-fold fruits of the Spirit. The number is not accidental. In the Bible, the work of the Holy Trinity is given to us in groups of three. This reminds us that, for instance, faith, hope, and love originate in God, not us.
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is
love, joy, peace,
longsuffering, gentleness, goodness,
faith, 23 Meekness, temperance:
against such there is no law.
Christ came to us to die on the cross for our sins. He takes away our sins by planting faith in our hearts. The one single thing we must have is faith. The Holy Spirit creates faith through the Gospel. That is why Lutherans emphasize so often that faith means trust. Our minds reject the concept that the perfect Son of God atoned for our sins. This is not against Christ, but us. Because of our sinful nature, we think, “Not my sins! No, my sins are too great. I have not done enough, believed hard enough, been contrite enough…” But the Gospel repeatedly says to us,
A) Romans 5:6 For when we were yet without strength, in due time Christ died for the ungodly.
B) Romans 5:8 But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, [gross or open sinners] Christ died for us.
C) Romans 5:10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life.
Therefore, in Paul’s most important letter, we have a three-fold affirmation of the Gospel, establishing the atonement apart from any quality or virtue in ourselves. Christ died for the ungodly, for those who commit the most obvious sin. He died for us while we were still His enemies.
Only the Gospel can produce fruits and these fruits are God’s work through the Word. The fruits grow from “abiding in Christ,” as John 15:1-8 teaches us. If we abide in Christ, we will be fruitful. Abiding in Christ means hearing His Word and receiving the Sacraments. If we do not abide in Christ, we will wither away spiritually and be cast away.
Because the Gospel only gives comfort, it produces the fruits of love, joy, and peace. We have often seen the effect of romantic love. When a couple is engaged to be married, the future bride glows with happiness and peace. If a girl is newly engaged and cranky, then something is wrong, because the pledge of love and commitment by itself changes one's outlook on life.
The atoning death of Christ tells us, “For God so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life.” Trusting in God’s love causes us to be loving as well.
Joy is a fruit of the Spirit that goes beyond the happiness that so many people promise us. One cannot be happy during bankruptcy, in jail, or one a hospital bed waiting for surgery. But a believe can be joyful during times of great trial and distress, knowing that God works everything for the good for those who love Him, who have been called according to His purpose.
We have as much difficulty with success and power as we have with difficulties. To be joyful when things go well means attributing all good things to God and not to ourselves. The Pharisee within us is tempted to say, “Well, I deserved this good fortune. I worked for it.” After living a few years, a believer knows that nothing happens apart from God’s will.
Peace is most importantly the peace that comes from knowing our sins are forgiven through Christ, that we will enjoy eternal life with Christ and all believers in Him. If everything has been done for us, what is left to worry about? All our anxieties are based upon ourselves, and they are wiped out (at least reduced) by the knowledge of salvation through Christ.
Longsuffering means enduring through great hardship and not giving in to despair. Anyone can be patient for a few days or years. Longsuffering can exist only when someone receives from God the message that everything has a purpose, whether we can see that purpose or not.
Gentleness comes from the love God places in our hearts. A loving person is gentle. Paul told the Thessalonians (1 Thess. 2:7) that he was “gentle as a nurse” among them, because even then a nurse was known as the prime example of gentleness. A nurse must care for the sick and disabled, not despising the disgusting (dis-grossting, as one child said) work of the profession. No one wants to have a nurse or physician who is rough in manner and action. We remember leaving a medical office throbbing in pain, especially when it is needless. We also appreciate gentleness in people. The Gospel makes people in conflict treat issues with gentleness, knowing every believer is a forgiven sinner, a redeemed trespasser.
Goodness is closely related to gentleness. It is a quality of looking for something good to do for others, without expecting praise or reward. The Gospel-led person cannot help doing things for others, because the divine energy of love does not stop to say, “And what will I get out this?”
Faithfulness is highly valued because it is so rare. Being trustworthy means doing what we say we believe. It is the opposite of hypocrisy and pretension. Only God can give us the power to be faithful or trustworthy.
Philippians 2:13 For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
Meekness is one of the prime qualities of Christ, often mentioned and held up for our edification.
Matthew 11:29 Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls.
Colossians 3:12 Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;
Titus 3:2 To speak evil of no man, to be no brawlers, but gentle, shewing all meekness unto all men.
2 Timothy 2:25 In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth;
1 Corinthians 4:21 What will ye? shall I come unto you with a rod, or in love, and in the spirit of meekness?
Temperance or self-control – that refers to reigning in our passions, our temptation to let anger, lust, or any other emotion lead us into sin. I have mentioned to a number of people that it is a sin to doubt God’s goodness. Someone who despairs is sinning against God, no less than someone who punches out a policeman or seduces another person.
The Gospel moves us to love what is good, so the yeast of forgiveness influences us to be more fruitful in our daily lives as Christians. May God bless us in glorifying His name in all we do.