Gal 5:22—“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.” I have a difficult time thinking of anything else we need in our lives other than the fruit mentioned in verse 22. Fruit can be defined as: that which originates or comes from something, an effect or result. In other words, when we walk in the leading of the Spirit, we can expect the fruit of the Spirit to result. We sometimes get it backwards and strive for the fruit; to be loving, to be kind or try to have a lot of patience, etc. We get the cart before the horse.
Paul taught the Galatians to live by the gospel of grace, but they were reverting back to a gospel of the law. The law was given for a time until Christ came. It was given to deal with sin and our flesh.
Rom 8:2—“The law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and death.” Our new law is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ. He has set us free from the old law. And in 8:14—“For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are the sons of God.” He wants to lead us in every area of our lives, through His Spirit. Even though we are not under the old Jewish laws, if we were born a Gentile, there are many Christian “laws” that have been created over the centuries to deal with our flesh (sin) leading us away from a gospel of grace, and the law of the Spirit of life in Christ, similar to the Galatians.
In Galatians 5:6—“For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything but faith working through love. You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?” Verse 13—“For you were called to freedom” Verse 16—“But I say walk by the Spirit and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.”
Laws (our self-effort) hinder us from obeying the truth. We were crucified with Him, no longer a slave to sin, Rom 6. There is a long list of the deeds of the flesh in Gal 5:19-21, immorality, impurity, sensuality etc. It is not an extensive list because it ends with “things like these,” meaning there is more to add. We focus much energy, teachings, books, programs and strategies on overcoming these deeds.
In the same way we develop similar teachings and strategies to achieve the fruit of the Spirit thus creating underlying laws (self-effort) to get us there. In both cases, (deeds of the flesh and fruit of the Spirit) we are missing a basic truth. If we are led by the Spirit, we will not carry out the deeds of the flesh. If we walk by the Spirit, we will see the fruit of the Spirit grow in our lives.
I certainly agree with the Jesus Plus Nothing perspective. In the same vein I would say: The Spirit Plus Nothing describes our walk in a gospel of grace. You were “running well”, Paul said to the Galatians. “Who hindered you from obeying the truth?” As I said in an earlier blog, if the point of a teaching or doctrine depends on our efforts instead of relying on the Spirit to lead, I do not swallow it. The only words I allow to be planted in my heart/mind are those that pass the “Spirit led and grace test”. When I hear how we have to work hard to be like Christ, I think, wait, He is already living in us. When we follow the leading of the Spirit, He is being expressed through us. We do not have to work hard to be like Jesus because we are already one with Him. The fruit of the Spirit is an expression of Him and His life in us. We have faith that we have been made acceptable and justified through His blood on the cross and there is nothing we can do to add to His gift of righteousness.
John 7:38—“He who believes in Me”, as the Scripture said, “From his inner most being will flow rivers of living water”….”But this He spoke of the Spirit…”. These rivers of living water flow as we follow His Spirit each day. 2 Cor 3:6—“Who has also made us able ministers of the new testament, not of the letter, but of the Spirit: for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life.” With good intentions, when we try to follow the letter of scripture, we are depending on our efforts instead of letting the Spirit lead thus producing His fruit. Trying to follow the letter to deal with our flesh is like pouring gasoline on a fire.
Lord, teach us to recognize the leading of your Spirit that we might walk by your Spirit each day. May the fruit of your Spirit grow in us and minister to others.