whytheology

For the Intersection of the Everyday and the Sacred

March 28 Reflection, Galatians 5:19-26

Galatians 5:19-26 KJV (NIV Link below)

19Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,

20Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies,

21Envyings, 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.

22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

23Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

24And they that are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts.

25If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.

26Let us not be desirous of vain glory, provoking one another, envying one another.

Link to NIV text

Fruit versus Works

While it may be tempting to label this bit here a simple vice/virtue list, things that were common in the Greco-Roman world, Paul makes a subtle shift away from that. Rather than lack of effort versus concerted effort at virtuousness, which one would typically notice in these types of lists, Paul refers to the negative example as “works of the flesh” and the positive as “fruit of the Spirit.” This has been an integral point throughout the letter to the Galatians. Performing works in your own effort will inevitably lead to frustration. The only thing you are capable of doing entirely in your own effort is sin. You cannot live in the Kingdom of God by your effort alone.

In contrast, by abiding in Christ, who is the true vine, through the Holy Spirit we begin to produce fruit. These are not things that we earn or strive at entirely in our own power, but that come about naturally the more we are nourished by God’s spirit. In the same way we don’t say that an apple tree that produced good apples did so because it worked hard. We know that the good fruit it produced was a result of being cared for, having the right soil, getting enough water, and just being a good tree. These are outside of the tree’s control. It didn’t do a good job; it just was good tree. But we aren’t trees. We’re people. Here is the key difference: the tree has no option except to “abide” in its root system, the soil, etc; we have that option. Too many people decide not to abide. This is, it seems, the “natural” choice of our free will. As a result we have only produced rotten fruit. We need a dramatic rescue. Our very core needs to be transformed, and our roots need to be replaced. This is what the Christian walk is about. Jesus transforms our being, and we only give evidence of that transformation once we start abiding in the fresh soil, water, and sunshine that he, the gardener, has provided. Good fruit is the natural product of a good tree. As a Christian you are a good tree. Your old self has already been killed, your new self has a new root system. The question is whether or not you will abide now.

What do you think? Add your thoughts below. What do you think Paul means by keeping up with the Spirit? Do you feel like you always need to improve, like the Spirit is constantly pushing you to reach your own fulfillment? Why do you think Paul says we shouldn’t be conceited or envious of these fruit? Does that mean we can’t celebrate those who exhibit the fruit? Which fruit do you think you exhibit best? Which one do you think God is cultivating in you (working on in you) the most right now?

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