The Fruit of the Spirit
“But the fruit of the spirit is love. joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” — Galatians 5.22, 23. In this chapter the apostle calls our attention to the works of the flesh. They are adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, and such like. These are the out-croppings of an inward principle of sin. These are the fruits of sin that exists in the human soul. We are told that they who commit such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. Over against the works of the flesh, the apostle says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance.” Let me call your prayerful attention to three things in this discussion.
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I. OUR RELATION TO GOD
1. Love. The first group includes the inner graces of the heart toward the Lord. Love is placed first, and is the sweetest grace of the whole cluster, and none of the rest can exist without it. There are no substitutes for love — heaven itself has discovered none. Paul tells us in the thirteenth chapter of First Corinthians that the tongues of men and angels cannot take its place. The gifts of prophecy, declaring the truth, or foretelling future events cannot be accepted in the place of love. Love will suffer long, endure. hardships, opposition and persecution; it is tender, kind, courteous and obliging. It does not behave itself unseemly — is never rude, but always’ civil. It does not seek its own, is never satisfied save in the comfort, welfare, and salvation of others. It beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things — love never fails!
2. Joy. Joy is the delight of the mind — it is love running over. It may have seasons of extraordinary upheavals and then subside to a less exultant state. Joy is always present when the Spirit is possessed. Jesus said that it should be in us a well of water springing up into ever lasting life.” Joy is not a blessing to be sought, it is not a separate and distinct blessing — it is the fruit of the Spirit, and we are not to seek fruit, but the Spirit Himself. From the Spirit come the fruits of the Spirit. It is much like a central fountain which sends forth the nine streams which make glad the whole heart. It usually happens that they who seek for joy will have the least of it, because they seek it aside from the Spirit. There are degrees of joy, as there are degrees of faith. The measure of our joy depends on the measure of the Spirit we possess. If we are filled with the Spirit, then our joy will be full. Our joy may be great in the midst of our deepest sorrow; it is possible for us to be “sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.” There is a “joy in sorrow,” a “secret balm in pain,” for those who are filled with the Spirit of God. It is the gracious privilege of God’s people to live and walk in the sunshine of holy joy.
3. Peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you.” Peace. is freedom from agitation or disturbance — it is tranquillity — a calm rest. Peace rises from a sense of pardon and purity — it means being on good terms with Jesus. “Peace is joy boiled down!” It is the deep swell of the ocean rather than its ruffled surface. There is a blessed peace “that passeth understanding.” It is a great peace, “Great peace have they which love thy law.” It is the peace of Jesus, “My peace I give unto you.” It is the peace of God. “Let the peace of God rule your hearts.” It is Christ’s kingdom within, and this kingdom is “righteousness, and peace, and joy in the Holy Ghost.” It is perfect peace, “Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on thee.” Our peace is perfect because it is the peace of God imparted to the human soul. Some one may say, “Peace comes before joy.” At first thought it might be supposed to precede joy, but this is not the course of the Spirit. When one has escaped some great peril, or has received some great benefit, joy seems to be the natural EXPRESSION OF THE HEART — but this joyous emotion soon subsides into a permanent peace. When one is first converted or sanctified, there is great joy, but after awhile this glorious feeling subsides into a well-founded peace. Hence, love, joy, and peace as we have seen, relate especially to our relation to God. What a blessed relation!
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II. OUR DUTY TOWARD MAN
The first cluster of this fruit had to do with our relation to God — this second group deals with our outward duty to our fellow man. The first group Was the upward swing toward God, and the second group takes us out into all forms of goodwill to our neighbor.
1. Longsuffering. What is longsuffering as a fruit of the Spirit? It consists of quiet submission to the Divine will under human provocations. It is the enduring of wrongs, sufferings, disappointments and submitting to the oppositions which the Lord may allow wicked men to cast in our way. It is patience long drawn out, and means long-minded, or forbearing. It is the power to suffer or endure calmly any evil, affliction or provocation. Longsuffering has been defined as “patience with duration.” When we consider how the Lord has borne with us, we can find sufficient reason to induce us to bear with others. The limit of God’s longsuffering with us is the limit of our forbearance. The question was asked of the Lord, “How oft shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? till seven times?” and Jesus answered, “I say not unto thee, Until seven times: but, Until seventy times seven”. Literally, that means we are to forgive them so long as they ask for forgiveness Longsuffering is not to be insensible to wrong, but is a temper of the soul which is the fruit of the Spirit. Some try us by their folly, some by their ignorance, and some by their jealousies and envyings. In fact, we are tried on every ‘hand. Here is an opportunity for the triumph of patience. Therefore, the Scriptures often speak of the grace of longsuffering or patience. We find, “That ye …through patience … inherit the promises” — “In your patience possess ye your souls” — “the trying of your faith worketh patience” — “let us run with patience the race that is set before us” — “let patience have her perfect work.” It has been said that “Patience and time will overcome anything but sin;” — let us then “believe and patiently wait.”
2. Gentleness. Gentleness is made up of modesty and justice. It is opposed to rudeness and roughness. It means sweetness ‘of disposition, tenderness of spirit, amiability of character. The Scriptures state, “The servant of the Lord must . . . be gentle.” Gentleness is not to be confused with tameness, flexibility of character, or compliance with customs and worldly fashions which are condemned of God, and are deeply hurtful to men. Gentleness is a sturdy grace. It is unyielding and unmoveable as a rock, yet courteous and kind. Neither flattery nor fear can move it from the well-known path of duty — it stands opposed to harshness, pride, and arrogance.
3. Goodness. Goodness is kindness and benevolence. It is love at work blessing poor, fallen humanity. In the words of Adam Clarke, “It is the perpetual desire and study, not only to abstain from all appearance of evil, but to do good to the bodies and souls of men to the utmost of our ability. “Goodness must bless somebody to have an existence itself. Goodness is love with its hands full of blessings — carrying food to the hungry, medicine to the sick, clothes to the naked, comfort to the desponding, light to those who sit in darkness, and life to the dying.
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III. THE INWARD QUALITIES OF THE SOUL
In dealing with the fruit of the Spirit, we have considered our relation to God, our duty to man, and now we desire to take a look into the secret qualities of the soul. This last group of fruit includes the inner quality of Christian character that is developed daily. It is the blessed privilege of every Christian to develop these fruits of character — and without them, there is no spirituality.
1. Faith. Scriptural faith consists first of belief or assent to the truth;. The second step is consent –the will consents to surrender to the divine requirements. The third step is reliance — the heart yields, and accepts the promised good. Faith is said to be a gift and a grace. Faith as a gift is that faith by which miracles are wrought, healing is effected, and languages are spoken. It is not for the many, but for the few. Faith as a grace is that faith which relies alone on God’s promises — the non-exercise of which is sin. It is to trust the Lord, or be lost. The grace of faith is for the many, while the gift of faith is for the few. Most people can manage the grace of faith, while only a few have the natural ability to manage the gift of faith. Grace humbles those who possess it, while in many cases, gifts set people wild. Let a person be persuaded that God has given him the special gift of healing, and unless the Lord has favored him with a larger degree of level-headedness than is vouchsafed to most people, it will more than likely run him into great extravagances, and it will soon be the one thing needful to him, It will likely cause such a one to place the gifts above the work of salvation. The grace of faith involves duty. We are saved by faith, and so it is the duty of every one to believe and be saved. But the gift of faith is more of an ornamental blessing — it is not a necessity, but a privilege. The grace of faith is to be proclaimed, while the gift of faith is to be carefully guarded. If the Lord imparts the gift of faith, accept it humbly and use it cautiously. If the Lord gives you the grace of salvation, tell it to all that Will hear, and earnestly persuade men to seek the same treasure. Faith in God holds the soul firmly in its allegiance to Jesus.
2. Meekness. Meekness resembles gentleness, but there is a difference. Gentleness marks our deportment toward men, while meekness distinguishes it toward the Lord. It is the province of gentleness to soften and refine the manners, while meekness subdues the will. Meekness is marked by uncomplaining submission to the will of the Lord — whatever that may be The apostle speaks of it as “a meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price.” Meekness is a noble triumph over the pride of the human heart. The willow bends beneath the blast of the storm, and escapes unhurt — while the sturdy tree that stands against the storm is torn from its roots, or rent in pieces. So, when in meekness, we bow to the divine will, we often escape the sorrows and disasters which come from fruitless resistance. Meekness is not easily ruffled by provocation, and bears insults without resentment. Therefore, meekness must be a fruit of the Spirit, because nature does not produce it. Real meekness is not a timid cowardice that fears to reprove the wrong, and half sanction rather than censure the wrongdoer. It is the Spirit of Jesus, although “meek and lowly in heart” that spoke words which cut to the heart, and exposed all forms of wrong. This is a beautiful grace, and does not have too abundant growth in this sinful and suffering world.
3. Temperance. This means self-control, or self-government, and moderation in eating, drinking, sleeping, dressing, as well as abstinence from intoxicating drinks. This grace is placed last, but not because it is of no importance — rather because it is essential to them all. None of them can proper or long exist without it Intemperance brutalizes the whole character — not a single grace can grow under its blighting influence. Instead of love there would be enmity — instead of joy there would he sorrow — instead of peace there would be a spirit of discontent, and in the place of longsuffering we would have irritation. In the place of gentleness there would be rudeness — goodness would be supplanted by selfishness. Without faith the heart would be filled with unbelief — without meekness there would be rebellion. It is only when temperance is practiced that the mind and body and soul are free for healthy action. Paul tells us that “Every man that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things.” If it is necessary for those who seek earthly crowns to be temperate in all things, how much more important it is for those who strive for a crown of fadeless glory! The Christian should abstain from every form of self-indulgence, and lay his soul, body, and spirit as a whole burnt offering on God’s altar. We should use the world, but not abuse it — then “Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do,” we may “do all to the glory of God.” Yes, we have three clusters of spiritual fruit. There is the cluster that swings upward toward the Lord, the cluster that reaches out toward our fellowman, and the cluster that denotes the inward qualities of the soul. Friend, are you in possession of the fruit of the Spirit? Provisions have been made for you to be filled with the Holy Ghost. Why do you wait for the coming of the Spirit? Do you have question marks in your mind about the possibility of its reception? Rid your mind of its doubts, and let the light of heaven flood your mind and soul. The innate desire of your soul is for such an experience. Heaven has prepared the only remedy for sin. Plunge into the cleansing fountain today! Your soul can be made white in the blood of the Lamb! Why wait longer– now is the accepted time — today is the day of your sanctification!
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