There’s a command in verse 16 that’s repeated in verse 25, “Walk by the Spirit.” That is a command. That is to say we are to yield the control of our lives to the Holy Spirit. The command is followed by recognition of a conflict back in verse 17, “The flesh” which still remains because we haven’t been glorified; we’re still human. So we have remaining flesh even after our conversion and transformation.
Verse 17, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish.” That’s the conflict; we talked about that. We are simultaneously righteous and sinful. We have a new nature, a new creation, created in Christ Jesus unto good works; but it is incarcerated in our remaining humanness.
And so there’s a great battle. Paul means that our fleshly desires are restrained by the Holy Spirit. So we have a command to walk by the Spirit. In fulfilling that command, we have a conflict between our remaining sinful flesh and the indwelling Holy Spirit. It has to do with the attitudes and actions of our lives. When the flesh is in control you get the deeds of the flesh in verses 19 to 21.
These are the deeds of the flesh. And they’re evident: 19 adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, 20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, 21 envy, drunkenness, wild parties, and the like. These are the kind of things that mark people who don’t inherit the kingdom of God. These are the behaviors of non-believers.
But we still have the tendency to do those things in our unredeemed flesh. And our flesh will not disappear until we receive our heavenly home and a glorified body. Then we’ll have no dealings with the flesh forever. But we are now faced with fulfilling this command and running right into a war, which is in us. Paul talks about it in Romans 7, as we already have discussed.
Last week we talked about the deeds of the flesh. It’s a disastrous listing of the things that destroy life and relationships in a terrible way. Those are the things that essentially dominate the life of an unsaved person. There may be some human good done, but basically the flesh can only produce these bad things. It produces them in thought; and there are many more.
Galatians 5:22-26 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
So if you look at a believer you might see sin on some occasion; but you will inevitably see these virtues as well. And as sanctification takes place, and as you grow in grace and in the knowledge of Christ and become more like Christ, you see more the fruit of the Spirit than you do the deeds of the flesh. Sanctification is doing less of the list in verses 19 to 21, and doing more of the list in verses 22 and 23.
Life lived in the Spirit produces the virtues of verses 22 - 23; and we have now come to the virtue side. Walking by the Spirit has then a negative and a positive impact. Negatively, it restrains the flesh. That is what it says in verse 17, that the Spirit who is in us stops us from doing the things that the flesh naturally desires. And the positive effect is producing the fruit listed in verses 22 - 23.
Now the deeds of the flesh are plural. Not everybody does all of those things all the time. Sinners have the freedom to choose their sin. There are some people who never get drunk, that’s just not part of their sin. So there are many more sins that could be added to the list. On the other hand, the fruit of the Spirit is singular. When you’re walking in the Spirit, it all comes in a package deal.
The fruit of the Spirit is put in the singular because virtue is not a list from which you pick. The fruit of the Spirit is the combination of all these virtues, and more, because it also says at the end of verse 23, “against such things, thinks like these,” which means there are more virtues. And it’s not laid out in a specific sequence like love, joy, peace which follow each other.
Fruit is a beautiful bouquet of virtues and its beauty is a composite beauty. That’s what the Holy Spirit produces in someone who walks by the Spirit. And eventually you will experience them all. God is the source of all virtue; fruit is seen as a metaphor for virtue. And the life of God in the believer will produce spiritual fruit depending on how much you grow spiritually.
So God desires us to bear fruit. Look to John 15, our Lord here talks about Himself being the vine, and His Father the vine keeper. He says, “Every branch in Me that doesn’t bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, he prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.” So when you bear fruit, the Lord will bring into your life those pruning experiences that make you more fruitful.
We are in Christ, and Christ is in us, and in that union the branch begins to bear fruit. “4 As a branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you’re the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” If you’re connected to Christ there’s going to be much fruit.
Now there are some behaviors that are indicated in Scripture to be fruit. Hebrews 13:15 says, “The sacrifice of praise to God, the fruit of your lips giving thanks to Him.” Worship is fruit. When you worship, when you praise the Lord, you are bearing fruit. In Romans 15:28 Paul thanked people for the financial gift to support him; and the gift was “fruit that abounds to your account.” So giving is also fruit.
In Matthew 3:8, Jesus said, “Bring forth fruit connected to repentance.” Repenting of sin is also fruit. Romans 1:13, Paul said, “I want to come to you that I may have some fruit among you.” Leading someone to Christ is also fruit. And there are more illustrations of a singular fruit. So worship is fruit, giving is fruit, repentance is fruit, bringing someone to Christ is also fruit.
So we are both righteous and sinful at the same time until we’re glorified. But we will be characterized by much fruit. That fruit will be there because that’s what the Holy Spirit is doing in us. The fruit is the proof that the Holy Spirit is in us. Listen to the words of our Lord in Matthew 7:20, “Therefore by their fruits you will know them.” John 15:8, “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit.”
The fruit of the Spirit is not produced by the flesh; and all nine of them are repeatedly commanded of us. Throughout Scripture we are commanded to love, commanded to be joyful, commanded to experience peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. They are commands to us, but they are works of the Spirit. Remember that that’s true of every aspect of our salvation.
The fact that you are born again, is a work of God; and yet you are commanded to be born again. The fact that you believe is a work of God, but you’re commanded to believe. The fact that you confess Christ is a work of God, but you’re commanded to confess Jesus as Lord. The fact that you’re being sanctified is a work of the Spirit of God, but you’re commanded to be obedient.
Fruit falls into two categories. We have learned that good deeds, worship, giving, and leading someone to Christ; is all fruit. But you don’t see any of those deeds here in Galatians, all you have here is attitudes. Love is an attitude, joy is an attitude, peace is an attitude, patience is an attitude; all these are attitudes. So we can conclude that this is an attitude fruit, right?
What we have seen is there is action fruit, that’s the fruit of behavior: good deeds, righteous action. So attitude fruit comes first; and where these attitudes dominate come actions related to these attitudes. You can’t love without acts of love. You can’t have joy without expressions of joy. All of these are powered in us by the Holy Spirit collectively. So if you walk by the Spirit, the whole fruit is yours.
“How do I know you’re a Christian?” So if you want to know that I’m a Christian stick around me for a while, and what you will see mostly is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. That is the evidence that mostly I’m not living in my flesh, because all that the flesh produces is iniquity. This is how we put our salvation on display.
So let’s start with love and joy. Love is first in the list because love is the greatest, according to 1 Corinthians 13. It’s the word agapē, it’s “love at the highest level.” This is the word for the noblest of loves. There are other words for love that speak of friendship, and marital love, and even an erōs kind of love. But this is the word that speaks of the kind of love that is characteristic of God.
Let us examine a four-fold pattern of these words. First, the nature of each, then the example, then the command and then the power. So let’s look at agapé love, the noblest kind of love. What is its nature? Most love in our culture is defined by some kind of emotional stimulation. But this love is defined for all of us in 1 Corinthians 13, often called the love chapter.
What is love like? “Love is patient,” verse 4 “love is kind, is not jealous; love doesn’t brag, is not arrogant, 5 doesn’t act unbecomingly; it doesn’t seek its own, is not provoked, doesn’t take into account a wrong suffered, 6 doesn’t rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;” then “7 love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails.” That’s the nature of love.
Jesus said in John 15:13, “Greater love has no one than to lay down one’s life for his friends.” This is the noblest love of all loves. It means you seek only the best for everyone around you. You endure anything and everything. You believe the best about everyone. You speak the best about everyone. You sacrifice yourself even to point of giving up your life for others.
What about the example? Yes, Jesus said in John 15:12, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.” How had He just loved them? By washing their dirty feet in John 13: 4-5, “So he got up from the table, took off his robe, wrapped a towel around his waist, 5 and poured water into a basin. Then he began to wash the disciples’ feet.”
But it even went beyond that. Love in a way that makes you willing to lay down your life for your friends. That is the pattern, our Lord’s self-sacrificing love. And then in verse 35, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” In Ephesians 5:1, Paul writes, “Be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us.”
Where does this love come from? Where do we get this kind of power to love? Listen to Romans 5:5, “The love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” If you’re walking in the Spirit you will love. You will love everyone. You will love strangers and you will love enemies. Yes, the only way we can love is by the power of the Spirit.
The reason you have divine love in you is because you have Christ in you, you have the Spirit in you. And if you are walking in the Spirit, walking in obedience to Christ, you will radiate love everywhere. Is that what you’re known for? And love will be there, but not alone; all the other gifts will be there as well, but love will be manifestly visible when you’re walking by the Spirit.
Just a few comments about the second word “joy.” What about its nature? It’s not related to circumstances. It is joy that has nothing to do with whether you’re healthy or sick, nothing to do with whether you’re alone or in a crowd, nothing to do with whether you are paid enough or not enough, and not related whatsoever to whether your circumstances are positive or negative.
Joy is not being “happy.” Happy is related to the word “happen,” which is related to the circumstance you’re in. And this can change rapidly. Joy does not change, this is deep settled joy. This is in the calm of the depth of your soul. It is immovable. Joy provides you constant satisfaction and contentment. Joy is as unchangeable as your Lord is. It always is based on divine realities.
What’s this joy connected to? Ultimate salvation. No matter what happens in my life, no one can take away the eternal salvation that has been given me. There is an inheritance laid up for me undefiled, unfading, settled in heaven, waiting my arrival. It’s a joy based upon the unchanging promises and power of God. Jesus said that you’ll have grief on Good Friday, but you’ll have joy by Easter Sunday.
No one will take your joy away from you, because Christ is risen. That’s what gives everlasting joy. Christ is alive, and He has purchased our redemption and an inheritance undefiled, reserved in heaven for us. Jesus said in John 15:11, “My joy I give you; you have My joy.” The very joy that the Son possesses in the promise of the Father, we possess in the promise of the Son. Let us pray.