We are in Galatians 5:16-26 that we titled, “Walking by the Spirit.” We’re talking about the Holy Spirit who lives in every believer and who directs our steps both by way of biblical truth and internal power. Walking is the picture of living one step at a time, putting one spiritual foot in front of another, as we walk in the path of obedience to Scripture, empowered by the Holy Spirit.
That is a command which is not an easy to fulfill because there is an immediate conflict, as we saw in verse 17. Our remaining human flesh, our remaining human nature that is still with us until we’re glorified, sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh. These are in opposition to one another. And the Holy Spirit works to prevent us from doing the things that we please in the flesh.
So we acknowledge that walking by the Spirit is a battleground. In order for us to be faithful to walk by the Spirit we must apply the grace which the Lord has given to us: His Word, prayer, Christian fellowship, all of those things will strengthen us against the flesh. We saw the contrast between what the flesh produces in Galatians 5:19 - 21 and what the Spirit produces in verses 22 - 23.
Spiritual fruit is a singular word, and a combination of virtues. If you are walking in the Spirit you get them all; they come as a group. And as you mature in Christ this fruit bouquet gets larger and larger as the flowers of these virtues expand fully. This is what sanctification is. It is the presence of these virtues in ever-increasing dimensions when you walk in the Spirit as a new believer.
Now these are attitudes, they’re not actions. If these attitudes are present in your life, the actions will come automatically. God wants to see these attitudes manifested in action. If your life is filled with love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, your actions will reflect that. The Bible says that, “As a man thinks in his heart, so he is.”
Whatever is in your heart will show up in your speech and actions. So as a Christian, you must be more concerned about these attitudes than actions in themselves. That is what in reality delivers us from legalism. Legalism is only concerned about the actions, the externals, whether or not the attitudes are there. True spirituality is concerned about the attitudes and the actions.
A person who is exhibiting these virtues by way of the power of the Holy Spirit will produce actions that will give glory and honor to God. The law cannot do this and you cannot do it in your own human strength, it comes only by way of the Spirit and in your new nature, empowered by God. So we have discussed some of the fruit of the Spirit, namely the first three: love, joy, peace.
As we’ve looked at these virtues, we have noticed something of the nature of these virtues. And then we’ve looked at the example of these virtues, and then the command to us to exercise and to cultivate these virtues, and then finally the source of these virtues: the Holy Spirit. Verse 23 ends with, “There is no law against such things.” These are divinely-granted virtues with a lot of overlap.
Now number four in our list is patience. There are two words in Greek that translate into “patience.” One word is hupomonē. The kind of patience that is exhibited when you are suffering some kind of trial. This is talking about different life circumstances. It’s being able to take what comes and maintain your joy and your hope, and patiently wait for the Lord to deliver you.
But that is not the word that is used here. The word here speaks about being patient with people. It’s the word makrothumia. This is a person who pushes his anger far away. That is the kind of patience with people who would otherwise make you angry. Some people have called this “long-suffering” to illustrate a lengthy notion. It really is the idea of Scripture saying, “slow to anger.”
A clearer definition would be: Patience is restraint that does not retaliate. Whatever was said to you, whatever was done to you, whatever was not done that should have been done; whatever offense was rendered against you, no matter how severe or how serious, if you’re walking in the Spirit your anger is far away. You are restrained in your anger, restrained from any retaliation.
Now this is defined for us by God Himself. Read it in Numbers 14:18, “The Lord is slow to anger and abundant in lovingkindness,” and that’s the Old Testament word for “grace” in “forgiving iniquity and transgression.” So patience is a response to an offense that is slow to anger, full of grace, forgiving the sin and the transgression. This is the one virtue most closely related to forgiveness.
There are many indications that this is true of God in the Old Testament. Look at Psalm 86:15, “But You, O Lord, are a God merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in love and faithfulness.” There “slow to anger” again is connected with graciousness, mercy, and forgiveness. We’re talking about patience with those who have offended us; and it is most clearly demonstrated by God Himself.
Romans 2:4, “Or do you despise the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience? Do you not realize that God’s kindness is meant to lead you to repentance?” We’re going to see that kindness is connected to patience; and it is the patience of God that tolerates us, until we come to repentance. The fruit of the Spirit is the opposite of the deeds of the flesh, which are hatred, strife, jealousy etc.
This virtue of patience brings about forgiveness. “This is the patience of God” Peter says in 1 Peter 3:20, “that was exhibited in the days of Noah.” God was so patient then with the sinful world. How patient was He? It took Noah one hundred and twenty years to build the ark; and for hundred and twenty years he was a preacher of righteousness; so God was patient before He brought judgment.
1 Timothy 1:15-16 says, “The saying is sure and worthy of full acceptance, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am the foremost. 16 But for that very reason I received mercy, so that in me, as the foremost, Jesus Christ might display the utmost patience.” Here was not just a Pharisee, a legalistic Jew that God was patient with, but a killer of Christians that God was patient with.
Jesus is patient with sinners. 2 Peter 3:9, “The Lord is not slow about his promise, as some think of slowness, but is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance.” The reason the Lord delays His coming is not because His promise is slow, it’s because His anger is slow. He is by nature patient; and that is because He is gracious, merciful, and eager to forgive.
Paul is our example. Ephesians 4:1-2, “I therefore, the prisoner in the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, 2 with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love.” Colossians 3:12, “put on a heart of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another, and forgiving each other.”
Maybe you think of patience as a secondary work of the Spirit of God in your life; but it is primary. If you don’t have patience with those who offend you and those who disrupt and invade your life, create havoc and chaos for you, if you don’t have patience with them, you are not like Christ, and you are not manifesting the fruit of the Spirit. Your lives should be patience personified.
Well, we learn that it comes from the Holy Spirit. And we read in Colossians 1:9-12 where Paul says, “Since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and ask that you may be filled … with all patience; giving thanks to the Father.” God is the source of this patience; Christ is the example of this patience and the Holy Spirit is the dispenser of this patience.
The next word in the Fruit of the Spirit that is close in character, is “kindness.” This word is sometimes translated as “gentleness.” It essentially means “goodness of heart.” It’s that high level of noble virtue that seeks always to do good. Remember Romans 3:12 where Paul says, “There is none who does good, there’s not even one.” Actually in the Greek, “There is none doing kindness.”
Where is this kindness among unbelievers? It’s the opposite of the deeds of the flesh that we saw earlier. Look at Titus 3:4-5, “But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5 he saved us.” Ephesians 2:5-7 says, “By grace you have been saved… 7 so that in the ages to come he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.”
There still is righteous indignation over sin. In Numbers 14:18 the second half of that verse says that, “God will by no means clear the guilty.” And that ultimately leads to the cross because God is kind, God is loving; but at the same time, He will not overlook iniquity. That leads to the cross, where His Son is punished to satisfy His justice, so that His goodness and mercy can be extended to us.
The example of kindness is our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Corinthians 10:1 speaks of the meekness and kindness of Christ. So much in His life shows basic divine goodness like feeding hungry people, blessing little children and saying to the crowd in Matthew 11:28-29, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest. 29 Take My yoke and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.”
And we are commanded to exhibit this. Romans 11:22 says, “God’s kindness toward you, provided you continue in his kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off.” If kindness doesn’t mark your life you’re not a believer. 2 Timothy 2:24, “The Lord’s slave must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, patient when wronged, with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition.”
There’s a third virtue “goodness” in Galatians 5:22. Goodness is a virtue of moral sweetness, moral excellence. It usually is compared with righteousness; and that’s really helpful to kind of get the meaning of it. In Ephesians 5:9, “The fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” So here “goodness” is also connected to “righteousness.”
Listen to Romans 15:14, “Concerning you, my brethren, I myself also am convinced that you yourselves are full of goodness.” You have strong convictions, you know what’s right, you believe what’s right, you live those convictions, and you proclaim those convictions. But there’s a kind side of your convictions, “that you are filled with all goodness.” That you have a tenderness connected to them.
David said in Psalm 23:6, “Goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever.” God’s goodness will go on forever and ever. And again David says in Psalm 27:13, “I would have lost heart, unless I had believed that I would see the goodness of the Lord in the land of the living. Life would have been too much for me if I didn’t believe in the goodness of the Lord.”
God’s goodness is what makes mercy happen. This is the kind of goodness that Joseph had. In Matthew 1:19, he was a righteous man, and he found out that his future wife Mary was pregnant with a child, and he was devastated because he knew her character. He couldn’t figure out how this could have happened, not yet understanding that it was done by the Holy Spirit. He had to do what was righteous.
He could have publicly shamed her; that would have had Old Testament support. But instead, he planned to cancel the engagement privately, even though they hadn’t ever come together in marriage. This is because his righteousness was tempered with his goodness. And this is how it is with God. We are so thankful that He is perfectly righteous, but His righteousness is tempered with His goodness.
In Isaiah 42 that our Lord quotes in Matthew 12:18-20, “Behold, My Servant whom I have chosen; My Beloved in whom My soul is well-pleased; I will put My Spirit upon Him, and He’ll proclaim justice to the Gentiles. 19 He will not quarrel, nor cry out; nor will anyone hear His voice.” And verse 20 “A battered reed He will not break off, and a smoldering wick He will not put out.”
He's coming as a conqueror. He’s coming to lead justice to victory. He’s coming to take over the world. He is the Lord of lords, the King of kings. But it says, “A battered reed He will not break off.” And so, you might break the reed and break the little flute and throw it away. And wicks would eventually run down and be useless, and when they were still just barely flickering get thrown away.
The Messiah, when He comes, will not take that bruised reed and break it and discard it. He will not take that flickering light and extinguish it and throw it away. There’s a goodness about Him, and Jesus was speaking of Himself. Goodness comes along with righteousness and softens the convictions. And we’re commanded to show this goodness. It’s not optional, we’re commanded to demonstrate this.
Galatians 6:10, “So then, while we have opportunity, let us do good to all people. Do good to all people, especially to those who are of the household of the faith.” For us as the church and for all people outside, we are to be known by our goodness, our large-heartedness, our tenderness, our kindness and our patience. These are beautiful virtues and wonderful virtues.
And where is this all going? 2 Thessalonians 1:12, “so that the name of our Lord Jesus Christ will be glorified in you, and you in Him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” You are showing a transformed life. And that is the reason He calls on us to live walking in the Spirit so that the name of our Lord Jesus will be glorified in you and you in Him.” Let us pray together.