“Bearing Fruits of Redemption”
Lesson Text: Galatians 5:22-6:1-10
Background Scripture: Galatians 5:22-6:18
Devotional Reading:2 Peter 1:3-8
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.
1 Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.
2Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ.
3For if a man think himself to be something, when he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.
4But let every man prove his own work, and then shall he have rejoicing in himself alone, and not in another.
5For every man shall bear his own burden.
6Let him that is taught in the word communicate unto him that teacheth in all good things.
7Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.
8For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
9And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not.
10As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
To understand that we are responsible for our own walk with the Lord.
To teach how to access the fruit of the Spirit.
To demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit in our daily lives.
Farming, Ancient and Modern
Technology has improved crop yields dramatically for the modern farmer. Technology also has decreased the man hours needed to attain those yields. Even so, the basics of farming have not changed over the centuries. For a crop like wheat, the field must be prepared by breaking up the (plowing), seed must be spread (sowing), moisture must be provided (watering), invasive plants must be removed (weeding), and time must be given for the wheat to mature (growing).
These steps had been largely unchanged for centuries when Paul wrote to the Galatians. The small cities and towns of the intended recipients for his letter were not distant from the agricultural world of wheat, barley, etc. Many of the church members who heard his letter read undoubtedly were involved in farming on a seasonal or fulltime basis. It is not surprising, then, that Paul and other Bible authors used farming activities to illustrate truths about God and the kingdom of God (for examples, see Proverbs 26:1; Hosea 6:11; Mark 4:26-29).Such is the case in this week’s lesson, as Paul uses the concepts of sowing and reaping to illustrate spiritual truths within the church.
TIME: possibly A.D. 48
PLACE: from Syrian Antioch
Paul’s letter to the Galatians is a masterful presentation of the Christian message, a message unfettered by the legalism of first-century Judaism. Paul’s immediate concern was to refute false teachers who claimed that Gentiles had to become Jews if they were to be Christian. In this view, the Jewish law was binding on Christ’s followers, and the synagogue was the gateway to the church. Paul shows in the first two chapters of Galatians that this was never his message and was not the consensus he reached with the leaders of the church in Jerusalem (Acts 15; Galatians 2:9).
In Galatians 3 and 4, Paul argues that Abraham was never under the Law of Moses, for he predated the lawgiver, Moses, by hundreds of years. Abraham’s relationship with God was based on faith, and his true heirs are people of faith, whether Jews or Gentiles. Paul equates law-keeping as a type of slavery and living by faith as freedom. He implored the Galatians to remain free in Christ and not to submit again to the bondage of the law (Galatians 5:1; compare 2 Corinthians 3:17).
In the final two chapters of Galatians, Paul expands on one of the greatest promises of living by faith: the blessings of the Holy Spirit. After discussing some obvious sins in Galatians 5:19-21, this is where today’s lesson opens.
THE SPIRIT PRODUCES FRUIT (Galatians 5:22-26)
1. Name and describe the nine human qualities that are to be manifested in each believer. How are the nine qualities divided? (Galatians 5:22-24)
Paul wants his readers to understand that Christian behavior transcends any law. The Bible often pictures the results of our actions as fruit (examples: Proverbs 11:30; Micah 7:13; Matthew 12:33). Christians are to exhibit certain fruit, and these are the finest human qualities.
Love, joy, peaceare inner attitudes that manifest themselves in the way we live. Love is a godly quality, the attitude of the Father toward His wayward children (Romans 5:8). Elsewhere Paul advises that when we act with genuine love we are fulfilling the intent of the law (Romans 13:10). Paul sees love as the motivation for serving one another within the church (Galatians 5:13).
Joyis often connected with the Holy Spirit (examples: Acts 13:52; Romans 14:17). Joy is godly happiness, caused by the awareness of our blessedness in the Lord (see Psalm 21:6). The Bible sees joy as a natural reaction to the one who is allowed to be in the presence of the Lord (Psalm 16:11), so we should expect joy in the life that is filled with the presence of God’s Spirit.
Peace is also a central feature of the character of God (Romans 16:20; Philippians 4:7). This peace of God should be present in the life of the believer who trusts that God reigns supreme (Isaiah 52:7).
Longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, the second triad of spiritual fruit, can be understood as ways in which we are to relate to other people. All three serve as a witness to unbelievers in a way that may bring them to believe in God.
Longsufferingdescribes a person who is willing to wait. This too is a quality of God. Peter even sees the patience of God as a core element of Paul’s letters (2 Peter 3:15). The longsuffering patience of God serves to give men and women an opportunity for salvation. Spiritual persons should be patient with both the saved and the unsaved. If we are not in the business of earning salvation by keeping the law, then we can patiently trust our futures to God through the Holy Spirit.
Gentlenessis the opposite of harsh treatment. We as sinners deserve to be treated harshly by God, yet He treats us kindly as a means of leading us to repentance (Romans 2:4). Likewise, Christians should treat others kindly, trusting that this will help lead unbelievers to a repentance.
Goodnessmay be seen as “good actualized.” It is more than abstractly wanting to be good; it is being good. This is goodness in relationship with others. It is not being good to yourself (as in “I love to spoil myself”). It is doing things that benefit others. Goodness is defined by a giving spirit, another quality of God (see Nehemiah 9:35).
Faith, meekness, temperance,the third triad, are personal virtues that should characterize people who have placed their trust in God. In this context, faith is not so much “faith in God,” but the quality of personal faithfulness. Faithful people are those who keep their word, who do not give up, who are loyal to their friends and family. This, again, is a primary way of understanding God, for He is always faithful (see Isaiah 49:7; 1 Corinthians 1:9).
Meeknessis a quality blessed by Jesus (Matthew 5:5) and was central to the personality of Jesus himself (11:29). Meekness is a kind of submissiveness, but not the weak, “milquetoast” kind. True meekness comes from deep inner strength, in this case fueled by the presence of the Holy Spirit. The meek Christian does not throw his weight around or assert himself. Just as wisdom is the right use of knowledge, so meekness is the right use of authority and power.
Temperanceoften has been applied to limiting the use of alcoholic beverages, but the original Greek word has many more applications than that (e.g. self- control). For an interesting study, see Acts 24:25; 1 Corinthians 7:9; 9:25; Titus 1:8; and 2 Peter 1:6, where this same word occurs in both noun and verb forms.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
When you consider how well you are producing the fruit of the Spirit, how would describe your crop? How will you improve?
TALKING POINTS FOR YOUR DISCUSSION
- Parched—dry, in need of nourishment?
- Tender shoots—just starting to break through?
- Weather distressed—contrary winds have wrecked havoc; in need of support?
- Firmly planted—growing and maturing?
2. What does it mean to be “crucified” as Christ’s very own (v. 24)?
This verse refers back to the “works of the flesh” as listed in Galatians 5:19-21, a list of horrible vices: (Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulation, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, and revellings). To be Christ’s means we have the presence of the Holy Spirit. We have been crucified with Him (see Galatians 2:20), and this means we have left our sinful desires and passions behind. We are no longer controlled by our own selfish wants, but by the Spirit of God and the desire to serve Him.
3a. What is the difference between “living in” and “walking in” the Spirit (v. 25)?
For Paul, to live in the Spirit refers to our salvation. As believers we receive God’s Holy Spirit as a gift (Acts 2:38). We do nothing to earn this gift, as we do nothing to earn our salvation. We do have choices to make, however, regarding how we live our lives as believers. Paul is saying that if the Holy Spirit lives in you (and He does), then you are to conduct yourself in a way that honors this holy presence.
Galatians 5:25 is one of the most interesting Scriptures of the Bible, and often overlooked. The Bible make a clear distinction between LIVING in the Spirit of Christ, versus WALKING in the Spirit of Christ. The Spirit of Christ is of Course the Holy Spirit of God—they are one and the same (Romans 8:9). Most Christians today are not walking in the Spirit—they are saved, i.e., live in the Spirit; but they are not exemplifying Christ in their personal life.
It is possible for the old nature to counterfeit some of the fruit of the Spirit, but the flesh can never produce the fruit of the Spirit. One difference is this: when the Spirit produces fruit, God gets the glory and the Christian is not conscious of his spirituality; but when the flesh is at work, the person is inwardly proud of himself and is pleased when others compliment him. The work of the Spirit is to make us more like Christ for His glory, not for the praise of men.
3b. What other behaviors should we be on guard against (v. 26)?
We should be on guard against slipping back into patterns of selfishness. Even if we are not engaging in the heinous “works of the flesh,” we may fall to more insidious behaviors that are not pleasing to God.
Paul’s short list includes things that are all too common in churches and may have been characteristic of his Judaizing opponents. Desirous of vain glory is the empty smugness of a boastful person. Provoking and envying refer to the constant rivalries and fussing that are found in some churches. None of these is consistent with a person walking by the Spirit of Christ.
RESTORING IN THE SPIRIT (Galatians 6:1-5)
4. “If a man be overtaken in fault,” what should believers do (Galatians 6:1,2)?
A foundational principle in the church is that those who are stronger should help those who are weaker (see Acts 20:35). Christian leaders should be stronger in their spiritual walk and maturity, and this strength is to be extended to help restore a wayward brother or sister (compare Jude 23).
Paul offers a warning, though, of two pitfalls that the one who undertakes a ministry of restoration should be aware. One danger is being too rough on the one who has fallen. If the restoration process is too firm (lacking the spirit of meekness) for the context of the problem, then the erring brother or sister could be driven away permanently (compare 2 Corinthians 2:5-11).
The second danger is that the restorer might be tempted and fall into the same sin. As a firefighter is endangered when entering a house fire to rescue a child, so the spiritual leader who attempts to restore a fallen member may be burned.
Although not stated, “the law of Christ” (v. 2 of our lesson) is usually understood as the Golden Rule taught by Jesus: that we should do to others as we would have them do to us (Luke 6:31). This is called the principle of loving reciprocity. When a fellow Christian has burdens, life issues that are weighing heavily, those who are spiritually mature should help that person as they would want to be helped.
It is this mutual burden-bearing that gives strength to the body of Christ. If those in need are neglected or ignored, then the church is not fulfilling its purpose of being a refuge from the storms of life. As Martin Luther said, “Christians must have strong shoulders and mighty bones” when it comes to helping weaker brothers and sisters.
WHAT DO YOU THINK?
When do you most find it difficult to bear the burdens of others” How do you distinguish between when it is appropriate and inappropriate to bear the burden of another?
TALKING POINTS FOR YOUR DISCUSSION
- Desire to avoid promoting laziness (2 Thessalonians 3:10)
- Pride (Luke 10:31,32)
- Desire to avoid risking self (Matthew 25:7-9)
5. What is the biggest danger to spiritual leaders (v. 3)?
This verse describes what is perhaps the biggest danger to spiritual leaders. Some may develop an inflated view of themselves, thinking they are something. Paul is implying that this may even lead to the neglect of the needs of others, since such leaders might think themselves too good for such ministry. This is self-deception, for we are all equal in the sight of God (remember Galatians 3:28). In that sense, we are all nothing, unable to save ourselves without help. We cannot be saved from damnation without the grace of God, and we likewise need the help of fellow believers to make it through life’s troubles.
6. What does it mean for one to “prove his own work,” and “bear his own burden” (vs. 4,5)?
A man should “prove his own work” (v. 4) in the light of God’s will and not in the shadows of somebody else’s achievements.“Each one should test their own actions. Then they can take pride in themselves alone, without comparing themselves to someone else, for each one should carry their own load”(Gal. 6:4,5 NIV).
It may seem contradictory for Paul to command us to share in the burdens of others (v. 2, above) and then call each person to “bear his own burden.” However, there is no contradiction between these two verses, because two different Greek words for burden are used. In Galatians 6:2 it is a word meaning “a heavy burden,” while in Galatians 6:5 it describes “a soldier’s pack.” We should help each other bear the heavy burdens of life, but there are personal responsibilities that each man must bear for himself. “Each soldier must bear his own pack.” If your car breaks down, your neighbor can help drive your children to school. But they cannot assume the responsibilities that only belong to you as their parent. That is the difference. It is wrong for you to expect somebody else to be the parent in our family; that is a burden (and a privilege) that you alone can bear.
HARVESTING FROM THE SPIRIT (Galatians 6:6-10)
7. What does the word “communicate” mean in verse 6?
The word “communicate” is not used here in the sense of talking with others (or, in our day, texting others). It means to share. From the very beginning of the church, sharing was one of the marks of Christian experience (Acts 2:41-47). The Greek word has now worked its way into our English vocabulary, and we see the word koinonia here and there in religious publications. It simply means “to have in common,” and refers to our common fellowship in Christ (Gal. 2:9), our common faith (Jude 3), and even our sharing in the suffering of Christ (Phil. 3:10). But often in the New Testament, koinonia refers to the sharing of material blessings with one another (Acts 2:42; 2 Cor. 8:4; Heb. 13:16 [Greek text]). It is this that Paul had in mind in these verses.
He began with a precept (Gal. 6:6), urging us to share with one another. The teacher of the Word shares spiritual treasures, and those who are taught ought to share material treasures. (Paul used a similar approach when he explained why the Gentile churches ought to give an offering to the Jewish believer, Rom. 15:27.) We must remember that what we do with material things is an evidence of how we value spiritual things. “For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also” (Matt. 6:21).
Because the apostle Paul did not want money to become a stumbling block to the unsaved, he earned his own living (see 1 Cor. 9), but he repeatedly taught that the spiritual leader in the church was to be supported by the gifs of the people. Jesus said, “The laborer is worthy of his hire” (Luke 10:7), and Paul echoed this statement (1 Cor. 9:11,14).
8. What is the spiritual principle “sowing and reaping” (Galatians 6:7,8)?
But we must realize the spiritual principle that lies behind this precept (of sowing and reaping). God does not command believers to give simply that pastors and teachers (and missionaries, Phil. 4:10-19) might have their material needs met, but that the givers might get a greater blessing (Gal. 5:7,8). The basic principle of sowing and reaping is found throughout the entire Bible. God has ordained that we reap what we sow. Were it not for this law, the whole principle of cause and effect would fail. The farmer who sows wheat can expect to reap wheat. If it were otherwise, there would be chaos in our world.
But God has also told us to be careful where we sow, and it is this principle that Paul dealt with here. The word Paul uses to refer to mocking God is very descriptive. It is based on the word for nose and implies to “turn up one’s nose” to God. While the danger of such an action is obvious, Paul indicates that some do this in the way they soweth, or invest their lives. If they have turned up the nose to God and invested in gratification of their sinful passions and lusts, the return on investment will be corruption. Lest we misunderstand what is meant by this, Paul includes the parallel opposite (antithesis): the one who invests in the things of the Spirit will be rewarded with life everlasting (v. 8).
The import of these contrasting results is not to say that some thumb their nose at God and then go their merry way in sin. It is saying, rather, that yielding to our sinful passions is to mock God. What type of harvest do we want? Do we want the bountiful harvest of salvation or the poison crop of destruction?
Our choices will determine our consequences.
9. How can we avoid developing “compassion fatigue? Why is it important to do so (vs. 9,10)?
The instant news coverage of every worldwide disaster has caused many to give up helping. Social scientists describe this problem as compassion fatigue. Every church is in danger of coming down with compassion fatigue, even in relation to its own community. Those in need, sometimes dire need, are always with us (compare John 12:8).
Paul gives us hope when this gets us down: there will be a reward for those many good deeds, those acts of compassion. It may come back in the form of someone attracted to a church where compassion is practiced. It may come back many years later when we learn of our help being a turning point in someone’s life. Or it may not be rewarded until we face God and hear Him say, “Well done!”
Paul finishes this section by recognizing a certain priority in our acts of kindness and burden-bearing. While we are called to have compassion upon all men, our attention should be given first to those of the household of faith. As would be the case with any normal family, limited resources are given first to close relatives. If a church truly functions as a family, it will be aware when a brother or sister is in need, even if such a person is too proud to ask for help. This is the time to step up and “bear the burdens of others,” as a testimony to all. In so doing, we are truly walking in the Spirit and showing the fruit of the Spirit.
POINTS TO PONDER
1.Believers are to rely on the Spirit to produce the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-26).
2.Believers are to rally around one another in the Spirit of meekness (Galatians 6:1,2).
3.Believers are to examine themselves in God’s light, “and not in another” (Galatians 6:3-5).
4. Believers should be willing to share their blessings, because God has ordained that we reap what we sow (Galatians 6:6-8; Matthew 25:14-30).
5.Believers should always “do good unto all men,” even in the midst of our busy lives. “Especially unto them who are the household of faith” (Galatians 6:9,10).
There is a painting by the French painter Paul Cézanne (1839-1906). A central feature of this painting is a bowl of fruit, as in many of the still-life works of this artist. However, Cézanne’s perspective seems off-kilter in this painting. This is because the artist attempts to provide a level of depth perception for the viewer. The bowl of fruit is presented as if you are looking down on it and looking at it if from the side at the same time.
When we consider the spiritual fruit of a Christian, we should expect tangible, observable results. It should not be a flat, lifeless view. It should have depth and vitality. The fruit of our lives should provide nourishment and encouragement to others. Unlike the painter’s unchanging still-life bowl of fruit, however, our lives should be ever blossoming and providing seed for fruitful work of ministry.
O Lord, we are weary and burdened. May we find refuge in Your arms. In so doing, may we shoulder some of the stress of others who are overwhelmed. May Your Spirit give us the strength we need for this ministry. In Jesus’ name, amen.
THOUGHT TO REMEMBER
Ours is a journey of faith and growth in the Holy Spirit.