God’s Fruit Basket

The next few weeks I want to touch on a series of characteristics which might be considered the trademark that we are followers of Jesus. There are countless posters, wall hangings and do-dads with the “Fruit of the Spirit” printed on them. We are going to look at each of these characteristics and look for practical ways we will see them work in our lives as we follow Jesus.

Our passage in Galatians 5:16 starts off with a seemingly simple truth “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh”. The command to ‘walk’ doesn’t suddenly appear. We are created for the purpose of doing good works which God has prepared so we should “walk in them” (2:10) and he urges us in 4:1 “walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called”. Instead of walking as those who don’t know God, Gentiles--who “walk… in the futility of their minds”. “We are to walk as children of light” (5:8).

When the Bible, in particular, the New Testament, uses the term ‘walk’ to refer to a particular lifestyle, a way of life, to which we are called and consistently practicing. Usually, it is a command, an imperative and it is directed particularly here to a group of churches who had decided to walk a different direction.
Galatians 5 contrasts ‘works of the flesh’ with ‘fruit of the Spirit’. but this isn’t the only place this occurs. In Romans 7 and 8, the term ‘flesh’ is used 17 times and many in contrast to living in the Spirit. In 8:4ff we see that the reason Jesus was born human (flesh) was,

…in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit.


This letter was not written to one congregation but to many churches in the region of Galatia. Galatia’s historic borders today, reside within Turkey and the capital of ancient Galatia is Ankara the same as it’s ancient one. Paul’s letter to Galatia is the only one that does not start off praising God’s people for a job well done.
Paul gives thanks for the churches in 1 Corinth, Rome, Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon, and 1 & 2 Thessalonians. Not so in Galatians. Instead, he begins in verse 6, “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting him who called you in the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel.”
The different gospel to which Paul refers is a two-fold enemy of the true gospel as revealed to Paul by Jesus and which has been affirmed by the Apostles. First is a proto-gnostic philosophy and the second is a Christian cult” which we call Judaizers. The first group proclaimed salvation was only for ‘the few’—those who understood the deep spiritual truth. “They were not interested in salvation for everybody. On the contrary, they regarded salvation as something only for the ‘Spiritual elite’ (Kruger).”  

The idea was that many of the old testament law was expected and enforceable still for the followers of Christ. A full-fledged version of this heresy emerged in the second century but its roots were much earlier. The other group who dogged Paul’s footsteps were Jewish people who accepted Jesus was the Son of God but also expected various aspects of the Jewish dietary and other laws maintained. They seemingly believed in the circumcision of those who were saved and likewise eating and not eating certain foods.


The current situation for God’s people today, in the United States and around the globe, are these same two issues. There are those who want to see the real gospel explained in the mystic, hard to reach Godhead. For such folks’ secret handshakes, codewords, and prescribed behaviors are required before hoping to enter into the presence of God.

Then there are those well-meaning souls who want to add to Christ’s work on the cross to make one a ‘better’ Christian. Both promise the end to the struggle which Paul puts forth so well in Romans 7:7-25 that spells out the battle Paul and we, that I, suffer. A battle between doing what the Spirit tells us and giving into the flesh and fulfilling our perceived needs under our own power. This is a "religious tendency which aims at the control of both social and individual life by legalism, making the law the supreme norm (Lauterback and Kohler)."
Carl Sandberg, the biographer of Abraham Lincoln said: “There is an eagle in me that wants to soar, and there is a hippopotamus in me that wants to wallow in the mud (Papathanassiou).” Paul addresses the continual battle before us by using the present tense in describing flesh and spirit and their hatred for one another (Longenecker 245).”


For Paul, the decision seems straightforward. Walk in the Spirit. Our problem is that it’s not always as clear or easily followed as Paul seems to make it. There was a story out of the old Christian Reader magazine in which a mom wrote:

My five-year-old daughter, Barbara, had disobeyed me and had been sent to her room. After a few minutes, I went in to talk with her about what she had done. Teary-eyed, she asked, "Why do we do wrong things, Mommy?"
"Sometimes the devil tells us to do something wrong," I replied, "and we listen to him. We need to listen to God instead."
To which she sobbed, "But God doesn't talk loud enough (Rowell 459)!"

 Here are just a couple of things that will help you ‘walk’ in and with God’s Holy Spirit. First, understand that walking with and by the Holy Spirit is an exercise in the freedom which Jesus purchased on the cross. And the reason we’ve been given such ‘freedom’ we read back in 5:13-14, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Loving others is a key test to whether we are walking in and by the power of the Spirit.

Secondly, realize that the same two issues and groups which sought to derail the church in Galatia are at work today in Portland as well as the rest of the world. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve heard someone ask, “how can there be only one way to god when there are so many religions in the world.” 

You may also hear some TV preacher tell you that it is God's will to support them alone. A Bible teacher says that to be really Christian you have to keep of rules along with believing in Jesus. Or, to be a better Christian than your neighbors, or church leaders or even your preacher all you have to do is follow his or her three, eight, or ten steps to spiritual perfection. 

Root out places in which we are tempted to listen and follow a gospel other than that of Christ. Hold fast to God's love and the power of the Holy Spirit as you live for him. And remember God is in charge. Let’s pray

Works Cited
Lauterbach, Jacob Zallel, and Kaufmann Kohler. "NOMISM - Jewishencyclopedia.com." Jewishencyclopedia.com. Web. 22 Aug. 2018.
Kruger, Michael J. "Five Myths About the Ancient Heresy of Gnosticism." Canon Fodder. Web. 24 Aug. 2018.
Longenecker, Richard N. Galatians, Volume 41. Dallas Tx: Zondervan, 2015. Print.
Papathanassiou, Manolis. "Character Quotes." Best-quotations.com. Web. 22 Aug. 2018.
Rowell, Edward K. 1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2004. Print.

Arichea, Daniel C, and Eugene A Nida. A Handbook on Paul's Letter to the Galatians. New York: United Bible Societies, 1993. Print.
Lauterbach, Jacob Zallel, and Kaufmann Kohler. "NOMISM - Jewishencyclopedia.com." Jewishencyclopedia.com. Web. 22 Aug. 2018.
Kruger, Michael J. "Five Myths About the Ancient Heresy of Gnosticism." Canon Fodder. Web. 24 Aug. 2018.
Lenski, R. C. H. The Interpretation of St. Paul's Epistles to the Galatians, to the Ephesians and to the Philippians. Columbus, Ohio: Wartburg Press, 1946. Print.
Longenecker, Richard N. Galatians, Volume 41. Dallas Tx: Zondervan, 2015. Print.
Muck, Terry. "Hearing God's Voice and Obeying His Word." Leadership Journal1982: 16. Print.
Papathanassiou, Manolis. "Character Quotes." Best-quotations.com. Web. 22 Aug. 2018.
Rowell, Edward K. 1001 Quotes, Illustrations, and Humorous Stories for Preachers, Teachers, and Writers. Grand Rapids, Mich.: Baker Books, 2004. Print.
Witherington, Ben. Grace in Galatia. Grand Rapids, Mich.: W.B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1998. Print.


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