Gospel Insights

by Michael Smith


Chapter Nineteen


Please read Galatians 5:16-25


God the Holy Spirit is the third person of the Holy Trinity.  Since the ascension of the Lord Jesus into heaven, the Holy Spirit carries on His work on the earth amongst believers.  The Church was founded as the Holy Spirit fell upon and filled all the original apostles and disciples in Jerusalem two thousand years ago at the time of the Jewish Feast of Weeks, known as Pentecost in Greek.  Whereas Jesus could only be in one place at one time while on earth, the Holy Spirit is everywhere all the time.  He came upon every believer at Pentecost and He still does the same today if we let Him.

The Holy Spirit's first ministry is to bring men to Christ by convicting us of our sinful and lost condition, and the need to repent and be "born again".  He leads us to the cross of Calvary and makes us a "new creation" and a follower of Jesus Christ.  After salvation, the Holy Spirit continues to convict the believer daily of any sin by prodding us deep within our being that we have done wrong and grieved Him, Who is perfect and holy in every way.  He gently leads us back to the cross for God's forgiveness and cleansing with the precious blood of Jesus.

He guides the believer day by day in our Christian walk, opening up our understanding of the truth of God's Word as we study the Scriptures.  The Bible is described as the Living Word, and the Holy Spirit brings to life for us every word of instruction, encouragement, guidance, rebuke, and edification found therein.  He renews our minds by helping us to think the way God thinks; which is often quite different from our own way of seeing things.

He comforts us in our times of need, He brings healing from the hurts of the past, and He restores broken relationships.

The Holy Spirit helps us to grow daily in the good fruit of God's love, joy, peace, goodness, and kindness, as described in the Scripture reference at the start of this chapter, that we may gradually become more like the Lord Jesus.

He prompts us to pray for others and to be concerned for their needs.  Time and distance is no obstacle to God Who delights to answer our petitions and bless those we lift up to Him during our times of prayer and intercession.  When we find it difficult to pray then God has promised that the Holy Spirit will pray for us.

The Holy Spirit helps us to "keep the faith" throughout our lives if we are willing to walk aright.  He strengthens us to remain faithful in difficult times when all seems to go wrong, or when folk come against us through no fault of ours.  In many parts of the world Christians are persecuted and put to death for their faith in Jesus Christ, and it is the Holy Spirit Who gives the peace and assurance to cling to Christ as evil men seek to destroy their faith.  And then He prepares us for the moment we step from time into eternity to meet the Lord Jesus face to face.

He guides, calls, and empowers us to carry out His work, whatever that may be.  For some it may be as a missionary to far-flung corners of the earth, or as a John Wesley, the founder of the Methodist Church, who travelled nearly a million miles on horseback during his lifetime, setting up new fellowships and reviving Christian folk who had become dry or half-hearted in their faith, helping and sustaining each one in hard times.  For others it may be a more localised ministry perhaps caring for those who are sick or disturbed, or one that requires much time alone in intercession with the Lord.  Or it may be a ministry that is seemingly of little worth in the eyes of others, or one that brings with it a great deal of opprobrium and ridicule, or a loss of family, livelihood, or reputation.  But whatever kind of work the Lord has determined for us to do while on this earth, it is the Holy Spirit Who strengthens us to do it.

In all these different aspects of the work of the Holy Spirit, He never seeks any glory or praise for Himself but always puts the spotlight onto Jesus.  And in all our doings for the Lord we must always do likewise.

The Fruit of the Holy Spirit

"But the fruit of the Holy Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23).

When we become a Christian, we become a brand new creation [1].  With God's grace working in us we are to be pleasing to Him, to be fruitful in helping to build God's Kingdom through our witness to unbelievers, and to give God all the glory in all that He does through us.

The Christian's primary concern then, should be maintaining a faithful relationship with God through the Lord Jesus by ensuring our salvation remains 'fresh' [2], that we are living a godly and holy life [3], that we are worshipping God in spirit and in truth [4], and that we are keeping a 'short account' with God regarding any sins we commit [5].  Thus will we become ever more like His Son, the Lord Jesus, and ensure we are kept safe in the eternal life that is found only in Him [6].

This process of God's preparation of the believer for eternity is called sanctification, and it is achieved in us as the good fruit of the Holy Spirit gradually replaces the bad fruit of our old ways of thinking and behaving.  The fruit on a tree usually takes time to grow, and for the Christian it is the same; we all have an ongoing battle in us between the ways of the world and the flesh which were ours before we were saved and which still tries to appeal to us, and the obedience we must cultivate to follow God's perfect will for our lives now that we belong to Him.  The bad news is that in this life the battle between the two never completely ends [7], but the good news is that God Himself supplies all we need to walk in Him [8].

Paul's list of the fruit of the Holy Spirit in his letter to the Christians in Galatia starts with LOVE: God's love (agape in Greek) within us is a caring, sacrificial concern for others which puts their needs before ours.  In this godly way we can love others in spite of all their faults and imperfections, whether we like them or not, whether they are loveable or not, in a way that mere human love can never do.  We love them anyway just as God loves us despite all our sins and weaknesses.  As God loves us but not our sin, so we love others but not their sin.  It was God's sacrificial (agape) love that sent Jesus to die for us on the cross of Calvary.  No-one can show a greater love for others than by laying down their life for another, and it is that same love that helps us forgive one who has seriously hurt us, that covers a "multitude of sins" against us [9].  God's perfect agape love in us for others frees us to grow into a Christ-like maturity and ultimately become more fully ourselves.  Of course, forgiveness also keeps us in good health, as it is well known that unforgiveness toward another hardens into a resentful and bitter attitude toward them which can often do great harm to our bodies in the forms of arthritis and rheumatism and other such conditions.  (Please note here that I am in no way saying that all arthritic or rheumatic problems must be the result of unforgiveness!)

JOY: God's joy is the victory of love rejoicing and overflowing outwards.  It differs from human happiness in that we can still worship God even in the most adverse situations, such as Paul singing God's praises while in prison.  This joy results in the fruit of PEACE: God's love quietly and calmly resting within us, no matter "the storm that roars without" us, as Anna L. Waring writes in her beautiful hymn, In Heavenly Love Abiding.  It is a peace which "passeth all understanding" [10] regardless of the circumstances we may be facing.

No matter what storms of life come our way we are to hold fast our FAITH (faithfulness): God's love holding steady amid adverse circumstances, remaining loyal, constant and true, keeping its promises.  And because many people these days have little or no church connection, it is vital that Christ's followers show forth to the world the spirit of Christ within us, which is seen in our LONGSUFFERING (patience): God's love forbearing and stretched out in perseverance; GENTLENESS and MEEKNESS (kindness): God's love expressing itself in the way we relate to others; GOODNESS: God's love relating itself to God's moral law, and right way of living which is pleasing to God, and God's love seeking the best for others; and TEMPERANCE (self-control): God's love being in control within us, enabling us to be disciplined in all our ways.

The fruit of the Holy Spirit comes from allowing God to produce within us the gradual likeness of Jesus Christ.  As the years go by He changes our characters if we let Him, to conform us more and more to God's will for our lives.  The fruit doesn't come from us trying ever harder "to be good", because no matter how hard we try to do God's will, we can never do it perfectly in our own strength.  Only God Himself working within us by His Holy Spirit does all things in a perfectly perfect way.

Jesus also reminds us that we can tell if someone else is true to Christ or not by looking at the fruit they produce.  What fruit does the teacher, preacher, brother, or sister in the Lord produce in their teaching, preaching, and daily lives?  We need to remember that some may come as wolves in sheep's clothing in order to deceive us.  The enemy loves to lead Christians astray if he can, but the Holy Spirit guides us into all truth.

Postscript: The Post-Modern Society and the Way That Leads to Death

It is important for all of us to stay close to God every day, and bear the fruit of the Holy Spirit even into our old age [11] so that we may bring hope to people groaning under the weight of all kinds of anxieties and problems, such as family breakdowns, illnesses of both mind and body, unemployment, debt, addictions of various kinds, fears of the threats of terrorism, and the disastrous effect all around us of the disintegration of our Judeo-Christian society into a 'brave new' Post-Modern one.

People who advocate a Post-Modern society are not interested in the objective truth to be found in the Bible.  They believe there is no absolute truth; only ever-changing human customs and conventions or subjective truth, such that no-one has the right to tell another what to do or believe as all are free to do what seems good or right to them at any one time.  The emphasis here is on "my rights" rather than on my obligations; thus if I want to do something, I have the perfect right to do it regardless of how it might affect another.  But this self-centred behaviour doesn't actually work in practice.  It certainly panders to the inherent desire of our fallen nature to place ourselves at the centre of our lives, but it doesn't lead to happiness.

Ultimately every one of us has a choice to make: Whom will we follow and what will we base our lives upon?  Will we follow God Whose ways lead to eternal life, or will we follow the ways of the world and the enemy of our souls, Satan, which leads only to eternal hell?

"...every man did that which was right in his own eyes" (Judges 17:6)

"There is a way that seemeth right unto a man, but the end thereof are the ways of death" (Proverbs 16:25)

"For when ye were the servants of sin, ye were free from righteousness.  What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?  For the end of those things is death.  But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.  For the wages of sin is death; but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 6:20-23)



[1]  2 Corinthians 5:17.          [2]  2 Corinthians 13:5a.          [3]  2 Corinthians 7:1.          [4]  John 4:23-24.          [5]  1 John 1:9.         [6]  John 15:4-6;  1 John 5:11-12.          [7]  Romans 7:15-24;  Galatians 5:17,19-21.          [8]  Romans 8:1-4;  Ephesians 3:20-21;  Philippians 2:12-13.          [9]  See 1 Peter 4:8.          [10]  Philippians 4:7.          [11]  Psalm 92:12-15.




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Michael Smith 2013