THE APOSTOLIC VERDICT ON THOSE WHO PRACTICE WORKS OF THE FLESH—continued. (Gal. 5:21)
Paul binds this matter once more upon the consciences of the Galatian churches. He reminds them of the judgment to come “before” it comes. He will be free of their blood as a preacher (Ez. 3:16-21). He had before warned them when he was in their midst. And now he warns them again. In each case it was “forewarning,” that is, it was warning “in advance.” It was looking in both cases to that great day when the world shall be judged by one man, Jesus Christ (Acts 17:31). The preposition in the Greek “pro” anticipates the Day of Christ, when He shall come in his Kingdom with all His holy angels, and in the midst of the saints. These are the warnings we need, and which warnings the Holy Spirit employs to keep us in the ways of obedience. Had Paul not given these warnings in the church he would have presumed to tempt God by separating what God in His good-pleasure has most intimately joined together (Canons, III, IV, 17). We should flee from the works of darkness and walk as children of light! The battle cry is: Rise, shine, and Christ shall give you light! (Eph. 5:14)
THE FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT IN THE CHILDREN OF LIGHT (Gal. 5:22-24)
Paul had been speaking of the titanic battle in the redeemed saints, as long as they are in the flesh, in verses 16, 17. For the flesh lusts against the Spirit and the Spirit operates mightily against the flesh, so that in this battle we are not overcome, but evermore and anon give strong resistance (H.C. Question 127). And this we do by God’s grace and Spirit until at last we have the complete victory; then we shall have apprehended (grasped) the prize of the upward calling, unto which we have been apprehended of Christ Jesus, our Lord. Then we shall have come to the complete and full resurrection from the dead in body and soul (Phil 3:10-14).
Meanwhile the elect, called, justified believers do experience with holy joy the infallible fruits of electionin our life as these are pointed out in the Word of God (Canons I, 12; H.C. Questions 64, 86, 87). Compare also II Peter 1:4-11, and Matt. 7:17. For our faith is such that it is energized by love in Jesus Christ, as the fulfillment of the law (Gal. 5:6).
Paul singles out a list of virtues, Christian fruits, fruits of the Holy Spirit of Christ, the head of the Church, which we bear in Christ as branches in the true Vine (John 15:1-10). To be sure, these are all but a small beginning in us; all is imperfect and polluted with sin. We do not ever do what we will to do perfectly (See Questions 5, 60, 62, and 114 of the H.C.). Nevertheless, those who are led by the Spirit have the fruits of the Spirit in their lives here upon earth, which is fruit upon their lips and in their lives; these are fruits upon the altar of consecration as King-Priests of God. His seed remains in us (Heb. 13:15; I Peter 2:5; I John 3:9, 10).
With the foregoing in mind, we undertake to look into these fruits of the Spirit here mentioned. The list here too is not exhaustive; however, it is abundantly representative! Paul lists these Spiritual fruits in three successive triads. We will consider these in the order given by Paul.
The first triad is: love, joy, and peace!
It is indeed perfectly clear in the light of all of Scripture why Paul first calls attention to the fruit: love! Had Paul only spoken of this one fruit, which is called love, he would in essence have said it all. For love is the root, the fountainhead of all other Christian virtues. Good works proceed out of true faith in Christ as a spiritual tie. And this true faith is a gift of God which works by love. And this faith fulfils the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus. It fulfils the law as the expression of the will of God for our life to reveal the fulness of the glory of God’s image in us His children! And thus by love we serve one another here in this life imperfectly, but presently in glory perfectly. Then shall the law be fulfilled in its last jot and tittle in all the saints in glory. Here we will see the fulness of the glory of Christ’s grace, which fills all in all (Matt. 5:17-21). Such is the new commandments in Christ’s blood, the covenant in our hearts. For this reason all shall know that we are Christ’s disciples if we have love one for another (John 13:34, 35). This is the love which we cherish toward one another because of God’s great love for us in the propitiatory sacrifice of His only begotten Son. This is the love of the Cross in which God established His love to us when we were yet sinners. We love so much because much has been forgiven us, in the justifying free gift of grace (Rom. 5:8; I John 4:16-18, 19, 20). This is the love concerning which Paul sings his grand anthem of praise in I Cor. 13:1-7. This love is greater than faith or hope, since it is basic to both and is eternal. When we see God presently face to face, and no longer simply know in part, then shall it be seen in all its glory that we are completely “under grace,” and that this love is indeed the bond of perfectness (I Cor. 13:8-13; Col. 3:14). But now it is already the fruit, the basic fruit of the Spirit in our heart, where it has been shed abroad, so that we stand and rejoice in the hope of glory (Rom. 5:2). This is; therefore, the basic fruit in which all other Christian virtues are summed up in one word! Therefore it is placed first!
The second fruit of the Spirit mentioned is “joy.” Those who inherit the kingdom of God in Christ inherit joy in the Holy Spirit. For the kingdom is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Rom. 14:17). Jesus often speaks of this joy to His disciples. This joy is really “the joy that was set before him” as a beckoning, and cheering future in His way of suffering, as the Man of sorrows (Heb. 12:20). Thus He endured the Cross and despised the shame and dealt very prudently as Jehovah’s Servant (Isaiah 52:13-15). And in this prospect of joy He is very highly exalted at God’s right hand. This is the same joy which a woman has after she has travailed with child, and rejoices that a man-child has been born. It is the eternal joy of heaven, of which we now, in hope, have a foretaste. Thus we have joy unspeakable and full of glory (I Pet. 1:8; John 8:56). Yes, this is the full cup of joy and bliss which is the portion of those who have fellowship in the Spirit with the Father and the Son (I John 1:1-3). Such walk in the light as God is light, and in this way their joy is “full,” as legally adopted, freeborn sons and daughters of Sarah, the heavenly Jerusalem. They are justified and, therefore, also sanctified in the complete redemption in Christ. This is a joy not only in days of prosperity, but also in days of extremely long adversity and affliction for Christ’s sake (James 1:2). Yes, truly we have not seen Jesus the risen and glorious Lord after His ascension into the most holy place, in that temple not made with hands, but God grants us this joy now in the love which he gives us for the brethren, so that by love we serve one another! Outside of such love for the neighbor and the fellowship of saints in the Spirit there is no joy. Joy is found only in the more excellent way! The Spirit is not divided against Himself!
The third perfection in this first triad is “peace.” Also peace is an essential quality of the kingdom of God! It is really a kingdom of peace in the city of peace, Jerusalem, from whence all the freeborn sons of Sarah are born in contradistinction from the sons of Hagar, the bond-woman (Heb. 7:2; Gal. 4:24-31). Such is the mystery of godliness in the fruits of the Spirit. Wherefore Jesus does and can speak of “my peace.” This is the peace which He became for us on the Cross (Eph. 2:14; Col. 1:20; John 14:27; John 16:33). This is a peace which He left us as His legacy, as the church, and which He gives to us in a way which the world can and does never give it. He does not give it by vain and impotent promises as do worldly men, teachers, politicians, psychologists, and worldly psychiatrists of every hue and color. This is the peace of the justified saints, the adopted sons, who have received the Spirit of the Son, the Spirit of adoption, which cries Abba Father in their heart. It is the peace of those, who are not servants any longer, but sons, heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ (Rom. 8:14-16; Gal. 4:6, 7). It means that we are turned from warmongers into peacemakers, living in the peace of Christ, living in peace with our neighbor, not devouring, consuming one another any longer. And then it means the inner peace of heart and contentment with God’s way with us, a peace of God which passes all understanding (Phil 4:6,7). It means that we abide under the shadow of the Almighty, and under the blessing of Christ’s nail-pierced hands, that blesses us now from heaven, even as He blessed His disciples in the upper room in the evening of the resurrection day (John 20:19). Here we experience God in Christ as the God of all peace, in which love and joy flood our souls in the firstfruits of the full harvest. All torment of hatred and unrest is gone forever. This is the crowning of the love and joy in the infallible fruits of election in blessed peace, to be finally worthy to stand before the Son of man (Luke 21:36).
We now come to the second triad of fruits of the Spirit:Longsuffering, gentleness, goodness.
We begin with discussing the fruit of the Spirit calledlongsuffering. This, too, is a fruit of the Spirit which is only found in the sons of adoption, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, and who live in the ardent hope of the reception of the full harvest, and the final adoption of sons, to which the entire creation looks to be delivered from the bondage of corruption, into the glorious liberty of the children of Sarah. Such have received justifying grace by faith and have peace with God. They walk in their liberty with a free and good conscience (Rom. 8:18-23; Rom. 5:1; Gal. 4:31; Heb. 9:13-15).
We know that longsuffering is an attitude of love and tender mercy on the part of God to His adopted, justified children, freely by His grace. They are the apple of His eye, His peculiar treasure in all the earth. God is merciful, gracious, and longsuffering only upon Israel. Such is His very clearly revealed Name, which shows us the “his glory” as it passed before Moses, while he was in the cleft of the rock (Ex. 34:6). That is His glory in the saints, that He is longsuffering over His elect who cry unto Him day and night, in every land and age (Luke 18:6; Rev. 6:10). His was a great longsuffering over Israel in Egypt under the persecution and tyranny of Pharaoh; here He cherished them as vessels of mercy in the midst of the vessels of wrath, which were being upheld in God’s “forbearance” in this awful and painful history, wherein Jehovah shows that He is the “I Am That I AM.” He heard the “cry of my people” (Ex. 3:7, 9). Here is no general love and mercy displayed, which also includes Egypt as the objects of His longsuffering, but here is elective love, for a people whom He “foreknew” in sovereign mercy, and whom He could and would never “cast away” (Rom. 11:1-6).