Wednesday, July 08, 2015

Works vs fruit - Galatians 5:19-24

"Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality... and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace...; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." (Galatians 5:19-24)
It is not hard to tell who a person is on the inside. The inward character of a person is always reflected by their outward behavior and deeds. The Greek word translated here as "evident" literally means "shining." In our outward expressions our inward man is shining through. Jesus, warning His disciples of false prophets, said, "You will know them by their fruits." (Matthew 7:16) We may think we are hiding our true self well, and we may succeeds for a while, but who we are in truth, on the inside, will always come shining through on the outside. Paul reminds us, "The sins of some men are quite evident, going before them to judgment; for others, their sins follow after. Likewise also, deeds that are good are quite evident, and those which are otherwise cannot be concealed." (1 Timothy 5:24-25)

It is also interesting that here, Paul contrasts the deeds (or works) of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit: works verses fruit. The Greek word for "deeds" is the same root from which we get our English word for "energy." There is a contrast between that which is always in motion, always working, always striving and that which is at rest, peaceable, and content. In speaking of the tongue, James describes it as, "a world of iniquity." (James 3:6 NKJV) The flesh is always in motion; always lusting, always desiring, always scheming and working to satisfy its longing. However, life in the Spirit is a life at rest. Jesus beckon us, "Come to Me, all who are weary and heavy-laden, and I will give you rest." (Matthew 11:28) The righteousness we desire does not come as a result of our works but as a byproduct of our life in the Spirit. As we follow the Spirit, the Spirit produces in our lives the fruit we desire. We seek the Spirit and end up with His fruit.

What the Spirit is trying to produce in our lives are the habitual deeds and persistent practices that are reflective of the nature and character of Christ. Christians may occasionally stumble into sin just as a sinner may occasionally stumble into righteousness. However, what the Spirit desires is fruit that remains; fruit that is habitual and repeated in and through our lives. Paul makes it clear that it is those habitual practices that determine our eternal inheritance. Those who practice righteousness will inherit the Kingdom of God while those who practice unrighteousness will inherit eternal damnation. However, this does not mean that Paul is again preaching a religion of works, for the works we do are merely a reflection of the live we hold on the inside. Jesus said, "So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.  18 "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit." (Matthew 7:17-18)

Those things we practice are determined by who we are on the inside. This is why Paul says that we must impale our flesh upon a cross and kill it with its passions and longings. We must lay aside our old life and take up the life of the Spirit. It is only by living by the Spirit that we will produce the fruits of the Spirit and thus inherit the things of the Spirit. Such a transformation is a process but it is a process that yields eternal rewards. Now is the time to start; to reckon ourselves dead in Christ and alive in the Spirit; to live by His promptings rather than the promptings of our flesh; to find out what truly living is all about.

David Robison

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