The fruit of the Spirit

As in the previous verses Paul set out the evil things characteristic of the flesh, so now he sets out the lovely things which are the fruit of the Spirit. Again it is worth while to look at each word separately.

Love; the New Testament word for love is agape (<G26>). This is not a word which classical Greek uses commonly. In Greek there are four words for love. (a) Eros (compare <G2037>) means the love of a man for a maid; it is the love which has passion in it. It is never used in the New Testament at all. (b) Philia (<G5373>) is the warm love which we feel for our nearest and our dearest; it is a thing of the heart. (c) Storge (compare <G794>) rather means affection and is specially used of the love of parents and children. (d) Agape (<G26>), the Christian word, means unconquerable benevolence. It means that no matter what a man may do to us by way of insult or injury or humiliation we will never seek anything else but his highest good. It is therefore a feeling of the mind as much as of the heart; it concerns the will as much as the emotions. It describes the deliberate effort–which we can make only with the help of God–never to seek anything but the best even for those who seek the worst for us.

Joy; the Greek is chara (<G5479>), and the characteristic of this word is that it most often describes that joy which has a basis in religion (compare Ps 30:11; Rom 14:17; Rom 15:13; Php 1:4; Php 1:25). It is not the joy that comes from earthly things, still less from triumphing over someone else in competition. It is a joy whose foundation is God.

Peace; in contemporary colloquial Greek this word (eirene, <G1515>) had two interesting usages. It was used of the serenity which a country enjoyed under the just and beneficent government of a good emperor; and it was used of the good order of a town or village. Villages had an official who was called the superintendent of the village’s eirene (<G1515>), the keeper of the public peace. Usually in the New Testament eirene (<G1515>) stands for the Hebrew shalowm (<H7965>) and means not just freedom from trouble but everything that makes for a man’s highest good. Here it means that tranquillity of heart which derives from the all-pervading consciousness that our times are in the hands of God. It is interesting to note that Chara and Eirene both became very common Christian names in the Church.

Makrothumia (<G3115>); this is a great word. The writer of First Maccabees (1Macc 8:4) says that it was by makrothumia (<G3115>) that the Romans became masters of the world, and by that he means the Roman persistence which would never make peace with an enemy even in defeat, a kind of conquering patience. Generally speaking the word is not used of patience in regard to things or events but in regard to people. Chrysostom said that it is the grace of the man who could revenge himself and does not, the man who is slow to wrath. The most illuminating thing about it is that it is commonly used in the New Testament of the attitude of God towards men (Rom 2:4; Rom 9:22; 1Tim 1:16; 1Pet 3:20). If God had been a man, he would have wiped out this world long ago; but he has that patience which bears with all our sinning and will not cast us off. In our dealings with our fellow men we must reproduce this loving, forbearing, forgiving, patient attitude of God towards ourselves.

Kindness and goodness are closely connected words. For kindness the word is chrestotes (<G5544>). It, too, is commonly translated goodness. The Rheims version of 2Cor 6:6 translates it sweetness. It is a lovely word. Plutarch says that it has a far wider place than justice. Old wine is called chrestos (<G5543>), mellow. Christ’s yoke is called chrestos (<G5543>) (Matt 11:30), that is, it does not chafe. The whole idea of the word is a goodness which is kind. The word Paul uses for goodness (agathosune, <G19>) is a peculiarly Bible word and does not occur in secular Greek (Rom 15:14; Eph 5:9; 2Th 1:11). It is the widest word for goodness; it is defined as “virtue equipped at every point.” What is the difference? Agathosune (<G19>) might, and could, rebuke and discipline; chrestotes (<G5544>) can only help. Trench says that Jesus showed agathosune (<G19>) when he cleansed the Temple and drove out those who were making it a bazaar; but he showed chrestotes (<G5544>) when he was kind to the sinning woman who anointed his feet. The Christian needs that goodness which at one and the same time can be kind and strong.

Fidelity; this word (pistis, <G4102>) is common in secular Greek for trustworthiness. It is the characteristic of the man who is reliable.

Gentleness; praotes (<G4236>) is the most untranslatable of words. In the New Testament it has three main meanings. (a) It means being submissive to the will of God (Matt 5:5; Matt 11:29; Matt 21:5). (b) It means being teachable, being not too proud to learn (Jas 1:21). (c) Most often of all it means being considerate (1Cor 4:21; 2Cor 10:1; Eph 4:2). Aristotle defined praotes (<G4236>) as the mean between excessive anger and excessive angerlessness, the quality of the man who is always angry at the right time and never at the wrong time. What throws most light on its meaning is that the adjective praus (<G4239>) is used of an animal that has been tamed and brought under control; and so the word speaks of that self-control which Christ alone can give.

Self-control; the word is egkrateia (<G1466>) which Plato uses of self-mastery. It is the spirit which has mastered its desires and its love of pleasure. It is used of the athlete’s discipline of his body (1Cor 9:25) and of the Christian’s mastery of sex (1Cor 7:9). Secular Greek uses it of the virtue of an Emperor who never lets his private interests influence the government of his people. It is the virtue which makes a man so master of himself that he is fit to be the servant of others.

It was Paul’s belief and experience that the Christian died with Christ and rose again to a life, new and clean, in which the evil things of the old self were gone and the lovely things of the Spirit had come to fruition.

Barclay’s Daily Study Bible (NT).


Abiding in Christ

Another glorious application of the word abide (menō, <G3306>) is that God abides in the believer. In other words, as the meaning of menō indicates, God remains in the Christian; He’s always present there, and He never leaves.

John 15 is the most graphic passage on this truth. This word appears to be one of John’s favorites, in fact, as he uses it twelve times in verses 4-16, and is also translated “continue” (v. 9) and “remain” (v. 11). The picture here, of course, is our Lord’s analogy of a vine that illustrates how He abides in us and we in Him. Verses 4 and 5 declare, “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.” As a vine gives life and sends nourishment throughout the entire plant, so Christ gives us life and sustenance.

Another vivid example of this principle appears in John 14:16: “And I [Christ] will pray the Father, and he shall give you another Comforter, that he may abide with you for ever.” We’ll examine this verse in more detail on June 5 and 6, but the wonderful truth here is that the Comforter (the Holy Spirit) abides in us and will always abide in us (since “forever” is a long time).

God makes the same promise in Hebrews 13:5: “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” This is actually a quotation of Deuteronomy 31:6: “Be strong and of a good courage, fear not, nor be afraid of them [i.e., your adversaries]: for the Lord thy God, he it is that doth go with thee; he will not fail thee, nor forsake thee.” What a promise! And we can be assured of the promise because “God… cannot lie” (Titus 1:2; cf. Num. 23:19).

What peace there is in knowing that God is always with us!

A Word for the Day: Key Words from the New Testament.


Enjoying God and worship

Worship is fun for the person who enjoys God.

The favorite pastime of the person who enjoys God is worship. His heart resonates with the hymn, “Early in the morning, my song shall rise to Thee.” It is of course far more than a past time. In a way, it is a full-time occupation. But it is never drudgery. It is not work in that sense. Worship is the delight of the person who enjoys God.

The person who enjoys God needs worship. He craves it as a couple in love crave to be together. If this seems crass, consider this usage of the Greek word gnosko:

Philippians 3:10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death,

Luke 1:34 (KVJ) How shall this be seeing I know not a man?

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A letter from someone who enjoyed God a lot

We can learn a great deal about how to enjoy God from a Paul’s writing to the Philippian church. Paul was a man who enjoyed God.

Paul’s letter to the Philippians is generally known as the “Letter of Joy” (1 John might be equally worthy of this designation). From this letter we can learn a great deal about how to enjoy God from a man who did enjoy God.

It is helpful to remember that he did not write this letter while vacationing at a resort in Southern France. Rather, he was in a Roman jail. To make matters worse, while he was in jail, things were in general disarray in Paul’s second love, the church. This would be as unsettling as a CEO who discovers while he is in an extended stay in the hospital, that his top leaders are embroiled in a divisive conflict. This tells us a lot of what it means to enjoy God. Paul found a way to enjoy God in the worst of circumstances. How did he do this?

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What do you enjoy?

“What exactly is enjoying God?” Bill asked as we leaned over the back of the bleachers and watched our kids at T-ball. A good question, I thought, and I was a little embarrassed that I had not answered it after a month of study with our Saturday night group. I was even more embarrassed as I realized I didn’t have a ready answer.

“What do you think?” I was stalling.

“Music.” Bill is not much on elaborate conversation. He is a Border Patrol Agent whose greatest joy is chasing down illegal aliens or drug smugglers. He is an out doorsy type and a self-described beginner in the faith. “It is that uncanny feeling you get every now and then when you are singing or just listening to music and . . . ZAP! you feel you have just been filled with the Spirit.”

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Enjoying God and denying yourself

One reason we struggle with enjoying God is that it seems so selfish. We have been taught that the acme of Christian living is unselfishness. The suggestion that Christianity looks as if we are pursuing pleasure—be it in God or anyone else—seems blasphemous. We can even come up with proof-texts. Jesus said,

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me.” (Matthew 16:24)

How does this square with enjoying God? It sounds, on the surface, that Jesus is saying that the pursuit of enjoying anything—God or anything else—is selfish and repulsive. It sounds like what we have often been taught, that the noblest act is to put aside all desire for pleasure. To want anything for oneself taints our motive and calls into question the sincerity of the act.

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