Inspiration: From Law to the Spirit, Galatians 5:1-26

Dear Inspiration Seekers,

Paul writes the famous lines about “Fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians chapter 5.  This is preceded by the acts of sin, for contrast.  “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.”  (5:19 – 20, NIV) I guess even that list is not comprehensive, “and the like”.  Compare those to “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control.”  (5:22 – 23) which Paul quickly follows with “Against such things there is no law.” (5:23).  The contrast that stood out to me in this reading, is not just the list, but the final concepts of “self-control” vs “the law”.The other contrast is that most of the sins are “acts”, while most of the “fruit” is “attitude”.  Acts need sanctions, external controls, to limit them.  Therefore, the law imposes limits on these behaviors.  Sexual immorality would be constrained by the law to sexual expression with one’s marriage.  Idolatry would be constrained to worship and rituals of correct religion.  Hatred, etc. would be constrained by compromise and cooperation with antagonistic parties.  Drunkenness would be constrained by advertising advocating “Drink Responsibly”.  Hmmm, I wonder if our politicians are reading this…

Self-control, on the other hand, is a different concept.  Rather than an external constraint, as in the law, the locus of control is internal.  By voluntarily directing one’s freedom toward righteous acts, one might achieve the attitudes Paul describes.  Paul does not list a do-gooders set of “righteous acts”.  He does not say attend church twice a week, volunteer at the food bank, pay your taxes (and be sure to get credit for all our charitable contributions on Schedule A), arrive at work on time and be productive, spend time with your children, plant a garden and orchard, drive your neighbor to a doctor’s appointment.  No, the closest he comes to this is to quote Leviticus 19:18 “Love your neighbor as yourself” (5:14).  Freedom allows us to do many good things from many good options.  The fruit is not the act, but the state of being that occurs because we chose good through self-control.

Until next time, Inspiration Seekers.

Hey, I think I set a record for brevity.  Maybe I applied some self-control! 🙂

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About hermitsdoor

Up here in the mountains, we have a saying, "You can't get there from here", which really means "We wouldn't go the trouble to do that". Another concept is that "If you don't know, we ain't telling." For the rest, you'll have to read between the lines.
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2 Responses to Inspiration: From Law to the Spirit, Galatians 5:1-26

  1. The Vicar says:

    Interesting insight on Paul’s noting both our sin nature, and the fruits of the Spirit: “most of the sins are “acts”, while most of the “fruit” is “attitude””. As I reflect on this, what comes to mind is that “acts” can be covered up, manipulated, and spun. “Attitudes” are determined less by the person and more by others observations of the attitudes (fruit). If I claim to be an apple tree full of sweet fruit, but others through their experiences and observations see me as a grapefruit with large bitter fruit, I think that the receiver has a clearer picture than the sender.

    Jesus notes the importance of good fruit (Matthew 12:33-35), “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks. The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him.

    Sounds like a “preserving the harvest” metaphor.

  2. CLL says:

    Good analysis of Galatians 5. As Paul writes, the fruit of the spirit is the result of the Holy Spirit living within a human being, and the Holy Spirit comes into a life when that person receives Jesus Christ as his “savior”, since people are not able to save themselves. Christians do not always follow the Holy Spirit’s leading, and that results in sin, but we can have our sins forgiven. The real key is having Christ as Savior.
    Vicar’s Dad

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