How God Demonstrates Who He Is Through His Children (Galatians 5:22-23)
[But] the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, ²³gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. —Galatians 5:22-23
Prepositional phrases are important. When Paul says that "the fruit of the Spirit is" we ought to stop for a moment and consider the point behind his carefully-worded sentence. It's easy to look at this passage in despair over how much we don’t measure up, but isn’t that the point?
When we stop to realize how conditional our love is, how lacking our joy, how fragile our peace, how short our patience, how tainted our kindness, how dull our goodness, how fickle our faithfulness, how jaded our gentleness, and how absent our self-control, it's no wonder that we may begin to feel a sense of frustration as we examine the fruit of the Spirit. Yet, we remember the Trinity and the doctrine of sanctification. And we remember that prepositions matter. The word of is key to understanding why this really matters to the apostle Paul.
This preposition tells us that the fruit is not our own fruit; again, it’s the fruit of the Spirit. Therefore, this list makes tangible the ways that the Holy Spirit—the third person of the Trinity—manifests Himself to the world. This begs the question, “What does the fruit of the Spirit have to do with me?”
By implication of these realities, if a person is to exemplify the fruit of the Spirit, the Holy Spirit must be living and active in him. How does that happen, you ask? Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3:5, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God.” The apostle Paul says in Ephesians 2:8-9, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” To be saved is to be given the gift of faith by God, through his Holy Spirit, as a result of the sacrifice Jesus paid on our behalf. That is what I mean when I say that this passage leads us to remember the Trinity. There is nothing we can do to earn the Holy Spirit, in the same way that salvation is a free gift of God, available only because of Jesus’ death and resurrection.
That’s why we can’t wallow in despair when we examine the fruit of the Spirit. We must recognize our shortcomings, yes, but then we must conclude that only by the free gift of God can we demonstrate the fruit of his Spirit, so we must boldly ask Him for that gift. When we do, we can know for sure that God will grant our request (Luke 11:13).
If what I’m saying is true, then we get to see glimpses of our God more often than we might realize. Anytime we see love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, or self-control in the life of a believer, it isn’t simply God at work, but God Himself manifest in the life of that person. That reality ought to change the way we see our fellow believers.
God the Father left a powerful mark on His children when He gave us the gift of His Holy Spirit because of His Son. May we always want more of Him.
Do you regularly ask God for more of his Holy Spirit? Why or why not?
Do you regularly thank God for how he manifests Himself in your life? Why or why not?
Are you more apt to see God’s handiwork in other believers’ lives, or do you tend to focus on their shortcomings instead? How will you intentionally tune in to His gracious work in your believing family members and friends?