NUGGETS OF WISDOM

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BELIEVING WHAT YOU CAN’T SEE

David recollected that as a young lad, with long unruly hair and a ruddy complexion, sleeping out in an open pasture under a starry sky after watching his father’s sheep all day long; how he would take his little harp and sing to the God above all gods. Looking up, he saw the sky as a huge tent with the sparkling stars as lights that lit up the night. He may have even tried to count them once or twice. But what really impressed him was that each night every star was in exactly the same place, not one of them was missing. He was so overcome with awe that he penned a hymn to the creator of that starry universe.

O my LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius, as You display Your grandeur all over the heavens for all the world to see. For through these small and tiny dots of light You communicate as a way of countering those who don’t take You seriously; yes, You do this to silence the doubter and unbeliever. When I look up into the sky and see the galaxies Your hands created, the stars and the moon You put into orbit I ask, “What role do humans play in this vast universe; why do You care and fuss over them?” Then I realized, You created them a little short of being angels; endowing them with attributes of honor and dignity; making them the smartest and most influential creatures on earth; putting them in charge to being stewards of Your handiwork, even taking care of the animals, both domestic and wild, including the birds that fill the sky and the fish that fill the sea. O LORD Eternal and heavenly Master, Your awe-inspiring works mark You as a genius for all the world to see.” Psalm 8:1-9

Reflection: Back in the days of the hippy movement I sat in a coffee house in Stuttgart, Germany talking with a long-haired flower-child about God. The young man was respectful but adamant about his doubts concerning God’s existence because he couldn’t see Him or talk to Him. At that moment the Holy Spirit gave me an inspiration, so I pointed to a picture hanging on the wall beside our table and asked the young man if he believed that picture came into being due to an accidental collision of paint and paper. He laughed and said, “That’s ridiculous; that picture was painted by an artist.” I responded that I wasn’t convinced because I couldn’t see the artist in the picture; how did I know that maybe one day it just appeared on the wall by accident. The young fellow looked at me for a moment and then admitted that even though I couldn’t see the artist in the painting, I had to accept the fact that an artist painted the picture because it just makes sense. I told him that in the same way, one must exercise faith to believe an unseen talented artist created such a beautiful portrait, we can also believe an unseen God created the beauty of the universe. The magnificence of God’s creation shows His responsibility for man’s existence, and man’s responsibility to acknowledge God’s handiwork. The young man smiled somewhat embarrassingly as he bowed his head and said, “Okay, you got me on that one.” I asked him if we could have prayer for him to have faith, but he wasn’t sure. As he went away I asked the Holy Spirit to go with him and open his eyes to the truth.

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POINTS TO PONDER

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Have you ever asked your spouse, your children, or a friend, “Are you being honest with me?” Or did someone who saw the look of doubt on your face tell you, “I’m being honest with you?” If so, then for sure “honesty” is an important factor in what we say to each other.

Here is one definition of honesty I found: Honesty is the highest level of quality in human character. It is a true commitment between behaviors and relationships with other people. Honesty is very important to live a prosperous life. An honest person is tension free. Tension-free people live longer. If we know that we have made our commitments and promises with people honestly then we are not worried about the results. If we’re in doubt then there is tension (worry, stress, and anxiety) and these are the key causes and symptoms of various types of diseases.

Trudy Adams is a published author of teenage novels and a youth worker. She writes regular blogs about a range of issues affecting young people, including self-esteem, stress, anger, and day-to-day issues that can be challenging for anyone! She shares five reasons why honesty is important.

Almost everyone has been hurt at some point because of a secret, a distorted truth, a lie, and/or the discovery of something that should have been talked about openly. Dishonesty hurts because it undermines the relationship, breaks trust, and is the opposite of intimacy. It means that instead of feeling secure in the fact that you know the other person and are known by them in turn, you now have doubts about them and no longer feel totally safe in the relationship. Being honest isn’t always easy, otherwise, we’d all do it all the time. Adams offers the following points:

1) Without honesty there is no foundation for a lasting or enjoyable relationship in any context, whether that be with a family member, friend, or romantic interest. Honesty is a voice for love that builds trust. Without it, even “I love you” becomes a lie in itself and there’s no real security in the relationship.

2) People cannot read your mind. Being honest doesn’t just mean telling the truth about factual information, but also about the way you’re feeling. If you were hurt by something someone did, they may not even realize it unless you are honest with them about how it affected you. If instead, you hide the way you feel, then you disempower the other person from doing something about the problem and refuse the relationship the opportunity to grow. They may also feel hurt if they understand you were upset with them but said nothing, or if they know you’re not being honest with them about the way you feel. All of this festers and damages the relationship, while on the other hand, being honest about your feelings can bring healing, solve a problem, renew hope, and foster good communication.

3) When people don’t know the truth, they will try and guess it. That is, not being honest about something causes people to try and figure out what you’re not saying, or what the truth actually is. This breeds gossip, which can then foster more lies and deception that other people may mistake as truth. It causes many more people to feel hurt and betrayed when the truth is finally revealed, all of which could be avoided if honesty was applied in the first instance.

4) People are usually more hurt by the concealment of the truth than by the truth itself. Some people lie because they’re afraid the truth will get them in trouble or cause another pain, but more often than not, while the truth may be painful, it is still usually less painful when delivered honestly than when it is wrapped in deception. Holding back on it or lying to cover it only causes people to feel betrayed as well as hurt, and to then question why you weren’t just honest with them in the first place.

5) Being honest improves the relationship and saves us from having to live a lie. Lies rarely come on their own: one will usually be needed to cover another until it spirals out of control. This becomes complicated for the one who started it and confusing for the one receiving it. More than that, living a lie is hard work. It means not being yourself or enjoying relationships, and that is not comfortable for anyone. On the other hand, while being honest about difficult situations may be uncomfortable at first, if it can be worked through, the relationship is strengthened, trust is built and love is deepened.

The best relationships are the ones with honesty. It may mean difficult talks and awkward confrontations, but being honest also means better relationships with others and with yourself.

So, what does the Bible say about honesty? One of the Ten Commandments tells us that we should be honest when talking about our neighbor.[1] Perhaps that’s why King Solomon was such a great believer in honesty. He once wrote: Among the things the Lord despises most is a dishonest tongue.[2] He goes on to say Honesty guides good people; dishonesty destroys deceitful people.[3] The reason for that is: God can’t stomach dishonest people, but He loves the company of those who are honest.[4] So, it’s better to be poor and honest than to be dishonest and a fool.[5]

The writers in the First Covenant are not the only ones. Those in the Final Covenant were also adamant about being honest. Jesus gives us this rule to follow: Don’t make promises you can’t keep. Let what you say be simply ‘Yes’ or ‘No’; anything more than this comes from the devil who is a liar.[6]

And Peter, one of Jesus’ most trusted disciples, who knew first-hand about not being honest, wrote: If you want to enjoy life and see many happy days, keep your tongue from saying wrong things and your lips from being dishonest.”[7]

The Apostle Paul was also a champion of being honest. He told the Colossians: Don’t be dishonest with one another, seeing that you have gotten rid of your old self with its practices.[8] And to the Philippians, he wrote: And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honest, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.[9]

It all means that we must be honest with honesty. It is impossible, to be honest when you don’t hold honesty in the highest esteem. Think of it this way: Every promise in the Bible would turn out to be a pack of lies if God was not being honest. That includes our redemption, salvation, being His chosen, His children, looking for the resurrection, and everlasting life. How would that make you feel? So, don’t make others feel the same way about you. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

[1] Exodus 20:16

[2] Proverbs 6:17

[3] Ibid. 11;3

[4] Ibid. 12:22

[5] Ibid. 19:1

[6] Matthew 5:37

[7] 1 Peter 3:10

[8] Colossians 3:9

[9] Philippians 4:8-9

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SERENDIPITY FOR SATURDAY

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HOLLYWOOD’S PRODIGAL SON RETURNS

Everyone loved him as Little Ricky on “I Love Lucy.” But at home, things weren’t so great for actor Keith Thibodeaux.

In 1956, Keith auditioned for Lucille Ball and the crew at the “I Love Lucy” show. Keith was just a small 4-year-old boy, but he went in and did what he loved – played the drums. Such a small boy with a huge musical talent, quickly caught the eye of musician and actor, Desi Arnaz. After an impromptu jam session, Desi said, “I think we’ve found Little Ricky!”

Keith’s life changed forever. For four years, he played “Little Ricky” and then went on to the Andy Griffith Show, where he played Opie’s friend, Johnny.

After the family moved to Hollywood to follow Keith’s television career, he began to ask his father, “Why did God pick me?” He wondered what the purpose of his acting career might be. His dad offered important advice that stuck with him “God’s got a purpose for you.”

Sadly, Keith’s Dad’s infidelity came to light, and Keith’s world began to crash around him. He didn’t understand how the father he thought he had, who had been so full of meaningful advice, could let him down. He turned his anger to God.

That’s when Keith began attending parties with drugs and alcohol. His spiral downward led him into a study of the occult. He knew there was a supernatural world, and determined not to let God play a part, he began to follow spiritual paths that did not include God. His interaction with demonic forces began to convince him that his life had no value.

Adultery, drugs, demons, and suicide pulled him further and further from Christ. Until one day, this Hollywood golden child let Jesus turn it all around.

While he considered suicide numerous times, Keith couldn’t shake the words his father spoke to him so many years before. That’s when Keith talked to God. He agreed that if God could pull him out of the sewer, he was in that he would serve Him. He went to church with his mother, and God gave him a new path for his life.

With his new commitment to God, Keith enjoyed a new outlook on life. He was a man with a purpose. Keith worked through his addictions, and he was hired as the drummer of the band “David and the Giants.” He started sharing his faith with his bandmates – who ended up finding salvation as well. The group went from being a secular band to a Christian one.

Keith married a Mississippi professional ballet dancer Kathy Denton, and the two founded “Ballet Magnificat,” a Christian ballet company that tours internationally. Working as a husband and wife team, their mission is to use the ballet to share the Gospel message.

Looking back on his life and seeing the path to where he is now, Keith admits that God did indeed have a purpose for him. His fame from the “I Love Lucy” days, and training from being on sets, playing in a successful band, have all contributed to his ability to share the message of God’s love. Keith sees endless opportunities for using the medium of creative art to reach and encourage others.

What motivated Keith to turn back to God was expressed long ago to those in the same condition as Keith. Here’s what the prophets said: “Tear your heart and not your clothes. Return to the Lord your God, for He is full of loving-kindness and loving-pity. He is slow to anger, full of love, and ready to keep His punishment from you.” (Joel 2:13). “The Lord of All says, ‘Return to Me, that I may return to you.’” (Zechariah 1:3). “You must return to your God; maintain love and justice, and wait for your God always.” (Hosea 12:6).

“If you return to God and let Him make right all the wrong in your life, then you will be restored.” (Job 22:23). “Let us examine ourselves and let us repent and turn again to the Lord.” (Lamentations 3:40). “Whenever you are in trouble and turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and seek Him, you will find Him.” (2 Chronicles 15:4)

And the Apostle James wraps it all up by making this altar call: “Come close to God, and God will come close to you. Wash your hands, you sinners; purify your hearts, for your loyalty, is divided between God and the world.” (James 4:8)

So, we can see, it doesn’t start with God. He is already calling those who strayed away from His love and grace. He wants to redeem and save everyone willing to return. So, it starts with us. God has decided that He loves us. Now we must decide if we love Him more than the situation we are in. – Dr. Robert R Seyda

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XCVI)

The Jewish Fathers were not silent on this activity of love in the heart, and the virtues that it produced.  In their Mishnah, we read:

Greater is the Torah than priesthood and kingship, for the monarchy is obtained with thirty levels, and the priesthood with twenty-four, and the Torah with forty-eight things. And they are these: learning, listening of the ear, preparation of speech, understanding of the heart, reverence, awe, humility, happiness, purity, service of Sages, care in [selection of] friends, debate of the students, clarification, reading, learning, minimal commodities, minimal worldly occupation, minimal pleasure, minimal sleep, minimal conversation, minimal laughter, patience, generosity, trust in Sages, acceptance of suffering, knowing one’s place, gladness in one’s portion, erection of a fence to his words, lack of self-aggrandizement, lovableness, love of God, love of the creatures, love of the righteous, love of the upright, love of rebuke, distancing from honor, lack of arrogance in learning, lack of joy in teaching, lifting of a burden with one’s friend, judgment with the benefit of the doubt, standing for the truth, standing for peace, deliberation in study, questioning and responding, hearing and adding, learning in order to teach and learning in order to act, making his master wiser, focusing one’s words, citing the source, for it is directed that one who quotes a source brings redemption to the world, as it says: “Esther quoted Mordecai when speaking to the king.”[1] [2]

With Paul having studied under the great Jewish teacher Gamaliel, there is little doubt but what he learned these attributes and was able to integrate them into the fruit of the reborn spirit.

The writers in the Final Covenant use two main Greek nouns that define love: agapē,[3] and phileō.[4] The word agape denotes what we call today, Godly love. That is unconditional love promised for perpetuity, ready to endure any hardship or test to remain loyal. But one thing must be kept in mind, it is not a love that gives what is wanted, that’s human love, but provides what is needed, that’s divine love. Agape is the word used when John wrote: “For God loved (agape) the world so much that He gave His one and only Son to die so that everyone who believes in Him will not die in sin but receive eternal life,[5] as well as Jesus’ words: “There is no greater love (agape) than laying down one’s life for a friend.[6]  Clearly, this illustrates the depth and power of agape when one person is willing to die for another person’s good.

As I walked through the American Cemetery and Memorial at Fort Bonifacio in Manila, Philippines, viewing the 17,058 headstones of US servicemen and women, and I mentioned to someone the impact I felt in seeing them lined up on 152 acres of lawn. I said to them that if laying down one’s life for a friend is the pinnacle of man’s love, what do you call willingly sacrificing your life for a country that is not yours, and for a people you didn’t know? Whatever you call it, that’s the love Jesus showed to us when He died while we were yet His enemies.

We also find the word phileō, which means to “approve of” be “fond of” and “be friends with,” something expected of us and wanted by the receiver. We see it used where Jesus says, “If your love (phileo) for Me does not exceed what you have for your father or mother you are not worthy of being Mine, or if your love (phileo) for me is not greater than what you have for your son or daughter you are not worthy of being Mine.[7] Jesus wanted everyone to know they needed to be more than just fond of Him or a casual friend of His.

Luke also writes how Jesus warned his followers about the hypocrisy of the teachers of religious law.  “For they like to parade around in flowing robes showing love (phileo) to receive respectful greetings as they walk in the marketplaces, and oh how they love (phileo) the seats of honor in the synagogues and at the head banquet table.

But John the Evangelist records one of the most graphic contrasts between agapē and phileō in a conversation Jesus had with Peter: “After breakfast, Jesus asked Simon Peter, ‘Simon son of John, do you love (agapē) Me more than the others disciples do?’ ‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter replied, ‘You know I’m fond (phileō) of You.’ ‘Then feed my lambs,’ Jesus told him.  Jesus repeated the question: ‘Simon son of John, do you love (agapē) Me?’  ‘Yes, Lord,’ Peter said, ‘you know I like (phileō) You a lot.’  ‘Then take care of My sheep,’ Jesus said. A third time He asked him, ‘Simon son of John, is it that you only like (phileō) Me?’  It hurt Peter that Jesus asked the question a third time using like (phileō) and replied, ‘Lord, You know everything. You know we’re the best of friends’ (phileō).’  Jesus said, ‘Then feed My sheep.’”[8]

So, in other words, Jesus asked if Peter was committed and deeply devoted Him, and the best Peter could come up with was that they were best friends. Jesus’ use of the word agapē was not lost on Peter, and Peter’s use of phileō did not escape Jesus’s attention. No wonder the third time when Jesus asked Peter if all they were only good friends, it wasn’t that Jesus asked him three times that distressed Peter so severely, but because Jesus used Peter’s word “like” instead of “love.”

It seems the Galatians were following Peter’s example. Paul wanted to know if they liked the “do good” laws and ceremonies more than they loved a good God and His Son Jesus the Anointed. Which one were they willing to follow and obey? Did they put all their trust and confidence in the “do good” laws and ceremonies to provide salvation and eternal life, or, in the work and sacrifice of a gracious and loving Father and His Son?

Throughout the writings of the Final Covenant, we find the overwhelming mention of love as the basis for many expressions and characteristics of the Christian life. Jesus issued a new commandment in telling His disciples to “love one another.”[9] Paul declares that love is the bond of perfection;[10] and that the believer should be “rooted and grounded in love.”[11] John states that “perfect love dispels all fear.[12] And the most damaging claim against the Church in Ephesus was that they had “lost their first love.”[13]

We do not find the other virtues of the fruit of the spiritual oneness with the Anointed used anywhere else in Scripture the same way, nor with equal emphasis. Therefore, it stands to reason that love serves as the animating principle for all the other graces listed by Paul as fruit. Consequently, since all these other virtues are not included in the essential attributes of God, as love is, they should be seen as qualities of the love the Spirit brings into our lives so that we might display all this fruit in their beauty.

I will reiterate the theory I mentioned earlier, how given the change of attitude in the newly recreated person’s life through the work of the Holy Spirit. Accepting love as being the single element in the atmosphere, then just like water vapor in the earth’s troposphere changes into rain or snow or sleet before it reaches the ground, so love in man’s spiritual atmosphere morphs into various forms before it appears as spiritual fruit. Paul lists these as joy, peace, kindness, goodness, etc. They, in turn, the Apostle identifies as the fruit of the reborn spirit in union with the Holy Spirit.

Paul does not attempt to separate love from the virtues which follow as somehow being distinct from them; instead, he recognizes that they are all genetically connected, with love being the common element that proves their bonding relationship. Love expresses itself as joy, peace, patience, and so on. As such, these virtues as expressions of love provide proof that love exists within the believer. We might even say, none of these manifestations are possible without God’s love is the spiritual catalyst.

Bearing fruit implies that conditions must be favorable for them to exist, which leads us to the concept of the Holy Spirit and the believer’s reborn spirit integrating to bring about the transformation of love into different forms. In the natural world where evaporating moisture creates clouds, which then precipitation toward earth, altitude, and temperature play vital roles. When the atmosphere is warm enough, rain falls; when the temperature drops, sleet forms; when the temperature lowers further, hail falls, and when even colder temperatures prevail, snow comes.

In the supernatural world, where love is brought into the believer’s life through the Holy Spirit and then permeates the believer’s spiritual life, attitude, and temperament make all the difference. Observers find that these virtues provide proof enough that this person is born of the Spirit and that his or her reborn spirit cooperates to produce a harvest of spiritual fruit.

[1] Esther 2:22

[2] Mishnah, Fourth Division: Nezikin, Tractate Aboth, Ch. 6:6

[3] Matthew 5:43; Mark 12:30; Luke 6:27; John 5:42; Romans 5:5; 1 Corinthians 2:9. etc.

[4] Matthew 6:5; Luke 20:46; John 5:20; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Titus 3:15; Revelations 3:19, etc.

[5] John 3:16

[6] Ibid. 15:13

[7] Matthew 10:37

[8] John 21:15-16

[9] Ibid. 13:34

[10] Colossians 3:14

[11] Ephesians 3:17

[12] 1 John 4:18

[13] Revelation 2:4

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XCV)

For sure the word “fruit” serves as a singular noun referring to plurality; for instance, the fruit of an orange tree or an apple tree or a pear tree; but like a cluster of grapes or head of wheat or ear of corn, you may have plurality but no significant variation. This does not conform to Paul’s metaphor because the fruit he mentions are very different from each other, even though they are all attributed to one source.  There is no single tree that grows multiple forms of fruit. On the other hand, if we think of one basket containing oranges, apples, pears, bananas, mangoes, etc., we would have variety, but we would ignore the fact that they do not have a single source. So, when Paul says that the fruit of the believer’s spiritual oneness with the Anointed is love, joy, peace, etc., he suggests that there is one source providing a variety of fruit different from each other in characteristics while sharing the same essence. Such spiritual virtues are supernaturally produced.

Is there any such thing in nature? I imagine the Galatians were scratching their heads as well. The answer may lie in finding a way to illustrate something that comes from a single source and is transformed into a variety of characteristics while retaining its singular essence. The question is, how can unity with Jesus the Anointed exhibit different virtues that have expressions which cannot be confused with one another? The Holy Spirit alone brings such manifestations into the believer’s life through God’s love. Then with the reborn spirit, this love produces an assortment of virtues that, although they appear in variety, all possess the same essential element and origin?

We may find our clue in the phrase used by Paul in chapter three, verse three: “You came alive through the Spirit…” and in chapter five, verse sixteen: “…let your new spiritual oneness with the Anointed guide your conduct.” In other words, the Spirit in us motivates and cultivates our reborn spirit and provides the right conditions, elements, and forces to produce the characteristics of His being, in our spiritual nature, so that we exhibit the Anointed-like features.

Where can we find such a process repeated in our natural world that would provide a clear illustration of this operation? We can see in our ecosystem; how moisture recycles through evaporation to return in many different forms but all containing the same unifying element – water.  Here we find a concept of common origin with the possibility of diverse manifestations, each with their unique characteristics, yet retaining the same essence.

I didn’t think I would, but I ended up enjoying the study of meteorology in college, so bear with me on this. Almost any science books tell us how an envelope of gases called the atmosphere surrounding the earth. Within this atmosphere, there is a stratum called “troposphere,” in which the planet orchestrates its weather. Interaction between the high and low-pressure systems of temperature and vapor causes the most notable phenomenon called “clouds.” Clouds are made up almost entirely of water vapor suspended in the troposphere, along with fine dust particles called “nuclei.” Condensation and nuclei are brought together by the dynamics of wind and heat on surface water, which evaporates and rises in altitude. When the vapor reaches a certain height, it encounters low temperatures, which then causes it to condense and attach itself to these nuclei dust particles, which then forces them to fall back to earth. Meteorologists tell us that sea salts and clay dust make very good condensation nuclei.

We can compare this to the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives to represent the atmosphere—“In Him, we live and move and have our being.” [1] The troposphere is that area of our lives where His presence and influence create the Anointed-like characteristics; then, this would allow His indwelling presence to manifest itself through our reborn spirit. The Encyclopedia Britannica offers this definition of the atmosphere. “The ocean of air in which we move and have our being, which flows around us and sustains life on earth owes its unique and benevolent character to a superb balance among the forces of nature.” This beautiful analogy is showing the balance between our reborn spirit and the Holy Spirit in our lives. When compared to our spiritual existence is quite revealing.

Let us use the “atmosphere” theory introduced above to explain how the fruit of our spiritual union with Jesus the Anointed can exist with one source, one essence, in many different expressions. Look at how precipitation falling from clouds in the sky passes through a combination of conditions before hitting the ground in unique forms. Under the right conditions of atmospheric temperature, the precipitation may arrive in the form of “rain.” On the other hand, given a change in conditions, the precipitation might fall as “snow” or “hail” or “sleet” or even produce “fog” or “dew,” etc. Each one of these appears with different characteristics. For instance, compare the intricate crystals of the snowflake with the hard, compact crystals of the hailstone. Nevertheless, their essence is the same, which demands a shared origin. So, if we put rain, snow, hail, and sleet in a pot together and heat them up and then try to separate them again, we’ll find they’ve all returned to their common element – water.

In transitioning this theory to the fruit of our union with the Anointed, let’s imagine the presence of the Holy Spirit as the moving force. Within the atmosphere of our reborn spirit and in the spiritual troposphere where the transformation takes place. To explain how the higher the vapor goes, we change the word “altitude” to “attitude.” Only in this case, it does not get colder, the higher it goes, but the closer it gets to God.

Then let us identify the elements which serve the same purpose as precipitation in the natural realm. Of all the specific attributes and works that the Holy Trinity brings into the believer’s life, there is only one clear choice that qualifies as the catalyst to produce such varied manifestations while retaining the essence of a shared origin, and that is God’s Love. And like the dust particle (nuclei) to which the water attaches itself, here we have the human element of attitude – oddly enough, made out of dust particles with which the human body was made.[2]  So God’s Love attaches itself to the human element to be transformed into the fruit of our reborn spirit in union with Jesus the Anointed.

Let’s recap this scenario, so the concept comes more into focus. The Holy Spirit coming into our lives upon our new birth creates a unique spiritual atmosphere in which we live and move and have our being as new creatures in the Anointed. The Spirit brings with Him the premier element of love upon which John 3:16 and humanity’s salvation rests. It then becomes the catalyst to produce the manifestations of Jesus-like features emanating from our reborn spirits to those around us.

These not only prove the presence of the Spirit but also work toward the creation of particular virtues that can grow and mature toward maturity in the believer’s life. When the presence of the Holy Spirit encounters the right attitude on the believer’s part, these manifestations come naturally; they are not forced or coerced. But the Holy Spirit does not produce them by Himself; it requires the human element enveloped by love, and the full cooperation of the reborn spirit to be effective.

As different as they all may be, once again, they all share the same essence and source – Love. As Paul said, “Three things have their place – faith, hope, and love – and love is the greatest of all.” [3] The Greek comparative that Paul uses here is meizōn (“greater”). It can designate something as greater, larger, older, or stronger.[4] Why is love so supreme? Because God’s promises cannot be validated until He fulfills them. That’s why faith and hope are necessary for this life. But when our Lord returns, and we are living eternally in His presence, we will no longer need faith or hope for we shall see Him and know Him as He is.

Our love for Him will last for all eternity, inspiring our praise and worship in His presence. The big secret in the fruit of our reborn spirit’s unity with the Anointed is finding out how all of these virtues become transformed into an altered form of the essence called “Love.” Adam Clarke puts it this way: “Love, of course, heads the list, as the foundation and moving principle of all the rest.” [5] And all this does not include the “greatest” factor of all: God is Love.[6]

Love appears throughout Greek mythology and is often the central theme of each story. However, different kinds of love emerge in these narratives with different consequences.  In some instances, love is instinctive and impulsive when caused by Cupid’s arrow. This kind of love prompted Alpheus to chase Arethusa,[7] Apollo to pursue Daphne,[8] and Zeus to take Europa across an ocean on his back.[9] We characterize intense feelings and turmoil with such love.

On the other hand, we see in the Greek myths as less exciting but ultimately a longer-lasting kind of love. Ceyx and Alcyone become birds who fly together for eternity after they die.[10] Mulberry grows from the blood of Pyramus and Thisbe.[11] And Baucis and Philemon become intertwined trees when they die.[12] In these instances, love exists among humans abiding in the eternal realm, and it is perhaps the closest that most humans can ever get to be like the gods in those myths.

We see the Love that Paul speaks of here in the Lamb of God dying on the cross. He died to provide forgiveness and cleaning of sin for the whole world. Only when the Holy Spirit applied the effects of that blood to our wretched souls can the process of the miracle of spiritual fruit begin. The fruit does not come to us from without; it comes from within. It is made possible through the obedience of our newborn spirit to the indwelling Holy Spirit. Such fruit helps identify us as children of the Most-High God. The essence of this fruit is Love. Not just any love, but the Agape Love infused in us by the indwelling Holy Spirit through Jesus the Anointed, our Lord and Savior.

[1] Acts of the Apostles 17:28

[2] See Genesis 2:7

[3] 1 Corinthians 13:13

[4] See Matthew 11:11; 12:6; 13:32; 18:1, 4; 23:11, 17, 19, etc.

[5] Clarke, Adam, op. cit., op. cit., loc. cit.

[6] 1 John 4:8, 16

[7] Metamorphoses by Ovid, Book 4

[8] Ibid. Book 1

[9] The Myth of Europa

[10] Metamorphoses by Ovid, Book 11

[11] Ibid. Book 8

[12] Ibid.

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XCIV)

August Strong (1836-1921) has an unusual yet intriguing way of expressing how our love for God and the Anointed is an inborn trait to those born again. He begins by saying that faith acts as an intermediate factor between the unconscious and undeveloped tendency or disposition toward God wrought in the soul by God’s regenerating act, on the one hand. On the other hand, the conscious and developed affection toward God, which is one of the spiritual fruit and evidence of conversion. We see this by the motherly instinct shown in a little girl’s care for her doll, a maternal instinct that becomes a developed mother’s love, only when a child of her own is born. This new love of the Christian is an activity of their soul, and yet it is a “fruit of the reborn spirit.” But to attribute it wholly to the believer would be like calling the walking and leaping of the lame man touched by Peter and John,[1] as a healthy activity of his own.[2]

In the 1920s and 1930s, a debate arose among those emphasizing sanctification as an essential part of a believer’s life. Some took the position that sanctification took place simultaneously with the new birth as a second work of Grace. Others concluded that sanctification was a separate experience after and apart from the new birth. This generated the debate of whether sanctification was an instantaneous selection process of the Spirit, which then blossomed into a more mature Christian life, or, it was immediate and brought with it all the fruit of the reborn spirit for use?

As an example, Evangelist Andrew Johnson wrote an article in which he observed that holiness people tend to disregard this idea of growth in grace after sanctification. He gave the reason why he thought this took place: Years ago, the holiness teachers and preachers tried to refute what is known as the “Growth Theory” into entire sanctification. They did not oppose growth in grace as such but stoutly contended that people could not grow into sanctification. Johnson answered the question, what is growth in grace? “It is improvement, progress, advancement, development. It is necessary because we are still in a state of immaturity even after we are sanctified. In complete sanctification, we gain purity, but not maturity.” [3] [4]

British theologian Nicholas Wright goes so far as to say that this fruit of the reborn spirit, “are not things which, if we try hard enough, can be produced without the help of the Spirit.” If you suspect that someone who is being kind to you is having to try very hard to do it, then kindness loses its flavor. The point of all of these virtues is that when the Spirit is at work, they will all begin to happen; new motivations will appear.[5] In other words, any effort to imitate these fruit of the reborn spirit will quickly prove themselves as falsely motivated and, therefore, do more harm than good.

Now we need to look at Paul’s use of the Greek noun pneuma in this instance. This word can be used in five different ways: 1) referring to the Holy Spirit; 2) relating to man’s spirit; 3) signifying the essence of something; 4) suggesting motivation, and 5) representing breath or wind. So, its use must be understood in context. Some translations render pneuma here as a proper noun – Spirit, and others as a common noun – spirit. When used as a proper noun, Spirit refers to the Holy Spirit. On the other hand, when using the common noun, it refers to the believer’s reborn spirit in union with the Anointed. Rather than seeing this as a possible conflict when it comes to the fruit, we can accept it as a matter of a joint endeavor between Spirit and spirit.

We must be aware, that if we insist on using “Spirit,” we run the risk of implying that the believer has no involvement in the bearing of this fruit; that we simply wait on the Holy Spirit to produce them in us before we manifest them. That does not fit with what Paul is teaching. On the other hand, if we favor “spirit,” we may be in danger of suggesting that the born-again believer can produce these on their own without any help from the Holy Spirit. So, why not look at this fruit as the result of willing cooperation between the believer’s reborn spirit and the indwelling Holy Spirit, which brings them to life and so the reborn spirit can sustain them. In other words, the Holy Spirit is the essence of the fruit. I’m sure the Holy Spirit will not grieve as long as we acknowledge His required involvement.

Paul speaks about the actions of the flesh as characteristics of the unregenerate individual. In teaching the fruit of the reborn spirit, he is identifying the virtues and attributes of the spiritual person. A worldly person often tries to please God by subjecting themselves to the demands of religious rituals and regulations. Living in Europe for over a dozen years, I saw ritualistic Christianity in action; in Italy, the home of Roman Catholicism, and in Germany, the home of the Protestant Reformation. All of the activities of the flesh listed by the Apostle Paul, and more, were on display daily.

For instance, during Fasching (the German version of “Mardi Gras”), a judge once ruled that a woman could not divorce her husband because of adultery since free love during this festival was part of the celebration! I found that sexual immorality, fornication, adultery, perversion, drunkenness, orgies, and such were in countries where the majority of the population identified themselves with ritualistic Christianity. The French call it Mardi Gras (Fat Tuesday”), reflecting the practice of the last night of eating rich, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season starts.

When we put this in context, it’s quite logical to see that Paul wants to contrast the difference in how we respond to challenges, opportunities, and temptations by yielding to the lusts of the sinful-self as opposed to surrendering to the aspirations of the reborn spirit. Before anyone is born again, their spiritual union with the Anointed, which connects them directly to God, is dormant and not active. With the spiritual unity with the Anointed dead, all of mankind’s responses are dictated by their sinful-self. Even when they try to identify with or communicate with God, their Creator, they use the efforts of their own hands and minds.

Consequently, the original religious rituals and regulations came into being while God’s chosen people awaited the coming of the Messiah to awaken spiritual union with the Anointed so they could worship God in spirit and truth. While some contend that Paul meant the fruit of the Holy Spirit, others accept his reference to the fruit of the reborn spirit, which came alive through the indwelling presence of the Anointed. It involves the sanctified mind of our reborn spirit. Therefore, our thoughts, words, and actions controlled by sinful tendencies, are now under the new management of the Holy Spirit in conjunction with the reborn spirit.

But the spiritual nature wants to please God with submission to the will and purpose God has for living. However, like a motor that’s wired and constructed to run on electricity, if it’s never plugged in, there’s no chance of it working. Even after being plugged in, the line must connect to a source of electric power.  So, it is with the believer. From birth, we were all wired for unity with the Anointed. Before the Messiah came, humanity attempted to substitute the works of their hands and minds for the needed divine power. But for it to come alive, it must be plugged into the divine energy contained in Jesus the Anointed. Once that occurs through the new birth, it still requires a continuous flow of the Holy Spirit for the reborn spirit to produce any fruit.

Therefore, when Paul calls this list of virtues, the fruit of the reborn spirit, he means that the will, mind, heart, body, and reborn spirit of the believer running on the power of the Holy Spirit will produce this kind of fruit. As mentioned before, Paul was a reader of Greek literature, and may well have been aware of the ancient legends of “Virtues,” which is a term easily identified as fruit. It included grace, modesty, humbleness, kindliness, joy, purity of mind, and body. Even in a secular world, these are viewed as the highest of virtues.  However, they were cinematic illusions and not the real three-dimensional qualities produced by the power of the Anointed.

According to the Jewish Kabbalah teachings, the true essence of God is so superior that it cannot be described, except regarding what it is not. This true essence of God is known as Ein Sof, which means “without end.” It encompasses the idea of His lack of boundaries in both time and space. In this most exact form, the Ein Sof is so unequaled that it cannot have any direct interaction with the universe. The Ein Sof interacts with the universe through ten emanations from this essence, known as the Ten Sefirot.

These Sefirot correspond to the qualities of God. They consist of, in descending order, Keter (the crown), Chokhmah (wisdom), Binah (intuition, understanding), Chesed (mercy) or Gedulah (greatness), Gevurah (strength), Tiferet (glory), Netzach (victory), Hod (Majesty), Yesod (foundation) and Malkut (sovereignty). The Scriptures mention the following middle five qualities explicitly in this order: “Yours, O Adonai, is the “greatness” (gedulah), the “power” (gevurah), the “glory” (Tiferet), the “victory” (Netzach), and the “majesty” (hod).[6]

I have read 1 Chronicles 29:11 translated in varying ways, but the Hebrew corresponds to the names of the Sefirot in order.[7] The latest Jewish version completes this verse by saying: “For everything in heaven and on earth is yours. The kingdom is yours, Adonai, and you are exalted as head overall.” So, the idea of the fruit of the Spirit manifested in the reborn spirit was already coded in the First Covenant as issued by God.

Let’s rejoin Paul’s explanation of this spiritual fruit by exploring the relationship between the union of the believer with the Anointed in salvation, and the unity of the believer’s spiritual oneness with the Anointed through the Holy Spirit in sanctification. We see this in Paul’s use of the word deeds (plural) of the sinful-self – which we equated with “weeds” since they grow wild in sinful nature without any needed care-taking. On the other hand, the word fruit (singular) of the believer’s spiritual oneness with the Anointed needs cultivating, nurturing, pruning, and harvesting. Any curious person might wonder what particular type of fruit the Apostle thought of to find unity within a variety. Was he thinking of one cluster of grapes, or a flower with its number of petals of different shades, or perhaps a bouquet of different flowers in a vase, or maybe a grain of wheat or ear of corn with its aligned kernels, differing only in size and color?

[1] See Acts of the Apostles 3:8

[2] Strong, August A., Systematic Theology, op. cit., p. 131

[3] Johnson, Andrew, “Growth in Grace,” God’s Revivalist Magazine,  January 26, 1933, pp 3-4

[4] Eckart, Mark S. F., A Presentation of Perfection, Ch. 5, An Analysis of God’s Bible School’s, 1933, p. 80

[5] Wright, Nicholas T., Paul for Everyone: Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[6] I Chronicles 29:11

[7] Judaism 101, Ideas, Mysticism, Kabbalah and Jewish Mysticism, Electronic version

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XCIII)

Bruno the Carthusian (1030-1101), offers us the concept of relabeling the “works of the flesh” and “works of the Spirit.” Instead, he calls them “Faults of the Flesh” and “Fruit of the Spirit.” For me, it represents a weak attempt at poetry, and it does not measure up to the context and content of this scripture. Nevertheless, he goes on to say that the fruit nurtured by the Spirit is Love, love of God, and neighbor, from which flows joy and peace, et. al. So he also sees Love as the fruit from whose nectar all the other virtues flow in different varieties.[1]

Catholic scholar Thomas Aquinas (1226-1274), suggests that we understand “fruit” in two ways: First, as something acquired, for example, from labor or study and as something produced, as fruit generated by a tree. Second, as something that comes by way of the Spirit, not as something earned or acquired, but as produced.[2] In other words, sinful actions of the flesh come naturally, while the fruit of the reborn spirit appears supernaturally. Humans themselves supply the resources for their sinful actions, but only God gives the nutrients needed for the fruit. So, we cannot hope to produce any of this spiritual fruit by anything we do or accomplish. That would be like telling someone to stop breathing the free oxygen in the air produced by trees, and start making their oxygen so they can be independent and proud of themselves.

In another writing, Aquinas quotes Augustine, saying that the Apostle Paul had no intention of teaching us how many [works of the flesh, or fruit of the spirit] there are, but to show how to avoid the works, and seek after the fruit. In other words, Paul does not go on to list those virtues he mentions in other Epistles, just as he did not give an exhaustive list of the works of the flesh.

Aquinas then goes on to note that we can narrow all the virtues of the new-born spirit Paul lists here to Love, Joy, and Peace. That’s because these imply either the enjoyment of good things or relief from evil works, which things seem to belong to the notion of the produced fruit. Aquinas does not see the fruit of the reborn spirit as being contrary or on the plus side of virtues from the actions of the flesh. They are not of the same category. One is called acts and the other fruit.[3]

John Calvin offers his opinion. As he sees it, in the earlier part of this chapter, Paul condemned the whole nature of humanity as producing nothing but rotten and uneatable fruit. But he now informs us that all virtues, all proper and well-regulated affections, proceed from the Spirit’s influence, that is, from the grace of God, and the renewed nature which we derive from the Anointed living in us. It’s as if Paul said that nothing but what is ungodly comes from humankind; nothing but what is Godly comes through the Holy Spirit.[4] For certain, this gives us even more insight as to why having the influence of the Holy Spirit in our lives is so significant.

Puritan writer John Trapp (1601-1669) does see a comparison between what Paul is explaining as the fruit of the reborn spirit with the two olive trees on either side of the lampstand in the Temple. In Zechariah’s vision, two branches of the olive trees feed oil to the lamps.[5] It imagines that the two branches of the True Vine – the Anointed and the Holy Spirit pour out the golden oil of all precious graces into the candlestick – the Church. That golden oil is God’s Love. That’s why grace is here and elsewhere called the Fruit of the Spirit, a delightful fruit.[6] This illustrates that all the transformed fruit comes from one source.[7]

Puritan preacher Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) makes a valid point on the importance of these fruit of the reborn spirit in relationship to what Paul said earlier in verse eighteen. He told the Galatians that when led by the Spirit, they are no longer trying to work their way to heaven by obedience to the Law’s rites, rituals, and ceremonies. Paul then outlines in verses nineteen through twenty-one the effects sinful tendencies have on those who are not led by the Spirit. Paul lists fruit seen in the life of those who are led by the Spirit.[8] So we can see the progress from the New Birth through Sanctification to Service and ultimate Salvation.

Wesleyan theologian Adam Clarke (1760-1832) gives us his interpretation. As he sees it, both flesh – the sinful tendencies of the human heart, and spirit – the changed and purified state of the soul by the grace and God’s Spirit of God, represented by the Apostle as trees, one yielding healthy fruit the other rotten fruit. This type of fruit depends on the species of the tree. Wild seeds produce uncultivated trees that bear inedible fruit. In the same way, cultured seeds grow into cultivated trees that harvest edible fruit. Consequently, we have seen that the tree springing up from the sinful tendencies of the flesh yields poison fruit. The tree that grew up from the reborn spirit with its healthy fruit we will now look at.[9]

Clarke also assists us in seeing the connection between Satan’s seed and the Messiah’s Seed. What is so astounding is that Adam and Eve had choices of fruit from many trees in the Garden of Eden. This fruit would provide the nutrients they needed to be physically and spiritually healthy to live forever. All it took was one piece of fruit from one tree to bring them ruin and rejection from God.

God told these first humans: “You may eat from any tree in the garden. But you must not eat from the tree that gives knowledge about good and evil. If you eat fruit from that tree, on that day, you will certainly die!” [10] Later, it was Eve who explained to the serpent: “We can eat fruit from the trees in the garden. But there is one tree from which we must not eat. God told us, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden. You must not even touch that tree, or you will die.’” [11]

But then we read what God told the serpent after he successfully misled Eve to eat of the forbidden tree: “I will put animosity between you and the woman, and between your descendant and her descendant, he will bruise your head, and you will bruise his heel.” [12] According to early Jewish literature, when God warned the serpent that descendant “will strike at its head,” this was an allusion that the creation of Satan was simultaneous with the creation of woman. This is indicated by the first usage of the Hebrew letter ס “Samekh” in the Torah, which describes God as closing the surgical incision needed to remove a rib from Adam’s body.[13] The letter Samekh means: to “trust, rely on, prop up, and support.” It symbolizes an inner consciousness, a spiritual compass that keeps one on course by pointing in the right direction. When we combine all of this, we might say that from a Jewish point of view, God was telling Satan that when anyone he influences starts to go the wrong way, He will stomp on Satan’s head.

Now that Paul identifies the product developed by the seed of the sinful nature, he goes on to show the fruit produced by the grain of the spiritual nature. Therefore, this same hostility that God spoke of in the Garden is still alive today.

No doubt, this may have been on the mind of Jesus the Anointed when He spoke these words: “You will know them by their fruit. You do not gather grapes from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, do you? So, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruit.” [14]

Preacher Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910) gives his homiletical explanation of what we read here. For him, Paul is saying spiritual fruit, not spiritual fruits. English grammar defines the singular form “fruit” as an uncountable noun, so it has no plural form. In Greek, the noun used here is καρπὸν (“Karpos”) which is also an uncountable noun. It’s the same way we say “sheep” whether there is one or one-hundred. The point here, says Maclaren, is that we see that all this wide variety of graces of conduct and character, as though it is one. The individual fruit is not isolated graces, but all connected, springing from one root and constituting an organic whole.

We also note that the Apostle designates the product of the reborn spirit as fruit, in intentional and robust contrast with the sinful actions of the flesh, a grim catalog of dark, sinister activities which Paul lists before he shares this radiant list of sanctified fruit. The sinful lusts of the flesh have no unity and are not worthy of being called fruit. They are certainly not what a person should be busy producing when the divine Gardener comes to the harvest. So, Paul is contrasting a bruised and dying believer with rotten hand-made objects instead of the ideal believer of noble Christian character, and distinct and profound teaching as to how to attain it.[15]

W. G. Shedd (1820-1894) interprets evangelical faith as an act of both the understanding and the will. It involves a spiritual perception of the Anointed, and affectionate love for Him.[16] But faith is also a loving, and voluntary act of love is what Paul is saying here in verse six. Shedd also says that evangelical faith is a particular act that unites the soul to the Anointed. For this reason, it stands first in the order of the actions that result from regeneration. Repentance of sin, love of holiness, hope, patience, self-control, and other virtues are not acts by which the Anointed’s atonement for sin is laid hold of and made personal.[17] So love does play an important role in faith, because faith without love is determined as useless, as Paul told the Corinthians.[18] [19]

[1] Bruno the Carthusian: On Galatians, op. cit., (Kindle Location 2428)

[2] Aquinas Thomas: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[3] Ibid. Summa Theologica, Vol. 2, op. cit., Question 70, Of the Fruits of the Holy Ghost, p. 766-767

[4] Calvin, John: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[5] Zechariah 4:11-12

[6] Song of Solomon 4:16; 6:2; John 15:16

[7] Trapp, John: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 586

[8] Edwards, Jonathan: Remarks on Important Theological Controversies, op. cit., Ch. 4, pp. 347-348

[9] Clarke, Adam: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[10] Genesis 2:16-17

[11] Ibid. 3:2-3

[12] Ibid. 3:15 – Complete Jewish Bible

[13] Tzror Hamor: by Rabbi Avraham Sabba, Vol. 1, Lambda Publishers, Jerusalem – New York, 2008, p. 95

[14] Matthew 7:16-20 – New American Standard Bible

[15] Maclaren, Alexander: Expositions of the Holy Scripture, Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[16] See John 2:20; 6:44-45; 2 Corinthians 3:14; 4:4; Ephesians 1:17-18

[17] See Ephesians 6:23; 3:17; 4:16; 5:2; Col. 2:2; 1 Thessalonians 3:12; 5:8; 1 Timothy 1:14; 2 Timothy 1:13

[18] 1 Corinthians 13:1ff.

[19] Shedd, W. G. T., Dogmatic Theology (Kindle Location 13587) Also see Julius Müller: Christian Doctrine of Sin, Vol. 1, pp. 166-117

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CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

9526a07d9f8686ec5667a96cad064ff6

NEW TESTAMENT CONTEXTUAL COMMENTARY

by Dr. Robert R. Seyda

PAUL’S LETTER TO THE GALATIAN CHURCHES

CHAPTER FIVE (Lesson XCII)

But fruit does more than just grow on a tree, Jesus tells us that their fruit identifies trees. Edible fruit comes from cultured trees, and inedible fruit grows on wild trees.[1] Besides, Jesus also said that the soil in which you plant a tree affects its fruit.[2] And if a tree does not produce any fruit after a certain amount of time, Jesus said, cut it down![3] Jesus identified Himself as the true vine, and His Father is the gardener. Every branch grafted in Him that does not bear the right kind of fruit will be chopped off.[4]

To the Ephesians, Paul called the source of this fruit as a light that produces goodness, right living, and truth. This light, of course, is the Word of God – the Gospel. And then to the Philippians Paul said they must always produce the fruit of salvation, which is a righteous character developed by having Jesus the Anointed in their lives.[5] And Paul told the Colossians that this would help them live in a way that brings glory and honor to the Lord and pleases Him in every way. It will also help in producing every useful kind of fruit as they get to know God better.[6] We notice that in all these instances, the fruit is only available only when planted in God’s Word and the work of the Holy Spirit.

In response to Jesus’s exclamation that we will know them by their fruit, it is very appropriate that we first check ourselves before checking others to see who measures up. Notice, these are not just fruit, but the fruit of the newly-born spirit.  That means these virtues and the Anointed-like characteristics are those that the Holy Spirit brings by transforming our reborn spirit into a willful, obedient servant to Jesus the Anointed our Lord and Master.  And just like fruit in the natural world is meant to provide nurture and healthful benefits to the human flesh, so this fruit should serve to generate nurture and spiritually nourishing benefits to those whom the Christian feeds with words and actions. Not only that, but fruit contains seeds which, when planted, can bring forth more trees to bear fruit. Unfortunately, too many trees are barren of this fruit and, therefore, no new trees are available for planting.

The first thing to observe is Paul’s contrast between “deeds” (“works” KJV)” and “fruit.” I mentioned before that the Greek word used for “deeds” applies to business, employment, and anything with which anyone occupies themselves. It also identifies what one attempts to do, enterprise, undertaking, as well as any product whatever. It includes anything they accomplish by hand, art, industry, or mind, including an act, deed, thing done. The word “fruit” however speaks of something that grows out of a mutual endeavor, along the same lines as a planted seed grows and flourishes in nutrient soil along with rain and sunshine.

Therefore, the fruit that Paul lists do not reflect the results of someone’s independent action. Instead, the offspring or harvest of someone’s cooperation with other forces at work to produce the fruit.  The farmer may plant the seed, but it takes rain, sunshine, and nutrients in the soil to produce a harvest.  Paul argued that deeds of the flesh result from bondage to one’s sinful-self, but that grace and faith operate under the freedom of love flowing through one’s spiritual oneness with the Anointed, which blossoms into beautiful fruit.

The error the Judaizers made was to assume that Christian character is something produced by continual obedience to rules and ceremonies. It seems to be akin to some modern psychological concepts of behavioral modification: an attempt to change the inward man by positive or negative reinforcement to the outer man. The Judaizers tried to accomplish this with religious pressures that guaranteed salvation.  Some of the darkest hours in church history involved attempts to use spiritual cinema to replace the demonstration of the Holy Spirit; when believers try so hard to appear righteous on the outside that they blind onlookers to the lack of real righteousness on the inside. We must all remember that our bodies are a temple, not a theater.

The choice of any word in Scripture proves significant, especially when many other terms are available. There are several reasons why Paul found the word “fruit” to be his choice in describing the yield of the spiritual oneness with the Anointed. After all, Jesus talked about being the True Vine, and we are the fruit-bearing branches. From all that Paul shared with the Galatian believers, we see his concept of the Christian experience as the product of a new and divine life implanted in the believer by the Holy Spirit.  He also ends this section by speaking of the believer’s spiritual life, which, when carried to a logical conclusion, supports the notion that the Holy Spirit’s influence on the reborn spirit of believers will produce a positive and useful benefit.

Furthermore, the word “fruit” indicates a clear distinction between something man can do on his own with something man cannot do alone. No one makes fruit; it is grown; it deals with a person’s deeds and actions, while fruit relates to a person’s quality and character. The activities of the flesh signify an individual’s sinful-self at work. At the same time, the fruit of the spiritual oneness with the Anointed indicates the presence of supernatural power and purpose working inside them. To Paul’s way of thinking, it’s the character and spirit of Jesus the Anointed brought into the believer through the Holy Spirit that allows this fruit to grow. Not only that, the more a believer submits to the guidance and moving of the Anointed’s presence, the more fruit they produce.  But it is not the Holy Spirit that bears the fruit; it is the reborn spirit of the believer. As Paul teaches, just as much as “deeds” speak of hard work, mechanics, toil, and labor, so “fruit” addresses submission, receiving, and yielding. So, to the Galatians, Paul has a deep but brief message: it’s not about what you do, it’s all about what you become.

The picture Paul paints here shows very clearly the difference between those who claim discipleship with the Anointed through what they do for Him and those who identify themselves as disciples based on what the Anointed did for them. Those who point to their infant baptism, christening, catechism, and adherence to church rituals and regulations as proof of their being Christians, expose their faith as being that of bondage to individual efforts that have the blessing of the church.

Christians who accept the work Jesus the Anointed did for them on the cross and what He has done in them by His Spirit reveal their reliance on His redeeming power. It also signals their faith in union with the Anointed, which has God’s blessing. Such unity places them in the enviable position of also becoming the bearers of fruit whose source of spiritual nutrients is from the True Vine, Jesus the Anointed. Consequently, they do not point to this fruit as something they created on their own, but as evidence of something produced through their spiritual union with the Anointed.

Should such believers even care then if they attend church, read the Bible, participate in worship, and become disciples sharing the Gospel of the Anointed as they go on their way?  Yes!  By all means!  But not as efforts they bring to God as sacrifices to prove their right to eternal life. Instead, they do it because they are motivated from within by the Spirit of God whose aim is to glorify God through their lives, character, and ministry. Naturally, such divine motivation must deal with all the frailties, faintness, flaws, and failures of the flesh. That’s the battle Paul addressed, and the one he felt kept the Galatian believers from really feeling free to worship and serve God in spirit and truth.

In my earlier years in ministry, when people found out I was reading ten books simultaneously, besides the Old Testament and New Testament each year, they often asked, “How do you do it?” My response remained the same; it comes from within, not from without. I’m not trying to impress God at all with my efforts, but God inspires me with His wisdom, truth, and light, and no matter how long or how much I study, I can’t get enough. I asked God for this when He called me into the ministry.

The great preacher Chrysostom makes an observation. Paul could have compared the sinful works of the flesh with the good works of the reborn spirit because the immoral actions of the flesh are wild and receive no cultivation, “while good works require not only our diligence but God’s loving-kindness.” [7]  The reason for this is because such fruit is more refined and serves a purpose other than just existing.

Augustine of Hippo (354-430) also sheds some light on his understanding of how this spiritual fruit can dominate over the sinful actions of the flesh. He says this is possible when they “reign in the person in whom no sin should prevail.[8] We can liken the immoral actions of the body to weeds and the fruit of our reborn spirit to cultivated flowers. We can see that for the fruit to grow, there needs to be some weed-killer applied, and that number one antibiotic is the indwelling presence of the Anointed. With the Anointed in us, the things that delight God are more desirable than the things that please the body’s passions.

Augustine believes that God’s grace is applied by faith in the Anointed as inner loveliness. It is the pure beauty of holiness to resist anything that might stain our garment washed by the blood of the Lamb. It should delight us more when we live and act according to God’s Word and not allow our sinful tendencies to reign in us so that we obey their desires. Instead, the spirit of righteousness reigning through love brings us greater delight.

Ambrosiaster (circa 350 AD), a contemporary scholar of Augustine’s, offers his interpretation of what Paul is not saying here. Paul did not say that love is an effort of the Spirit but instead one of its fruit. As Paul mentioned before, the spirit’s principles bear fruit, which leads to the inheritance of the kingdom of heaven. Paul calls those devoted to the Anointed as “Christs,” that is to say, anointed ones in the manner of the Anointed. These people crucify the desires of the flesh, that is what the world offers when they condemn the things out of which sins arise.[9]

Ambrosiaster also sees a connection between what Paul teaches here with what we find in John’s teaching, where he said: Do not love this evil world or the things in it. If you like the world, you do not have the Father’s love in you. That’s all there is in the world: wanting to please our sinful tendencies, wanting the immoral things we see, and being too proud of what we already have. But none of these comes from the Father. They come from the prince of this world.[10]

[1] Matthew 12:33

[2] Luke 8:14-15

[3] Ibid. 13:9

[4] John 15:2, 5, 16

[5] Philippians 1:11

[6] Colossians 1:10

[7] Chrysostom: Homilies on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[8] Augustine of Hippo: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[9] Ambrosiaster: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit., p. 30

[10] 1 John 2:15-16

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