CALLED TO LIVE IN FREEDOM

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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

About drbob76

Retired missionary, pastor, seminary professor, Board Certified Chaplain and American Cancer Society Hope Lodge Director.
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