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.

About drbob76

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