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 XCVIII)

Puritan theologian Matthew Poole (1624-1679) is one of the few who sees this fruit of the reborn spirit as divine tendencies that the Holy Spirit produces in us, which are as natural as a vine or tree bearing fruit. For him, it all begins with our Love for God and our fellowman. Such love will then produce the soul’s satisfaction with Joy because of our union with God. That same love will also bring Peace of heart and conscience because of that secured union, which will then extend to our neighbor. That also allows for Patience in handling those obstacles and hindrances we encounter and is a serum for reactions of anger and revenge. It produces a more Gentle temperament, which helps us live with our weaknesses and the shortcomings of others. Of course, this will influence our natural disposition to keep from hurting others because all we want to do is Good. And with such a temperament and inclination, we can be Faithful in standing by our promises to God and others. But rather than this making us proud, it makes us Humble because when compared to what God did for us through Jesus, the Anointed it amounts to very little. But it will also help us in Self-control because it’s essential to know when to start and when to quit. Starting too late will make our efforts look uninspired by Love, and not knowing when to stop will make our Love look like pity.[1]

As the great preacher, Chrysostom says it: Paul places first the root of these good things and then proceeds to recount them in these words, love, joy, peace, etc. So, it is simple to see, that without the root drawing up nutrients and budding, there would be no fruit. As we already mentioned, Paul gives us an exponential example of this phenomenon.[2] It provides a way for sending a message to all believers looking for the fruit of the reborn spirit in their lives or the behavior of others: First, look for Love. If you don’t find love, stop searching because all you’ll find is imitation fruit.

German Bible scholar Johann Bengel (1687-1752) calls Love the leader that introduces the family of virtues. And Revivalist John Wesley (1703-1791) puts it simply: “Love – The root of all the rest.” [3] Others say, Love is the root, and all the rest are fruit. Also, Swiss Protestant theologian Philip Schaff (1819-1893) joins in by saying that Love is the fundamental Christian grace which encompasses all others and holds heaven and earth in its embrace.[4] And George Whitefield Clark (1831-1895) also notes that Love stands at the top of the list as the foundation for the other nine Christian virtues. He also points out that we rarely find the Greek noun agapē in secular Greek literature. Yet it appears over one hundred times here in the Final Covenant. So, its association with Christianity makes it an extraordinary fruit for any believer.[5] Marvin R. Vincent (1834-1922), in his Word Studies of the New Testament, says that Love, in this passage, is the fruit of the reborn spirit, “which dominates all the others.” [6]

Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892) interprets in the fruit of the reborn spirit, Love as universal love; first, to God; next, to His people; and, then, to all humanity. Do we have that fruit of the reborn spirit, asks Spurgeon? If so, it will give us a friendly disposition; it will dethrone selfishness and set up holy affections within our hearts. From such love, notes Spurgeon, Joy, and Peace blossom and bloom out of Love.[7] Spurgeon also addresses this in another lecture where he remarks that believers sing about God’s wondrous love and the Lord Jesus and His cross. They also sing about the Holy Spirit’s Love and His patience. He looks at us from within and, therefore, sees the hidden spaces where idols are tucked away. He also observes our actions and the inner sources that fuel them. He notices our efforts and discerns from where the motivation comes. It is like watching a polluted spring that causes a stream, then a creek, and then a river to feed other side streams and backwaters.

Oh, brethren! Calls out Spurgeon, it is terrific that this blessed Holy Spirit should not resent having to dwell within us; we are terrible hosts, we honor Him so little. Our affectionate worship is so seldom that He might have to say, “I will no longer abide with you.” When the LORD gave up His people to the Roman sword, according to Jewish tradition, there was heard in the Temple in Jerusalem a sound as of beating wings, and a voice crying, “Let us leave.” In the same way, we forced God’s divine presence to leave us because of our sins. It is matchless Love, which caused the Holy Spirit to be patient with our bad manners and put up with our annoying behavior. He stays although sin intrudes into His tem­ple! He retains His royal dwelling even though evil assails His Temple! It is, unfortunately, that the narrow path in our heart in which we walk with the Spirit has turned into a thoroughfare for selfish or unbelieving traffic! God help us to adore the Holy Spirit at the beginning of our walk with Him and continue to do so even more reverently at its close![8]

Then Dwight L. Moody (1837-1899) agrees with those who say we find all the other eight fruit in the word Love. Therefore, it is Love all the way. Love at the top, love at the bottom, and down through these graces.[9] Johann Lange offers an illustration by W. H. Murray in which he views another fruit specimen as one type with many varieties, that is the apple. There are red apples, yellow apples, and green apples, but what Murray seems to be pointing to are the various flavors and tastes of apples. Braeburn, Cameo, Fuji, Gala, Granny Smith, Honeycrisp, McIntosh, Red Delicious, Golden Delicious, and many others. So, the apple represents Love and all the other flavors of love the Spirit produces.[10]

I remember seeing a commercial about imitation apple pie. The announcer said: “It looks like apple pie, it tastes like an apple pie, so it must be an apple pie.” When I found out it was more expensive than authentic apple pie, my first reaction was: “Why go out and buy an imitation when you can have the real thing?” I saw another TV advertisement for a chair covered with genuine imitation leather. The same goes for the fruit of the reborn spirit! People know when you have authentic love, real joy, absolute peace, actual patience, honest kindness, legitimate goodness, positive faithfulness, genuine humbleness, and demonstrable self-control. So, if we can’t fool people, do you think we can fool God?

The remarkable factor is that the first destructive effect of uncontrolled sinful tendencies, listed in verse nineteen, is sexual immorality – fornication. That implies rotten love. Then in verse twenty-two, the fountainhead of all the fruit of the reborn spirit is loveripe Love. Don Garlington mentions that Christian’s walk with the Spirit commences with the love of God being poured into our hearts by the Holy Spirit.[11] If love is seeking the highest good of others as defined by the Gospel of the Anointed, with the Anointed as the great example, then “love is not one virtue among a list of virtues, but the sum and substance of what it means to be a Christian.” [12]

It is because of this equation of love and Christianity, says Garlington, that Paul stresses in this very context that faith must work through love and that it is none other than love that fulfills the Law. For this reason, believers satisfy the Gospel of the Anointed by helping to carry each other’s burdens. When Christians display such love, they become the most like Jesus the Anointed. Each of the fruit of the reborn spirit represents Paul’s “character sketch” of the Anointed. Love spells the end of “hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and envy.” Love is Paul’s antidote to the internal strife he spoke of in verse fifteen. It is because of its social dimensions that love is more significant than even faith and hope.[13] [14]

C. K. Barrett adds some weight to the things that Garlington says about Love. When rightly understood, Love is not an end in itself. The moment it becomes such a dead-end, it deteriorates into disinterested Love – that is, it ceases to be Love at all. Whatever one may do through so-called charities, when not done in Love, it only becomes legalism, not Love. The Law of agape Love cannot become legalism itself but instead acts as a safeguard against legalism. Furthermore, with the Spirit being the author of the agape Love mentioned in this chapter, it becomes the antithesis to the actions of the flesh. Spirit is the theological counterpart to the physical, while Love is the ethical counterpart to sinful tendencies.

As we see, we can define real Love as a “non-self-centered existence.” But no person can simply decide to reverse their egotism on their own. Some have attempted to do so and only became locked in a person-centered form of religion or philosophy. The power of our mind and body cannot accomplish what the power of the Holy Spirit and reborn spirit can do together and keep it functioning.[15]

Sonja Vernon, former Director of Student Affairs at God’s Bible School, points out that God’s love is not all warm fuzzies and “feel good” theology. It is well-rounded and robust. It tells the truth, even when it is unpopular, but refuses to use that truth as a club to hurt someone. It is love that touches people who won’t respond in return, associates with those who may make fun of it, operates outside the comfort zone, and gets its hands dirty. Love forgives, is willing to be inconvenienced and draws people to the greatest Love of all.[16] As Caslyn Rice, new Director of Student Affairs, asks, when was the last time you went out of your way to love someone who seemed unlovable? Maybe we need to give sacrificially of our time or resources to someone in need, even if they don’t “deserve it.” [17]

[1] Poole, Matthew: On Galatians, op. cit., pp. 658-659

[2] 1 Corinthians 13

[3] Wesley, John: Explanatory Notes & Commentary, op. cit., loc. cit.

[4] Schaff, Philip: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 345

[5] Clark, George Whitefield: On Galatians, op. cit., p. 117

[6] See Galatians 5: 13-14; cf. 1 Corinthians 13; 1 John 2:5, 9-11; 3:11, 14-16; 4: 7-11, 16-21; 5:1-3

[7] Spurgeon, Charles H., Exposition on Galatians, op. cit., loc., cit

[8] Ibid. Sermon on the First Fruits of the Spirit, delivered on Sunday morning, May 25, 1884, Sermon No. 1782

[9] Moody, Dwight L., Secret Power, op. cit., Ch. 1, p. 13

[10] The Biblical Illustrator: op. cit., Vol. 48, Kindle Location (17799-17845).

[11] Romans 5:5

[12] Cousar, Charles B., Galatians Interpretation: A Bible Commentary for Teaching and Preaching, John Knox Press, Louisville, 1982, p. 131

[13] 1 Corinthians 13:13

[14] Garlington, Don: On Galatians, op. cit., p.164

[15] Barrett, C. K., On Freedom, op. cit., p. 74

[16] Vernon, Sonja, Revivalist Magazine, January-February, 2019, p. 5

[17] Ibid. p. 13

About drbob76

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