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 CVI)

Paul continues his theme on the fruit of kindness. In writing to the Ephesians, he tells them that God wants to point us out as examples of the incredible return He gets for His abundant investment of grace and kindness in our lives: “As soon as you believed, it was God’s grace that saved you. And you can’t say you earned it; it is a gift from God.” [1]

But Paul was not putting himself above the Ephesians when it came to love transformed into kindness.  He confessed to the congregation that Titus the Gentile pastored: “All of us were once foolish and disobedient. We were misled and became slaves to many lusts and pleasures. Our lives were full of evil and envy, and we hated each other. But, ‘When God our Savior revealed His kindness and love; He saved us not because we did anything right, but because of His mercy. He washed away our sins, giving us a new birth and new life through the Holy Spirit.’” [2] Here again, we see the unbreakable tie between the essence of love and its characteristics. Anyone claiming to have love but does nothing to express that love makes it impossible to prove their love exists.

Believe it or not, a common nickname for slaves in Paul’s day was the Greek word for kindness, “chrestos.” Many believe this indicated that any servant given this title possessed the qualities and characteristics of an ideal, trusted servant. I’m sure the Apostle Paul was not oblivious to this. He strove to be the type of servant God wanted him to be. So, he encouraged others to be examples of kindness, especially among believers.

It appears the congregation in Ephesus did not get along with each other the way they should, so Paul did not mince words when he told them to “Get rid of all bitterness, rage, anger, harsh words, and slander, as well as all types of evil behavior. Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through the Anointed forgave you.” [3]

Paul certainly did not want anyone to misconstrue the Fruit of kindness as some type of weak-kneed, easy-going, I-don’t-want-to-hurt-anyone attitude. The Apostle found that kindness can often come with a bitter taste that makes it hard to swallow – much like some medicines are today, but in the end, it’s the best thing for you. In addition to that, man cannot duplicate the effects of this newfound kindness in the Anointed Jesus on his own; in doing so, some people attempt to imitate the Anointed’s kindness without love. And the exact term for that is imitation kindness. It cannot compare to the polished and graceful of love transformed as kindness.

Jesus may have considered something like that when He tried to explain to His critics why the type of kindness, He and His disciples practiced would not fit into the old Jewish way of performing good deeds to make themselves look good. Jesus told them, “No one puts new wine into old wineskins. The new wine would burst the old wineskins, spilling the wine and ruining the skins. You store fresh wine in new wineskins. But some hooked on the old wine don’t care much for the new wine. They say, ‘The old wineskin is just fine with me.’” [4]

In other words, some people refuse to change the way they show kindness as a believer. They’ll tell you, “Don’t ask me to stop and help someone out when I’m on my way to church because it will break my perfect Sunday School attendance record!” Or, “I’m good at helping people on a spiritual level; I’ll leave the charity work up to those not as spiritually equipped as I am.”

We learn from this that kindness, as produced by love, is not a trait or learned behavior. It springs from the heart due to the Anointed-like characteristics of a newborn creature. It thereby reveals a humbleness of spirit and well-mannered will, which puts consideration of others above self. Peter saw it this way when he advised everyone, “Don’t try to impress people by the way you dress or comb your hair, or with fine jewelry or fancy clothes. Rather, radiate the beauty that comes from within, the unfading beauty of a kind and quiet spirit, which is so precious to God.” [5]

The great Reformer Martin Luther, who faced much opposition, spoke this way about this Fruit of kindness: “Kindness in conduct and life. True followers of the Gospel must not be sharp and bitter, but kind, mild, courteous, and soft-spoken, which should encourage others to seek their company. Kindness can overlook other people’s faults and cover them up. Kindness is always glad to give in to others. Kindness can get along with aggressive and difficult persons, according to the old pagan saying: “You must know the manners of your friends, but you must not hate them.” Such a kind person was the Savior Jesus the Anointed, as the Gospel portrays Him. We read that Peter wept whenever he remembered the sweet kindness of the Anointed in His daily contact with people.[6] Kindness is an excellent virtue and very useful in every walk of life.[7] Luther used the German word Freundlichkeit which means “friendliness.” and the best way to be friendly is to be kind. And in the German/English dictionary, Freundlichkeit is translated into English as kindness.

Methodist theologian Adam Clarke calls it a very rare grace, often lacking in many who have a considerable share of Christian excellence. He notes with certainty that a good education and polished manners, when brought under the influence of the grace of God, will bring out this fruit of the reborn spirit with significant effect.[8] That is another way of saying that when you place a diamond in an ordinary setting of bronze or copper, it does not sparkle as brilliantly as it does when surrounded by gold or silver. But in God’s eyes, it is a precious stone no matter in what setting you place it.

From the Hebrew manuscripts, Paul read, he undoubtedly understood that in Jewish thinking, no one could ever reach the ultimate level of being kind like the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. They usually translated the Hebrew noun checed into English as “kindness,” [9] as well as “loving-kindness,” which ties love and kindness together. Reading the First Covenant reveals that checed refers to things and actions that are pleasant and agreeable to our senses. They include things we feel are excellent in value and quality, ways we describe as appropriate, and becoming a person of sound ethics and character.

To put it another way: it is a kind person doing a loving thing at the right time and for a good reason.  In that case, who can exceed the LORD God in being kind? British scholar Alexander Maclaren proposes that this fruit of kindness and the following one of goodness express the same virtue except that kindness is an inward disposition while goodness is the outward disposition. Maclaren continues by saying that kindness answers the desire of acting in a pleasant, kindly manner toward others, while goodness answers to active goodness for the benefit of others.[10] Therefore, kindness refers to openhandedness, which can also be called openheartedness. It rises above pettiness and mean-spiritedness. In such cases, goodness would be openheartedness.

Some of the earliest Christian scholars describe Kindness as: “caring.” [11] Another medieval writer says: “Kindness is will that is most eager in its actions and tempered with kind speech.  It invites not only those of goodwill to love oneself but above all those who would seem to be one’s adversaries.  Therefore, one is called kind if they are exceptionally and exceedingly good.” [12]  To put it succinctly, in his mind, it involves those deeds of compassion that go above and beyond the call of duty.  A later medieval writer adds this note, that while we certainly would be considered a decent person if we wish we had something to share with others, he goes on to say that: “Kindness is the broad-mindedness of sharing those things that one does have.” [13]

 Dr. Rodney Loper says that many of us think of kindness as being cordial, having a pleasant expression, getting along well with others, or doing good, or a pleasing personality. While these are unique expressions, he believes it goes much deeper. Kindness, in its purest form, is an expression of God’s heart. Loper goes on to say that kindness can be painful, and it isn’t easy to embrace. Kindness doesn’t vary with circumstances. Kindness should be natural for Christians. It is at the center of a believer’s life. Kindness is a choice to be made, not made for us. See Colossians chapter three for a long list of attributes.[14]

Caslyn Rice proposes that the next time someone says a harsh word or acts rudely, what if we would respond in a way that shows a spirit of kindness and concern?[15] The secret is, you won’t know until you try.

Retired God’s Bible School professor, Dr. Larry D. Smith, says that Paul’s pen writes that kindness as a fruit of the reborn spirit is an essential and robust word. It is love in its smaller manifestations, and love is the first fruit of the reborn spirit and the basis for all the rest. To be kind is to be loving in the briefer contacts of life, in every-day details of ordinary life, as well as in its more dramatic moments. So necessary is kindness as an attribute of a true believer that one might as well be speaking of a “square circle” when referring to an unkind Christian.[16]

[1] Ephesians 2:7-8

[2] Titus 3:3-5

[3] Ephesians 4:31-32

[4] Matthew 9:14-17; Mark 2:18-22; Luke 5:33-39

[5] 1 Peter 3:3-4

[6] Matthew 26:75; Luke 22:62

[7] Luther, Martin: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

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

[9] See Genesis 20:13; 21:33; 24:12; Joshua 2:14; Judging 8:35; Ruth 3:10; Psalm 17:7; 63:3; etc.

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

[11] Augustine: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[12] Haimo of Auxerre: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[13] Bruno the Carthusian: Commentary on Galatians, op. cit., loc. cit.

[14] Loper, Rodney: Revivalist Magazine, June, July August 2019, pp. 3-4

[15] Rice, Caslyn, op. cit.

[16] Smith, Larry D., Revivalist Magazine, June, July, August 2019, p. 5

About drbob76

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