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 CVII)

5:22g Our spiritual oneness with the Anointed transforms love into the fruit of Goodness.

 As we have seen, Joy and Peace are virtues that begin inwardly, while Patience, Kindness, and Goodness are virtues that express themselves outwardly. What a fantastic way for Love to show itself as mature and generous. Paul chooses the Greek noun agathōsynē to define this fruit of the reborn spirit where Love becomes transformed into the mature virtue of Goodness. It means to be upright in heart and life, by showing goodness and kindness. Both are virtues of compassion and generosity. Goodness is the selfless desire to be open-hearted and generous to others above what they deserve.[1]

This Greek noun is used only three other times in Paul’s Epistles. He told the Romans that he admired them because they were full of goodness.[2] And when he repeats the fruit of the reborn spirit for the Ephesians, he lists goodness.[3] And then to the Thessalonians, that he always prays for them that they would prove worthy of God’s calling because He fills them with His goodness.[4]

When we look in the Jewish Torah for any instances where “Goodness” is defined or described, we find the Hebrew adjective towb meaning to be good, pleasant, and agreeable. But that’s not all. Thayer in his Hebrew Lexicon says Jews use towb to express something useful to the senses, goodness found in higher nature; good among many; good in estimation and value; good in behavior; good in being able to understand, and ethically good.

In Exodus, we read that “Jethro was delighted when he heard about all the good things the LORD did for Israel when He rescued them from the hand of the Egyptians;” [5] along with God’s word to Israel through Moses, “Now listen!  Today I am giving you a choice between life and goodness, death, and disaster.” [6] And Solomon also warned, “Those who lead right living people along an evil path will fall into their trap, but the honest will inherit good things.” [7] Here, we see goodness as love, making itself useful in responding to a needy situation.

We also read were from the beginning when God set lights in the sky to govern the day and night and to separate the light from the darkness, God labeled this as something good in the sense of being very appropriate.[8] According to Jewish tradition, God allocated the stars to the nations of the earth, whereas the sun and moon He assigned to the Jewish people. It means that the nations’ fate is subject to influences of the constellation of the stars (astrology and horoscopes), as opposed to the destiny of the Jewish people, which is subject to the direct supervision of heaven, that is, God the Father and Jesus the Light, personally.[9]

Israel also learned that God does things in various ways to benefit His people that are very good because they are relevant.[10] Goodness is an essence that can be both proactive and reactive. In looking at its place within the fruit listed here, it signifies to be proactive. In other words, you do not wait to be good after something bad happens, but you are good at preventing something bad from happening.

We see this after Joseph’s brothers came down to Egypt and learned that the one they sold into slavery was now second in command. After Joseph revealed who he was, he told them, “You intended it for my harm, but God intended it for my good (benefit). He brought me to this position so I could save the lives of many people.” [11] Even the Psalmist declared, “Taste and see that the LORD is good; Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in Him!” [12] In response to the brothers asking Joseph for forgiveness, Rabbi Saba says that Joseph told his brothers that it was way beyond his realm to deal with that as only God personally could handle it and could forgive them if He saw fit to do so. As far as Joseph was concerned, he could forgive their unintentional sin. Looking back, it became clear that their actions were of great benefit to him personally, and advanced God’s plan to reduce the impact of the coming famine in the region. Therefore, forgiveness meant that Joseph was being good by not punishing them.[13]

So again, we see how God wanted to show kindness to His chosen, and that kindness became goodness when He put it into action. Rabbi Kahana tells us that Solomon preached: In a day that offers an opportunity for goodness, then engage in goodness.” [14] Rabbi Kahana says that the opportunity for doing good may not always be there every day. So, as soon as we spot an opportunity, don’t put it off, for it may never come around again.[15]

Jesus made this clear when He taught His disciples that a good person produces good things from the treasury of a good heart, and an evil person produces evil things from the junk pile in an evil heart.[16]  Here Jesus contrasts a heart full of transforming love, which brings forth the fruit of kindness while at the same time producing the spiritual fraternal twin, goodness. A heart lacking in love that contrives to deceive and take advantage of innocent people.

On another occasion, Jesus used a different approach to teach about spiritual fraternal twins, kindness, and goodness. He asked the parents: “If your son came to you and asked for a piece of bread, would you give him a piece of stone, or if he asked you for a fish, would you give him an eel? If you then, even with all your faults and failures, quite naturally give good things to your children, how much more likely is it that your Heavenly Father will give good things to those who ask Him? Remember, treat other people exactly as you would like to be treated by them; this sums up everything Moses and the Prophets wrote about.” [17] In the first part, Jesus reveals the fruit of kindness, giving what is needed.  In the latter part, Jesus emphasizes the fruit of goodness, not doing any less for others than you would like done to yourself.

The Greeks used the noun agathōsynē to denote something useful. In the English language, many of us are familiar with the phrase, “good for nothing.” (I’ll let the reader determine how they became acquainted with that designation). But the Greeks identified certain things, be they material, intellectual, moral, or religious, as effective in getting the good results intended or desired. But we also find a close relationship between Goodness and the previous fruit Kindness that at first glance makes it appear they are duplicates or synonyms of each other.

The Apostle Paul understood the Greek language so well, however, that he knew these words were similar to fraternal twins, not identical twins. Let me illustrate: we’ve all heard of the phrase “word and deed” as a combination within “commitment;” they typify one’s intention and one’s action. “Kindness” represents our attitude, while “Goodness” represents our actions; one is in our heart, while the other is in our hand.

Another factor in understanding agathōsynē involves how it’s applied in context. For instance, we may look at an animal and say, “That’s a good animal.” The next question may be, “Good for what?” Is it good as a source of meat? Good for breeding? Good as a pet? We must learn in what situation and for what purpose we use the word “Good.” For instance, the same person who has good eyesight may have poor hearing. The same concept applies to the fruit “Goodness.” It is a term needing an explanation as to how it’s demonstrated and why we label the effect as good. Therefore, a good deed may be inspired by good intentions, but only when carried out does, it becomes goodness.

Paul finished writing the believers in Rome and telling them how to treat each other with respect and not be so critical over a few minor differences. He concluded: “I am fully convinced, my dear brothers and sisters, that you are full of good (useful) deeds. You know these things so well you can teach each other about them.” [18] It seems that the congregation in Ephesus dealt with the same discord among themselves. Paul reminded them that when they use to live in the darkness of sin that was normal, but now that they are in the light of salvation and have become new creatures in the Anointed Jesus he tells them “Try and imitate God in everything you do because you are His dear children. Live a life filled with love, following the example of the Anointed. He loved us and offered Himself as a sacrifice for us, as a pleasing aroma to God. This light within you only produces that which is good (useful), right, and true.” [19]

The Apostle Paul wrote the faithful in Thessalonica, “We constantly pray for you, that our God may declare you worthy of His calling, and that by His power He may help you accomplish every good (useful) thing you set out to do as motivated by your faith.” [20] Here, Paul adds an essential ingredient to our understanding of “Goodness” as a fruit of our spiritual oneness with the Anointed that is mature and generous when he points to its purpose. The Holy Spirit brings God’s love into our beings through the new birth, then that love transforms itself to manifest the presence of the Holy Spirit living in us with fruit that is useful and a blessing to others. It’s not something we manufacture, but something we yield.

Therefore, understanding the fruit of goodness helps us see how love can inspire a believer to willingly apply the spirit of the Law rather than the strictness of the Law. It helps them discern the fine line between being right and doing right. They are also aware that when in the right, they can demand all the privileges it provides for them; but also have the option to choose whether or not to exercise those rights when another person’s benefits are at stake.

[1] Rose Publishing: The Fruit of the Spirit (Kindle Location 111)

[2] Romans 15:14

[3] Ephesians 5:9

[4] 2 Thessalonians 1:11

[5] Exodus 18:9

[6] Deuteronomy 30:15

[7] Proverbs 28:10

[8] Genesis 1:17-18

[9] Avraham Saba: Tzror Hamor, op. cit., Vol. 1, p. 11

[10] Exodus 33:19; 34:8; 84:11; 107: 1; 145:9

[11] Genesis 50:20

[12] Psalm 34:8

[13] Avraham Saba: Tzror Hamor, op cit., Vol. 2., p. 838

[14] Ecclesiastes 7:14

[15] Rabbi Kahana: Pĕsiḳta dĕḅ-Raḅ Kahana, p. 392

[16] Matthew 12:35

[17] Ibid. 7:9-12

[18] Romans 15:14

[19] Ephesians 5:1-2, 9

[20] 2 Thessalonians 1:11

About drbob76

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