(269)Thesis:The "fruit" of the Spirit is described in terms of three specific areas of impact that begin with the "new man" within.
Introduction:In our look at the "works" of the flesh, we noted that Paul began with the things people do that have their major focus upon their bodies, specifically sexually. In contrast, when he begins to describe the "fruit of the Spirit", he begins with issues that are at the inner core of the person who inhabits those bodies. This indicates that Paul's thinking was that men who are unbelieving focus upon external things, but believers focus upon internal realities.
This evening we are going to look into the beginning of Paul's description of how God's Spirit within us affects us.
I. The Difference Between "Works" and "Fruit".
A. This distinction is fundamental to the core of our theology of relationships.
1. In a theology of relationships rooted in "Justice", doing what is the right thing to do is the most crucial issue because how we treat one another sets the stage for the entire relationship.
a. In a perfect world, "righteousness" is the foundation of interpersonal interactions as Paul clearly recognized and taught in Romans 14:17.
b. However, in an imperfect world, "righteousness", as an expectation of relationship, is a death knell on both ends of that spectrum.
1) Those who "expect" righteous treatment are continuously frustrated so that they become untrusting (cynical).
2) Those who "practice" righteousness are not only self-deceived, but inordinately proud, so that no one even wants to be around them, let alone have any kind of significant relationship with them.
2. In a theology of relationships rooted in "Grace", bearingfruit is the only way such relationships survive.
a. In a perfect world, there is no need for "Grace", so it is not any kind of foundation for a relational universe.
b. However, in an imperfect world, "Grace" is the only basis for either doing good, or expecting to be treated well.
1. For those oriented to "Grace", there is no place for "expectation" of good because such expectation not only will be frustrated, it is fundamentally hateful.
a) Those who are properly oriented to "Grace" easily accept the failures of others because of their awareness of their own.
1) This does not mean there is no confrontation, nor even a certain "ultimatum".
2) It only means that if there is repentance, there will also be forgiveness.
b) Those who are properly oriented to "Grace" seek to please only One and their expectations exist only in Him (1 Corinthians 3:6-7).
c) Those who are properly oriented to "Grace" know that "love" does not seek its own so that expectation of good from another is seen in its true light.
2. For those oriented to "Grace", what is done to/for another is ever/always seen as either a "work of flesh" or a "fruit of God's Spirit" so that there is no pride to erect any barriers to the relationships.
B. In the actual outworking of "works" and "fruit", there is a fundamental difference of understanding in those who embrace their respective orientation.
1. "Works" are the expended labors of a kind of "sweat of the brow" reality because the results depend upon the input of the laborer.
2. "Fruit" is simply what happens to those who are heirs of the promises because the actual labor is God's part in "promise".
C. Thus, Paul's switch from "works" to "fruit" is automatic to his theology of "Grace".
II. The Initial Descriptive Terms Regarding "Fruit".
A. There can be nothing more important than deciding what is important.
1. If there is such a thing as value, there has to be something that decides how it will be assigned.
2. Thus, the first descriptive term respecting the fruit of the Spirit is the word "Love" (agape).
a. "Agape" is the biblical term for the assignment of value.
1) It not only describes the character of what one does; it also describes the driving issue (motive).
a) Some things are inherently "good" and , thus "loving" in terms of the actual "what" (evil men can give good gifts to their children).
b) Some things are inherently "evil" so that they can never be done for a "good" reason.
c) All other things fall into a kind of neutral category where the "goodness" or "evil" of them depends entirely upon the motives behind them.
2) When the word "agape" is used in the New Testament it sometimes refers to particulars and other times it refers to an entire "system" of assigned values.
a) In both cases, "agape" indicates value assigned within a complex setting where there exists more than one entity that needs "value assigned" and choices must be made relative to the number of entities involved.
b) In the case of a "value system", the New Testament presents "the love of God" as a comprehensive unit where all things have been settled into their "relative" state.
3) As an aspect of the "fruit" of God's Spirit, "agape" indicates God's Spirit at work in the inner man to create that portion of "the love of God" that applies to the particularsituation being faced by the one in whom that Spirit dwells.
a) It is impossible for the Spirit of God to create the entire system all at once because "agape", like all of the attributes of God, is infinite in its character and men are not.
b) Thus, at any given point in time, with any given circumstance for the believer, the Spirit stands ready to provide both "motive" and "energy" so that the believer "yields the fruit" needed for that particular time/circumstance.
b. "Agape", then, addresses the fountainhead of what, how, and why a believer is to be involved in the particulars of life.
1) It is "fruit", not "labor".
2) It is borne by the indwelling Christ through the willing body of him/her who trusts.