Works of the Flesh and the Fruit of the Spirit – Part 2

Posted on August 20, 2010

In Part 1 of Works of the Flesh and the Fruit of the Spirit it was mentioned that the Bible gives us information that describes what a born again Christian looks like as well as what an unbeliever looks like, whether that means there is no profession of faith or a false profession. When one puts their faith in Jesus Christ and God saves them from their sins, God changes them from the inside out. Hebrews 10:14 tells us those who have been purchased by the blood of Christ are being made holy, or are being sanctified:

For by one offering He has perfected forever those who are being sanctified.

This is a continuous process in the life of the born again believer. When Christ imputes His righteousness to us and we are justified before His Father in heaven, He begins a work in us that He will see to perfection. The Apostle Paul in Ephesians 2:10 tells us,

For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them.

Please understand that when God saves us from the pit of our wretchedness, He begins a work in us that He ordained before the foundations of the world. This reveals the sovereignty of God, and our salvation is not for our sake, but for His glory. This process of sanctification is a means to make us holy. We begin to hate the very things that nailed Him to the cross and we learn to love Him with all of our heart, mind, and soul – for this is the greatest commandment. So a professed believer living a life of habitual sin, even justifying their sins, is completely antithetical to what the Bible clearly proclaims is the result of regeneration.

Just as there are obvious works of the flesh that lead to death and eternal separation from God (sexual immorality (homosexuality, fornication, adultery, etc.), idolatry, hatred, drunkenness, thieves, slanderers), God tells us there are manifestations of His character in the heart of the believer, and these will become more evident in us as we grow in His grace – as our minds are conformed to Christ, as we are made holy as He is holy. In 1 Corinthians 6:11, Paul tells us in regards to our former selves,

And such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God.

And because we have become new creations in Christ Jesus (2 Corinthians 5:17), the characteristics of God, the fruit of His Spirit, will be manifest (obvious, evident) in the life of the born again believer. Galatians 5:22-26

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.

Notice in verse 24 that those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. When we were born again of the Spirit and Christ took up residence in us, we died to ourselves and are no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:6-7). This does not mean we have final victory over our sinful nature, for this will not happen until we receive our glorified bodies at the resurrection, but we indeed will no longer be slaves or controlled by our sinful nature. Rather, we will be slaves to righteousness (Romans 8). The power we have over sin comes from the very characteristics of God within us as born again believers. In his New Testament Commentary, John MacArthur gives us a detailed description of each of these attitudes commanded by God and characterized in the lives of those who belong to Him:

Love: one of several Greek words for love, agape, is the love of choice, referring not to an emotional affection, physical attraction, or a familial bond, but to respect, devotion, and affection that leads to willing, self-sacrificial service.

Joy: a happiness based on unchanging divine promises and eternal spiritual realities. It is the sense of well-being experienced by one who knows all is well between himself and the Lord. Joy is not the result of favorable circumstances, and even occurs when those circumstances are the most painful and severe. Joy is a gift from God, and as such, believers are not to manufacture it but to delight in the blessing they already possess.

Peace: the inner calm that results from the confidence in one’s saving relationship with Christ. The verb form denotes binding together and is reflected in the expression “having it all together.” Like joy, peace is not related to one’s circumstances.

Longsuffering: patience which refers to the ability to endure injuries inflicted by others and the willingness to accept irritating or painful situations.

Kindness: tender concern for others, reflected in a desire to treat others gently, just as the Lord treats all believers.

Goodness: moral and spiritual excellence manifested in active kindness. Believers are commanded to exemplify goodness.

Faithfulness: loyalty and trustworthiness.

Gentleness: better translated “meekness.” It is a humble and gentle attitude that is patiently submissive in every offense, while having no desire for revenge or retribution. In the NT, it is used to describe three attitudes: submission to the will of God, teachability, and consideration of others.

Self-control: this refers to restraining passions and appetites.

Understanding these Godly attitudes as the manifestation of Christ within each born again believer should help make it clear how they give us power over sin and enable us to pursue a holy lifestyle. If we walk in the Spirit, we will not fulfill the lusts of the flesh. We are called out from the world to be transformed by the renewing of our minds. Matthew Henry elaborates,

The fruits of the Spirit, or of the renewed nature, which we are to do, are named. And as the apostle had chiefly named works of the flesh, not only hurtful to men themselves, but tending to make them so to one another, so here he chiefly notices the fruits of the Spirit, which tend to make Christians agreeable one to another, as well as to make them happy. The fruits of the Spirit plainly show, that such are led by the Spirit. By describing the works of the flesh and fruits of the Spirit, we are told what to avoid and oppose, and what we are to cherish and cultivate; and this is the sincere care and endeavor of all real Christians. Sin does not now reign in their mortal bodies, so that they obey it, Ro 6:12, for they seek to destroy it.

Christ never will own those who yield themselves up to be the servants of sin. And it is not enough that we cease to do evil, but we must learn to do well. Our conversation will always be answerable to the principle which guides and governs us, Ro 8:5. We must set ourselves in earnest to mortify the deeds of the body, and to walk in newness of life. Not being desirous of vain-glory, or unduly wishing for the esteem and applause of men, not provoking or envying one another, but seeking to bring forth more abundantly those good fruits, which are, through Jesus Christ, to the praise and glory of God.

So what about you? Have you examined your life lately? Have you considered whether these works of the flesh or the fruit of the Spirit is manifest in your life? Take a moment to evaluate your spiritual health and compare it to what the Word of God says is the evidence of a child of God. Manifesting the fruit of the Spirit and denying the lusts of the flesh is not a matter of working for your salvation, for salvation is by the grace of God alone through faith alone in Jesus Christ alone; however, manifesting fruit and denying the flesh are the result of genuine faith in the Lord and Savior. Consider these words from Ephesians 2:1-3 and Ephesians 5:8-11,

1 And you He made alive, who were dead in trespasses and sins, 2 in which you once walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit who now works in the sons of disobedience, 3 among whom also we all once conducted ourselves in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, just as the others.

8For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light 9(for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth) 10and find out what pleases the Lord. 11Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them.

And finally in 1 Peter 1:13-15,

13 Therefore gird up the loins of your mind, be sober, and rest your hope fully upon the grace that is to be brought to you at the revelation of Jesus Christ; 14 as obedient children, not conforming yourselves to the former lusts, as in your ignorance; 15 but as He who called you is holy, you also be holy in all your conduct, 16 because it is written, “Be holy, for I am holy.”

I hope you see the difference.