(The following is the last installment in our series of articles drawn from Pastor Stam’s classic work on True Spirituality.)
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
True spirituality will manifest itself in many ways in the life of the believer—ways which in themselves will bespeak the blessedness of walking in the Spirit.
Among these is the combination of graces which Paul, by the Spirit, calls “The fruit of the Spirit”:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:22,23).
First it should be observed that “the Spirit” here refers, not to “the spirit of man which is in him,” but to the Spirit of God who indwells the believer and causes him to bring forth good fruit. This is evident, both from the context here in Galatians 5 and from what we are told of “the spirit of man” in I Corinthians 2:11. These spiritual graces, then, do not spring from any natural goodness in us, but from the indwelling Spirit of God.
Next it should be noted that in contrast to “the works of the flesh” we have here “the fruit of the Spirit.” These graces are not the product of human energy but the natural result of life and growth.
The reader will recognize at a glance the difference between these spiritual virtues and those which the world fosters and boasts of. Here we have the delicate and beautiful finish, so to speak, of God’s workmanship. This is not to concede that it is superficial or merely outward, for, as we have pointed out, it is the outflow of the Spirit’s work within.
Let us briefly consider these graces, possessed by believers in the measure that they yield to the Spirit’s control.
Love. Here we must begin, for love is the great motivating force behind the truly spiritual life. “The love of Christ constraineth us” (II Cor. 5:14). Faith “worketh by love” (Gal. 5:6). It is “by love” that we are to “serve one another” (Gal. 5:13). Indeed, though we give our all for others, if this is not done out of genuine love it will profit us nothing (I Cor. 13:3). This is as it should be, for Christian service is truly blessed only in the measure that it is sincerely done and springs from heartfelt love.
Joy. The truly spiritual life is by no means a dull or unhappy one. Indeed, true spirituality is the key to true blessedness. And joy be it noted, runs far deeper than mere happiness or that natural cheerfulness which many of the unsaved possess. The original word (chara) is a close relative to the word grace (Gr., charis). True joy is anchored deep in God Himself. It springs from, 1.) a knowledge of what God has done for us and is to us (I Thes. 1:6) and, 2.) a consciousness that, being in His will, we are the recipients of His very best (II Cor. 8:1,2). This can be the fruit of the Spirit alone (Rom. 14:17).
Peace. Another blessed fruit of the Spirit! It begins with “peace with God,” appropriated by faith in Christ (Rom. 5:1), and is followed by “the peace of God,” which garrisons the heart and mind, however dark the hour (Phil. 4:7) and naturally results in an attitude of peace, or peacefulness, toward others (Rom. 12:18; II Cor. 13:11; I Thes. 5:13). Pity those believers who fail to “walk in the Spirit,” lose “the blessedness,” and “bite and devour one another” (Gal. 4:15; 5:15,16) instead of bearing this blessed fruit.
Longsuffering. The idea here is that of patience, particularly with the failures of others. This virtue naturally follows love, joy and peace, and is, again, distinctly a fruit of the Spirit. How often we find it linked with graces not stressed in worldly society: “forbearance,” “kindness,” “meekness,” etc.
Gentleness. The root of this word is variously rendered “easy,” “better,” “kind,” “good,” “gracious.” It has the idea of gentle kindness toward another. This, despite the callousness of the world about him, will be a characteristic of every truly spiritual believer. Nor will this indicate weakness; indeed, it will indicate superior strength. Only the strong can afford to be gentle. God is almighty, yet He dealt with us in gentle kindness and thus led us to repentance (Rom. 2:4).
Goodness. Following again in natural sequence, the idea here is not that of personal righteousness, but rather of a disposition to do good. The same root is found in Galatians 6:10, where we are exhorted: “As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.” How this all makes for objective living!
Faith. The word faith here, however, is not used objectively, but subjectively. It does not refer to what one does, but rather to a quality he possesses. It does not denote trust, but fidelity or worthiness to be trusted, as in Romans 3:3; Galatians 2:15,16,20; 3:22, etc. “All men have not faith,” wrote Paul, referring, not merely to unbelievers, but to “unreasonable and wicked men,” who could not be trusted (II Thes. 3:2). By contrast every believer should be worthy of the confidence and trust of others at all times. Fidelity again follows the other moral virtues in natural sequence and is also a fruit of the Spirit.
Meekness. The meaning of this word is clear from its usage in the immediate context (6:1) where we read, with respect to the brother overtaken in a fault: “Ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted.” It refers to that mildness of attitude and manner which, in our case, springs from the realization that we too are liable to fall before temptation. It is a mildness which springs from a proper humility and recognition of our own weakness. How can I be harsh and severe toward a fallen brother when I, myself, am so liable to stumble and fall? Yet, meekness is not a natural trait where the sins of others are concerned. It is a fruit which only the Spirit can produce and, as such, follows naturally after faith, or personal fidelity. The writer’s mother used to teach him in childhood to be very exacting with one’s self but very understanding with others. This is not the way of the world.
Temperance. Temperance, or self-control, is the crowning grace of all, assuming that the others are already possessed. Few believers realize how important a place self-control should have in our lives. They think of it only in connection with eating, drinking and pleasure, and fail to realize the place it should have in our entire conduct and conversation as believers. Indeed, self-control should be exercised even in our worship. How many sincere but untaught believers there are who, loving the Lord with all their hearts, yet forgetting the majesty of the Godhead and the wonder of His work in our behalf, address Him as “dear Jesus” and praise Him with shallow love songs, as if He were some earthly lover.
Others again suppose that it is the highest form of worship to let one’s self go. One of the strongest proofs that modern Pentecostalism is not of the Spirit is the fact that its devotees so often “let themselves go” and give themselves over completely to a preter-human power (which they suppose to be the Spirit) uttering thoughts not their own, often in languages they do not understand, meanwhile going to great excesses of emotional self-expression. They themselves frequently compare it with intoxication.1 And this while the Apostle Paul, by inspiration, exhorts:
“Be not drunk with wine, wherein is excess; but be filled with the Spirit” (Eph. 5:18).
The truly spiritual person will not go to excesses of any kind, but will, by the Spirit, exercise self-control in his eating and drinking, in his conversation and conduct—even in his prayer and praise. May God help us, in these evil and frivolous days, also to bear this fruit of the Spirit!
Referring to those who do bear the Spirit’s fruit, the apostle says: “Against such there is no law” (Gal. 5:23). Of course not! Those who are led of the Spirit need not be placed under law, nor can they be condemned by it (Vers. 16,18).
But besides those inward graces which the Spirit produces, there are also outward manifestations of true spirituality which should next be considered.
THE OUTWARD EVIDENCES
No truly spiritual believer will lightly allow his fellowman to go to perdition or his brother in Christ to stumble and fall. Even apart from his desire for the good of others, he will long to see his Lord honored in the salvation of the lost and the upbuilding of the saved. Thus it is that the inspired apostle writes with regard to his own testimony:
“For the love of Christ constraineth us; because we thus judge, that if one died for all, then were all dead:
“And that He died for all, that they which live should not henceforth live unto themselves, but unto Him which died for them, and rose again” (II Cor. 5:14,15).
What an example the apostle himself was in this! He went everywhere “witnessing both to small and great” (Acts 26:22). As he committed the Ephesian elders “to God and to the word of His grace,” he could say: “…remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn everyone night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31,32) and could challenge them: “Wherefore I take you to record this day, that I am pure from the blood of all men” (Ver. 26). Indeed, despite forebodings of future persecutions he could still say:
“But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God” (Acts 20:24).
In all this, let us who would be truly spiritual heed the apostle’s exhortation:
“Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an example” (Phil. 3:17).
But, as we have seen in our discussion of the conflict between the old and new natures, there is more to the Christian walk than merely witnessing to others. The music of a godly life must accompany the testimony of our lips. Not only for our own spiritual good but for the sake of others and for the glory of the Christ who died for us, we must flee from the lusts of the flesh and keep ourselves “unspotted from the world.”
How the Apostle Paul stresses this: “Walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4)—“Walk not after the flesh” (Rom. 8:4)—“Walk honestly” (Rom. 13:13)—“Walk in the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16)—“Walk worthy of the [calling] wherewith ye are called” (Eph. 4:1)—“Walk not as [the] Gentiles walk” (Eph. 4:17)—“Walk in love” (Eph. 5:2)—“Walk as children of light” (Eph. 5:8)—“Walk circumspectly” (Eph. 5:15)—“Walk worthy of the Lord” (Col. 1:10)—“Walk in wisdom” (Col. 4:5).
One of the Christian natives in a Congo compound had left the others hoeing the mission gardens and was missing when the missionary appeared. Going in search of him the missionary found him in his hut, reading his New Testament. “What are you doing here while the others are working?” the missionary asked. “I’m trying to get victory,” replied the native.
Too many Christians seem to suppose that a truly spiritual life is made up only of Bible study, prayer, and the singing of hymns. Actually, true Bible study, prayer and thanksgiving will rouse us to give ourselves in lives of toil and self denial for Christ and others.
Our apostle was an example to us in this too. Writing to the Colossians, he says, with respect to his efforts to lead them to spiritual maturity: “Whereunto I also labor, striving according to His working, which worketh in me mightily” (Col. 1:29). And his efforts to win the lost and establish the saved often entailed hard secular labor too, for to the Thessalonians he writes: “Ye remember, brethren, our labor and travail: for laboring night and day, because we would not be chargeable unto any of you, we preached unto you the gospel of God” (I Thes. 2:9). Indeed, this often meant working physically with his hands, for to the Ephesian elders he said: “Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me” (Acts 20:34). In other words, he worked with his hands to support both himself and his co-workers. And while he did not consider this to be the ideal procedure, he did not feel himself too important to do it when necessary, even though “not a whit behind the very chiefest apostles.” To the Corinthian believers he writes: “Even unto this present hour we…labor, working with our own hands” (I Cor. 4:11,12).
This is an important phase of the truly spiritual life which is often overlooked. Those who can sing and pray and testify so heartily are often slow to offer their services when there is work to be done. Yes, even ministers of the gospel and leaders in Christian work are often delinquent in performing the tasks that properly go with their ministry. They seem to feel that the Holy Spirit should prosper their work if they only study the Word and pray.
The Apostle Paul was not too lazy or too proud to work, with his hands if necessary, and untiringly in any case, to reach greater numbers with the message committed to him. Comparing himself with other “ministers of Christ” he could honestly say: “in labors more abundant” (II Cor. 11:23).
If we would be truly spiritual, then, we should heed his exhortation to the Corinthians and to us, to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord, forasmuch as ye know that your labor is not in vain in the Lord” (I Cor. 15:58).
Another manifestation of true spirituality is sacrificial giving for the Lord’s sake. It is true that carnal Christians and even unbelievers are sometimes generous with their resources. It is also true that we must obey I Timothy 5:8 and provide for our households, but it is not true that a truly spiritual believer will be stingy with the wealth that God has entrusted to him. Invariably the healthiest churches, spiritually, are the most generous contributors to the work of the Lord. Yet, alas, how few of God’s people, proportionately, have come to know the joy of making financial sacrifices for the Lord’s sake!
The Philippians knew this joy. Poor as these godly people were in this world’s goods, they sought Paul out again and again to minister to his needs and to help with the work of the Lord, sometimes urging him to accept what they could ill afford to give (Phil. 4:15, 16; II Cor. 8:3). And this they did in a better way than Paul had hoped, first giving themselves to Paul and to the Lord (II Cor. 8:5).
With the carnal Corinthians this was not so. Probably the largest of all the churches founded by Paul, they did not even bear the apostle’s meagre living expenses (II Cor. 11:9). Indeed, while at Corinth, the apostle was supported by the poor Macedonians!
Paul had to remind the Corinthians of the generosity of the Macedonians (especially the Philippians) to provoke them to emulation, lest the Macedonians should put them to shame (II Cor. 8:8; 9:4) when all the other churches presented their contributions for the “poor saints” of Judea. He had to send Titus to stir up among them the grace of giving (II Cor. 8:6). He had to remind them how the Son of God had given His all and had become poor to make them rich (II Cor. 8:9). He had to remind them that they had promised to do their part a year before, exhorting them: “Now therefore perform the doing of it” (II Cor. 8:10,11). He had to challenge them: “prove the sincerity of your love” (II Cor. 8:8).
These Corinthians had the Pentecostal gifts, yet they were far from spiritual. The apostle called them “carnal” and “babes” (I Cor. 3:1). They had not shown due appreciation to God for His goodness to them. They had not accepted their responsibilities toward Christ and their brethren. How could they be called spiritual? True, they had much enthusiasm, even disorder, in their services (I Cor. 14:26-28,33,40) but can one be called spiritual who knows that God so loved the world that He gave—gave His very best, His beloved Son, to save him from sin, yet is not in turn moved to offer himself and his goods to God? Can one be considered spiritual who knows that the Lord of glory became poor—so poor—that we might be rich, yet is not touched to make sacrifices for Him and for those for whom He died?
We have known Christian people who have labored industriously as a sort of substitute for giving, but this will not do. God is a generous and sacrificial Giver. “He…spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all” and even now, “with Him also freely gives us all things” (Rom. 8:32). And will not those who are truly spiritual partake of His nature? Thus diligent toil and sacrificial giving both go with true spirituality, for the Spirit Himself, who exhorts us to be “always abounding in the work of the Lord,” also exhorts, with respect to giving: “See that ye abound in this grace also” (II Cor. 8:7) and:
“This I say, He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he which soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully” (II Cor. 9:6).
Let those of us who have not yet entered into the joy and fellowship of sacrificial giving begin now, knowing that “God loveth a cheerful [Lit., joyful] giver” (II Cor. 9:7).
Actually, worship is both an inward and an outward manifestation of true spirituality.
Strangely, the Pauline epistles seldom use the word worship itself, yet have a great deal to say about it and afford many examples of it. Always true worship goes hand in hand with true spirituality. Thus the apostle exhorts:
“…be filled with the Spirit; speaking to yourselves in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord” (Eph. 5:18,19).
We cannot here go into the many doxologies—all expressions of worship—found in the epistles, or the many other exclamations of adoration, thanksgiving, and praise found in these writings. Varied as they are, each one is a manifestation of true spirituality. We cite a few examples:
“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who hath blessed us with all spiritual blessings in [the heavenlies] in Christ” (Eph. 1:3).
“…the Son of God…loved me and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2:20).
“…I thank my God upon every remembrance of you” (Phil. 1:3).
Surely, while we fail to witness for Christ, or to live or toil or sacrifice for Him—and certainly, while our hearts remain unmoved to worship Him, it is idle to talk of being spiritual. As we bring this study to a close, then, let each of us ask God that by His grace we may bear the fruit of the Spirit and manifest the results of His presence within.
- We attended a national convention of The Assemblies of God some time ago, in which the service ended in utter confusion. People were praying, singing, shouting, speaking in tongues, stretching out their hands and carrying on as if wholly out of control. Before us kneeled one who, ten minutes earlier, had appeared to be a sensible-looking businessman. Now he was alternately speaking in tongues and repeating the prayer: “Save souls,” so fast that one could only conclude that he was beside himself.