Dr. Claire Brown – “Live by the Spirit”
“Now the works of the flesh are obvious: fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, anger, quarrels, dissensions, factions, envy, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these. I am warning you, as I warned you before: those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit.” -- Galatians 5:19-25
When we think of holiness, we often see one long list of things to do and a second of activities to be avoided. And, to be sure, there is truth to be found in this “two-list” way of thinking. Even in today’s passage, we see two lists (“works of the flesh” and “fruits of the Spirit”) with predictable content, hence Paul’s comment that the “works of the flesh” are “obvious.” We have long known what we “should” and “should not do.”
Our problem is with implementation, and our recognition of the depth of this problem can prompt a mix of frustration, anger, annoyance, and despair. It is for this reason that it is crucial that we not mistake the good news of Galatians 5:19-25 for a mere repeat of “the lists.” Paul is not simply reminding us of what we should do: he is telling us what the Spirit will do in us if we live and are guided by Him. The fruit of the Spirit are not mere items on a to-do list; the fruit of the Spirit are the natural outpourings of the Holy Spirit, the Person who is given to all who are in Christ.