2 July 2016

Galatians 5:13-26

Galatians 5:13-26 “The fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things.” (vv. 22-23)

Psalm: Psalm 107:33-43


This passage comes at the end of a long discourse in which Paul tells the Galatian Christians that they do not require to be circumcised. Paul was angry with Judaisers who were advocating circumcision for everyone. Almost the whole of the letter to the Galatians contains various arguments against such teaching. Paul says that requiring circumcision meant going back to the law, back to a life of bondage. And if one part of the law was followed, the whole law had to be obeyed and this was impossible. Following Christ means freedom from the law, a new life in Christ, a life of grace, not dependent on human initiative, but on Christ's initiative.

Now Paul shifts gear from theological discourse to practical application. The freedom which following Christ brings is not a blanket freedom that means 'anything goes'. Instead, it means freedom to live by the Spirit, not to satisfy human desires but to walk in the Spirit, to be free to be the people Christ wants us to be. Paul illustrates what he means by listing two sets of behaviour: the desires of the flesh, and the fruit of the Spirit.

This fruit (not fruits) is not a set of rules; he does not call them "the rules of the spirit". And this fruit is like an orange: several segments, one fruit. If a person lives by the Spirit, such person should be guided by the Spirit and the segments of the fruit flow naturally. If one plants a peach tree, as a natural consequence, peaches will appear on the tree. If one lives by the Spirit, the fruit with its segments will appear as a natural consequence; they will manifest themselves in the lives of such people.

In chapter 6 Paul encourages the Galatians to bear one another's burdens. Human beings can easily give in to the desires of the flesh. Thus mutual support is important for Christ followers who live in community with other people.

To Ponder

  • How does freedom in Christ differ from a 'secular' understanding of freedom?
  • In verses 22-23 Paul lists nine segments of the fruit of the Spirit. Which of them do you find most difficult to apply and practise? Why?

Bible notes author

The Revd Lynita Conradie

Lynita Conradie is a Methodist presbyter in the Nottingham North Circuit. Originally from South Africa, she was a human rights' lawyer before entering the ministry and being ordained by the Methodist Church of Southern Africa.