We have been studying the book of Galatians over the past few weeks. Today, we are going to wrap up the fruit of the Spirit and cover Gal 6 next week and then it’s onto Ephesians, which is a fantastic book. It will be of interest to many of you who are single that Eph 5 is the famous passage about Biblical marriage. So if you want some dating and marriage advice from the One who invented marriage, stay tuned for an upcoming series on marriage.
Quick recap: the fruit of the Spirit can only be produced by the Spirit. And the presence of this fruit is the only guarantee that you and I have that we are saved. Last week, we discussed several things about the fruit of the Spirit. Bearing fruit or spiritual change involves growth that is gradual, mysterious, internal, symmetric and inevitable.
I want to review the symmetric nature of the fruit of the Spirit. If you recall, v22, Paul breaks the rules of grammar because the subject is singular while the predicate is plural. The fruit is one single fruit with 9 aspects. It’s like a cluster of grapes. It’s not like one grape grows fully and then the grape beside it starts growing. Each and every grape in the cluster grows together, simultaneously. Jonathan Edwards explains the fruit of the Spirit using the idea of concatenation. All the graces are concatenated or connected. They are mutually dependent. There are 9 aspects of spiritual fruit–love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faith or faithfulness, gentleness and self-control–but remember, it’s one single fruit. Meaning, for it to be genuine spiritual growth and not mere personality, all 9 have to grow simultaneously. Love has to grow alongside gentleness. Peace has to grow alongside joy. Goodness has to grow alongside faith and so forth. You can’t have love without joy, or have joy without peace. I think you get the picture.
Without keeping in mind the concatenation of the graces, or the symmetry of the fruit of the Spirit, we commonly mistake counterfeit fruit for real fruit. If you go to places like Korea or China, there are many counterfeit products. Like Polo shirts where the horses have 5 legs. Those are obviously counterfeit. But there are levels. There is a higher grade counterfeit–a polo shirt with 3 legs and a fourth leg bent and hidden from view. And you can’t tell the difference between it and a genuine polo shirt.
You can buy fake orchids nowadays and you’d be hard pressed to know it was fake until you touched it because the manufacturers of these fake orchids have become smarter over the years. They realized that if the orchid is too perfect, then we’d know it’s fake. So now, these fake orchids come with some artificial blemishes on it. Even if you touch it, it’s not hard plastic, it’s soft and supple. The leaves feel real. It’s hard to tell the real thing from the counterfeit.
I want to give you some tools today to help you discern real, genuine fruit of the Spirit and counterfeit fruit. The plan is to discuss each of the 9 aspects of the one single fruit of the Spirit. For each of these 9 aspects, I’m going to start by defining each aspect, then describing what the opposite looks like and I’ll end with a counterfeit version. So 9 aspects and 3 bullet points under each: 1) definition, 2) an opposite, and a 3) counterfeit.
For example, instead of genuine love which comes from the Spirit, many fall into the total opposite of love and we see people living this way and for us, it’s so obviously wrong. They are not loving at all. But when you are the one practicing it, you can’t see it. We call this blindness. You can mean well. You can be sincere. But you can be sincerely wrong. People who believe they are loving and who believe that their love comes from the Spirit, yet they are mistaken because the source of their love is sin and self. It’s a twisted form of love and actually has nothing to do with love at all. The opposite to the real thing probably won’t be terribly helpful to most of us unless you are blind and maybe God will open your eyes. But the counterfeit hits much closer to home. It is harder to discern that it is not the real thing and therefore it is more dangerous.
Satan does not go around wearing a bright, red suit, holding a pitch fork and a flaming cape around his neck. He masquerades as an angel of light. We might be able to spot Satan much more quickly if he came fully unveiled as pure evil straight out of the Exorcist. And one of us is foaming at the mouth because we’re demon possessed. Satan does reveal himself in such ways, esp. in the Developing World, but for Satan to do the most damage, he often looks an angel. He looks like a good, godly spiritual leader. He’s in disguise. He’s a phony. He’s a counterfeit and it takes closer examination to see that he is not what he appears to be on the surface. Same thing with a counterfeit. You need to have a trained eye. You have to look closely to see that it’s not the real thing.
Let’s start with love. Love is defined here as agape love, or divine love different from romantic love or brotherly love. This is love from God and it expresses itself in good-will or charity. God loves us and this means he wants nothing but the best for us. He takes a charitable view of us, he seeks our good will because in his eyes, he has everything and we have nothing. Charity is a good synonym for divine love.
It is loving with no strings attached. When God loves us, does he love us because he wants something from us or he needs us? God doesn’t need us to worship Him because he will be diminished in any sense if we don’t. God is not insecure. He doesn’t need a big following of Christian groupies, fans, in order to feel big enough. He is God. He has no needs. This means He loves with no strings attached. He loves out of an overflow, out of his magnanimous, abundant generosity.
In his Triune nature, Father loves the Son and the Son loves and defers to the Father and the Holy Spirit loves the Son and defers to the Son. God’s nature is community. If God were monolithic or one person instead of three in one, then you couldn’t define God’s essence as being love. You need at least 2 in order to love–the lover and the beloved. God doesn’t need our love in order to be completed because he has a lack. He loves because he wants to invite us in, to include us in the fullness of His overflowing nature.
This means that God can love us with no strings attached. If God loves us and invites us to love him in return and we don’t respond, it’s our loss, not his. God is totally sufficient within himself. This means he can love freely. He can love with no strings attached. He can love purely for the good and the intrinsic value of the other, not for what the person brings him. Or how a person can benefit him. If you think about it, how can we as mere creatures benefit in any way a Creator who lacks nothing, who has no deficiencies? Love is defined as the divinely inspired ability to give charity, to love for the good of the other with no strings attached, the same way that the Lord loves us.
The opposite of real love is self-protection or self-preservation. I’m not going to care about anyone except myself. When someone is self-preserving and essentially selfish, we can spot such a person a mile away. What’s harder to spot is the counterfeit. One who loves out of selfish affection. In ministry, I may look like I am rescuing someone, but I am really rescuing myself. I’m not attracted to the person, but to how this person’s love makes me feel about myself. This person responds well to me and my ego is stroked.
Ministers say, look at how much I sacrifice for you. Look at all I’ve done for you over the years. I love you. In return, they expect absolute loyalty and allegiance. And when you wrong such a minister or you leave their church and you are blacklisted and cut off, that’s when you see clearly, they didn’t really love you. If it was real love, they would love you even while you wrong them, or you leave them. Because isn’t that how God loves us? God loves the enemy. If you love someone only because they are good to you–like your family or your closest friends–Jesus says, it might not be love from the Spirit because even pagans can love like that. In extreme cases, ministers with a counterfeit love end up abusing the sheep. I love you because I am ultimately loving myself. I need to be needed. That’s why I love.
Many people in a romantic relationship say they are in love with the person, but they are more in love with the idea of the person. They are in love with the idol of romance, the way you feel because you are in a romantic relationship. It makes you feel wanted and desirable and secure and it doesn’t matter who it is on the other side of the table. You’re in love with romance, not the person.
The real test if you love the person is marriage. Everyone says they love their boyfriend or girlfriend during courtship. But ask the couple 10-20 years later, do you still love the person? After the butterflies fly away and the fireworks fade into the deep darkness, is there still an ability to wake up day after day, year after year and serve the other person and do things for the good of the other person, even when you are getting nothing in return? If you can say, yes, to all of these questions, then you can say, you truly love the person. If not, you can’t call it love.
Love even in marriage often devolves into a give and take contract. You scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours. You take out the trash, I’ll pay the bills, you take the kids in the morning, I will pick them up. It’s a business contract. And if the other person falls short on their side of the partnership, you say, well, I am going to withhold my affection and I will stop doing things for the good of the other. This is not real love. It is counterfeit.
In order to sift out the counterfeits, you have to remember that the fruit of the Spirit is concatenated. If you say you are loving but you are harsh and there is no gentleness, then it’s not real love. If you say you love someone, but they leave you and you turn on them and you are nasty toward them and there is no goodness in your heart toward them, if you no longer seek the good of the other and you lack kindness, then it’s counterfeit love.