I am privileged to be part of a great Bible study group every Saturday morning and I always come away with some level of wisdom and encouragement. Occasionally, I experience an epiphany that seems to represent a new level of my understanding of Scripture and my spiritual development.
Last Saturday, we were studying the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23). I have studied Galatians in the past and chapter five in particular. In fact, I have verses 22 and 23 pinned to the wall of my office. I did this in part so I can check myself against the list of qualities (fruit) that Paul identifies as traits of a Christian. I learned that Paul’s emphasis in Galatians is that we are saved by grace by faith alone and are led by the Holy Spirit. What Paul wanted to convey is that we are made righteous immediately upon accepting Christ as our savior and as such, the fruit of the Spirit (the nine traits Paul lists in chapter five) are given to us as well. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to cultivate the fruit that is in us. This will manifest in good works, but the works in and of themselves do not save us.
So the epiphany for me was that it is not for me to check off which of the fruit I’m doing well at and which I still need to work on. The Holy Spirit will guide me and sanctify me in God’s time. This is not to say that we shouldn’t try to be good, joyful, loving, etc., only that our effort is not the point, surrender to the Spirit and to the will of God is.
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Note: Galatians is a book that is particularly relevant in the turbulent times we find ourselves in today. I encourage you to read, study and meditate on this transcendent text and please try to block out whatever biases you might bring to the book – allow God to speak to you in His voice.