Study 46: Gal.5:22-26
The fruit of the Spirit (7)
Initial faith Of the Son of God He sojourned Not flesh Not tempting God Treasures of Egypt Conclusion
Many modern translations substitute faithfulness for faith, as the next quality of the fruit. However this is an interpretation of the translators, and since the same Greek word is translated elsewhere as faith in Galatians, we shall keep to the KJV rendering of this word.
Throughout this epistle we have emphasised the alternatives to living: either in the flesh or Spirit, as we now remind ourselves from the following selected verses.
The scriptures quoted show us that one is either in the Spirit or the flesh; either walking by faith or by works of law. So when it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, which is the result of walking in the Spirit, it is of no surprise that faith is present.
From the passage above we see that a person lives in whatever they obey: if one does the works of the law/flesh then one will live by that. This in turn will see the manifestation of the the works of the flesh. Paul takes great care in both Romans and Galatians to show that being right with God is NOT by the works of the law, but by the true faith that is in Christ.
Paul makes it also clear that faith comes by hearing the spoken word of God. In other words one can not produce faith by the works of the flesh, whether it be the most elaborate of religious rituals, great self striving to believe, or whatever. The true and living faith that brings a man or woman into the salvation of God is a work of God in the heart; it is as a person hears ( and responds to ) the spoken word of God.
There is an interesting example when Gabriel came to Mary to announce the conception of Jesus in her.
When Mary asked 'how shall these things be? For she was unmarried, the answer was: that no word from God is without power. When she heard this she said: be it unto me according to thy word. Lk.1:38. She had heard the word of God, it created faith in her and she responded to it.
All this reminds us of Isa. 55:11: God's word will not return to Him void. Nothing of the flesh is involved, it is all in the Spirit. So beginning the Christian life is by faith and not by works of the flesh.
Some twenty times the word 'faith' is used in the Galatian epistle. The one to consider once more for our purpose is the key verse to this epistle.
It is by the faith of the Son of God. So we shall now turn to an example of the faith of Jesus during His earthly life to illustrate this quality of the fruit.
We shall consider Jesus' temptation in the wilderness as an example of the faith of Jesus. On this occasion faith wasn't used to produce miracles or do spectacular things, in fact Jesus resisted doing so. Rather it was in order to rest in what His Father had already said, and refuse from following the ways of the flesh.
The Lord's temptation is very instructive in this respect. Consider the scene: Jesus is baptised by John, and the Father speaks openly to all, declaring that Jesus is the Son in whom He is pleased. Then the Spirit leads Jesus into the wilderness.
How did Jesus react? If He had been following the flesh He could easily have reasoned that, now He had this public declaration of being God's Son, He could go and start His public ministry, do great works and miracles so that people would have believed Him. But no, He followed the leading of the Spirit to be tempted. This is akin to what we read in the 'faith chapter'.
The Hebrew letter states two things that Abraham did by faith: firstly he obeyed, and secondly he sojourned in the land. We can see this worked out here in the life of Jesus. He was led into the wilderness, He obeyed and sojourned there. There was no arguing, questioning, disputing or rationalising, instead Jesus simply obeyed the Spirit's command. Thus He went into the wilderness, in the Spirit, and and was able to live by faith in that circumstance.
A second OT example is that of the Exodus. After many trials God led the children of Israel out of Egypt. But God didn't lead them straight to the promised land, but through the Red sea and into a wilderness. There He led them by the pillar of cloud by day and fire by night. This symbolising the leading of the Holy Spirit. As long as they followed then all was well, they were living by faith. But, as we know, they did fall back into the flesh by their constant murmurings and rebellions!
It is only by obeying the Lord that we continue in the Spirit, even if we are led to undesirable ( to the flesh anyway) situations; to rationalise or reason out what God is, or not, doing will lead us into disobedience, and so back into the flesh. What we need to bear in mind is that we are pilgrims in this world, so being led by God into one situation is the same as any other for the man or woman in the Spirit. God's leadings are always with purpose, we may not know what it is, but by faith we can trust that He knows best. Let us learn to rest in that and not rebel against His leadings in our lives.
Now it is self evident that it is not sinful to eat food, for our bodies need such sustenance. That was not the point here. The point in question was: who, or what leads us the flesh or God's word? Jesus' reply shows to us that it is to God's word we should listen and not to that of the flesh. In living the Christian life we often come across choices as to which way we are to go. By listening to the lusts of the flesh rather than to God's word we have started the downward step to sin.
The children of Israel often complained in the wilderness allowing their lusts to get the better of them. Yet God's leading them into the wilderness was for a specific purpose, as is seen by the section in Deuteronomy from which Jesus actually quotes.
This is rather revealing. God had three purposes for leading them into and through the wilderness: firstly to humble them, secondly to prove them and thirdly to teach them of complete reliance on the Lord. The first generation failed, they tempted God ten times and their failure at Kadesh Barnea saw that generation doomed to die in the wilderness; their pilgrimage in the wilderness was extended to forty years, some twenty times longer than God originally planned. Num. 14:20-35 & Deut.2:14
Jesus was sorely tested and He was found to be humble, and faithful to the Spirit's leading. His heart was seen clearly: a heart in submission to His Father and one of complete trust in Him.
We too are to be humble, we are to seek God's kingdom first, and not listen to the needs of the flesh. God has promised to supply the essentials of life if we seek His kingdom first Mtt. 6:31-34. It is God's word we need above everything else, even the very necessary food we eat. Job.23:12. Failure to learn these lessons, when in a wilderness, could mean our stay in that situation may well be extended until we do so!
By listening to the word of God, in our hearts true, is faith produced in us and we will know which is the correct path. Disobedience to that word will see us back in the flesh. Of course, neither should we go to the other extreme of not doing the necessary everyday things unless we have a 'word' from God.
Despite having come out of the land of Egypt, and seeing all the wonderful works of God during the ten plagues, the crossing of the Red sea and the subsequent destruction of Pharaoh's armies, and indeed the provision of food in the previous chapter, Israel tempted God by murmuring about the lack of water. The text makes it clear what tempting God is: Is the LORD among us, or not? In other words it is to complain and doubt the presence and work of God in one's life when He has given clear testimony.
It was on this line that the devil tempted Jesus: although you Father has declared that you are His Son, prove it to the world and do something that will show His great deliverance!
By rejecting the temptation we see that Jesus was resting in what God had already said. The Devil had effectively said ''Has God said?' (cmp. Gen. 3: 1). By yielding to this Jesus would have been doubting His Father's word, and as Eve's doubt led to the tragic consequences we are all but too aware of, so the same would have resulted here. Instead Jesus rested in what God had already said, there was no point in arguing with the devil for to do so would have led, step by step, to sin.
Walking in the Spirit will not lead us to tempt God, by doubting His presence and provision. If we have heard God speak to us then that will produce the grace and faith for the day. We can then rest assured in what He has said. To do otherwise is to tempt Him. Let us not be like the children of Israel.
The third temptation was to do with the kingdoms and glory of this world. The devil offered them up if only Jesus would worship him. In the Hebrew epistle there is a similar passage that links in here.
Moses refused by faith to have the glory and power of Egypt. He saw Him who was invisible and endured. This is what Jesus demonstrated. He refused to accept the devil's invite telling him that God alone is to be worshipped. For to accept anything from the devil is to worship Him. For whom we serve we worship. The one is a result of being in the flesh, the other in the Spirit.
In contrast, there was one occasion when Israel, bemoaning their situation, said they remembered the wonderful food in Egypt, but they loathed God's provision of the manna Num. 11:4-6. They didn't remember the bondage though! All that glitters is not gold, and the world's outward form may appear glorious and pleasing to the flesh, but it is not of the Father. I Jn.2:15-17
As sojourners by faith, the riches of this world should mean nothing to us. Are we like Jesus? He refused to accept the glory and riches of the world and worshipped only God. Let us giveg ourselves to the one who is invisible, and has spoken to us. Rom.12:1-2.
So what do we learn from all this? Living the Christian life is also by faith. As we started so we must continue, and not fall back into the flesh. By walking in the Spirit faith continues to be manifested, not necessarily by great works of power, but rather demonstrated in every day living, just as it showed itself in the earthly life of Jesus.
In all the above points we have seen that the devil wanted Jesus to have things done so He would walk by His flesh, but Jesus kept to that which His Father spoke.