Chapter 11: The Holy Spirit in Galatians

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by James Paterson Jnr., Scotland













Scripture shows us that the Holy Spirit has visited earth since the earth was formed, Gen.1.2, and we can see His activity throughout the Old Testament in various ways. He played an active part in the Creation, Gen.1.2, Job.33.4, Ps.104.30. He was at work in the lives of many people in Old Testament times, e.g. Joseph, Gen.41.38; Daniel, Dan.5.11; David, 2 Sam.23.2. He was involved in the conception of Jesus, Lk.1.35, and when the Lord Jesus was baptised of John in the river Jordan, the Holy Spirit came upon Him, Lk.3.22.

The promise of the Lord Jesus to His disciples in the Upper Room was that He would send, "another Comforter … even the Spirit of truth" Jn.14.16-17, 26, and this promise was fulfilled on the Day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit descended, filling and empowering the disciples, Acts 2.2-4. In Acts, as described in chapter 8 of this book, the evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit is seen in the early church.

The Holy Spirit still plays an essential part in the lives of present day believers and will continue to do so until the end of the dispensation. His role in the activity of local assemblies is evidenced in the teaching of the New Testament epistles, and as we read the Word of God, we see that the Holy Spirit is involved in a variety of spheres, both in the individual believer and in assembly function. These include renewal and regeneration, Tit.3.4,5; illumination for both unbelievers and believers, Jn.16.8,14; indwelling, 1 Cor.3.16; Eph.1.13,14; empowering and enabling, Acts 1.8; 1 Cor.12.8. However, the focus of this chapter is the Holy Spirit in the epistle to the Galatians.


In this epistle we learn that the Holy Spirit is the One Who, in addition to all of the work outlined above, energises the process of sanctification in the life of a believer. With the Holy Spirit within we are able to repress the potential control of our sinful nature, subdue the instincts of the flesh, and become more like Christ as we display in our lives, "the fruit of the Spirit" Gal.5.22-23. While the subject of sanctification is not dealt with by name either in these verses or in the Galatians epistle, a consideration of them will allow the truth to be to be appreciated.

Here the Holy Spirit is seen mainly in contrast with the flesh and this aspect will occupy most of our attention. However, there are other aspects of the Spirit in the Epistle. It may be worth noting that in the Epistle the word "pneuma" i.e. spirit, occurs eighteen times; of these the A.V. has "spirit" eleven times and "Spirit" seven times. The R.V. on the other hand, has "spirit" only three times, but "Spirit" fifteen times. Any difference seems to be due to the fact that there are no initial capital letters in the older Greek manuscripts, and their use in English versions is by interpretation rather than translation.


The question asked by Paul, "Received ye the Spirit by the works of the Law or by the hearing of faith?" 3.2, takes the Galatians to the very beginning of their Christian lives, and how God’s working with them began, see v.5.

Based on the fact of their reception of the Spirit at their salvation, Paul asks whether they expect to continue a work in themselves that was commenced by the Holy Spirit. It is preposterous that a work begun by the Spirit should be continued by the flesh and that those who had been constituted righteous should seek to establish their own righteousness by works of the Law. Paul places the works of the Law under the heading of the flesh. The flesh denotes human nature in its fallen condition. Paul sees how the works of the Law could cater to human pride and so to the flesh, since some may think that a man can be justified by his own efforts. The work in a life begun by the Spirit and empowered by that Spirit, means that we, like the Galatians, have no need to look to fleshly works of the Law to progress in spiritual things. The redemptive work of Christ is the means whereby we are freed from the curse of the Law. This work results in the reception of the gift of the Spirit as was promised would "come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ" 3.14. While in the Old Testament promise to Abraham there is no mention of the Spirit, Paul here links the blessing of justification with the reception of the Spirit.


In the section dealing with sons and heirs, 4.1-7, Paul describes the Holy Spirit as the "Spirit of His Son", which title is used to emphasise the Spirit bearing witness – see also Rom.8.16. Gal.4.6 is the only time that this title is used and is one of the various descriptions of the Holy Spirit in relation to the Son, given in the New Testament. The specific activity of the Spirit, once He is sent into the heart of the believer, is that of the cry in addressing God as Father. While the Spirit in v.6 is represented as crying in the believer’s heart, the believer’s own cry seems clearly implied. Therefore it is the indwelling Spirit Who teaches and enables each believer to pray using the terms by which the Lord Jesus addresses God and in thus addressing God, we show that we have "the Spirit of His Son". This shows the closeness and intimacy of the relationship that we have with the Father, and the Holy Spirit develops and strengthens our responsiveness towards Him allowing the relationship to be enjoyed. God has sent both His Son to redeem and the Holy Spirit into our hearts to confirm our sonship. Therefore as sons we have become heirs "of God through Christ" 4.7.

Among other descriptive titles of the Holy Spirit are:


  • Jn.14.17, "The Spirit of truth."
  • Acts 16.7, "The Spirit of Jesus."
  • Rom.8.2, "The Spirit of Life."
  • Rom.8.9, He is called both "Spirit of God and Spirit of Christ."
  • Rom.8.11, "the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead."
  • Rom.8.15, "Spirit of adoption."
  • 2 Cor.3.3, "the Spirit of the Living God."
  • Eph.1.13, "The Holy Spirit of Promise."
  • Phil.1.19, "The Spirit of Jesus Christ."
  • Heb.9.14, "Eternal Spirit."
  • Heb.10.29, "The Spirit of Grace."
  • 1 Pet.4.14, "the Spirit of Glory and of God."

    These titles describe something of the character and function of the Spirit and most will be discussed elsewhere in this publication.

    It should be remembered that in the A.V., "Spirit" and "Ghost" are alternative translations of "pneuma". The word "Spirit" can always be used when speaking of the Holy Spirit, however "Ghost" can only be used with the prefix "Holy".


    In chapter 5 the believer stands as a free man in Christ, "Stand fast therefore in the liberty wherewith Christ hath made us free" 5.1. This is the true position of the believer which is incompatible with that of the Judaising legalists. Therefore we as believers "through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness by faith" 5.5. This means that through the agency of the Spirit we are taught to cherish this hope, and by His presence are enabled to continue therein. We must remember that the sphere of the operation of the Spirit is the human heart (see Rom.8.16; 2 Cor.1.22), therefore our impulse to obedience to the will of God in our spirit is the result of His operation within. So with the Holy Spirit within we look forward with expectancy to the realisation of righteousness. This righteousness refers to the believer’s complete conformity to every requirement of the Will of God. On one hand we stand justified before God due to the finished work of Christ, and on the other, we look forward with confidence to the perfecting of the work begun in us when we will be completely conformed to the image of Christ.


    The believer should not walk independently of the Holy Spirit; he cannot operate on his own energy and expect to have success, because the Christian life is dependent on the Spirit’s work. Therefore the commandment given by Paul in 5.16, "Walk in the Spirit", could be translated "keep on walking". It is imperative that the believer follows this instruction so that the lust of the flesh is not fulfilled in the life. This really is the revelation of the secret of successful Christian living. Christians are clearly commanded to subdue the flesh, which subjugation is the foundation of Christian living. When we as Christians walk by the Spirit, the desires of the flesh are not carried out. This is not an oversimplification but is the truth of God’s Word.

    Walking is a typical Scriptural reference to living and therefore to walk by the Spirit means to be constantly under the direction, control and guidance of the Spirit of God. Only by living in this way can we be sure that we will not "fulfil" the desires of a sinful nature. While we cannot overcome sin totally in this life, by walking by the Spirit we can overcome a sinful pattern of life. We can cultivate spiritual thinking by communing daily with God and feeding continually on His Word, so that our thoughts are God’s thoughts. Paul sums up this requirement when he says, "I die daily" 1.Cor.15.31. Every day we are to die to sin and self, and walk by the Spirit.

    Elsewhere in the New Testament many instructions are given with regard to the walk of the believer and the ensuing results of a spiritual walk. It is worth highlighting some of these:


  • 2 Cor.5.7, "For we walk by faith, not by sight."
  • Eph.4.1, "walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called …".
  • Eph.4.17, "… that ye henceforth walk not as other Gentiles walk."
  • Eph.5.2, "walk in love."
  • Eph.5.8, "walk as children of light."
  • Eph.5.15, "… walk circumspectly, not as fools, but as wise."
  • 2 Thess.3.6, "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us."
  • 3 Jn.4, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth."

    For a believer to walk in humility, purity, contentment, faith, good works, separateness, love, light, wisdom and truth, he must walk by the Spirit. Only the Spirit can produce such virtues. When we walk by Him we will not carry out the lusts or desires of the flesh. Human solutions cannot overcome what are fundamentally spiritual problems. Using human methods such as psychology, pragmatism or reasoning to solve fleshly problems will fail to overcome the prevailing lusts of the flesh. Victorious Christian living can only be achieved by walking in the Spirit.

    It may be opportune to define the principle of the "flesh", which is, as we see in this epistle, a major, critical force in the life of the believer. The Greek word "sarx" is a very important term in New Testament teaching. It is sometimes used to refer to the body, e.g. in Lk.24.39 the Lord Jesus says, "for a spirit hath not flesh (sarx) and bones, as ye see Me have". This is a reference to His body in which He stood before the disciples. It is used to imply human effort, e.g. Gal.3.3, "Are ye so foolish? Having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh (sarx)?" This is a reference to man’s efforts to accomplish the supernatural by natural means. The Lord Jesus makes a definitive statement with regard to flesh as the unregenerate state of man. Jn.3.6 "That which is born of the flesh (sarx) is flesh (sarx); and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit," showing the clear difference between the flesh and the Spirit.

    The primary significance of the flesh in the experience of the believer is its reference to our old Adamic nature that still responds to sin. Paul sums up this precept, "For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not. For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do. Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me" Rom.7.18-20.

    While a conflict is assumed in Gal.5.16, Paul becomes more specific in v.17. In this verse he clearly states that "the flesh lusteth against the Spirit", i.e. it is in opposition to. That is why there is conflict in the life of a believer. This conflict is missing in the life of a non-believer, because such a person does not possess the Spirit.

    The exhortation of v.16 is to walk by the Spirit, but the expectation of v.17 is that the believer will experience opposition in endeavouring to do so, (see reference to Rom.7.18-20 above). What is implied in v.16 is made explicit in v.17, i.e. the flesh and the Spirit are diametrically opposed to each other. It is this opposition which explains why walking by the Spirit will inevitably lead to the desires of the flesh not being carried out. The conditional sentence of v.18, "But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law," shows that the believer is not a helpless spectator in the battle between the flesh and the Spirit. Being led by the Spirit is doing so willingly and intelligently, not merely following passively. This statement is complementary to that of v.16, showing that just as the believer walks in the counsel of God by the Spirit, the Spirit guides and leads the believer in his path of life. The apostle Paul seems to highlight the Law as the provoker of transgression. In these verses there is double antagonism against the Spirit; v.16 the Spirit versus the flesh and v.18 the Spirit versus the Law. The Law dealt with the conduct of men but could not regulate man’s conduct, because conduct is under the control of the emotions, and the emotions are in turn under the control of sin. Being led by the Spirit assures us that the control of sin over us is no longer necessary, as we are not under law which demands obedience, but which cannot supply the power without which obedience is impossible. Conversely we are under grace where weakness is met by available and sufficient strength through the Holy Spirit. The Law and flesh are closely linked. According to Paul’s exposition in Romans, the Law, rather than restrain the flesh, actually produces the opposite effect. On one hand the Law provokes and increases sin, because the flesh causes a person to oppose God’s Law: on the other hand, owing to the weakness of the flesh, which cannot keep God’s law, the more a person tries to keep the Law the more he will find himself in the grip of sin.

    A quotation from "The Pilgrim’s Progress" by John Bunyan may illustrate the principle. In the book there is a scene in what Bunyan called "The Interpreter’s House" and in the house there is a room thick with dust. Christian, the main character in the book, saw someone come in and start to sweep the dust. The dust just billowed up in a cloud and choked everyone in the room, before settling back down from whence it was swept. The Interpreter explained to Christian, "This room is the heart of man that was never sanctified by the sweet grace of the Gospel: The dust is his original Sin, and inward corruptions have defiled the whole man. He that began to sweep is the Law." All that the Law can do is stir up the dust of sin; it cannot cleanse anyone. The flesh requires a spiritual solution.


    Before writing about the "fruit of the Spirit", Paul notes the works of the flesh as outlined in 5.19-21. The reason for this is that Paul contrasts the fruit of the Spirit to the list contained in these verses.

    Few would dispute that many problems in life come from the flesh; whereas solutions come from the Spirit! As believers we enjoy the encouraging truth of 2 Cor.6.16, "And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people." God lives in us. He walks with us and leads us. The Spirit of the almighty God is ours. We have to follow where He leads, which is the only way to conquer the flesh.

    It is interesting to note that the "fruit" of v.22 is singular in contrast to the word "works" of v.19, which is plural. The flesh manifests itself in many different ways, although not everyone practises all the works listed in vv.19-21. While there are seventeen works of the flesh listed in the A.V., most commentators suggest that the original manuscripts omit adultery v.19 and murders v.21; however the omission of these words does not lessen the seriousness of the works of the flesh.

    Broadly speaking the list contained in these verses divide into four categories. sexual sins; religious deviations; relationship disorders; intemperate behaviour.

    Sexual Sins

    First on the list is fornication which in Paul’s writings is used in 1 Cor.5.1; 6.13, 18; 7.2; 2 Cor.12.21; Eph.5.3; Col.3.5; 1 Thess.4.3. It refers to unlawful sexual relationships, and includes illicit relationships of all description whether clandestine or practised openly. The word therefore would include adultery in this context. Evil of a sexual nature was then and still is today, a characteristic feature of life apart from Christ. When Paul writes of this sin in 1 Cor.6.15-18, he shows the serious nature of engaging in these practices which establish links that cannot be undone and are an offence against the whole body. Closely associated with immorality is uncleanness (impurity R.S.V.), which is a very comprehensive concept and includes in addition to unclean actions, impure words, thoughts and desires of the heart. Included finally in this first group of works of the flesh is lasciviousness (licentiousness R.S.V.), which emphasises the lack of self-control in moral matters and which characterises the person who gives free play to the impulses of his sinful nature.

    Religious Deviations

    The next group which deals with religious deviations begins with idolatry. This refers not only to the worship of images but also to any evil practice in connection with such worship, and the substitution of anything at all in place of the true God Who is revealed in Jesus Christ. Of course, self would come in here in the form of covetousness, "which is idolatry" Col.3.5. Closely associated with idolatry is witchcraft (sorcery R.V.). The sorcerer generally claimed to have access to a supernatural power and so plied his trade. Paul only uses the word in this passage. It may be worth pointing out that the word translated witchcraft or sorcery comes from the Greek "pharmakeia", which while meaning the medical use of drugs, may highlight the danger in our drug-culture society, of the desire of many for hallucinatory, performance enhancing, ‘supernatural’ experiences which have no link to spirituality.

    Relationship Disorders

    There follows a group of eight items that are indicative of sin in personal relationships. Each of the actions listed in this section are of plural number which shows the multifarious aspects of each of the fleshly works. It would appear that the potential for ruined relationships is unlimited! This section begins with hatred, which is a characteristic feature of a murderer and such do not have the Spirit of God: "ye know that no murderer hath eternal life abiding in him" 1 Jn.3.15. This condition is Satanic and goes back to its demonstration in the hatred of Cain for Abel in Genesis chapter 4.

    Without going into each of the works of the flesh used in these verses, it is safe to say that this section could be summed up with the word rivalry. Each of these works of the flesh is based on a man seeking to further himself at the expense of others and the resultant strife that occurs. The section ends with the condition of envying which is also included in Paul’s lists of obnoxious characteristics in Rom.1.29; 1Tim.6.4; Tit.3.3 and even mentioned of preachers of Christ, Phil.1.15. The sin of jealousy has already been mentioned in this part of the list. Whenever these two, jealousy and envy are distinguishable, as they are here, the former can be described as the fear of losing what one has, while the latter is the displeasure of seeing someone have something we do not have. Our English word is taken from the Latin "in-video" meaning to look against; that is, to look with ill will at another person because of what he is or what he has. One of the most soul destroying sins is envy, which as the Greek word "phthonos" implies, causes one to "waste away". Envy is described as "rottenness of the bones" Prov.14.30. It was envy that caused Abel to be murdered; led to Joseph to be thrown into a pit; made Korah, Dathan and Abiram rebel against Moses; impelled Saul as he pursued David; and delivered the Lord Jesus to be crucified, " For He knew that the chief priests had delivered Him for envy" Mk.15.10. It is therefore significant that the list of relationship sins is underscored with this subject.

    Intemperate Behaviour

    The final section of the list of works of the flesh deals with intemperate behaviour. Paul names two examples of the sin of intemperance, i.e. drunkenness and revelling. The condition of drunkenness is highlighted by Paul in his lists of Romans chapter 13, 1 Corinthians chapters 5 and 6, and in the Corinthian passages the word used is "drunkard". This emphasises the resulting condition of drunkenness, i.e. becoming a drunkard. It should be noted that alcoholism is seen in Scripture, not as a disease, but a sin. While we see on a daily basis and acknowledge the medical aspect of alcoholism, we must never forget the responsibility aspect. The danger is that we minimise personal accountability and therefore blame the dependency created by the condition and excuse the participant. Drunkenness is an activity associated with those in darkness, and should not be practised by those in the light. "Ye are all the children of light, and the children of the day: we are not of the night, nor of darkness" 1 Thess.5.5. The revelling in which the drunkard participates is a characteristic of the pagan way of life giving allegiance to Dionysus or Bacchus the gods of wine, and carries with it the idea of wanton immorality as already described in these verses.

    The list of the works of the flesh is really quite representative but is in no way exhaustive. Many sins mentioned elsewhere in Paul’s writings are not mentioned here, but the Apostle is emphasising in this passage, sins of lustful passions, as seen in the first sin and also the last one listed. However, regardless of whatever way we classify and divide these works of the flesh highlighted, they are manifestations of lives dictated to by the flesh instead of being led by the Spirit. It is salutary to know that those who remain under the influence of the flesh and practise such sins, "shall not inherit the kingdom of God" Gal.5.21.



    As he continues his teaching in Galatians chapter 5, Paul notes that while the works of the flesh are manifold, the Spirit produces a single fruit. This signifies the unity of the spiritual qualities described by Paul. Those who walk by that Spirit will see not a few, but all aspects of the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. It would seem that a man either has all of the fruit or none of it! "The fruit" is best considered as a unit and really can be taken as ‘the harvest’. This is the result of walking in the Spirit, v.16; being led by the Spirit, v.18; and living in the Spirit, v.25. The Holy Spirit produces His fruit in the life of a believer who lives in such a condition. So the qualities listed in vv. 22-23 are not the result of a strenuous observance of some external code of rules, but the natural product of a life controlled and guided by the Spirit. This fruit is an endowment bestowed on every believer, and has no relation to the extraordinary, temporary manifestations of the Spirit’s power of the early days of the Church age. The list contained in these verses is very obviously different to the diversity of spiritual gifts outlined in 1 Corinthians chapter 12 where it is recorded of the Holy Spirit, "dividing to every man severally as He will" 1 Cor.12.11.

    As we have described this group of nine characteristics as being different facets of the one harvest, it may be better to look at them individually rather than group them together into sub groups. This is in no way in disrespect of eminent teachers who have done so both in writing and audible teaching, but is the personal preference of the present writer, in keeping with the above comments.


    The subject of love shines forth strongly from the Spirit-filled person. The word that is used here is that which is used of God’s love to man (agape), suggesting that we love others as God loves us. Love is not only an emotion, but rather is evidenced in various aspects of the believer’s life. Love is:


  • the motive for all actions, 1 Cor.16.14.
  • the motivating power of forgiveness, 2 Cor.2.7,8.
  • evidenced in sacrificial giving, 2 Cor.8.24.
  • the means of restraint on Christian liberty, Gal.5.13.
  • shown towards fellow believers, Eph.1.15.
  • an evidence of spiritual maturity, Eph.4.15.
  • displayed by those who are followers of God, Eph.5.2.
  • the secret of unity, Col.2.2.
  • a garment to put on, Col.3.14.
  • part of the correct attitude to overseers, 1 Thess.5.12.
  • the grounds of Christian appeal, Philemon 9.

    While love is not self-generated, but is a product of the Holy Spirit, we are expected to "Follow after love" 1 Cor.14.1. This pursuit when seen in the light of the passage before us is tantamount to being led by and walking in the Spirit.


    The word "chara" does not mean earthly human happiness. It is always used in Scripture to denote joy that is based on spiritual factors. It is not the result of positive circumstances, but the deep-seated joy of God. A well-known adage states, "happiness depends upon happenings – joy does not".

    Spiritual joy transcends circumstances; " Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory" 1 Pet.1.6-8. The exhortation given by Paul to the church at Philippi is to "Rejoice in the Lord" Phil.3.1; 4.4.

    Christian joy is undisturbed through sorrow and tribulation, and in fact gives proof of its power in the midst of such conditions: "As sorrowful, yet always rejoicing" 2 Cor.6.10. "How that in a great trial of affliction the abundance of their joy and their deep poverty abounded unto the riches of their liberality" 2 Cor.8.2.

    Paul is a great example of spiritual joy, even in the most distressful of circumstances in Rome he rejoiced, and so we are blessed with his prison epistles. It is a spiritual man who can say, "Rejoice evermore" 1 Thess.5.16, and while it may be easier to "weep with them that weep," the spiritual man will, "Rejoice with them that do rejoice" Rom.12.15.


    Peace (eirene) like the Hebrew "shalom", means more than the absence of trouble and discord. It gives the more positive meaning of soundness, wholeness, prosperity, serenity and tranquillity, and is therefore a demonstration of spiritual fruit. This is a state that cannot be induced by external condition, but comes from the indwelling Holy Spirit. Spiritual peace does not necessarily involve peaceful circumstances, but a peaceful heart in turbulent conditions will still result in experiencing peace. Peace is one of the attributes of God. He is the "God of peace" Rom.15.33; 16.20; 2 Cor.13.11; Phil.4.9; 1 Thess.5.23. So with God as the source of peace and the Holy Spirit as the One through Whom peace comes, peace as the fruit must be evidenced in the believer. This peace is based on Christ’s finished work of reconciliation through His shed blood, "And, having made peace through the blood of His cross, by Him to reconcile all things unto Himself" Col.1.20, and because of this reconciliation He has made it possible for man to be justified and have "Peace with God" Rom.5.1.

    Peace will be evidenced locally in as much as we adhere to Paul’s exhortation, "endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace" Eph.4.3.

    It may be that in the verses before us, peace refers specifically to our relationships with others, both with fellow believers and the unsaved, but we should also include in its meaning the inner peace that results from a correct relationship with God. In fact such a relationship would be manifest in our dealings with other people.


    Longsuffering, (makrothymia; "patience", R.V.) is the opposite of impatience. It is not merely the ability to ‘put up with’ people or circumstances for a long period, but has a deeper spiritual aspect being a facet of the fruit of the Spirit. It is another characteristic of God, "The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth" Ex.34.6; "But thou, O Lord, art a God full of compassion, and gracious, longsuffering, and plenteous in mercy and truth" Ps.86.15. God’s longsuffering towards mankind constitutes the basis and reason for the believer’s patience towards others. To live up to our calling, we as believers must display the following characteristics, "With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love" Eph.4.2. This feature embraces more than the members of the Christian family in 1 Thess.5.14, where Paul writes, "Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men". This patience should also be evidenced in those who preach the word, "Preach the word; be instant in season, out of season; reprove, rebuke, exhort with all longsuffering and doctrine" 2 Tim.4.2.


    Gentleness (chrestotes; "kindness", R.V.) is found in the New Testament only in Paul’s letters. When it is applied to God, the word denotes His gracious attitude and action towards sinners. However as it is a characteristic of God it does not imply weakness, "Behold therefore the goodness (gentleness) and severity of God" Rom.11.22. This suggests that His kindness is not unprincipled or sentimental. In the lives of believers gentleness must never be mistaken for weakness or lack of conviction. It allows for indignation when appropriate, but aggressive actions or words are never seen as part of the fruit of the Spirit. Paul is an example of this in his ministry, "But we were gentle among you, even as a nurse cherisheth her children" 1 Thess.2.7. As those who have experienced the kindness of God’s salvation and who walk in the Spirit, we show this gentleness in daily living. It is one of the seven items of spiritual clothing we put on, Col.3.12, and one of the attributes of those who have learned Christ, "be ye kind one to another" Eph.4.32. This quality is an essential ingredient of love, and like love expresses itself in action. i.e. those who are gentle treat others in the same way as God has treated them.


    Goodness (agathosyne) is the expression of a person who is basically good, i.e. shows qualities of moral excellence. It is linked as Spirit fruit in Eph.5.9 with righteousness and truth, and linked with the righteous man in Rom.5.7. C. Leslie Mitton in his book "Ephesians" writes, "Goodness is an attitude of generous kindness to others, which is happy to do far more than is required by mere justice." Therefore generosity would seem to be an aspect of goodness, and here in v.22 represents a kindliness that displays practical generosity, and so can be considered as a contrast to the envy which is item 13 in the list of the works of the flesh.


    Faith (pistis; "faithfulness", R.V. or "fit to be trusted", N.E.B.). This word has been used through the epistle of justifying or saving faith, and is used elsewhere to denote one of the spiritual gifts, 1 Cor.12.9, the word here seems to mean faithfulness and fidelity, i.e. loyalty and trustworthiness in the believer’s dealings with others. As in Tit.2.10, "showing all good fidelity". This is the quality of the individual on whose faithful service we can rely, on whose loyalty we can depend and whose word we can accept without reservation. This is a basic necessary quality of those indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The charge to such quality is given by the Lord Jesus to the disciples and hence to us in His parabolic ministry:


  • Matt.25.14-30 – the parable of the talents;
  • Lk.12.35-48 – the parable of the watchful servant;
  • Lk.16.1-13 – the parable of the unjust steward;
  • Lk.19.12-27 – the parable of the pounds.

    The Lord Jesus is seen as the greatest example of fidelity and trustworthiness:


  • Heb.2.17, "… a merciful and faithful high priest …".
  • Heb.3.1,2, "… Christ Jesus who was faithful to Him that appointed Him."
  • 2 Thess.3.3, "But the Lord is faithful … ".
  • Rev.1.5, "… Jesus Christ who is the faithful witness …".
  • Rev.19.11, "… called Faithful and True."

    In addition to the perfect example of all spirituality, there are men who were given accolade with regard to their faithfulness as being fit to be trusted:-


  • Timothy, 1 Cor.4.17, "For this cause have I sent unto you Timotheus, who is my beloved son, and faithful in the Lord."
  • Tychicus, Eph. 6.21, "But that ye also may know my affairs, and how I do, Tychicus, a beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord, shall make known to you all things."
  • Epaphras, Col.1.7, "As ye also learned of Epaphras our dear fellowservant, who is for you a faithful minister of Christ."
  • Onesimus, Col.4.9, "With Onesimus, a faithful and beloved brother, who is one of you."

    This facet of the fruit of the Spirit describes the believer in whom there is the display of the unswerving fidelity of Jesus Christ and the utter dependability of God.


    The word "praytes" does not convey the sense of weakness but would describe a person in whom strength and gentleness go together. Therefore meekness should never be confused with weakness! In the Old Testament the attitude usually signifies a humble disposition to the Will of God. In the New Testament meekness is the attitude in which:


  • The Word of God has to be received: "receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls" Jms.1.21.
  • The erring brother restored: "restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted" Gal.6.1.
  • The opponent to sound teaching corrected: "In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves; if God peradventure will give them repentance to the acknowledging of the truth" 2 Tim.2.25.

    This attitude may be described as a humble and pliable submission to God’s will which is reflected in humility, patience and forbearance towards others, regarding even insult and injury as God’s means of development of Christian graces. For example as Paul states, "we are despised. Even unto this present hour we both hunger, and thirst, and are naked, and are buffeted, and have no certain dwelling place; And labour, working with our own hands: being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it: Being defamed, we entreat: we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things unto this day" 1 Cor.4.10-13.


    Temperance (enkrateia; "self control", J.N.D.) is the final facet of the fruit of the Spirit in this list. It carries the idea of self-control in all things. God has given man the ability to exercise his own will, and without the indwelling Holy Spirit man will only abuse this privilege. Only in as much as men become the subjects of the operation of the Holy Spirit through faith in Christ, can control of the will be exercised. The word is used by Paul to describe the condition of those striving for the incorruptible crown, 1 Cor.9.24-27; in the list of qualifications of an elder, Tit.1.8 and interestingly was part of the message he preached to Felix at Caesarea, Acts 24.25. He also raises the matter in 1 Corinthians chapter 7 in relation to marriage. It may be that in Galatians chapter 5, Paul is contrasting temperance to the works of the flesh of fornication, impurity and indecency, drunkenness and revelling, previously listed; all of which involve uncontrolled displays of passions.

    The list of descriptions of the fruit of the Spirit is, like the previous list concerning the works of the flesh, not exhaustive but representative. It is not intended to limit the graces of the Spirit.

    It is a distinguishing feature of all believers that they have crucified the flesh, v.24, are living by the Spirit, v.25, and so are under obligation to be led by the Spirit, v.25. In such conditions the fruit of the Spirit will be displayed in contrast to the works of the flesh.


    Walking by the Spirit will not only mean avoiding provocation and envy and abstaining from the base works of the flesh, 5.19-26, but positively, the restoration of those who have lapsed into sin, 6.1. The qualification for such a work, which will usually be of a delicate nature, is given in the one word, "spiritual." Interestingly, this word is never used in the Old Testament (one English reference in Hos.9.7 which is a different word) nor in the Gospels, but is only ever used after Pentecost. The spiritual man is the person who walks by the Spirit both in the sense of 5.16,25 and who displays the fruit of the Spirit in his own life. Also, it must be by the standard of the Holy Spirit that a man judges himself. In the Scriptures being spiritual is normal for a believer; however there may be those who because of immaturity have not reached this standard as in 1 Cor.3.1-3. Others as in Gal.6.1 may have lost the condition of spirituality due to their succumbing to the flesh. This in no way allows for the idea that a believer can lose the indwelling Holy Spirit. Confirmation of this is seen in the restoration (resetting of a broken bone) process in these verses. The work of restoration is only ever indicated to be the work of a spiritual person, showing that it has not to be undertaken lightly or in any carnal way. If we judge our standard of spirituality based on the detail of the fruit of the Spirit, we will know if we are fitted for such a work.


    As the apostle is about to bring his letter to its encouraging conclusion, he makes one last reference to the warring factions; i.e. the flesh and the Spirit.

    The principle stated, "Whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap" 6.7, is a rule for all men. In context he means the manner in which anyone reacts to his present letter, but of course the principle that "God is not mocked" far exceeds that which he has currently written. Sowing to the flesh means to allow the old nature to have its way. So also sowing to the Spirit means to allow the Holy Spirit to be in control. The person who does the latter is walking by the Spirit, 5.16, and being led by the Spirit, 5.18.

    Interestingly, the person sowing to the flesh sows to "his (own) flesh" which is a disturbing picture of selfish carnality. However, it may be that the person is still in the natural state and has no knowledge of God’s salvation. Either way, such a person will of the "flesh reap corruption," initially in this life but also in the life to come. For a believer to sow to his flesh, he is flying in the face of God and must expect God’s intervention. While his soul can never be lost, his future loss of reward and position in the Kingdom will be a direct result of his life on earth. However, if as is more likely, the person who displays this manner of life is an unbeliever, his expectation is only of the eternal judgment of God.

    On the other hand, there are those who sow to the Spirit. While such will enjoy the quality of life commensurate with the fruit experienced through the indwelling Holy Spirit, the end result of their sowing is "life everlasting." Which means;


  • They will "bear the image of the heavenly" 1 Cor.15.49.
  • Have a body, "fashioned like unto His glorious body" Phil.3.21.
  • "Be like Him, for we shall see Him as He is" 1 Jn.3.2.

    W. E. Vine in his "Expository Commentary on Galatians" sums up the subject: "To the law of seed time and harvest there is no exception in either the physical or spiritual realm. But what we reap is what we sow, not what we meant to sow, or thought we had sown, but that which we actually do sow."


    In the epistle to the Galatians the conflict between the flesh and the Spirit is seen to be constant. However, for those who are spiritual, that is, evidencing the effect of the indwelling Holy Spirit and displaying the fruit of the Spirit to the exclusion of the works of the flesh, there is only one result: they "shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting" Gal.6.8.