Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness (Gal. 5:22-23)
Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness
Philip Yancey writes, in The Jesus I Never Knew, that he learned something about the incarnation from having a salt-water aquarium. He writes: “I learned about incarnation when I kept a saltwater aquarium. Management of a marine aquarium, I discovered, is no easy task. I had to run a portable chemical laboratory to monitor the nitrate levels and the ammonia content. I pumped in vitamins and antibiotics and sulfa drugs and enough enzymes to make a rock grow. I filtered the water through glass fibers and charcoal and exposed it to ultraviolet light.
You would think, in view of all the energy expended on their behalf, that my fish would at least be grateful. Not so. Every time my shadow loomed above the tank, they dove for cover into the nearest shell. They showed me one emotion only: fear.
Although I opened the lid and dropped in food on a regular schedule, three times a day, they responded to each visit as a sure sign of my designs to torture them. I could not convince them of my true concern. To my fish I was deity. I was too large for them, my actions too incomprehensible. My acts of mercy they saw as cruelty; my attempts at healing they viewed as destruction.
To change their perceptions, I began to see, would require a form of incarnation. I would have to become a fish and speak to them in a language they could understand.”
We and our neighbors live in a world of evil, of selfishness, of hate. If we are to bring anyone to Jesus Christ, we need to - in a sense - incarnate Jesus Christ to our friends and one way we do that is by living a good life in front of them.
There are many times in funeral eulogies that I could summarize the person’s life by simply saying, “He or she was a good person.” What does it mean to be a “good person”? How can we be “good people”? What are the qualities that make up a “good person”? Paul says in Romans 15:14 that the Christians in Rome were “full of goodness.” Therefore, we know that we can be good, we can even be good in God’s eyes! How? Let’s study the quality of “goodness…”
LET US DEFINE “GOOD” AS “LOVE IN ACTION”:
We begin with the idea that love is an attitude that motivates one to action and we’ll define that action as “good.” So to word that another way, “love desires the good of another.” Do you see the distinction between “good” and “love”? Love is the attitude that motivates us to do something and the “something” we do is “good.” “Love desires the good of another.”
WE NEED TO DESIRE TO BE GOOD:
Being “good” begins, with the desire to be good. Love is a choice and so good is a choice. We want to show love; therefore, we desire to be good, to do good. Paul wrote the Christians in Thessalonica in 2 Thessalonians 1:11 “To this end also we pray for you always, that our God will count you worthy of your calling, and fulfill every desire for goodness and the work of faith with power.”
Notice Paul writes of “fulfilling their every desire for goodness.” We have to want to be good. Therefore, being good is the end result of decisions we make. It does not necessarily happen by accident or without any thought.
You remember the woman who died in Acts 9, who was raised from the dead by the apostle Peter… Dorcas? Luke writes that when she was alive, she “abounded with deeds of kindness (NASV) and charity” (9:36). The word translated “kindness” is the Greek word for “good.”
GOODNESS BEGINS AND FLOWS FROM OUR RELATIONSHIP WITH GOD:
God is, of course, the only Being in the universe who is, inherently, good.
When the rich young ruler came to Jesus to ask Him about getting to heaven, Jesus commented that there is only One who is good (Matt. 19:17). In Mark’s account (10:18), Jesus says “No one is good except God alone.”
Because God is light (1 John 1:5), He shows us the way to be good. Paul writes in Ephesians 5:9 that “the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” So, walking in the light of God’s nature, God’s love, God’s truth, is going to produce goodness in our lives: good behavior, good thoughts, good words.
Do you remember the story of Mary and Martha having Jesus over to their house and Martha was fretting over getting the house cleaned and straightened up but Mary wanted to sit and listen to Jesus talk? The event is told at the end of Luke 10. When Martha asked Jesus to tell Mary to get up and help her clean the house, rather than listening to Jesus teach, Jesus gave Martha a mild rebuke and said, “Mary has chosen the good part…” (10:42). The teachings of Jesus are “good” and that’s what produces goodness in our lives. The more we live with Jesus, the more we walk with Jesus, the more “gooder” we’re going to be.
When Paul tells Timothy that the Holy Spirit has given us the Bible by guiding its writers (2 Tim. 3:16-17), he says that this is done so that the “man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.” In Hebrews 13:19-20, the writer tells us that Jesus our Lord will equip us in every good thing to do His will.
Let us take a moment to examine the context of the “fruit of the Spirit” passage in Galatians 5… As you turn there, remember that the Galatian Christians were suffering from a controversy in which some Jewish Christians were trying to require other Christians - specifically Gentile Christians - to keep certain aspects of the Law of Moses in order to be right with God. Circumcision especially, but some of the other aspects of the Law like the Sabbath and other holy days. Keep that in mind…
5:1 - Paul says that Christ set us free from the “yoke of slavery,” which is a term for the obligations of the Law of Moses. “Stand firm in your freedom from the Law of Moses,” Paul writes.
5:2 - If you have to be circumcised in order to be saved - that is, keep the Law of Moses - then Christ died for nothing.
5:3 - If someone tries to obligate others to keep circumcision, according to the law of Moses, then he is obligated to keep the whole law. You can’t pick and choose what parts of the law you want to observe.
5:4 - At that point - if you think you can obligate circumcision on others in order to be saved, then you have abandoned the idea that salvation is through the grace of God in Jesus Christ.
5:5 - Based on what the Spirit has revealed to us through Jesus Christ, by faith, we hope to be made righteous in Jesus Christ, not through the Law of Moses.
5:6 - Ultimately, you see, circumcision has nothing to do with salvation. Salvation is our faith responding in love to Jesus Christ.
5:7 - But the Christians in Galatia were being hindered by their fellow misguided Christians from obeying the truth.
5:8 - These problems did not originate with Christ.
5:9 - The problems arose because of bad influences among the Christians.
5:10 - Paul expresses confidence that the one disturbing the Christians will be judged by God.
5:11 - If Paul preached circumcision in order to avoid persecution, then he would make the message of the cross - salvation through Jesus Christ - pointless.
5:12 - In this verse Paul gets especially graphic and it shows his frustration with the whole ordeal. He says he might wish that those false teachers would just circumcise themselves(!) if they thought that’s what brought salvation.
5:13 - On the other hand, don’t let false teachers and false teaching get you distracted from the main focus of Christianity: Through love, serve one another.
5:14 - In fact, if you want to consider the Law of Moses, Paul writes, consider this: “The whole law is fulfilled in one word, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.”
5:15 - If you don’t love but you fight and argue, Paul says, you are going to consume each other. It’s like Jesus’ statement about a house divided against itself will not stand.
5:16 - But if we walk by the Spirit, who has revealed Jesus Christ and His teachings to us, then we will not carry out the desires of the flesh! This is the difference, family, between living a life based on cultural standards and living a life based on the teachings of Jesus Christ: Walk by the Spirit.
5:17 - You cannot “walk by the Spirit” and “live according to the flesh” at the same time! They are in mutual opposition to each other.
5:18 - Now, if we are, in fact, led by the Spirit, then we are not under the Law. Therefore, circumcision has no part in our relationship to Jesus Christ; it has no part in the New Covenant.
5:19 - If you live according to the flesh, you will be led to engage in these behaviors: immorality, impurity, sensuality,
5:20 - idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outburst of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,
5:21 - envying, drunkenness, carousing, and such like. People who walk according to the flesh will not inherit the kingdom of God. They can’t go to heaven, pure and simple.
5:22 - In contrast to that, the Spirit who has revealed Christ to us so that we can walk by faith, has brought us to the light of God’s word. If we are led by the Spirit, if we walk according to the Spirit, then the Spirit will produce this fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
5:23 - gentleness, self-control. There is no law against these behaviors.
5:24 - If we have been baptized into Christ, then as we came into contact with the death of Christ, we also crucified our own flesh with its passions and desires. Therefore, we do not need the “thou shalts” and the “thou shalt nots” of the Law of Moses.
5:25 - So, if we are living by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
5:26 - Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.
We have just given a brief overview of Galatians 5. “If we are living by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit,” whose fruit in our lives is going to be goodness.
BE GOOD INDISCRIMINATELY:
In Matthew 5:45, Jesus tells us that God, our Father in heaven, causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, He sends rain on the just and the unjust. When Paul was talking to the Jews in Lystra in Acts 14, he told them that “God did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave them rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying their hearts with food and gladness” (14:17).
Look at all the goodness God showers on the evil, the atheists, the unbelieving. God does not discriminate in showing goodness to others and, of course, that is a revelation of God’s grace. So we need to do good to others indiscriminately. We don’t need to wait and see if they deserve for us to be good to them. If our hearts are good, in fact, then that goodness is going to flow and show in all of our actions toward everybody.
Be indiscriminate in your goodness. Paul told the Christians in Galatia: “While we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, and especially to those who are of the household of the faith” (Gal. 6:10).
Be indiscriminate in your goodness… Specifically toward those who frustrate you or annoy you, Paul says, “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Rom. 12:21). He tells the Christians in Thessalonica: “See that no one repays another with evil for evil, but always seek after that which is good for one another and for all people” (1 Thess. 5:15). Respond with goodness when people test your patience. If we have trouble with that, let’s examine our hearts and see where are hearts are…
GOODNESS FLOWS FROM OUR HEARTS:
Jesus said in Matthew 7:17-18 that “every good tree bears good fruit, and the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.”
The good heart is going to produce good words. Jesus critiqued the religious leaders of His day, asking them: “How can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man brings out of his good treasure what is good; and the evil man brings out of his evil treasure what is evil” (Matt. 12:34-35). Ephesians 4:29: “Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear.”
So if our heart is good, the words we use are going to be good words. If the words we use are not good words, and we need to be listening to ourselves talk, if the words we use are not good words, that’s a clear indication that something is not right in our hearts. Our hearts are not good as they ought to be.
GOODNESS IS GENEROUS:
I wish to show you something else… In Matthew 20, Jesus gives the “Parable of the Laborers in the Vineyard” and the master of the vineyard paid the same salary to everyone who was working in the vineyard, regardless of how long they worked. But those who worked the longest complained that they did not get paid more, so then Jesus has the master say (20:15): “Is it not lawful for me to do what I wish with what is my own? Or is your eye envious because I am generous?” That word “generous” is the word “good” in the Greek language. So the word “good” also means “generous.” If we want to “be good,” we should be “generous:” generous with our gracious words, generous with our helpful behavior, generous with our pleasing and agreeable personality. In 2 Corinthians 9:8, Paul writes that “God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that always having all sufficiency in everything, you may have an abundance for every good deed.”
Goodness is transparent - Here is what I mean… True goodness does not be good just for what you can get out of it. That is hypocrisy. I can do something good to someone else because I want something from them, or I can be good toward someone because it is simply the right thing to do, the godly thing to do.
In the parable of the soils, Luke 8, Jesus says the “good soil” symbolizes the person who has an “honest and good heart” (8:15). Notice here that “good” is associated with honesty. That means sincerity. It means not being pretentious, not being hypocritical. Our goodness is transparent; which is most obvious when we are good, indiscriminately.
It’s not always easy to be consistent in doing good; Paul said that we need to “persevere in doing good” and we will receive “glory, honor, and peace” (Romans 2:7, 10).
We really are obligated to be good. We have no choice in the matter if we want to honor God and glorify Jesus Christ. But, the reward is going to be worth it all… When Jesus assembles the whole world for judgment in front of Him, those who were good - who fed the hungry, clothed the naked, visited the sick and those in prison - He will tell them: “Well done, good and faithful slave. You were faithful with a few things, I will put you in charge of many things; enter into the joy of your master.” (Matt. 25:21, 23). Notice also in this text that “goodness” is associated with “faithfulness.” That means that we are dependable in our goodness. We are not fickle in showing goodness. We are good today and we were good yesterday and if we have a choice in the matter (and we do), we’ll be good tomorrow. And, again, if our heart is good, then our behavior is going to show it every single day, with every single person.
In fact, “doing good” is going to be factored into our judgment and our salvation! In John 5:28-29, Jesus says that the “hour is coming in which all who are in the tombs will hear His voice and will come forth; those who did good to a resurrection of life, those who committed the evil to a resurrection of judgment.” Paul echoes those thoughts in 2 Corinthians 5:10 when he says that we will stand before the judgment seat of Christ and we will be “recompensed for our deeds in the body, according to what we have done, whether good or bad.”
Doing good will be remembered by God and it will be factored in our salvation. That will be worth it.
Take home message: Let us live by the Spirit, showing goodness indiscriminately in our lives toward others. Put our agape love into action!