(Display a Christmas ornament and a piece of fruit—orange or apple.)
We put Christmas ornaments on a tree and call it a Christmas tree, but it does not actually grow Christmas ornaments. It is still just a pine tree. An orange tree, on the other hand, produces oranges.
1. How can we tell what kind of tree a particular tree is? (By the fruit it produces.)
2. What are some characteristics of an orange?
When all of these characteristics are present together you know you have an orange, and therefore you know you have an orange tree. The fruit of the Spirit is similar. The list Paul gave in Galatians 5:22-23 does not represent several different types of Christians but characteristics that all Christians should embody at once—as a result of being connected to the Spirit!
As we study this passage today look for ways that the freedom given in salvation moves us to display the different characteristics of godly character.
Freed! Read Galatians 5:13-15
1. What are some ways believers should not use their freedom? (We should not use our freedom as a license to sin! When we sin intentionally, thinking God will always forgive, we place ourselves in a very precarious situation. Sin isn’t forgiven when there is no confession and repentance. See Heb. 10:26. All Christians sin but this passage is talking about a lifestyle of sin!)
Paul emphasized how freedom in Christ does not mean that we get to do whatever we want and abuse the grace that God has richly bestowed upon us as believers. The flesh and the Spirit-filled life are opposites in Scripture (see Rom. 8:5-9). According to Paul, to live by the Sprit can be seen by the love evident in our life!
2. What are we to use our freedom to do? (“Serve one another in love.” There is no law against loving each other and that love produces a servant’s heart toward our fellow believers!)
3. Legalism is a work-based salvation. How does legalism breed selfishness and freedom breed love?
4. There are two churches portrayed here—one lovingly serving each other and the second devouring one another. What are some ways church members can express love toward one another versus devouring one another? (Loving other as we love ourselves involves practicing loving-kindness, respectfulness, and forgiveness—treating others the way we want to be treated!)
5. What stops you from loving others in the church?
6. How does freedom from the law open the door for a person to love others genuinely? (The gospel reminds us of our complete acceptance by God. We do not need to compete with others to find our place in God’s love. We can rest, completely assured of His love for us. We love because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19.)
Paul continued by explaining how the work of the Spirit in our lives is freeing and has an expression in our lives.
Controlled! Read Galatians 5:16-18
1. What is the difference between the desire of the flesh and the desire of the Spirit? (Our fleshly nature desires sin and to glorify self. The Spirit desires God and seeks to bring glory to Him!)
2. Notice the word “Spirit” is capitalized. What does that mean? (The Spirit we are talking about is the Holy Spirit who indwells every Christian!)
3. How can we overcome the desires of the flesh? (To be victorious over sin we must follow the guidance of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit convicts us of sin and gives us the strength to overcome temptation. This is a continual process until we are called to our Heavenly Home!)
Paul continued to emphasize the Spirit’s work in relational terms!
Abandoned! Read Galatians 5:19-21
Every word Paul uses here has a picture behind it! William Barclay says in relationship to the first three “works of the flesh”: “it has been said, and said truly, that the one completely new virtue Christianity brought in to the world was chastity.” In fact, during the time Paul was writing these words sex outside marriage was not only accepted as normal it was almost as if it was expected!
Every characteristic of the works of the flesh listed here is a perversion of God’s good gifts to mankind. Each sin that he lists, is a characteristic of someone concerned only about the flesh.
Read Gal. 5:19-21 again, but this time slowly!
1. What stands out to you about this list? (This is not a comprehensive list of all sins, but it shows various types of sins, including sexual sins, religious sins, relational sins, and addictive behaviors.)
2. How are the actions of the flesh the opposite of God’s design for His creation?
3. How do these characteristics reflect humanity’s rebellion against God?
4. What does the word “practice” seem to imply about these sins? (A life-style of sin. A true believer may sin but desires the things of the Spirit and wants to turn away from sin. Someone who is not repentant of sin and is not being renewed by the Holy Spirit is not a part of God’s kingdom!)
Paul then described the ingredients of a Spirit-filled life!
Produced! Read Galatians 5:22-26
Notice that works is plural while fruit is singular. A person operating in the flesh may not exhibit all of the works of the flesh, but the Spirit will begin to produce all of His fruit or characteristics in the life of a believer.
1. How do the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit manifest themselves in Christians differently than in non-believers? (The fruit of the Spirit comes through following Christ. Personality traits can come from our genetics, our upbringings, and our experiences. Even before we became Christians we may have had tendencies toward some of these traits. Once we follow Christ, the power of the Spirit works to make us more like Christ, who perfectly displayed all of these characteristics.)
2. We add fertilizer to our trees to help them grow to maturity. What “fertilizer” can we apply to our lives to help in the Spirit’s production of fruit in our lives? (Feed upon the Word of God daily to add “fertilizer” so the “fruit” will become evident more quickly in our lives.)
3. In what sense have we crucified the flesh with its passions and desires? (When we trusted Christ in faith we died to our old self to walk in the Spirit. We want the things of God not this old sinful nature!)
4. Why would Paul add this final warning in verse 26? (The ruler of this world—Satan, will do everything he can to trip us up. The old sinful nature delights in seeing us get conceited and provoking one another and envying each other. This is a big caution sign Paul gives them!)
5. How does keeping in step with the Spirit improve our relationships with each other? (If we are all being led by the Holy Spirit we will be in perfect unity and harmony because we are all following the same Leader!)
Summarize and Challenge!
1. In what area of your life are you relying on yourself and not the Holy Spirit?
2. What needs to happen for you to rely upon the Holy Spirit to live a Christ-honoring life in those areas?
3. How can we encourage others when we see the fruit of the Holy Spirit in their lives?
Read Heb. 10:25
Followers of Christ will desire to be more like Him. Sanctification is not an instant change, but a gradual growth.