WHY DO WE NEED THE OLD TESTAMENT?

    Last week we looked at “Rightly Dividing the Word.” We discussed some of the major differences between the Old and New Testaments. It was mentioned the Old Testament is sometimes called the “Law of Moses,” or, just “the Law,” and that Christians are no longer under that old law. This begs the question, “If we are no longer under the law and now under the New Covenant of Jesus (ie. the New Testament), then why do we have, or even need the Old Testament?” That’s an important question because there are some brethren who believe it isn’t necessary. There are many who have never read the Old Testament and some see no value in it at all. I’ve known people who have communicated to me that they don’t want to hear anything from the pulpit but the New Testament (obviously, I had been and still preach from the Old Testament). I’ve known others who flat out refuse the Old Testament. To be quite honest, I simply do not comprehend that type of thinking. It makes absolutely no sense to me! Allow me to explain.
    Look at what the apostle Paul wrote in his epistle to the Christians in Rome (fill in the blank), “For whatever things were written before were written for our __________ , that we through the __________ and __________ of the Scriptures might have _________.”(Romans 15:4). So, before the New Testament was even completed, we have here one of God’s divinely appointed, inspired writers explaining why the ancient Scriptures are important to our faith. Shouldn’t that be enough to convince anyone of the value of ALL of God’s Word? If not, then don’t forget to read what Paul wrote in 2 Timothy 3:16-17. Here, he clarifies that ALL Scripture is: (a) inspired by God, (b) it is useful, and (c) will make the faithful believer, “complete.” Again, notice the word “all.” These two verses are the best reasons why we need the Old Testament. So, if we have established the necessity of Scripture, then what is it about the Old Testament that Christians need today? We can answer that question with three easy-to-remember points: Reference, Redemption History, and Reflection.
Reference.
    While reading the New Testament, especially the Gospel accounts, there are numerous references to personalities, events, and teachings in the Old Testament. In fact, there are some 855 times it is referenced or cited in the New Testament! While opinions on this vary, it appears that all but 10 books of the Old Testament are quoted by New Testament writers. With that many references, it is certainly necessary to be able to review where the quote is located, who said it, and why. Not to mention, that the New Testament is full of words, concepts, and specifics that can only be explained by reading about them in the Old Law. Without it, it would be virtually impossible to understand a large portion of the New Testament.

Redemption History

    The reason for Jesus coming to earth, the need for salvation, and the purpose of heaven would be greatly obscured and quite confusing without the Old Testament writings! How would we know the history of mankind, the formation of the universe, the fall of man into sin, mankind’s tendency to reject God, and the loving plan of redemption that our Father unfurled over the centuries if we didn’t have them written down to read about and study? Read how Peter describes this in 1 Peter 1:10-12.

Reflection

    Even though we are Christians under the law of Christ, reading the Old Testament will cause one to reflect upon their own life. The examples of God’s faithful servants, of those not so faithful, the rebellious, and even His enemies are written down to help us reflect upon the nature of God, His love for His creation, and His sovereignty as Judge. It is written to help us contrast our own lives against those who triumphed or failed. To show us that God loves His creation, therefore, He loves you! It is written down so that, as the Psalmist put it, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, That I might not sin against You,”(Psalm 119:11) When you pray to God today, thank Him for His word! Then, show that thanks by putting it into YOUR heart!


RIGHTLY DIVIDING THE WORD

    The Bible is not difficult to understand. Yet, there are many people who think that it is! Perhaps, one reason some have difficulty understanding the Bible is because it is not written like a novel. The books are not a single narrative arranged in chronological order. If one did not already know this, then it certainly could be confusing. Still, there is another point that seems to stand above others when it comes to misapprehension. It is the difference between the Old and New Testaments. Numerous Bible “scholars” have exhibited a deficiency in discerning the variances. It is this lack of knowledge that has been culprit to many misguided practices and false doctrines. Being able to distinguish the differences between the two testaments is absolute key to truly sound Bible knowledge.
    The apostle Paul wrote, “Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth,” (2 Timothy 2:15 – KJV). The words, “rightly dividing” means, “to handle aright, or to teach the truth directly and correctly.” A diligent student of God’s Word should know that Scripture can be “divided” according to different methods. First of all, it is a library of discrete writings, totaling 66 books in two volumes – 39 in the first and 27 in the second. It has 1,189 chapters and 31,000 verses! Secondly, it has thematic divisions, such as, “books of law,” “history,” “poetry,” “prophecy,” and “letters.” Knowing such things helps one to handle the Scriptures more accurately by being able to locate specific teachings and properly identify the context of the writing.
    By far, the most important division of Scripture is that of the two covenants, or agreements. That’s what the word “testament” means. For example, Jesus said, “For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins,” (Matthew 26:28 – KJV). Here, Jesus is saying that He is instituting a “new agreement,” or covenant between God and man (compare the renderings of this verse in different versions such as the ESV, NKJV, and CEV to see the difference in words). It is because of this verse and others such as 2 Corinthians 3:6; Colossians 2:14; and Galatians 6:2 that the Bible is divided into two parts: the Old Testament, called “old” because it’s no longer in effect, and the New Testament, the current, binding agreement.
    Agreements, or covenants, between God and His creation can be seen throughout the Scriptures. For example, read Genesis 6:13-18. With whom did God establish a covenant? Later, in Genesis 15:18, we read where God made another covenant with someone else. What was his name? A third covenant was made with whom in Exodus 34:27? Each of these agreements were leading up to and pointing toward the covenant that Jesus would make at the Last Supper, the night before He was crucified. We might explain testament as a “new contract,” much like a will that someone puts into effect. In fact, the best explanation of what Jesus did is found in Hebrews 9:14-20. Here we see what is involved in a testament – there’s a mediator and a testator. According to Thayer’s Dictionary, a mediator is, “one who intervenes between two [parties], either in order to make or restore peace and friendship, or form a compact, for ratifying a covenant.” A testator is the person who makes, or initiates the will. He is the one who decides who the beneficiaries shall be. The Bible teaches us that Jesus is our Mediator (1 Timothy 2:5), and since He is the One who gave us the new covenant (1 Corinthians 11:25), that makes Him also the Testator.
   The conclusion can be summarized in this manner. There was an agreement, or covenant, that God made long ago with the Jews, through the father of their nation, Abraham. The Jews ratified and lived under this agreement through the the Law of Moses (Exodus 19:8). When Christ came into the world, He established a new agreement. When He died, this new agreement, or testament, was put into effect. This prompted the cancellation, or annulment of the first covenant. We are not Hebrews, nor can we (or anyone) use it as our law! It is the old covenant; we now have a new one. This is why we are called “New Testament Christians.” And as Christians, we must learn and know the will of God if we want to be assured of eternal life. If we don’t know how to rightly handle the word, then we can put our souls in jeopardy!
 
Next week, we will continue the discussion and answer the question, “Then, why do we need the Old Testament?”


THE AUTHORITY OF THE BIBLE

    Last week we discussed the importance of authority. We established that it originated with God. He created the universe and all things of the world belong to Him, so it makes sense that He would be the one who makes the rules (Revelation 4:11). We do not have the right to alter the dictates of heaven regarding how to live in this world. He is the Owner, Builder, and Sustainer of this wonderful and marvelous creation (Psalm 95:3-5). Therefore, He has the authority to govern the affairs of man as He sees fit for He is all powerful; we, quite simply, are not.
    So, what do we mean by the word “authority”? One great example for illustrating the significance of the word is found in Matthew 8:9, where a Roman centurion said (fill in the blanks from your Bible), “For I also am a man __________ authority, having soldiers __________ me. And I say to this one, ‘______,’ and he ________; and to another, ‘________,’ and he ________; and to my servant, ‘______ ________,’ and he ________ it.” Notice here that authority involves the right to command others and it implies submission by the one receiving the command. The root of the word is “author”, which makes reference to a person who creates or gives existence to something. That is certainly an appropriate description for God!
    When Jesus was on the earth, He taught that all must conform to the will of God (Matthew 7:21-23). He did it through the authority of His spoken word. Through His preaching and teaching, He commanded that the people submit themselves to the sovereignty of heaven itself (Matthew 6:33). He had divine authority bestowed upon Him (Matthew 28:18). But, that was while Christ was living here on earth, does He still exercise that power today? Or, since Jesus is no longer with us in bodily form, who or what is our authority? To answer that question, let’s read what His apostles taught about the origin and authorship of their writings. In Galatians 1:11-12, Paul says he neither received nor learned the Gospel through man. In Revelation 1:10-11, we see where the apostle John was instructed, “What you see, write in a book … ” He was receiving visions directly from the Spirit, the book did not originate with John. Simon Peter expresses rather clearly, “… that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit,” (2 Peter 1:20-21). Consider also what the writer of Hebrews says in Hebrews 1:1-2.
    These verses, and many others like them, show us that which is written in the Bible are not mere words of mortal men, but rather, the divine words and will of the Father which the Holy Spirit revealed through inspiration. So, the answer is “yes,” Jesus is still exercising His authority since He is part of the Godhead, (2 Corinthians 1:21-22). The New Testament is the singular authoritative document of the Lord that we must observe and follow! The Lord has given us His written Word to guide us during His physical absence. It governs our actions and guides our steps.
    From all of this, we may conclude that there exists only one source of authority within the church, the body of Christ, and that is the Bible. How can we make such a claim? Please read these verse carefully: Deuteronomy 4:2; Revelation 22:18-19; and 1 Peter 4:11. In addition and according to John 16:13, Jesus told the apostles that they would be guided into ALL truth. If the apostles were guided into all truth, then must we wait to receive some new revelation today? The answer is no and Peter confirms it by telling us, “His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue,” (2 Peter 1:3). This is the very reason we often use the maxim, “Let us speak where the Bible speaks, and be silent where the Bible is silent”. It means that we must simply submit ourselves to God and His word. Nothing more! Since God is the Creator and gave all authority to Christ. His Word is the final authority! There is no other! Let’s pray that we all have the attitude that fosters placing the Bible at the center of all our spiritual decisions.


THE IMPORTANCE OF AUTHORITY

    In our modern society, there is so much confusion about what is right and wrong that it is hard to distinguish truth. To add more perplexity, there are some who have proclaimed themselves as the authority of such matters. But who or what made them the highest court of discernment? What are their credentials for assuming such a position? When it comes to matters of faith, there is just as much controversy because there are so many different points of view. A lot of it stems from worldly influences. So, how do we know what is correct? Who gets to determine what is right and wrong? In fact, does there even exist a supreme authority over all spiritual things? If so, is it the church, a creed book, a chieftain, a central office, or a council of scholars? In other words, who makes the rules? And where should we go for answers? These are important questions when dealing with religion, because one’s soul is at stake!
    Sadly, many who go looking for answers, wind up submitting to a chieftain, that is, some man posing as a supreme ruler over religious affairs. Others will consult creed books, confessions of faith, or church disciplines for guidance. Still others submit to the decisions of councils, synods, or conventions for matters of faith. The trouble with all of these is that they are based on human reasoning and emotions. If we simply compare each of these systems of authority with the other, we can easily identify glaring disagreements, discrepancies, and hypocrisies! This is because human wisdom cannot provide any kind of appropriate agreement in religious discussions when multiple mindsets are involved. As is evidenced in our current religious environment, division and disunity prevails. Instead, there must be a singular authority that supersedes all else to which can appeal or consult. Such a foundational authority can be found in the Bible, the Word of God.
    Read 1 Thessalonians 2:13, then John 17:17 and Psalm 119:160. The Bible tells us religious authority originated with the Creator, God (2 Timothy 3:16,17). Scripture, should and must be the center of all decisions concerning matters of faith and religion. Understanding the importance of a central authority in all religious affairs is such a critical concept for every soul on earth to grasp! Knowing the true standard of authority will influence one’s eternal destination. This is illustrated in the warning Jesus gave to His followers, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter,” (Matthew 7:21). Therefore, it is our responsibility to seek out and discern what the will of God is. Can His will be found among the decisions of a man, a group of men, or a creed book written by a man? I would think the answer should be obvious, “No! It cannot.” But apparently, as we have already illustrated, it is not that obvious for some.
    It saddens me to see how we so flippantly dismiss authority in our spiritual walk, but yet, we are capable of recognizing it in our secular lives. For example, when a police officer commands us to stop, we must do so; otherwise, we know we will suffer the consequences for our actions. The concept is not difficult to comprehend! Therefore, when it comes to religious issues, why doesn’t authority mean the same thing? The Bible tells us why. Perhaps, the apostle Paul explains it best in 2 Timothy 4:3. Certain people simply don’t want to adhere to an established, prescribed set of rules, no matter if it is of divine origin or not. They want what they want, period. But we should all contemplate the words of Jesus in Matthew 28:18. Jesus received His authority from the Supreme Authority. It is God who sets the rules and guidelines. We have no right or reason to change His commands.


LEARNING TO FUNCTION WITHIN THE BODY

    Every Christian has a personal responsibility to grow and mature in the faith. An important element of spiritual growth has to do with how we conduct ourselves within the church, that is, the body of Christ. The Bible describes the church as a body, His body (Ephesians 1:22-23; Colossians 1:18). According to 1 Corinthians 12:13, we have been baptized into that body. This is how we become members of the church (Acts 2:47).
    In his letter to the brethren in Corinth, Paul uses the analogy of the human body for explaining how unity provides healthy functionality (12:12-31). This concept is not difficult for us to to understand. For example, we recognize that sophisticated machines function properly when all the parts work together, meaning, all of its components function in the way in which they were designed. If a part fails to do its job, then the machine breaks down, which can cause severe damage and stop it from working altogether. Our bodies function in the same way. Every part has its purpose, contributing to the overall performance. This is what Paul is emphasizing.
    Satan, on the other hand, wants to see the church fail. Because of this, division is a constant danger lurking among the membership. Disunity and conflict threaten the survival of the church and it can appear from many sources, such as the abuse of power, erroneous doctrine, or improper conduct. A glaring example of this is seen in the divisive nature of the church of Christ in Corinth (1 Corinthians 1:10-13). This is why Paul was using the analogy of the human body in chapter 12! Learning how to function properly within the church requires one to have an attitude that constantly strives for unity.
    To help us better understand the importance of unity, read Romans 12:3-8 and 1 Corinthians 12:12-31 and consider the specific details Paul accentuates. You should be able to deduce that the body does not exist only to serve the eyes, for example. But when the eye is hurt, different parts of the body will help it so that it may become useful again. We understand the hand does not take from the body for its own use nor does any one member demand something from the body for its own benefit. Yet sadly, there are brethren in the church who do not understand this concept. Their perception of the church is to get all they can from the body, or that the body exists only to serve them. All they do is take away from the church; they never give of themselves (2 Corinthians 8:5). It is truly sad that some members of the Lord’s church behave as if they are the only reason the body exists. What a shame!
   There are three main points Paul expresses in 1 Corinthians 12 that we should learn from the passage. First, there is only one body, not many. Second, the body consists of many members and each member has a special role in the body. Third, God united the human body, and He also united the church. With that in mind, what connection does this passage have to Ephesians 4:1-6?
    As Paul described so very well, each part of the body must do its own work to supplement the body, not strip from it! Just as the human body provides life to all its parts, so does the body of Christ. The disciple must submit himself to the authority of Christ and serve Him because of his love for Jesus. Therefore, we must never approach the Lord’s body with the purpose to obtain selfish gain. Instead, we should approach His body with a desire to give of ourselves. By doing so, we will receive the greater reward. As Jesus said to the rich young man: “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me” (Matthew 19:21). He did not say: “Take what you want and do what you want”. Our Lord also prayed for unity among the disciples and that there would be no division among them (John 17:21). Let us all pray and strive for unity!


ADDING TO YOUR FAITH (Part 2)

    We are continuing our discussion and study concerning the question, “What does God expect of me after baptism?” Seeking the answer to this question in the Bible, we began looking at some specific and necessary life components, such as those presented in 2 Peter 1:5-11. These are needed in order to build up one’s faith. We’ve previously discussed the first two attributes Virtue and Knowledge. Let’s now continue with the next item in the list.
    SELF-CONTROL. It is interesting that this quality is mentioned often in the Bible. It was one of the topics we considered earlier when looking at the Fruit of the Holy Spirit (in a past article – July 28, 2019). It is a word intended to promotes moderation and sobriety. Self-control implies restraint of actions, controlling outbursts of emotions, constraining our temper, bridling the tongue, and curbing or desire for money and power. Consider the order of words presented here and how we are to keep “adding” these qualities to our faith. Looking at it from that perspective, this passage teaches us that knowledge is useless if we don’t link it to, or associate it with self-control. Through knowledge, we learn to control our character and resist temptation. Linking knowledge and self control helps us more quickly recognize that it is always right to do right, and it’s always wrong to do wrong. It is never right to do wrong, and it is never wrong to do right. Learn more about the Biblical concept of self-control by reading these passages: 1 Corinthians 10:13; 2 Timothy 1:7; and Proverbs 29:11.
    Peter goes on to teach that we need to add PERSEVERANCE also. (The KJV, ASV says patience and ESV has steadfastness). What is perseverance? It is a word that means, “steadfastness, constancy, endurance.” Thayer’s Dictionary says, “In the New Testament, it is the characteristic of a man who is not swerved from his deliberate purpose and his loyalty to faith and piety by even the greatest trials and sufferings.” This does not mean that it is a passive resignation regarding current circumstances, but an active resistance under the weight of affliction, sorrow, and grief. We must keep the focus of our service to God despite the difficulties we will face (2 Timothy 2:3; James 1:2-3). We need to recognize that perseverance is built through God’s word! That is how Jesus was able to withstand the devil! He combated him with “It is written!” (Luke 4:4,8; Ephesians 6:17)
    GODLINESS. This is a reverence, respect, and piety towards God. It is a religious fervor and compassion for the spiritual. But, it means that we must take ourselves off the throne of our own heart and place the Lord upon it – making Him the center of our lives in submission to Him. Read 1 Timothy 4:7-8 and discern what the Bible instructs about the importance of godliness.
    BROTHERLY KINDNESS (love). The Anglicized, transliteration of this word is philadelphia(just like the city with the same name). It is a compound word meaning “fraternal affection.” It has to do with the genuine concern for fellow Christians. It is not the strongest word in the Bible for “love”, but it is very close. Think about how can we demonstrate brotherly love in our lives. What does Romans 12:9-10 expect of us in regard to this attribute?
    LOVE. This is the final “ingredient” to add to our faith. The word “love” in this verse is the Greek word agape. It certainly differs from brotherly love because it is a stronger and deeper love! It is that love we have discussed before which is something we do with our mind and will, not just with our emotions. This love desires the good for others and is not obtained because someone has done something good for us or treated us with kindness. Have you noticed that the Bible speaks a lot about love? Even in this passage here, notice that Peter begins with faith and ends with love! That teaches us that faith and love are connected, necessary, and essential in being a true disciple of Jesus.
    Now, in conclusion, why is it important to develop these virtues in our lives? Look at the answer Peter gives us in verses 10 and 11. We will not be judged according to how much money we have, by the degree we’ve obtained, nor any other measure of human success. We will be judged according to obedience, love, and compassion. These attributes are another form of godly, spiritual fruit. Since this is the will of God, then shouldn’t we make this a priority to do as Peter instructs and add these to our faith? Why don’t you sit down and pray that God will help you develop these qualities in your life today? You’ll be glad you did! – TS


ADDING TO YOUR FAITH (Part 1)

    The basic question we have been dealing with in this series of articles is, “What does God expect of a Christian after his/her conversion?” Since we’ve now talked about our personal responsibility to grow spiritually, and part of that growth is to produce fruit in our lives, then we must now ask the question, “What happens if we sin after being baptized?” To properly respond to the question, we must again turn to the Bible and identify the will of God concerning the subject.
    First, read Proverbs 6:16-19 and consider how much our sins hurt God. Secondly, consider the price God paid to redeem us from our sins (1 Peter 1:17-19). We can quickly conclude that sin is a very serious problem – even for a born-again Christian! Yet, God also knows that we are going to stumble from time to time because we are human. He knows this because He also knows the devil is going to continue to attack us. But there is hope! What does 1 John 1:7-10; 2:3-5 teach us? The implication is that even as Christians, we may sin. Yet, if we do sin, then we need to repent! Back to our main question, “What does God expect?” He expects us to remain faithful (Revelation 2:10) and to avoid all forms of evil (1 Thessalonians 5:22). So, how can we do that? How can we strengthen ourselves to withstand the attacks of the devil? How can we avoid falling into temptation? God has given us the answer: we need to strengthen our faith (2 Peter 1:5-11), we need to fortify our defenses against the devil (Ephesians 6:11), and we need to lean on Him to help us (Psalm 56:11)!

Strengthening Our Faith

    Let’s take a deeper look at the passage of the first point, strengthening our faith – 2 Peter 1:5-11. Read the passage and identify the seven “ingredients” or elements that Peter says we are to add to our faith. Now, think about it this way, to make a cake, we need a recipe, right? We add some ingredients together and the result is something appetizing. Or perhaps, think of it as bricklaying. As we add one upon another it builds up into something useful and solid. Our faith functions in a similar way. We have a recipe in the Bible with the basic components for Christian, spiritual maturity. These components help us to strengthen our faith in God, which helps us defend ourselves.
    What are the various Christian “ingredients”? The first is VIRTUE. What is that? It is sometimes translated as “moral excellence”. In this passage it is used to mean “value, worth, courage”. What this implies is, we must confess our faith, not hide it nor be ashamed of it! Read Matthew 5:16; 10:32 and Romans 1:16-17. When faced with obstacles while striving to walk in the light, we need this attribute in order to keep our faith. We need courage!
    The second element listed is KNOWLEDGE. What kind of knowledge are we talking about here? Spiritual knowledge. The kind that only comes through studying the Bible, the only way to know the will of God. Go to John 8:31-32 and fill in the blanks, “If you abide in My _____, you are My _____ indeed; and you shall know the _____, and the ______ shall make you _____” . Knowledge is so very important! What more does the Bible say about knowledge in 1 Timothy 2:4; Proverbs 1:7 and 10:14?
    Can we obtain knowledge of mathematics, science, or language without regular study? Absolutely not! The same applies to the Bible; we must study it if we want to grow spiritually. Here are some practical advice points for studying the Bible:
1). Set a regular time everyday. Pray before, during, and after studying the Bible.
2). Have the right attitude and humility in the study of the Word of God.
3). Memorize Scripture regularly (Psalm 119:11).
4). Consider all that the Scriptures teach about each subject (Psalm 119:160).
5). Let the Bible explain itself. The Bible is its own best commentary!
6). If possible, use more than one translation of the Bible.
7). Study the context, and don’t take a passage out of its context. The context includes the verse itself, the verses before and after, the book, and the rest of the Bible that deals with the subject.
8). Recognize figures of speech, The whole Bible was not written to be interpreted literally. Some parts are figurative or symbolic. (cf. Revelation 1:1,19-20).
   Peter goes on to add more elements on top of knowledge, but let’s focus on these two first! Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither is one’s faith. Next week, we’ll focus on adding a few more elements to our spiritual defenses. God bless! – TS


BEARING FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT (Part 3)

    Let’s now look at the last three traits of the Fruit of the Spirit. These three graces are directed more toward us, the individual Christian. The Lord expects His disciples to learn and develop these in their own spirituality.
    FAITHFULNESS -(written just as “Faith” in the KJV). Jesus told His disciples to, “Have faith in God,” (Mark 11:22). It is a word that means “loyal in affection; constant; reliable, trusted, or believed.” Vine’s Expository Dictionary states that it is “a firm persuasion, a conviction based upon hearing,” (Vol. 2, Pg. 71). Read how it’s described in Hebrews 11:1. The same chapter of Hebrews lists many wonderful Old Testament examples of faithfulness (11:7-40). But, look at what is said about faith in verse 6, just before that passage. How important is faith? The truth is, every child of God should be faithful to Him (1 Corinthians 4:2). Not because a preacher says so, but because of a love for the Lord.
    You can develop faithfulness in your spiritual walk by first praying about it. Ask God to help you increase your faith (Luke 17:5). Since the Bible says, “faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God” (Romans 10:17), you should study and learn God’s word daily in order to increase your faith. Consider also what John says in John 20:30,31. Strive to walk in the Light! (1 John 1:7) Notice the order of words in Galatians 5:16. Paul says walking in the Spirit comes first, then the fruit comes. This is because without the Spirit, you’ll never be able to say “no” to the lusts of the flesh!
    GENTLENESS – (the KJV and the ASV render this word as “Meekness”) Don’t confuse this word with how some translations use “gentleness” in verse 22 for “kindness”! It’s a word most often translated as “meekness.” It means a “mildness of disposition; a gentleness of spirit.” We might describe it also as submissiveness, peacefulness, or mildness. Thayer’s Dictionary says gentleness is a “mildness of disposition; a gentleness of spirit; meekness.” It is something that is exercised “outward” because it is a condition of the heart and the mind.
    Read Titus 3:1-2; James 3:13. How is a meek person described in those verses? The assumption of the world is that a gentle (meek) person is defenseless, or cannot help themselves. However, meekness is not weakness! It is a fruit of power. Moses is described as “very meek” in Numbers. 12:3, yet no one would consider him to be weak. The Lord was gentle, but He certainly was not weak — as He had infinite divine resources available to Him (Matt. 11:29). Meekness equates to restraint. It is described as “power under control.” In other words, a meek Christian, who may wield great power, does not throw his weight around.
    In order to develop meekness in your spiritual walk, start by praying. Read your Bible and study the examples of meekness. Samson, for example, had a lack thereof, but Elijah, David, Jesus, and others are great examples of meekness. Put it into practice by learning to restrain the tongue, (James 3:2-12) and restraining your actions, (Colossians 3:17).
    SELF-CONTROL – (the KJV uses “Temperance”). The final grace of the Fruit of the Spirit that a Christian should have is self-control. This is something that is exercised “inward.” It is the “virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites,” (Thayer). Self-control involves controlling our actions, our outburst of feelings, our temper, our tongue, and the desire for money and power. Paul reasoned with the Roman governor, Felix , about this trait, (Acts 24:25)
    Notice that the lusts of the world are called “the works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21). Such things keep us from entering heaven, or having access to eternal life. We have the power within us to refuse participating in worldly affairs, (1 Thess. 5:22). It’s an attitude of submitting to the will of God. It is the opposite of how the majority live their lives. But, a child of God is commanded to render his life as a living sacrifice, (Rom. 12:1-2). This requires self-control!
    Developing Self-control in your spiritual life, again, begins with prayer. Did you happen to notice that each started with prayer? It is because these are fruit of the SPIRIT, not of our own willpower. Of course, all are followed by, “Read your Bible!” This is because being able to combat temptation with “It is written” (Luke 4:4,8,12), requires knowing the Word of God well. In addition, you can develop self-control by not putting yourself in situations to sin, by avoiding temptation triggers.


BEARING THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT (Part 2)

    Continuing our discussion, the following characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit are a result of obtaining the previous virtues: love, joy, and peace. It is not really possible to produce the following six virtues without having the first three. We should also note that love, joy, and peace direct our attention toward God. These next three direct our attention toward our fellow man.
   PATIENCE – (NIV says “Forbearance” and the KJV, NKJV, ASV render the word as “Longsuffering.”) How we could all use a little more patience! This is a word that means one is willing to accept and bear injury (Matt. 18:21-35; Luke 17:3-5; Eph. 4:32). Literally, it means being “long-tempered” (the opposite of short-tempered)! Vine’s Dictionary states that “Longsuffering is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish. It is the opposite of anger and is associated with mercy, and is used of God.” We must remember that God is, and has been, extremely patient toward us. Without His divine grace we would not have salvation – it came from His patience! What is the purpose of God’s longsuffering toward us according to 2 Peter 3:7-9, 15? Also, what does the apostle Paul say that patience will lead to in Romans 2:4?
    The best way to begin developing longsuffering in your spiritual walk is through love and prayer. But, don’t ask for patience if you are not ready! This is because the best way to “get” patience is to be put in those situations that require it. That is how you develop patience! Perhaps, try serving more at church, in your community, and any way you can find – it will always require patience.
    KINDNESS – (the KJV renders it as Gentleness) This attribute implies that one is mild, or pleasant. It also means being virtuous (moral goodness) and benevolent. It is a quality of a person who is friendly. It is a sweetness of attitude, as in someone who is easy to get along with and easy to please. This grace comes to one who is not constantly complaining, but instead, to one who is ever kind and pleasant. Gentleness is merely the attitude of kindness.1 Corinthians 13:4 speaks of a love that is “kind.” Jesus is described as one who appeared because of God’s kindness (Titus 3:4). Wouldn’t it be nice if this personality trait were more prevalent in people of our society today?
    In order to develop kindness in your spiritual walk, you must, again, begin with prayer. Then, just determine within your heart to be kind (Ephesians 4:32). How hard is it to be kind and gentle to others? Seriously? One can easily note the kindness of someone in their speech. So, remember, words can deeply affect and seriously hurt a sensitive person (James 3:2-8).
   GOODNESS – Closely connected with kindness. This word means “uprightness of heart and life,” (Thayer). The Theological Dictionary of the New Testament says this word “indicates the quality which a man has who is ‘agathos’ [good] and therefore moral excellence as well as goodness.” It is “the state or quality of being good; kindly feeling; kindness; generosity; excellence of quality; the best part of anything; essence; strength.” (Dictionary.com)Some think that goodnessis the practical manifestation of kindness. It implies that one has an interest in others and sharing in order to help those in need. It is shown in one’s speech, their generosity, and their willingness to forgive offenses (Proverbs 15:1; Philippians 2:4; Matthew 7:12). Producing the fruit of goodness in your life means there is always a disposition to do good and help others, (1 John 3:18; James 2:15-16). This is Christian love in action!
    How might you develop goodness in your spiritual walk? Start with prayer (have you noticed that each of these start with prayer?) This is because we must never forget that the Fruit of the Spirit is God’s work! It is not ours! Read Galatians 6:10 and figure out how this might apply to you. Seek out ways to do something good for others. Perhaps, you could just do random acts of goodness, be generous, or something that allows others to see your love for Jesus. Talking is okay but practice makes perfect!Next week, we will consider the remaining three graces of the Fruit of the Spirit. – TS


BEARING THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT (Part 1)

     Previously, we mentioned that we must change our mentality. We do this by studying God’s word (2 Timothy 2:15) and by imitating Jesus (1 Corinthians 11:1). This means we must stop doing things contrary to the will of God, that is to say, to no longer live our lives according to the ways of the world (Romans 12:2). Rather, we should strive to live according to God’s will as He has given it to us in the Bible. This results in a Christian “bearing fruit.” A Christian must produce fruit in order to be pleasing to God according to John 15:8. But what, exactly, is the “fruit” a Christian must produce? There are several passages that we will look at in order to answer that question, but let’s begin with the most obvious, Galatians 5:22-24.
    Here, we have a list of nine things, or “fruit” that is pleasing to God. Underline these in your Bible, write them down somewhere so that you can be reminded of them, or try to memorize each one. Notice that the collective group is called “the fruit of the Spirit” in a singular sense, but then the inspired writer presents a plurality of traits. These components only come from having a right relationship with God. Every one of these traits are part of His character. Christians must add this “fruit of the Spirit” to their daily lives. They are:
    LOVE– Read 1 Corinthians 13:1-13; and 1 John 3:18, 4:18. This kind of love means a love without borders or limits. It is unconditional. Regardless of the actions of others, you have complete control of this kind/type of love. That is how one can “love their enemies” as Jesus said in Matthew 5:44, because it is in your control. It is quite interesting that the people of Jesus’ day spoke and wrote in Greek. That language had four words to describe love: Eros- this is the intimate love in a marriage (this word is not found in the Bible); Storge- is the paternal, familial love, like that between a mother and her child (it is not found in the Bible, but you see the idea in Mark 7:10); Phileo- is the love between friends, or brotherly kindness (John 11:36); and Agape- this is true love, it is looking out for the best interest of others (Philippians 2:4). The trait that is listed here in this passage is agape love. This is the same word used to describe God (1 John 4:8). Just how important is this kind of love, according to Jesus in John 13:34,35?
    JOY– Read John 15:11; Romans 14:17, 15:13; and James 1:2. This is not just happiness, but something deeper, more holy, and pure. Joy is much different than happiness. Happiness depends on the circumstances of health, good friends, a pleasing environment, and/or security. Joy goes beyond all those things and draws its energy from one’s relationship with God. One comment I read said this, “… the Joy of the Lord is complete and there is no human circumstance that can take it away except when the Christian himself allows Satan in to steal it away.” This teaches us that it is only God who can provide this characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit and its focus goes far beyond anything in the present.Think about this, happiness and sadness cannot coexist in the same moment. But, joy can coexist with sadness, because they come from two completely different sources. Look at what brought joy to Paul in 1 Thessalonians 2:19 and to John in 3 John 4.
    PEACE – Read Romans 5:1-2 and Philippians 4:7. When we think of peace, we often associate it with the absence of war, or violence. The peace mentioned here is broader than human peace. Some of the synonyms for this peace might be: “serenity, satisfaction, stability, certainty, security, happiness, and prosperity”. Biblical peace is not an ordinary or common fruit; it is unique and precious. For the Christian, peace is an inner tranquility that comes through hope and trust due to receiving forgiveness of sins through salvation (reconciliation with God). How might we obtain this peace from God according to the apostle Peter (2 Peter 1:2)?
    Next week, we will cover the remaining six attributes, or traits of the fruit of the Spirit. In the meantime, focus on and study these first three: love, joy, and peace. Ask God to help you in instilling these in your faith. Pray that these will abound and multiply in your daily life for His glory. Your life will be truly blessed if you do! – TS