gave the following presentation at Auckland Park Theological Seminary during the one-day seminar on the Holy Spirit on the 18th of October 2016.
The heading: The Law of God and the Fruit of the Spirit might seem to be an unusual combination, because when the Law is discussed, it is usually done opposed to grace and not in connection with the Fruit of the Spirit.
However, the connection between the Law of God and the Fruit of the Spirit is actually something very real in the Bible. But before discussing this connection, the meaning of the concepts “Law of God” and “the Fruit of the Spirit” should be clarified.
As far as the Law of God is concerned, also called the torah of God in the Old Testament and later translated in the New Testament with nomos, we refer to the will of God. For the Jews torah was seen as the direction in which God’s finger points. In other words, torah is an expression of the will of God for man. Therefore, it stands to reason that the Law of God can never be seen as something that has fallen away or having been abolished. The will of God cannot be dealt with like that!
Referring to the Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22), we point to the characteristics of Christ. The Bible is clear about the fact that the Holy Spirit came to glorify Christ (John 16:14). The different aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit are therefore an indication of who Christ is and what his characteristics are. The Fruit of the Spirit therefore realises in a person’s life as the outcome of his identification and unity with Christ.
With this clarification of the two concepts, it becomes necessary to have a closer look at the way in which the connection between the two concepts developed and is revealed in God’s relationship with man. We will start with the Law of God and then later bring it into connection with the Fruit of the Spirit.
1. THE LAW OF GOD
The Law or will of God was initially a natural part of the life of Adam and Eve. Before they sinned, they lived as it were, automatically according to the will of God. To put it metaphorically – the Law of God was written in their hearts. They have done the will of God out of inner motivation and conviction.
They were without sin and therefore did not need an outer and written law to guide them in the will of God. It was not necessary for them to be commanded that: you should not serve other gods; you shall not misuse the name of the Lord your God; You shall not murder, commit adultery, steal, give false testimony against your neighbor; etc. As image and likeness of God, it was their nature to live and act according to the will of God. They therefore did the will of God as a natural outflow of the way they were created.
1.1 The outer Law of God and fallen man
After the Fall the image of God was mutilated in humankind and their relationship with God distorted. This situation estranged them from the Lord with the result that the Law of God that was written in their hearts became veiled and obscured. It was no longer clear to them what God expected from them – to a great extent the will of God became disguised in their lives. But that was not all that happened to them. By being disobedient to God, they placed themselves and creation under the power of sin and evil that began to dominate their lives.
This situation led to a lifestyle governed by sin, and the more they continued to live in sin, the more this situation of decay deepened. Evil became a power that enslaved and destroyed them. Eventually we read in Genesis 6:5-6, probably the darkest verses in the whole Bible: The Lord saw how great man’s wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time. The Lord was grieved that He had made man on earth, and his heart was filled with pain.
In his mercy the Lord however ensured that something of his Law still remained in the heart of every human being – therefore a sinner still is the image and likeness of God although this image is deeply scarred. The fact that sinners have a sense of morality and are able to love and to do good, underscores that something of the Law of God in the heart of man still remained in our fallen world. Sometimes an indication is made to this reality by referring to man’s conscience. Paul wrote about this in Romans 2:14-15: Indeed when the Gentiles, … do by nature things required by the Law, … they show that the requirements of the Law are written in their hearts.
Actually, it stands to reason that without a sense of morality man cannot be held accountable for his deeds, and without morality the existence of humankind would have been impossible. Morality is therefore a way of existence distinctive of man and absent in animals.
But this situation of the Law of God that became obscured in man, gave rise to God’s Law in the form of written ordinances and commandments. This is not another Law distinct from the inner Law of God in the hearts of Adam and Eve before the Fall – it is still an expression of the will of God, and the will of God for mankind does not change.
We refer to the Law in this mode as the outer Law of God because it was presented to man in a written code that they could read and hear. In this regard we refer to the Ten Commandments and all the other laws of God found in the Bible. In other words, this outer Law of God became a necessity due to the Fall that obscured the image and the inner Law of God in man.
The purpose of the outer Law of God was to reveal God’s will to man again, and by doing that it sharpened man’s morality and responsibility towards God and his fellow human beings. It therefore links to the inner Law of God that is present in all human beings as created in the image of God, but obscured by sin. This outer Law also pointed out the sins of man and the accompanied punishment of God over it. It was necessary for man to know that God is a holy God who hates sin, and to be acceptable before Him, man should also be holy. Therefore, only by keeping the Law, or by living according God’s will, man could be acceptable before God.
The problem, however, was that man in his broken and sinful state was not able to keep God’s Law, or do his will. The power of sin and his fleshly desires defeated him again and again – his willpower to do God’s will was not strong enough. The outer Law of God proved to man that he was not able to live according to God’s will in his fallen state. He desperately needed to be saved from his brokenness and sinful nature. This would only have been possible if his identity of being a sinner could be changed to someone who lives again according to the inner Law of God – that is someone in whom the image of God is restored.
This need for salvation and the restoration of the inner Law of God in man is already expressed in the Old Testament and to be fulfilled in the coming Messiah. We read for example in Jeremiah 31: 31 and 32 “The time is coming,” declares the Lord “when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel … “This is the covenant I will make with the house of Israel after that time,” declares the Lord. “I will put my Law in their minds and write it in their hearts. I will be their God, and they will be my people.” In other words there will come a time when the inner Law of God will be restored in man, and there will again be unity between God and man – “I will be their God, and they will be my people.”
1.2. The inner Law of God and Christ
The restoration of the inner Law of God has everything to do with the incarnation of Christ. This is said because when Christ (the promised Messiah) became flesh, He became the man from heaven, the second Adam, who paid the penalty of man’s sin, and did what the first Adam was supposed to do and did not do – that is to live according to the will or Law of God.
Because Christ was without sin, He lived in his flesh according Gods will and therefore overcame the power of sin that enslaved mankind. This was possible because when Christ became flesh, in his spirit He still remained God, completely, wholly and perfectly the image of God. In Colossians 1:15 this is confirmed by Paul as he referred to Jesus by saying: He is the image of the invisible God. The Hebrew writer said about Him: The Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being.
As the Son and true image of God, the Law or will of God his Father was engraved in his spirit or heart, and this inner Law of God in Him was reflected in the fact that He lived in the days of his flesh without sin – perfectly as a revelation of the image of God.
It is important, however, to take note that the inner Law of God as reflected by Christ does not exist in commandments and stipulations like the outer Law of God. It exists in Christ’s very nature as perfect image of God. It is only in Christ that the promise of Jeremiah is fulfilled, that God will again put his Law in our minds and hearts. That happens by rebirth and spiritual growth. In other words, man should be born in Christ as a child of God and grow more and more in likeness to Him.
Therefore, a person who lives a dedicated live to Christ, and keeps on identifying with and trusting in Him, will experience that the inner Law of God becomes an increasing spiritual power in his heart enabling him to live more and more according to the will of God. This power is not something theoretical and abstract, but a concrete process of restoration of the image of God in man, and that image is Christ Himself. The more Christ is seen in man the more man is restored to the image of God, and the less Christ is seen in man the more the image of God is mutilated in him.
2. THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT AND THE INNER LAW OF GOD
It became clear that the inner Law of God cannot be distinguished from the image of God in man, and that image of God is Christ Himself. This truth, however, is united in the concept of the Fruit of the Spirit as mentioned in Galatians 5:22.
We have said that the inner Law of God exists in the nature or image of God. This nature or image of God is first of all reflected in the characteristics of Christ, and those characteristics of Christ are revealed in the Bible as the Fruit of the Spirit.
The Fruit of the Spirit or the characteristics of Christ and the inner Law of God are therefore all expressions of one and the same reality. One can also say that the Fruit of the Spirit is the contents of the inner Law of God, and the inner Law of God is articulated through the different aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit.
To understand this truth is crucial for understanding the gospel message. When we come to the Fruit of the Spirit and the inner Law of God, we come to the conclusion and climax of all that is said. The ultimate goal of God with man is that He granted man to be like his Son Jesus Christ. That is what the gospel is all about, and it is beautifully articulated in 1 John 3:2: Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when He appears, we shall be like Him, for we will see Him as He is.
This is what Christianity is all about. It is not to adhere to certain principles and laws; such a religion would be a real somber and miserable experience. The problem is that many people see Christianity exactly like that, and even worse, some Christians live like that! Christianity is all about becoming like Christ and obtaining his characteristics as expressed by the Fruit of the Spirit. Then you can start to live according to the will or law of God because it is your nature and identity to live like that. It comes naturally for your old identity to be changed to a new identity with the inner Law of God written in your heart.
3. SUMMARY AND CONSEQUENCES
3.1. When referring to the Law of God, we refer to the will of God.
3.2. One should differentiate between the inner and outer Law of God.
3.3. The inner Law of God consists of the nature and image of God as reflected by Adam and Eve before the Fall. This inner law of God is reflected in the first human couple by the fact that they lived by nature according to the will of God.
3.4. The outer Law of God came into existence due to the Fall and man’s inability to know and do the will of God. This outer Law consists of written stipulations and commandments expressing God’s will for mankind.
3.5. Man in his fallen and sinful state was not able to do the will of God as expressed in the outer Law of God.
3.6. The only solution was that the inner Law of God should be restored in man’s heart again. This happened through Christ who freed man from the dominance of his sinful and broken nature by doing the will of God and paying the penalty for his sin.
3.7. This inner Law of God does not consist of commandments and stipulations, but of the nature and image of God as expressed in Christ.
3.8. This nature and image of God, as expressed in Jesus Christ, are articulated by the different aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit, because the Fruit of the Spirit can be seen as the characteristics of Jesus Christ.
3.9. Christianity is not about keeping or living to certain written laws and commandments, but about becoming like Christ, and living in accordance to the inner Law of God as expressed by the Fruit of the Spirit.
3.10 The Fruit of the Spirit as contents of the inner Law of God refers to the characteristics of Christ that are consequently a law in themselves. A person in whom love and the other aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit realised will not worship idols, will not take the Lord’s name in vain, will not murder, commit adultery, steal, give false testimony against his neighbor, etc. because it is in conflict with his nature and who he is in Christ. These characteristics of Christ (the Fruit of the Spirit) could be seen as a law (inner Law of God) or spiritual power determining man’s behavior to be in line with God’s will.
3.11. The will of God is therefore not achieved by trying harder to keep the outer Law of God, but to receive the nature and identity of Christ through rebirth and spiritual growth. That is to become a person who more and more reflects the Fruit of the Spirit in his life (love, peace, joy, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control).
3.12. A person who reflects the characteristics of Christ (the Fruit of the Spirit) does not need an outer Law to guide him to do the will of God. In fact, the Fruit of the Spirit helps him to overcome the sinful desires of the flesh. When Paul says in Galatians 5:16 Live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature, he brings it in relationship with the Fruit of the Spirit. First he says in verse 18 But if you are led by the Spirit you are not under the (outer) law. Then in the next verses (19-22) he contrasts the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit. In other words, to live or being led by the Spirit refer to someone who gives expression to the will of God due to the Fruit of the Spirit as an inner law in his life. No wonder Paul says in Romans 7:22 I delight in the Law of God in my inner being.
3.13 This does not mean that the outer Law of God has become meaningless. Although being reborn, we are not yet complete. We still experience conflict between spirit and flesh, and that makes us vulnerable to the temptations of the evil one. The outer Law of God still serves like a mirror reflecting what we look like, and reveals to us our sinful deeds and thoughts.
3.14. In revealing our sinful deeds and thoughts, the outer Law of God drives us to Christ, or as Paul puts it in Galatians 3:24 So the Law served as our director or guide (Greek: paidagōgos = a director or guardian) to Christ. In other words, if we still do the sinful things of the flesh, we will not overcome it by trying harder to keep the outer law of God, but by intensifying our relationship with Christ and becoming more like Him.
3.15. We do not live according to the Law of God by outer compulsion, but by inner conviction, because the inner Law of God is now written in our hearts.
3.16. To become like Christ by expressing the Fruit of the Spirit in our lives through the work of the Holy Spirit should be the most important achievement in our relationship with God. It is something that is often underestimated in Pentecostal circles with a one-sided accent on the baptism in the Holy Spirit and the Spiritual gifts.
3.17. The Fruit of the Spirit will in its full consequences be revealed in our lives in our final destiny – the new heaven and earth. Then there will be no need for any written stipulations and commandments. We will live and do the will of God by nature.