Pastor Edward Brouwer 5-20-18 Fruit of the Spirit – Goodness Galatians 5:13-25
Many say that today, Pentecost, is the birthday of the church. In Jesus’ high priestly prayer in the Gospel of John, Jesus tells his disciples “if you love me keep my commandments….I am leaving to go to be with my Father but I will ask the Father to send an Advocate….the world can’t receive the Spirit because they don’t have spiritual understanding to see and believe but you do! The Spirit is with you now and soon will be in you”. Jesus said this on the eve of Passover and exactly 50 days later, as commanded in the Scriptures, Jews and God-fearing Gentiles had come to Jerusalem to celebrate Pentecost, the Feast of the First Fruits. About 120 believers were gathered in an upper room and suddenly a mighty rushing wind from heaven fills the room and tongues of fire appear on the heads of the believers, the Spirit indwells them and they start speaking in tongues. The coming of the Spirit, poured out on believers brings Christ into our lives—not just a Jesus who points us to God, or gives us a moral standard or a rule of life like “Love your neighbor as yourself” BUT gives himself to us. Christ in us the hope of glory! And now we continue our series in the Fruit of the Spirit as Paul writes to the believers in the province of Galatia saying “you started so well in faith! What has happened? Who has gotten you off the path of faith in Christ and onto a path of doing things in your own strength! Paul challenges the Galatians then and us now with living life in the Spirit….
Read Galatians 5:13-25
These 9 fruit of the Spirit reflect the divine character of God. And the reason Paul is writing to the churches, is that he is hearing of anger, envy, strife and division, and selfish ambition tearing the church apart (verse 15 & 19). All of the fruit in view here has direct bearing on relationships. We have freedom now to love one another liberally—we are no longer bound to our old nature—Galatians 2:20 I am crucified with Christ…and the life I now live, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. Seen through this lens we see that in the Community of Christ, (and I pray that is true of the local expression of God’s family here at Providence), we are called to bear fruit that is loving, joy filled, peaceful, patient and kind. And today we look at goodness.
On the one hand Paul assumes that the readers of his letter know what “good” is. Galatians 6:9,10 he writes “let us not grow weary in doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity let us do good to everyone, but especially to those who are of the household of faith” (fellow Christians).
The Greek word for good, used commonly in the first century, had a range of meaning. Kalos, from which we derive the word calligraphy implies beauty or excellence. Agathe means useful, pleasant and agreeable, to mention a few. I think we can all more or less agree that some things are good and some things are not. Moderation is good while addiction is bad. Narcissism (love of self) is generally bad, thoughtfulness of others is good. Causing suffering is bad, relief of suffering is good. You get my drift. But for the Greek the concept of what is good was generally confined to an act or quality. That is a good statue or that is good wine. In all the ancient Greek literature never do we find the word goodness. It’s as if Paul is simply creating a word that hitherto did not exist. He mashes up agathe with suyne to get agathesuyne meaning the moral quality of inherent goodness. And he uses this to describe the character and quality of God—specifically the Spirit of God and says Keep in the Spirit and so bear the fruit of goodness in your life.
Paul is writing to Greek converts to Christianity and he is telling them about the One True God BUT this idea of the goodness of God is a foreign concept. Let me explain. The Greeks had a pantheon of gods. The very first one was named Chaos, and out of Chaos was born Gaia, Eros and Uranus. From these 3 were born the Titans (gods like Chronos and Rhea) and from these, in turn, the Olympians (gods like Zeus Hades Poseidon and Atlas who was condemned to hold up the sky for eternity). None of these gods had the quality of goodness, none of them were all good or all powerful. In fact all the gods held all the vices of humanity. These gods created humans who were like them but made them to serve them and treated them as pawns. The gods were notorious for treating people capriciously, toying with them, causing them to suffer their fate. Sisyphus, the founding King of Corinth was a perfect example—for his greed, deceitfulness and murder he was condemned to roll an immense boulder up a hill only to have it roll back down and to repeat this forever. Why this short excursus in Greek Mythology? Because Paul, a devout Jew has a completely different view of God. It is born out of an understanding that God, indeed the spirit of God hovered over the waters and turned chaos into order and beauty and usefulness. Each time God creates a stage, the sky, the oceans or the land he says “It is good!” and each time he fills those places, with lights and marine animals and then plants and animals on the land he exclaims “It’s good!”. The Creation is Good! The Hebrew word is TOV. Very Good. Tov Mayod. All these good things are born from the mind of God the Father, Christ the Eternal Architect of Creation, the Spirit, all present the Three in One. Good flows from the moral character of God—of His inherent goodness. So James, the very Jewish church father and brother of Jesus, could write in James 1:17 “Every good and perfect gift comes from above, coming down from the father of Lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change”. And so, also, the psalmist could write in Psalm 145:7 One generation shall praise you to the next, they shall pour forth the fame of your abundant goodness. And Zechariah could prophesy of a day when God would save His people, and all the people would declare “For how great is his goodness? And how great is his beauty? (Zech 9:17)
If God is all goodness then how did evil come to exist in the world? When God created humanity He placed a tree in a garden with a choice to be made. The tree is the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. God created Adam and Eve to have free will. He didn’t want to create a being that would love him because they were programed to do so—like some androids out of Westworld. Although that becomes an apt metaphor because eventually the androids go rogue. We know the old story; the Serpent tells Eve some fabulous tale about becoming like God. Eve looks at the fruit because it is pleasing to the eye and good to eat (note here the double entendre on good that is patently not! #goodnotgood) and has the added bonus of making you wise!!! This decision by our first parents plunged humanity into what Luther called the Bondage of the Will. We are trapped by our own selfish desires, in bondage to a will that has sold out to the enemy and we are alienated from God.
But God, in his goodness and loving kindness comes to rescue us in Christ. He is the GOOD Shepherd who lays his life down for the sheep. To all who heed his voice, who follow this Good Shepherd, he gives life. So again the psalmist, writing about the inherent quality of a good shepherd declares “he leads me beside still waters, he restores my soul”… can also finish with these inspiring hope-filled words: “Surely GOODNESS and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life, and afterwards I shall dwell in the house of the Lord forever. Not condemned to carry a weight like Atlas! Not doomed to a Sisyphisian hopelessness of drudgery. NO but to life with him.
But we are not merely beneficiaries of God’s goodness—we are also agents of God’s goodness. In this new creation, this new life he has given us by the Spirit, through his presence, power and purpose he calls us to be agents of justice and healing, of life and beauty. Using our Holy Spirit animated gifts for God’s glory he calls us to spread goodness everywhere. Real, honest to goodness, good! Good like reducing poverty, creating art, addressing addictions and homelessness. Wherever you are, as a nurse, a vet, an engineer, a teacher, a student, a retiree, an accountant, a consultant a mom and grandma a dad or granddad.
And may you have Holy Spirit boldness to explain that you are an agent of goodness because of what Jesus has done for you. We are agents of the Goodnews! Ask God to give you opportunity and then be prepared, in every circumstance to share the hope of the gospel with everyone you come in contact with. Because truly the greatest good is to share the goodnews of the bread of life. And isn’t that simply what we are, at the end of the day, one beggar telling another beggar where we found bread? May the Spirit compel you to good today and every day, because of His goodness to us in Christ.
Hear the words of Paul again to the church where he uses that special word for goodness
2 Thessalonians 1:11-12
To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for goodness and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.