“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Galatians 5:22-24)
“Mortification (of sin) involves the habitual weakening of sin, and constant fighting against it with a measure of success. The battle needs to be perpetual because each manifestation of sin contains the seeds of sin’s dominion, and inclines to the same end. There is a necessary universal crucifying of the flesh by which sin is weakened.” Sinclair Ferguson
By the same standards and principles outlines by Dr. Ferguson regarding the mortification of sin, likewise the fostering of the Fruit of the Spirit involves the habitual strengthening of this fruit and the constant nurturing of it with a measure of success. The effort needs to be perpetual because each manifestation of the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control contains the seeds of righteousness’ dominion and inclines to the same end. There is a necessary and universal nurturing by the Spirit by which holiness is strengthened.
The metaphor of fruit would not have been lost by the first century reader and recipients of Paul’s letter. In an agricultural society where orchards abounded, the constant discipline of pruning, or mortification of dead branches, and caretaking of the living branches was a daily activity: in season and out of season. The harvest of plenty depended upon the farmer’s preceding pruning, nurturing and cultivating.
When the Apostle Paul concludes his list of the Fruit of the Spirit, he adds this qualifying statement: “against such things there is no law.” What does he mean?
What the apostle means is the there is no outside law which can produce the Fruit of the Spirit. No legislation has the ability to produce these qualities within the heart of man. In fact, the law is against and in opposition to such characteristics. It cannot produce them. Only the Holy Spirit is able to accomplish such a work and produce such qualities of spiritual vitality.
It therefore stands to reason that if an individual does not have the indwelling Holy Spirit, there will be no Fruit of the Spirit in their life (Romans 8:9). In other words, the Fruit of the Spirit is available only for believers in Jesus Christ.
Finally, what does Paul mean by the statement “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires?” One biblical commentary adds this explanation.
“They (the believer in Christ) nailed it to the cross once for all when they became Christ’s, on believing and being baptized (Ro 6:3, 4): they keep it now in a state of crucifixion (Ro 6:6): so that the Spirit can produce in them, comparatively uninterrupted by it, “the fruit of the Spirit” (Ga 5:22). “Man, by faith, is dead to the former standing point of a sinful life, and rises to a new life (Ga 5:25) of communion with Christ (Col 3:3). The act by which they have crucified the flesh with its lust, is already accomplished ideally in principle. But the practice, or outward conformation of the life, must harmonize with the tendency given to the inward life” (Ga 5:25). We are to be executioners, dealing cruelly with the body of sin, which has caused the acting of all cruelties on Christ’s body.”
What practices and disciplines are a part of your daily life in Christ by which the Holy Spirit assists you in mortifying your sin? Are you reading, contemplating and memorizing Scripture (Psalm 1; Psalm 19; Psalm 119)? Are you constantly in prayer (I Thessalonians 5:17)? Are you maintaining weekly worship habits by gathering with other believers and submitting to the preaching of God’s Word (Hebrews 10:24-25)?
These are but three disciplines Scripture gives us by which believers may, and can, mortify their sin. May God give each of us the strength and desire to be obedient to His command to do so.
May the LORD’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!