22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. 24And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. (Gal. 5:22-25)
Have you ever encountered a Christian whose behavior was not particularly “Christ-like”. To be honest, every Christian have had moments when we acted or reacted in the flesh, and thereafter asked ourselves: “Oops, where did the fruits of the Spirit go?”
Whenever Christians live wrong, we are tempted to believe that we need stricter rules and guidelines in the church to cope with the problem. But we shoot ourselves in the foot if we believe that more laws and rules will solve the problem. On the contrary, we actually strengthen sin.
Paul explains in the book of Romans that although the law (i.e. the law of Moses) was good, it did not produce true sanctification in the hearts of the Israelites. As a matter of fact, it produced the opposite.
5For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death. 6But now we have been delivered from the law, having died to what we were held by, so that we should serve in the newness of the Spirit and not in the oldness of the letter. 7What shall we say then? Is the law sin? Certainly not! On the contrary, I would not have known sin except through the law. For I would not have known covetousness unless the law had said, “You shall not covet.” 8But sin, taking opportunity by the commandment, produced in me all manner of evil desire. For apart from the law sin was dead. 9I was alive once without the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died. 10And the commandment, which was to bring life, I found to bring death. 11For sin, taking occasion by the commandment, deceived me, and by it killed me. (Rom. 7:5-11)
Rom. 6:14 – “For sin shall not have dominion over you, for you are not under law but under grace.”
1 Cor. 15:56 – “The sting of death is sin, and the strength of sin is the law.”
Although legalism might lead to some behavior modification, it cannot, and will never be able to, change people’s hearts. The ultimate consequence of more laws and rules in the church is that sin is strengthened.
How then do we solve the problem of Christians acting in the flesh? The Apostle Peter says:
5But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, 6to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, 7to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love. 8For if these things are yours and abound, you will be neither barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9For he who lacks these things is shortsighted, even to blindness, and has forgotten that he was cleansed from his old sins. (2 Pet. 1:5-9)
According to Peter, the one who lacks reason, diligence, faith, virtue, knowledge, self-control, perseverance, godliness, brotherly kindness, and love – all characteristics which indicate spiritual maturity – has FORGOTTEN something important; that he was cleansed from his sins!
Likewise, we can conclude that the one who operates in these godly characteristics has REMEMBERED this one thing; that he has been cleansed from his sins!
In other words: The key of manifesting the fruits of the Spirit is that we constantly remember what Jesus did for us at the cross, that our sins once and for all have been put away (Hebr. 9:26). A fleshly lifestyle is an indication that we have forgotten that we are the righteousness of God in Christ, while a spiritual lifestyle indicates that we live in the awareness of our righteousness in Christ!
Conclusion: We don’t solve the problem of Christian immaturity and ungodliness by the implementation of more laws and rules. The key is to establish believers in the truth that they are the righteousness of God in Christ.