Now for a language lesson. With the invention of texting, English, the most difficult language in the world to learn, has been simplified. Words have been shortened to sound-a-like letters. Phrases have been replaced by acronyms or initialisms. Capital letters and punctuation are things of the past while correct spelling and grammar result more from luck than a concerted effort to follow the rules of the language. For us old people, this new English is just as difficult to grasp as the new math.
When I get a text from my kids…
…I can’t tell if they have made a spelling mistake or are sending me some new acronym or initialism. With all the confusing simplifications of the language, I thought I would go back and review a basic principle. I am not an English major, surprise, surprise. I did, however, complete primary school English, so I think I am qualified to speak to this language rule lol (I added “lol” for those who have majored in the new English). When you add the letter “s” to the end of a word, it changes it from singular to plural. This concludes our lesson for today. Please do not forget what you have learned, as you will need to apply it to the verse below.
“…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance [patience], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control…” Galatians 5:22-23
Some have pluralized one word in this verse…
…leading to a totally different meaning. For Christ followers, there is only one Spirit that, when written, is capitalized even when it is not at the beginning of a sentence (I won’t go into the language rules behind capitals). With only one Spirit, just as there is only one God and one Son of God completing the Trinity, Spirit isn’t the word that is mistakenly turned into a plural. The words contained in the list itself (starting with love and ending with self-control) could be pluralized without changing the overall meaning, however it would be difficult to read without sounding like you have developed some sort of speech impediment or had a limited grasp of the language. The only word that can be made plural and cause this verse to take on a new meaning is the word “fruit.” Once you make the word fruit into fruits in this verse, it is easy to view the fruit of the Spirit in the same way we view the gifts of the Spirit.
The Bible is clear that the gifts of the Spirit are…
…given as the Spirit deems them to be needed. After listing many of the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12:11, Paul concludes with this, “All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and He distributes them to each one, just as He determines.” Paul makes it clear in the next part of the chapter that we are not all given the same gifts. When it comes to the fruit of the Spirit, there is no plural, no giving out of one fruit of the Spirit to one person and another to someone else. The fruit of the Spirit is not a gift and is not limited to the circumstances you will encounter or to the ministry you are called to. The more we seek God, the more His Spirit, which dwells in all Christ followers, produces fruit. Christ followers or collectives of Christ followers that are not loving or full of joy, and lack peace, are like a house without a kitchen; there is always an empty feeling deep down inside. An individual or a whole church that does not show patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness and/or gentleness, is like a house without bedrooms; there is no place to rest. Christians and communities of faith that have no self-control, in other words, let the sinful, self-serving human part dictate their way of living, are like a house with no bathrooms: there is a lot of, shall we say, smelly, disgusting waste that is a breeding ground for bacteria and disease that has nowhere to go.
“Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.” Galatians 5:24-26
Every building must have spaces dedicated to specific functions.
If we live a certain lifestyle, we need rooms to make it work. A Christ follower and the collective of Christ followers are also called to live a certain lifestyle. We are to live by the Spirit, keeping in step with the Spirit. We no longer have a floor plan that suits our sinful, selfish wants of the flesh that produce conceited behavior, full of envy and provoking each other. We have a floor plan that produces “love, joy, peace, forbearance [patience], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” by always seeking more of God. As much as this part of the layout never changes, it also is never fully completed. The fruit of the Spirit is always the same, but the quality of the fruit, its size, color, and sweetness should always be improving.