1. Though nine individual “fruits” are mentioned as the product of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer, together, they are the “fruit” of the Holy Spirit. Just as the differences between them may, at times, seem slight, they all reflect the holiness in which we, each of us, should walk daily.
2. To date we have explored seven of them as listed by the Apostle Paul. There is almost unanimous agreement by translators that they should be referred to as listed: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness and faithfulness.
3. Today, let us delve into the riches of God’s Word as we deal with the final two of these fruits from verse 23: gentleness and self-control.
4. Just as fruit that is only artificial, does not truly represent natural fruit, so the believer may not “work these up” in his life. They occur “naturally” in the testimony of the believer and are genuine, not contrived or even earned. They are born of the Holy Spirit and developed in the believer so that the lost world of men may see the Lord Jesus’ likeness in us.
H. Gentleness “prao’tes’
1. “Praotes” is translated in the KJV as “meekness.” Most modern translators, it seems, prefer “gentleness” instead of meekness (including the NKJV), probably because one synonym of “meekess” is “mildness.”
Sometimes one will hear a Bible preacher say, “Jesus was meek, but He certainly was not mild.” Most Christians would probably agree with that. Perhaps, “gentleness” is the better word for this particular fruit of God’s Spirit.
2. It was a spring day in 1957 at Cedarville College and I was between classes. I pulled out of the parking lot and drove the short distance downtown and parked. The loan office was just a few doors away.
My friend and classmate in school had a young family and needed a loan of $75 to stay in school. The loan company would loan it to him if he had a co-signer to cover their loss in case he defaulted. Dave (a pseudonym) knew I had a job and asked me if I would stop down to the loan company and co-sign his loan.” Ken, I’ll pay it off. It’s only about $7.50 a month for a year or a little more.” I readily agreed. Dave was from New York and had a young family like ours.
That was the least I could do, I thought. Dave and his family attended Emmanuel Baptist Church where I was Sunday school superintendent.
3. Some weeks later, the day came when word spread that Dave had moved out of his apartment in the middle of the night, and had dropped out of school and had gone back to New York.
4. I began to think about the loan: “Let’s see, I make $0.75 an hour and get home with just under $30.00 a week. Our groceries are about $9-10. Then there’s the rent of $65 a month, and gasoline and the school bill… and our tithe. Oh boy!”
5. The loan company sent me a letter. So, I tried to work out a payment.
6. That week, the school office notified me that Dr. Jeremiah, the president, wanted to see me. After my last class I came to his office. He had me come in and take a seat. He was at his desk. “Mr. Pierpont, I understand that you owe the loan company downtown some money as a co-signer for a loan on a student who has dropped out.”
“Yes, sir, I did sign for him. And I’m going to do everything I can to see that they get their money.”
Dr. Jeremiah opened his Bible and looked at me. “I want to read you Proverbs 11:15. Do you know what it says?”
“No, Sir. I don’t think I do.”
Then he read these words: “He that is surety for a stranger will smart for it.” Did you know Dave very well.? You didn’t did you?
“No, Sir. But he needed the money,” I said. Then, trying to sound brave I said: “But I still think should have helped him.”
President Jeremiah gave me a kindly look and smiled. “I see. Well, an anonymous donor has paid this loan off for you. I called you in to tell you that.”
I was stunned and rose and thanked him over and again.
Dr. Jeremiah could tell that I was a brash young man. He probably wondered if I had learned anything. He could have lectured me on my lack of judgment. Instead, he gave me a smile and a gentle hand shake and allowed me to go on my way.
Only later did I realize that, in all probability, the president himself, may very well have been that donor. God had put a gentle spirit in this good man’s heart to help a very unwise young preacher boy! Little Cedarville didn’t pay the faculty very well.
7. No one who ever came to earth could have improved upon the gentle spirit of our blessed Saviour.
Here is an axiom: When you truly love someone, you do not set out to hurt them.
On this occasion toward the latter part of our Lord’s ministry, He was coming to Bethany, the home of Mary and Martha and their brother Lazarus. Bible students believe this family was reasonably well off and would have been accustomed to receive guests, perhaps on a regular basis.
A brief passage in Luke 10:38-42 provides a look into the situation in their home. Our Lord was accustomed to the ample provision this family of siblings provided for Him from time to time.
On this occasion the brother, Lazarus, may not have been present for he is not named. Nevertheless, there was work to be done. Martha, in particular worked hard and was probably ‘in charge of the household” [Fahling p. 434]. There was “a stir in this house upon the arrival of Jesus… and Martha, being a very kind hostess, was exceedingly busy… in her efforts to provide entertainment that would be both worthy of Jesus and to credit her house” [Fahling, loc. cit].
As Martha moved quickly and tirelessly about the house, deeply involved in providing pleasing comforts for the Lord Jesus, she soon noticed something that disturbed her greatly. Her sister, Mary, apparently disregarding the work that needed to be done, was attentively sitting at our Lord’s feet, taking in His every word. “Didn’t she realize these preparations took time and effort to provide.?”
After a time , Martha became more and more agitated as she saw that Mary was leaving all the work to her. For that matter, she thought, “Why didn’t Jesus notice that?” She would have to say something.
Trying to measure her words to the Master, she finally blurted out to the Lord Jesus: “Lord, dost thou not care that my sister did leave me to serve alone? bid her therefore that she help me” [Lk. 10:40, ASV, 1901].
Didn’t she know she was talking to the Lord? Mary was certainly eligible for a justifiable tongue-lashing , but how dare she imply that the Lord Jesus was remiss, Himself, in not urging that busy Martha receive her sister’s help this work, let alone her sister. Would the Lord Jesus reprimand angry Martha?
No doubt, Martha thought, they were both at fault! “I’m way too busy!”
How often, as believers “We have missed the forest for the trees!” In the rush and bustle of the workaday world, we haven’t even noticed that God is working in our lives. It was surely true that day!
Our Saviour looked on. And we can be sure that no rebuke ever sounded so gentle in its reproof: “Martha, Martha, thou are careful and troubled about many things: but one thing is needful: and Mary hath chosen that good part, which shall not be taken away from her”(Luke 10:41-42).
And, it is easy to see why this Bible narrative ends right there. We must be kind. We must be gentle. Our Lord knows that. He was both that day. But, there is one more truth He taught that day: Sitting at the feet of Jesus and learning of Him is, by far, more important than the best of service for Him that our mere flesh can provide! His gentle reminder is just what Martha, and we, need!
I. Self-control “egkra’teia”
1. The uniformly used word in modern English for “egkra’teia” is self-control. Our KJV here, in the use of “temperance,” is not especially helpful because this word, at least currently, primarily refers to “moderation in indulgence” [Webster’s Collegiate Dict.] and mostly is used in connection with use of alcohol, at least in the minds of many.
2. On the other hand, the name self-control seems to imply that this is an exception to our insistence that these fruits are not the product of work or worth on the part of the Christian, something they have earned by striving.
3. So, one might ask, what then would accomplish self-control? Just this. Since all nine of these concepts the Bible calls “fruit” are produced by the Holy Spirit, I insist that He must be seen as the author and empowerment for any and all of them.
4. Egkra’teia is seldom used in the Word of God. Paul wrote to Titus and gave the qualifications for the office of elder (bishop, overseer, pastor). He said the elder must be “egrateia” – self-controlled.
5. Paul may have been thinking of this important quality when he wrote and likened the Christian life to running in an athletic competition. He said, “ Everyone who competes in the games exercises self-control (egkrateuetai) in all things” ( I Corinthians 9:25, NASB).
6. Then he closes the chapter with v. 27: “but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified” (I Corinthians 9:27, NASB).
7. It is here that we need to insert verse 24 of our text chapter. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Again, we see that receipt and display of the fruit of the Spirit is not a matter of labor and perspiration. It is a matter of identity with Christ and victory in the Christian life. It is asking God to “keep my body under control so that I may better serve Him.”
8. Two stories will help us wrap up this nine-fold study.
9. At about age nine, according to my dad, he began smoking. That began a nearly lifelong habit. While I was a very young boy, maybe five years old, my mother and I had our own private “cigarette factory.” We used Buglar Smoking Tobacco to create cigarettes for my dad as he labored as a machinist in an Owens-Corning Fiberglas shopin our hometown. We rolled them out at the rate of about 1 and 1/2 packages a day.
After my dad found Christ and desired to live for Him, his smoking became, for him, an important matter. He was a farmer and continued working in the factory shop. He said to me, from time to time, “I smoke, but I can quit anytime I want to.” (Have you ever heard that from a smoker?)
I was in college at Cedarville and Dad and my mother would come to our apartment, from time to time, on weekends, bringing us groceries and encouragement as they were able. Melony, our first child, was a toddler.
One Sunday afternoon they had come to help us, Dad was sitting on the couch and he and I were talking. Melony became fascinated with the little orange-looking part of the white thing in his mouth– and the smoke! She crawled up on the couch and reached up for it.
Dad got up quickly, holding his hand away. and walked to the corner of the room. When he turned around, he had tears in his eyes, and simply said, “It’s hard!”
In my heart, I thought, “Praise the Lord, now we’re getting someplace!”
One morning, not long after, he came down for work and said to my mother, as he was leaving, “Honey, pray for me today I left my cigarettes upstairs!”
The moment Dad was out of sight, Mother raced upstairs and picked up all the packages of cigarettes, the trays, the cartons and the lighters. She hurried out to the burn barrel and destroyed them all.
A few weeks later, here is what Dad told me, after 39 years of smoking: “Ken, a week after I quit, the smell of cigarette smoke nauseated me.” Then he went on to say, “I just got tired of telling people about Jesus and blowing cigarette smoke in their faces.”
On his own, Dad was helpless under the addiction of nicotine. But, Dad’s love for the Lord, his concern for others, and his dependence upon God gave him the self discipline to win. He never smoked again.
10. A young man, barely into adulthood, was a prisoner in a foreign land. He had been sold into slavery by loved ones he trusted who betrayed him. After a time of captivity, his upstanding ability and trustworthiness was brought to the attention of his master.
As time went on, more and more, he gained the confidence of those in authority over him. He was made the manager for his master over all his possessions. They were many for the governor was an important military officer.
Finally the officer assigned him to most sensitive duty of all: the full operation of his master’s everyday operations and servants. This included access to the soldier’s private quarters.
As the youth was making his rounds one day, passing through the living quarters, he was shocked to see that the attractive wife of his master was approaching in a most amorous way. Gesturing to him, incredibly, she said: “Come to bed with me!”
Here is a handsome young man, in the prime of life. He is far from home. No one will ever know that he has accepted the forbidden fruit of immorality, “just this once,” so to speak! What will he do?
Many seamy stories, not very different from this one, have over the years been written for the sublimated pleasure of observers who are drawn into wicked modern television, big screen and pornographic literature. But, few such stories end like this one.
The youth quickly explained that to accept this woman’s advances would be to betray his master, who had, he said, withheld only one thing in the world he had that others did not- his wife! Then he ended the conversation with these words and hurried out: “How then could I do this great evil and sin against God?”
If you know the rest of the story, the sin-laden woman was not satisfied with this honorable response that, in her lost condition, she could never have understood. Finally, at the end of her insistent advances, it led to her outrageous claim of attempted rape and Joseph was summarily hauled off to jail! But, God saw and blessed the obedience of this gallant Christian youth. This honorable but awful story is, of course, recorded in the 39th chapter of Genesis.
Where did the ability come from that gave Joseph such stalwart character? Was it pride? Was it fear of being caught? Many simplistic answers could be speculated upon. Let me give you the true one: “The key to victory over sin is the expulsive power of a higher affection.” Joseph loved God!
The greatest need of every man, woman and child is defined by a single word: “affection!” This wicked woman offered what she might have called “great affection” for the attention of young Joseph.
The difference was that Joseph loved morality and holiness more than he was willing to trade for the satisfaction of “sin for a season.”
That, ladies and gentlemen, is the rich provision God has made, through His blessed Holy Spirit to provide for each of us who love Him. It is called “self-control.”
Oh, Sweet Lord, give me and all who hear me, victory over things and circumstances and temptations and the wiles of the devil so that with honor and joy and truthfulness I may stand, pride be-gone, that others may know there is a God in Heaven who will help them.
1. There you have it, dear ones. Nine beautiful metaphors for the work of the Holy Spirit of God in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control May we covet them. May we place ourselves every day in the position to receive your best blessing upon our lives for that day, for the work to which you have called us all: a faith that cannot be gainsaid, that cannot be corrupted, a faith that is empowered through these manifestations of victory in Jesus Christ our Lord.
Armed with these blessed truths, we remember the insightful words of our dear
Saviour: “… be wise as serpents and harmless as doves” (Mt. 10:16). Oh, my dear ones, may God give us this precious fruit in wisdom and harmlessness. Amen.