Beatitudes and the Fruit
of the Spirit
9th of a Series of messages on the “Beatitudes” . This sermon was delivered by Pastor Eric Chang on May 18, 1980
Today we continue our study in the word of God as we study the Beatitudes, that is, the blessings that we read at the beginning of the Sermon on the Mount. The words which begin “Blessed are...” - all these blessings are called the Beatitudes. Just now you heard the Witness-in-Song Team singing these Beatitudes. These Beatitudes were witnessed in song.
We have now studied all of these nine Beatitudes but we must come to the question as to whether there is some kind of sequence, whether there is some kind of order, whether there is some kind of direction in these Beatitudes. Our purpose is not that we just study them individually and singly, but that we also understand whether there is some internal relationship between these Beatitudes, whether they form some kind of entity; some kind of unified whole. Now many suggestions have been put forward, or maybe at least a number of suggestions have been put forward, as to how each beatitude or some of the Beatitudes might relate to each other. Having looked at these suggestions, I must confess that they do not really satisfy me. They do not really answer my questions and I find that they are exegetically inadequate. Now then, what is this internal unity of these Beatitudes?
So I kept pondering over these Beatitudes, meditating about them to see whether there was some internal connection that is not superficial but is exegetically sound. That means it is a correct exposition of the Lord’s teaching and yet does not miss out any part. In other words, [it needs to be] an explanation that does not just account for 2 or 3 beatitudes relating to another 2 or 3 of them but does serve as a unified whole. How should we then find, how shall we understand these nine Beatitudes? I must say to you, the more I meditate on the word of God, the more I am amazed at its beauty and structure.
The Tough Task of Conveying What Is Perceived
My only regret often is that I am not always equal to the task of conveying to you or describing to you what I might perceive myself. In other words, seeing something is quite different from being able to put into words what you see. That is why when you come to, for example, the Apocalypse - the Revelation - and see John trying to describe his heavenly vision, you can see that John is really struggling. He is having a very hard time trying to describe what he actually sees. So the reader looks at it and all he can see is strange beasts and animals who climb out of the sea or go into the sea and doing all kinds of strange things. The more you read it, the more you wonder what is John trying to say. This seems almost like some kind of supernatural zoo with all kinds of strange beasts crawling in and out of the water and over the earth and the like. But then, when you ponder it, you realize that John is trying to describe something that is most difficult to put into words in the human language, or to convey the spiritual vision that he has seen.
Now I do not at all claim to have reached anywhere near the spiritual heights of John. Whereas he is way up there, I am hovering somewhere much nearer the ground (and I pray that perhaps in God’s grace I shall progress more and more as time proceeds). But I still also feel the same problem that many times though you perceive something - you see it - it is nevertheless very hard to put across clearly and easily, in a way that is easily understood. So God helping me, I will try to see if there is some means by which we can get a panoramic view, as it were, a kind of spiritual vision of the contents of these Beatitudes. I say again as I confess, many times when I, even in the last few weeks when I preached on the Beatitudes, I went away feeling discouraged in the sense that I felt that I have not really succeeded in conveying to you what I saw. That is where the problem is. But I pray that you may not therefore depend entirely upon my words to get the vision, but that the Spirit of God will help you as you listen to the expositions of God’s word to see what it is that the Lord wants to say directly to you. Thus, perhaps the Spirit will make up, indeed more than make up, any shortfalls or limitations of expression or utterance on my part.
The Nine Beatitudes and the Nine-fold Fruit of the Spirit
Here are nine Beatitudes. I am sure you have already observed that there are nine of them. What is the internal unity of these nine? I have many times mentioned to you the important principle that Paul is the commentator par excellence, the commentator extraordinaire of the teaching of the Lord Jesus. In other words, what we have in the NT is the text which is the teaching of the Lord Jesus, and the commentary which is Paul’s exposition and application of the words of the Lord Jesus. I have found time and again when you are somewhat in difficulty about understanding precisely the meaning of what the Lord Jesus is saying, you will find somewhere in the teaching of Paul the matter well expounded and much more clearly set forth than we could do ourselves. Now there are nine Beatitudes and so I looked around to see whether Paul had expounded elsewhere something that had a nine-fold application. I am sure that when I say nine-fold, something immediately springs to your mind. So by the leading question, I have more or less given you the answer. Immediately many of you will be aware that the fruit of the Spirit is also nine-fold in Gal. 5: 22-23. Is this a coincidence that there are nine Beatitudes? Nowhere else that I know of in Paul’s writing is there a nine-fold order such as there is in the fruit of the Spirit.
When you put the Beatitudes, nine of them on this side, and the fruit of the Spirit, nine on the other side, you will immediately be inclined to say, “No, I don’t see any correspondence. One starts ‘blessed are the poor in spirit’ and the other says ‘the fruit of the Spirit is love’.” Well, not so fast, not so fast, because Paul, of course, is a commentator. Remember he does not simply repeat the Beatitudes. He is going to describe their content. That is a very different matter altogether.
Is the Correspondence Coincidental?
First, let us consider the question whether this matter of nine in each case is purely coincidental. We do not have very far to go to look for a confirmatory answer because in Galatians 5, in the same chapter, a few verses earlier, the apostle Paul speaks of the works of the flesh. Perhaps we turn to Galatians 5 for a moment. Gal. 5:19 reads like this: “Now the works of the flesh are plain”. What are they? They are these: “fornication, impurity, licentiousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, anger, selfishness, dissension, [party spirit, envy, drunkenness,] carousing” and things in this kind of category. He goes on to say, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.” No matter what kind of Christianity they profess, no matter how often they go to church, no matter how big a Bible they lug around, this kind of person, the apostle Paul says, will not inherit the kingdom of God, that is, they will not inherit eternal life. Now I would like you to notice that the subject here is the kingdom of God, exactly as in the Beatitudes. The first beatitude begins, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of God” and the eighth beatitude also says, “Blessed are” you when you “are persecuted for righteousness’ sake”, for then, these people shall inherit the kingdom of God.
While I was reading just now the works of the flesh, I wonder whether you gave it a count. How many does Paul mention? He mentions 15 categories of this kind. 15 categories! Now again I was interested to see whether Paul has simply, more or less, made up these 15 categories, simply from his mind or whether these 15 categories were also based somewhere on the Lord’s teaching. Immediately, of course the Lord’s words in Matthew and Mark come to my mind and so I look at the Lord’s teaching in Mk. 7:21-22 where you will see a list there which says, “For from within, out of the heart of man come evil thoughts, fornication, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, licentiousness, envy, slander, pride, foolishness.” How many did you count? 13. “Aha!” you say, “13! Paul got 15. 2 missing!”
Not so fast because, of course, we have what is known as synoptic parallels. This same message is also recorded in Matthew but interestingly enough with 2 - notice 2 - differences, and if you add these two differentiations from the parallel passage in Matthew, what do you get? You get a list of 15. Oh! Was I ever surprised when I compared the two lists and counted them! Paul was a very thorough man. He missed nothing. What are the two things in Matthew that are not mentioned in Mark? Well, in the Matthew list (in Mt. 15:18-19), which is shorter than Mark’s, you will find two things that are not mentioned in Mark. One of these is in v19 which is ‘false witness’. The term ‘false witness’ does not occur in Mark’s list.
There is a second distinction here which, if you depend on an English translation, you will miss. That is why I say to the training team time and again, “you have got to learn to work in the Greek” and they are working very hard in the Greek right now. If you depend on an English translation, you will have completely missed that. The English translation has obliterated an important difference by their translation. You see, in Mt. 15:18 the word there is evil thoughts and here you have “dialogismoi poneroi”, that is, their thoughts are evil, but in Mark the word is quite different in Greek. The word is not “poneros” but “kakos”. It is a different word. Yet, if you look at the RSV, you will find both translated as evil thoughts as though the original had exactly the same word. That is why no commentator, no Bible expositor, can depend upon the English to expound the Bible because important distinctions are obliterated, with no regard for the difference in the words.
The difference is not only that there is a different word there; the difference extends to the fact that one has the article and the other does not have the definite article. That is, in Matthew the word is anarthrous, that is, it occurs without the definite article, whereas in Mark you have the definite article occurring in that section. So there are two important distinctions and yet you would not gather from the English that there was any distinction at all. Anyone with some degree of familiarity of Greek will know that there is a distinction between evil and bad in Greek, i.e., that these words are not at all the same. The words are used differently and advisedly differently.
Let me put to you as Archbishop Trent puts it in his study of the synonyms of the NT. He said the distinction between the word “kakos” in Mark and the word “poneros” in Matthew can be summed up like this: the word “kakos” means ‘bad’ [but the word “poneros” means evil]. The bad person (i.e. the one used in Mark) may be content to perish in his own corruption, but the evil person (i.e. the one used in Matthew) is not content unless he is corrupting others as well and drawing them into the same destruction with himself. So what you have in Mark is the word that somebody is bad. He is content just to corrupt himself or let himself be corrupted. But in Matthew the word is ‘evil’, that is, somebody evil is distinct from somebody who is bad in that he wants not only to be corrupt himself but he wants to corrupt somebody else. He wants to drag somebody else into sin. That is a big distinction there. You cannot, like the RSV, translate the 2 different terms simply both equally with the same words - “evil thoughts”. That will not do.
From this we see that both lists have the same number of items. Paul’s list has 15 items. Mark and Matthew put together (because they are parallels and belong together) in fact also have a net total of 15 items. Could that be a coincidence? So, the fruit of the Spirit [and the Beatitudes] both have 9 items and the works of the flesh have 15 items in each case. I think you must begin to realize there cannot be a mere coincidence there. Of course as we have already noticed, the reference in Galatians and in the Beatitudes is to the kingdom of God. This is all the more significant when you realize that the term ‘kingdom of God’ is not that frequent in Paul, occurring only 14x in Paul. Now having established this, let us return to the matter of the Beatitudes to search for an internal unity, an internal spiritual element that connects together all of these 9 Beatitudes. What might it be? What could it be?
Works of the Flesh Are the Consequences of the Thoughts of the Heart
Well, we have already noticed that if you put these two lists of 9 side by side, you will see that, of course, they do not correspond to each other. Why? It is very important. When you study the Bible, look very carefully at the words. These two lists are distinct from each other; that is, the teaching of the Lord Jesus and Paul have an internal connection but are distinct from each other in a very important way. What way? Well, if you looked at the lists of evil, what did you see? Did you read carefully there? The Lord Jesus said, “Out of the heart - out of your heart as a natural man - proceeds all these 15 kinds of evil things.” These are not just 15 evil things; these are just categories. There are 15 categories which include all kinds of different evils under those same names. Now out of the heart - the Lord Jesus is talking about the heart attitude - that is not what Paul is speaking about. Paul said, “The works of the flesh are”, and 15 categories follow. Now do you follow what happens? You see what the Lord Jesus is talking about is the inward thoughts, but Paul as an expositor is explaining what will be the consequences of those evil thoughts. Therefore, of course, you do not expect the two lists to correspond exactly because one is speaking about what you think, that is, it is concerned with your inner attitude when you are unregenerate, when God has not come into your life to change you; whereas Paul is talking about what happens when these thoughts bear fruit in action, when the thoughts become works of the flesh. Bear this important distinction in mind. [The fruit (9 aspect) of the Spirit does correspond numerically and otherwise to the nine beatitudes. This is the fruit that God bears in the regenerate when he wills to have these nine holy and beautiful attitudes, these nine godly inner attitudes.]
The Lord is talking about inner attitudes. Paul is speaking of the results of those attitudes. When we come to the spiritual parallel we see exactly the same point. When you look at the Beatitudes, you see it is talking about the inner attitude. Blessed are the poor where? In spirit. “Blessed are the pure in heart....” Again the Lord Jesus is talking about the heart attitude; He is talking about the internal attitude of the man spiritually. But Paul is not speaking about that. He is talking about the fruit of the Spirit, again the counterpart of the works of the flesh. Here, you will find that the fruit is something that has come forth from the tree. It is not still inside the tree; it is borne outward. It becomes the manifestation of the life of the tree. It is something that you can actually take from the tree without in any way affecting the tree itself. You cannot take a man’s inner being away from him - his thoughts, his feelings, his attitude - but you take his works, that is, his fruit. These are two very important things. In each case the Lord is speaking about inner attitude, I emphasize this again, and in Paul’s case he is expounding and explaining what happens when you have this kind of inner attitude. If you have sinful inner attitudes, then you will have the works of the flesh which he describes in these parallel 15 items.
So a commentator is not there simply to repeat what the Lord Jesus said. I would not be explaining the Bible to you if I simply read beatitudes to you, because you can read that for yourself. Paul is not going over the Beatitudes and repeating them. He expects his hearers, who are Christians, to have been instructed in the teaching of the Lord Jesus already. He is expounding to them what happens - what are the works that come out of these kind of evil thoughts and what are the fruit that comes out of these holy thoughts. That is very important to grasp.
Now you realize that Paul is actually applying and expounding what the Lord Jesus is saying. The Lord Jesus does not emphasize the aspect of works of the flesh or fruit of the Spirit for one very simple reason: because He knows if you have these thoughts, these holy thoughts (these thoughts which He described as blessed), then you will have the fruit of the Spirit. That part you leave to the Spirit to do. You cannot do these things. You can not produce the fruit. By definition they are the fruit of the Spirit. There is nothing you can do about that. He tells you what you have to do in order that God can do something in you. So He leaves that part to the work of the Spirit. Or the works of the flesh, He knows that if you have these evil thoughts, what will happen in due time is that these evil thoughts will express themselves in those works of the flesh. So having spoken the first part, the second part will follow, but Paul as a commentator has the task of explaining explicitly what are the things that will follow either in the case of holy thoughts or evil thoughts. Once you perceive all these, I think you will begin to see that in this whole matter something very wonderful happens.
Poor in Spirit and Love Are Foundational
Let us now try to follow through this observation and see whether our observation is correct. The first beatitude says, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” and the first fruit of the Spirit is love. I would like you, first of all, to notice that the first beatitude is a foundational statement that in a way includes in itself the other eight beatitudes which follow. The same is true for the fruit of the Spirit. The first fruit ‘love’ is in a way a fruit that contains all the other eight within itself. That is why Paul did not say ‘the fruits of’ (plural). He said, “fruit of the Spirit”, single fruit which has an eight-fold manifestation, like a cluster of grapes. There is just one cluster but has 9 grapes on it. They are all part of the one thing. There is an internal unity in all these. So the poor in spirit is a foundational statement from which all the other Beatitudes derive and love is the foundational fruit from which the other 8 follow. If you do not have love, you will not have joy, you will have not peace. None of the others will follow. If you are not poor in spirit, neither will you mourn for sin; neither will you have this hungering and thirsting for righteousness; neither will you have the meekness - all these other things follow from that foundational element.
But now look at it like this. What a commentator or a Christian does when he studies the teaching of the Lord Jesus is not that he rushes to a commentary and then begins to study the commentary as such. The way to study the Bible is to ask yourself one question. And the reason why Paul is so remarkable a commentator, so profound in his insight into the meaning of God’s word is that when he reads the Bible he does not say, “Well, what does Professor so-and-so say about this passage?” Or, “What does this pastor say or that pastor say?” What he does is when he looks at the passage, he applies to it himself and sees what happens. When you study the Bible, think of it like this. The Lord Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for they shall inherit the kingdom, for theirs is the kingdom of God.” I say to myself, “Lord, help me to be poor in spirit. Lord, by your grace, I will be poor in spirit. I will make it my aim to be poor in spirit. What will happen to me when I am poor in spirit?” The answer will come. If you come to Him and come to Him in poverty of spirit, you will know from experience what God will do with you. You know what He will do with you when you come to Him with the sense of utter dependence: “I come to you in poverty of spirit”, that is, “I come to you, Lord, like a spiritual beggar. I have nothing in myself. Have pity upon me as you would have upon a beggar, for that is what I am spiritually, I am only a beggar”.
Do you know what God will do? He will pour forth His kindness and His love upon you! That is what He will do. And you will experience Him! You do not have to get a commentary to understand what that means. You will experience the inpouring of His love into your life. Then you understand, “Ah, to be poor in spirit means that God’s love will be poured into my heart!” That is why Paul said that, exactly those words in Rom. 5:5 that “God has shed abroad His love into our hearts by His Holy Spirit.” Paul is speaking about experience. He says, “I know it because He has shed abroad, He has poured forth His love into my heart by the Holy Spirit.” You see how perfectly there it follows. If you will come to Him as a spiritual beggar, you will experience His generosity, His lovingkindness, and His spiritual bounty that He will pour forth upon you.
Mourning and Joy
Now if you study the Bible in this way, and if I study the Bible in this way, not academically but spiritually, you will see that Paul’s conclusion is exactly borne out by experience. The same is true if you go right through the Beatitudes. What happens to those who mourn, who mourn over their own sins, who mourn over the sins of other people, who mourn over the sins of the church, just as Ezra and Nehemiah mourned over the sins of Israel. When Ezra said, “Lord, we have sinned. We, your people Israel, have sinned wretchedly. Have pity upon us.” What happened? What happens when you mourn for sin? Well, He will pour forth His forgiveness upon you. What happens when you are forgiven? You will be filled with joy. That is exactly what the parallel passage in Luke says. In Lk. 6:21 (the parallel passage to the Matthew one), the second beatitude says this, “Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh.” You shall laugh. You will be filled with joy.
Do you see what Paul is doing? He is drawing forth the consequences of applying the Sermon on the Mount into your life. If you come forth mourning for sins, mourning for the sins of others, mourning for the sins of the church - but never forgetting mourning your own sins lest you become self-righteous - then as the Lord Jesus also said in Lk. 6: 21: “Blessed are you that weep now, for you shall laugh”, that is, you will be filled with joy. There you find that the second fruit of the Spirit corresponds exactly with the inner attitude of the disciple that mourns. You mourn for sin - that is what you have to do - and God will, on His part through the Spirit, fill you with joy. You see how easy it is to understand? It is very easy to understand.
Meekness and Peace
We proceed to the third beatitude. “Blessed are the meek....” What happens if instead of studying this passage academically, you think to yourself, “What will happen to me if I come in meekness, if my arrogant attitude is removed from me?” If you become meek, humble, contrite before God, what will happen is that you experience God’s peace being poured into your heart. You are going to see what God will do in your life. You will experience a peace that you never understood before. Of course, that is exactly what the Lord Jesus said in Mt. 11: 28-29: “Come unto Me all of you who are weary and heavy laden. Learn of me, for I am meek and lowly of spirit and you shall find rest - peace - unto your soul.” That is the consequence of meekness: peace unto your soul. Paul has not failed to notice this connection between meekness and peace in the very words of the Lord Jesus. Besides, his own experience confirms this. Now you can see all the parallels all coming in exactly as it is.
Hungering and Thirsting for Righteousness... and Patience
What happens then as we press on if you hunger and thirst for righteousness? What happens when you hunger and thirst for righteousness? When you hunger and thirst for God? “Hungering and thirsting” - notice the present continuous tense. You keep on hungering and thirsting for righteousness - what will that do for you? For that will build for you spiritual endurance where it is translated sometimes as steadfastness, sometimes as endurance, sometimes as what I like to translate it as stickability - being able to stick the thing through. Stickability - that is what Christians need.
I find so many people, they cannot stick it. They cannot stick through the thing. They run into some difficulties and immediately the white flag goes up. They say to Satan, “Okay, okay. I surrender. Don’t kill me now. I surrender.” We have so many surrendering Christians. They have not experienced what Paul says concerning our life in Jesus that: “He, God, always gives us the victory through Christ Jesus our Lord.” Paul was never one who knew spiritual defeat because he implemented the spiritual principles in his life and so always gained the victory. Okay, sometimes you get knocked down but that is not defeat. In a boxing ring you do not win by just knocking the other guy down; you have to knock him out. Paul said, “I get knocked down but no one has ever knocked me out.” He gets knocked down, but then he gets up on his feet again and knocks the other guy out. That is the way to do it! We too often get knocked down, but not knocked out! No, no, because Christ always gives us the victory. Left to ourselves, Satan would wipe the floor off us. He would make a doormat out of us; he would trample us. But through Christ we always gain the victory. So what happens to those who hunger and thirst for righteousness? They learn endurance. What trains us so well in spiritual endurance as learning to persevere in our hunger and thirst for righteousness all through our spiritual life? We are to be never complacent, never satisfied, never to say, “Well, I know everything there is to know. I studied the Bible for 20 years. It is enough for now. I know everything. I know more than most people.” We must never be satisfied to even think, “Well, I have already reached the spiritual stature. I do not need to press on anymore.” No, no. The reason why you press on is because thereby you have spiritual endurance. Those who do not press on are the ones who give up.
Well, I find all the way this constant correspondence, this continuing connection.
Merciful and Kindness
Let us go to the next point - the merciful. In the Beatitudes you have, “Blessed are the merciful” and the counterpart in the fruit of the Spirit is kindness. These two words are so close in meaning that there is hardly a need for drawing a connection. In fact the words ‘merciful’ and ‘kindness’ are constantly linked in the NT. Take for example Tit. 3:4 where you have this word for ‘kindness’ which is in the fruit of the Spirit here, and in v5 you have the word for ‘mercy’. Kindness and mercy - one is simply the consequence of another. One is simply so internally linked with the other that no fuller definition is required. Or take for example, Eph. 2:7; there you have ‘kindness’. In v4 you have ‘mercy’. Kindness and mercy are constantly linked. In 1 Pet. 2:3 you have ‘kindness’ and in v10 you have ‘mercy’. These are constantly linked to each other.
Pure in Heart and Goodness
[In the beatitude, “Blessed are the pure in heart”, we see the correspondence to the fruit of the Spirit of ‘goodness’ very easily.] The connection is so obvious that there is hardly need for anything to be said. The connection is even explicitly stated, for example, in 1 Tim. 1:5 where you find the word ‘pure’ just as you have here in the Sermon on the Mount, directly connected with the word ‘good’ as is in the fruit of the Spirit - the pure in heart, the good of conscience. Pure and good, they are simply synonymous terms.
Peacemakers and Faithfulness
When we come to the seventh one, “Blessed are the peacemakers”, the corresponding fruit of the Spirit is faith, more specifically, faithfulness. The Greek word for ‘faith’ is the same word for ‘faithfulness’. There is in fact no difference in the Greek. You will find that for example the RSV sometimes translates the word as ‘faith’, sometimes as ‘faithfulness’. There is not any real distinction from the point of view of the lexicon. The peacemaker is a person who can be described as faithful because such a person is one who is walking faithfully in the footsteps of the Master. Why did the Lord Jesus take up the cross? In order to be a peacemaker - to reconcile us to Himself. Why do we take up the cross? Why does the Lord Jesus call us to take up the cross? Well, when we studied this beatitude we saw it already! Because we also are, as Paul says, given “the ministry of reconciliation”. So when you are following exactly in His footsteps, doing the work that He does, being a reconciler, a peacemaker, that is the test of faithfulness. It is so obvious, so clear. And in fact the words ‘faithfulness’, ‘faith’ and ‘peace’ are linked together in 2 Tim. 2:22. These words are again linked right there.
Persecution and Gentleness
So we press on to the eighth beatitude, “persecuted for righteousness’ sake”. What is the corresponding fruit of the Spirit? Well, the corresponding fruit of the Spirit is gentleness. Persecuted for righteousness’ sake - gentleness. The correspondence is extremely clear. Why? How should a Christian behave when he is persecuted for righteousness’ sake? Should he shout back? Should he revile back? Should he behave in an aggressive manner? No! His attitude is to be one of gentleness. As Peter says in 1 Pet. 2:23, when Jesus was reviled He did not revile again, that is, when He was abused, ridiculed, laughed at, He did not retaliate in any way. He was gentle. He was meek. That is what meekness is about - one does not strike back. When He was reviled, He reviled not again. Peter said to the Christians, you be like Him. When you are ridiculed, when you are mocked, when you are trampled upon, you do not revile back again. You do not shout back; you do not talk back. You will be like Him: meek, gentle. That is why Paul speaks of the meekness and patience of Christ in 2 Cor. 10:1. This is the pattern of Paul’s own life under persecution. We can look at what Paul says about how he behaves when he is persecuted for righteousness’ sake in 1 Cor. 4:12. I find this passage so Christ-like. I would like to read this to you from v11: “To the present hour we hunger and thirst (you need a lot of endurance for that as we have noticed), we are ill-clad and buffeted and homeless (like Christ who had nowhere to lay His head), and we labour, working with our own hands. When reviled” - what did He do? He did not revile again - “When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we try to conciliate (that is, make peace); we have become, and are now, as the refuse of the world, the offscouring of all things.” We are treated like garbage and we take it meekly, gently. Now this I find so beautiful.
There you see the parallel between this beatitude and the fruit of the Spirit. “Blessed are they who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake” and then the fruit of the Spirit. What is the blessing? The spiritual blessing comes forth now in the form of gentleness, then in the form of inheriting the kingdom of God. The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness under persecution. Where can we see the true gentleness of a person, his true character? It will be under persecution. We can all smile when times are good. What we really are will appear when times are hard.
Being Reviled and Persecuted and Having Self-Control
What is the last beatitude? “Blessed are you,” the Lord Jesus says, “when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account”. You are slandered; false stories are told about you; all kinds of lies are repeated about you. There is no truth in them at all and you are just having your reputation blackened. Your name is sullied; you are falsely treated in this way, how should you behave? You see the fruit of the Spirit? When ever did you need more desperately that fruit of the Spirit under those circumstances in self-control? How easily when we are falsely accused that we fight back. We are willing to take it when we deserve to be reprimanded. We can still be gentle because we feel that we are suffering justly. We wanted to suffer like this - it is a nice to have the feeling of being a martyr in some ways. When we are suffering for Christ, we can take it gently. But the one time we cannot take it and we will not take it is when people slander us and say false things about us. Then our anger arises; then we are going to strike back, because we feel, “This is not right! This is not true! Because I did not do this and you have not the right to say that about me.” Paul says, “No, no. Do not worry. The fruit of the Spirit when you endure false accusations is self-control.” It is during those times when you most desperately need that fruit of the Spirit of self-control that you do not allow yourself to get angry, to lose your temper. None of these will be glorifying to God. Rather, keep well under control. Let the Spirit of God help you so to live that you show forth the beauty of Christ.
Which Comes First - The Beatitudes or the Fruit of the Spirit?
I think you have seen by now how obvious, how clear is the connection between the fruit of the Spirit, on the one hand, and the Beatitudes. We see this internal spiritual connection right there, but we cannot finish at this point if we are going to understand the matter correctly. We have noticed already so far that the Beatitudes have to do with internal attitudes whereas the fruit of the Spirit is something that God does in us. Here, there is often a very serious spiritual error that many Christians commit. The spiritual error is this: we say to ourselves, “Well, one day when God has done His wonderful work in us, we shall be the ideal kind of person that Paul talks about. I must wait patiently until the Holy Spirit so transforms my life that I have all these fruit of the Spirit. Then I can be poor in spirit, and then I can be meek, and then I can mourn for sin, and then I can do all of these things. But since the Holy Spirit has not transformed me yet, then I say, ‘Sorry, Jesus, I am not poor in spirit, you see, because the real problem, if You do not mind me saying so, is because You have not yet changed me. So really the fault really lies, if You do not mind my saying, in You. I say it most reverently and respectfully.’”
In other words we pass the buck back for our spiritual failure to God. You say, “You see, I am not a Paul because you did not make me a Paul. Remember? I mean Paul is Paul and I am me. And I am very original. I am not like Paul. So if You want to make a spiritual giant out of me, You have got to do it. In the meantime I would get on with my business until such time You have transformed me. Then I will become the spiritual giant. But on that day when I stand at the judgment seat, do not say, ‘Why aren’t you at the level of Paul?’ Well, because you didn’t make me a Paul. I was never predestined to be a Paul. I just happened to be humble ‘me’.” Let me tell you this, the Lord Jesus will not accept that kind of talk. No, no, He will not allow this. We will not on that day be able to pass the buck back to Him and say, “Well, it’s Your fault that I am what I am.”
Let us note this difference. The Sermon on the Mount talks about the inner attitude in us but the fruit of the Spirit is what God’s Spirit does in us, but which comes first? We would like to say, “The fruit of the Spirit comes first and then we will be poor in spirit and we will do this and we will do that, when God has done all that in us. But since He has not done all that in us, then look at us as a church - we are all pitiful spiritual beggars. What can we do because God did not do anything in us?” That is very remarkable up to this point. Let me tell you: if you do not understand the text, read the commentary, that is, read what Paul has to say.
We Reap What We Sow!
Let us read what Paul has to say, as we return to Galatians again. In Galatians Paul is continuing to expound his point about the fruit of the Spirit and the works of the flesh. This is what he says in Gal. 6 and we read from v7. He says to the Galatian Christians, “Do not be deceived; God is not mocked, for whatever a man sows, that he will he reap.” What will you reap? It depends on what you sow! That is very obvious. You do not have to be a genius to understand that. You want to reap the fruit of the Spirit? Then you have got to sow something to the Spirit. Do you want to become a person who is spiritually powerful and that can be used by God? That depends on what you sow to the Spirit. Now that is what he goes on to say in the next verse, in v8: “For he who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption; but he who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.” Eternal life is something that we are to reap. But in order to reap, we have to sow something, because you do not reap anything if you do not sow anything. If you sow the wrong thing, you reap the wrong thing. If you sow to the flesh, you will reap corruption and death. If you sow to the Spirit, you will reap eternal life. It depends on what you are going to sow. Do not pass the buck back to God.
You cannot go on to become a spiritual giant by sowing to the flesh. All that you will reap from sowing to the flesh is corruption and death. So then in v9 Paul goes on to say: “let us not grow weary in well-doing, for in due season we shall reap (a harvest), if we do not lose heart.” There is the patience. You keep hungering and thirsting for righteousness, you have to have the endurance. You do not lose heart. So then, as we have the opportunity, let us do good. Let us do good to all men.
Now I hope that you can see which comes first. The harvest or the sowing? The fruit of the Spirit is the outward manifestation of what God does in us, but to get fruit, you have to sow something; the fruit is the harvest. You do not get any harvest if you do not do the sowing. So Paul is going on to say, “If you sow to the Spirit, you shall reap the fruit. If you do not sow anything, you get nothing. And if you sow to the flesh, you reap corruption.” “If you sow sparingly,” he said in another place, “you will reap sparingly. If you sow abundantly you will reap abundantly.” Whether you get a big harvest or a small harvest depends on what you sow and how much you sow. You see Paul, in other words, is putting the responsibility right back to you, right back to me, right back to us. He will not allow us to say, “Lord, we did not get a big harvest because You did not do much work in me.” That would be an insult to God. God’s power is sufficient for big harvests and is fully available to each person. It depends on what you sow. That is very important.
Learn from Paul - Pursue Spiritual Things!
What does it mean to talk about sowing? What does it mean to sow to the Spirit? Well, it depends, in other words, on what is your spiritual input? The harvest is the output. What you reap is the output. What is your input and where did you put the input? The sowing is something we do. That is very obvious if we are going to get any harvest. It is something we must do. There is a word that Paul uses time and again - the word is to pursue, to make it your aim. The reason why Paul is a spiritual giant is not at all accidental, nor is it a question of predestination. It is a question of what kind of a person he was by the grace of God. What kind of a person he was becomes obvious when you study his writings, his letters.
There are so many words you could study but notice one particular word, it is the word ‘pursue’. The Greek word is “dioko” - pursue, which is sometimes in the RSV translated rather weakly by the words “make it your aim”. The word “dioko” means pursue. It expresses a certain intensity in which, for example, you are running hard after a another person, say, in battle. You are pursuing or chasing the enemy. For example, you are hunting down a prey. You are pursuing, running fast so that you do not lose the prey - the animal you are hunting - or else you will go without supper, and so you pursue. It expresses a straining of every nerve in order to get to the prize, the goal. This word is used many times, at least 8x in the letters of Paul, for example, in Rom. 12:13; or Rom. 14:19; or 1 Cor. 14:1 to pursue love, to make love your aim; Phil. 3:12 which is so characteristic of Paul. “I pursue - I press forward towards the mark.” There is an intensity! That is the intensity of the input. The reason why we have a generation of feeble Christians is because there is no input. I see Christians who are absolutely unmotivated, who have no goal, no pressing forward, no striving in the spirit. Nothing! They sit back waiting for a harvest when they have sowed absolutely nothing. No wonder they go through life with nothing. How can I expect God to give me a spiritual harvest when I have sowed absolutely nothing? I beg you to really think on this point very deeply.
That is why the Beatitudes is what comes first! That is the attitude of your input. That is what you sow. If you say, like Paul, “I shall make it my spiritual goal, my spiritual purpose; I shall pursue with single-minded determination, by the grace of God, to be poor in spirit. That is, I shall come to God as a person who is completely dependent upon Him. I shall come to God as somebody who is wholly committed to Him, fully yielded to Him, entirely open to Him like a spiritual beggar, that He may fill me with all His fullness.” If you come with that kind of an attitude, if you pursue this kind of an attitude with steadfastness, and if we steadfastly pursue such an attitude, we shall be filled with the fullness of God. “He shall pour His love into me in overflowing measure by His Holy Spirit because now I have opened my heart fully wide to Him. I have sowed a spiritual attitude which makes it possible for Him to give me the spiritual harvest. If I aim, by God’s grace, then I shall learn to mourn - mourn for the sin in myself and for sin in others. If I aim to be meek by God’s grace (i.e. by His enabling power), then the way is clear or open for Him to give me His revitalizing peace. Though I do not as yet intensely love righteousness, if I make it my object to learn to hunger and thirst for righteousness, then He is going to give me the fruit of the Spirit. [”To will is with me.” I can at last will to have that inner attitude.]
God’s Part and Ours
This then is what the Lord is teaching us in the Sermon on the Mount: what we are to sow, what is our spiritual direction, what we are to pursue, what is the direction of our high calling that we must press forward to. Paul did not say, “Well, we have a high calling and I am waiting to be lifted up by the scruff of my neck to the high calling. I have a high calling but I am waiting for God to attach the booster jets to my back so that He can shoot me to the high calling.” No, he says, “I press forward”. This is what I am doing. I am pressing forward so that God, by His grace, will then empower me onwards. God cannot do anything in you unless you have the right attitude. I am sure that as a Christian you have discovered that already. You have to have the right attitude. For example, if you do not repent to begin with, He just cannot forgive you. His forgiveness is there like a vast ocean ready to forgive your sins. But if you do not repent, that impenitence is like a dike that holds back the ocean of His forgiveness. That ocean of forgiveness cannot come into your life. That water cannot fertilize the fields of your life because of the lack of repentance on your part holds back the whole of God’s grace. Now if we can comprehend this principle as regards repentance, how easy it is to understand this on any other level.
Aim to Be the Kind of Person Blessed by God!
The same principle holds true. God cannot do anything for you until you open your heart to Him. It is said, for example, that right at the beginning of the ministry of the Lord Jesus, the Lord Jesus could not do many mighty works in Nazareth because of their unbelief. Their unbelief held back the grace of God. The same is true all the way through your spiritual life. These Beatitudes then, brothers and sisters, you have to understand, is what the Lord Jesus is saying to His disciples, “Blessed are this kind of people”. Now you aim to be this kind of person who is blessed by God. He said to His disciples, “You make this kind of person the objective of your life. You become that kind of person, because that kind of person is blessed by God.” That must be the goal of every disciple. I hope by now the whole objective, the whole teaching, the internal spiritual connection of the Lord’s teaching on the Beatitudes becomes very, very clear to us. These Beatitudes are not meant to be intellectualized. They are meant to be applied into our life as the goal and direction which we are to follow. Then we are going to experience the power of God in our lives in a way that we never knew, never dreamed was possible, until our lives are so open to God through this poverty of spirit that He will fill us with all His fullness. I pray that God will truly help each one of us to understand these life-giving words of the Lord Jesus.
(c) 2012 Christian Disciples Church