08 Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness - Bible Study | WednesdayintheWord.com

Goodness as a fruit of the Spirit isn’t doing random acts of kindness. Nor it is following rules to earn your gold star. Goodness as a fruit of the Spirit is an active pursuit of what is right and holy in both speech and action.

Key Points

  • Goodness as a fruit of the Spirit is not doing random acts of kindness.
  • Goodness is not following the rules to earn your gold star.
  • Goodness is an active pursuit of what is right and holy in both speech and action.
  • The way modern society defines goodness is a pale imitation of the fruit of the Spirit.
  • Passage: Ephesians 5:1-12.
  • Word: Strong’s G19.

Next: Fruit of the Spirit: Faith

Previous: Fruit of the Spirit: Kindness

Series: Fruit of the Spirit



Goodness as a Fruit of the Spirit

In this series, we are searching for an understanding of the fruit of the Spirit. Today we’ll be talking about goodness. We’re exploring Scripture to see what Scripture says about these concepts, and therefore what Paul had in mind when he wrote the list.

I have argued throughout this series that the items on this list are not feelings. Rather, they are qualities that result from a profound shift in worldview. As the Spirit of God teaches us truth, our perspective changes. That new perspective changes how we act, respond and treat each other, and these qualities result.

Review

In the letter to Galatians, Paul refutes the argument of the Judaizers who claim that faith in Jesus is not enough. They argue Gentile believers must also keep the law. Paul spends most of this letter refuting that claim and arguing that faith in Jesus is sufficient for salvation.

In Galatians 5, where we find this list, Paul argues that law-keeping does not accomplish what it claims to accomplish. Law-keeping cannot make us holy because it doesn’t change anything inside. We may strive to keep more laws, but inside we are still sinners.

Conversely, Paul argues that true moral transformation comes from the Spirit of God. God reconciles us to Himself because of Christ’s death on the cross. Then He gives us His Spirit. His Spirit teaches us truth and brings about this genuine change. The items on this list result. In this series, we are on a quest to figure out what those items are. Today we’re talking about goodness.

Goodness is a fairly simple idea. Think of the contrast between good and evil. But goodness is being nice to people. Instead, goodness is the pursuit of that which is right and holy as opposed to pursuing that which is evil, corrupt and against God.

Ephesians 5:1-4

In this part of Ephesians, Paul exhorts his readers to live in keeping with the gospel they claim to believe.

1Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children. 2And walk in love, as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us, a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. 3But sexual immorality and all impurity or covetousness must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints. 4Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving. -Ephesians 5:1-4

First, let’s not be thrown by this word ‘saints’ (Ephesians 5:3). In New Testament usage, the word ‘saint’ does not refer to people like Mother Teresa or people named as saints in church history. ‘Saints’ means those who belong to God. They are holy or set apart because God marks them as belonging to Him. In New Testament usage, every believer is a saint.

But we are not saints only because we belong to God. Our lifestyle change also sets us apart. Believers are guided by the values and principles God says are right. That marks us as saints or holy ones.

In this section, Paul encourages his readers to conduct themselves in keeping with what they believe. He mentions three things in Ephesians 5:3

Sexual immorality

First, he lists sexual immorality. Historically, others accuse Christians of thinking all sexuality is bad. That is not the Bible’s perspective. God created both sexuality and marriage. Both are wonderful gifts. Paul is not speaking against sexuality in all contexts.

Sexuality is a powerful force and human beings are selfish. We are powerfully motivated to pursue sexuality even when we shouldn’t.

But if we seek to obey God, then we must acknowledge that God has the right to establish boundaries for sexuality. He has the right to tell us how and when it should be enjoyed. The Bible teaches that God created sexuality to be a gift in marriage between one man and one woman.

For our purposes today, I want to focus on two aspects. First, God created sexuality with a specific meaning and intended it for a specific purpose. He intended it to express a permanent, committed monogamous bond between a husband and wife. Second, sexuality is the God-given means by which children come into the world.

As sinners, we seek the pleasure of sexuality without acknowledging its purpose. We want to maintain that sexuality is a natural, almost animal instinct that we are free enjoy whenever we want. Because we deny sexuality involves commitment and procreation, we deny that sexual purity has anything to do with goodness.

Modern culture, especially in America, has essentially turned this upside down. What you think about sexuality is a significant battle in our culture. Many people define ‘good’ people as those who defend abortion, give contraceptives to school children, and embrace almost any expression of sexuality in any circumstance as a valid lifestyle choice. Those who would advocate any boundaries or limits are seen as bad or evil.

Sexuality is one of those areas where we believers should be distinctive. We see the beautiful purpose God gave to sexuality and choose to follow His boundaries. Acknowledging that God created sexuality for a certain purpose will set us apart.

Impurity

Next in Ephesians 5-3 is ‘uncleanness’ or ‘impurity.’ It’s the opposite of holiness and broader in meaning than sexual immorality. It includes anything that defiles, any sort of acceptance of evil, any sort of selfishness. For example, it includes lying, stealing, cheating, degrading other people, indulging in hate, and all the ways we express our selfishness. We are to avoid living as selfish, self-centered creatures. It’s vague because this term is very broad. It covers just about every which way we can pursue what is wrong.

Coveting

The third item Paul mentions is greed or covetousness. The greedy or covetous person must acquire more power, status, wealth, fame and more of what the world offers. The greedy one thinks the most important factor in any equation is: How do I benefit? The greedy or covetous think all the things of this world make life fulfilling.

Idolatry says, ‘God’s promises are not enough. I must have what the world offers now.’ Greed says the same: ‘God is not enough. I have to have that over there. God’s promises are fine, but everybody knows you have to have fame, fortune, and prosperity, so I better make sure I get it.’

Like sexuality, coveting confronts us with the question: What is really important to me? And who will give it to me? Am I counting on the promises of God or all the things that I can get in this world?

Speech and Gratitude

Paul says those qualities (sexual, immorality, impurity, and greed) should not even be named among followers of Jesus. He’s not saying that we can’t acknowledge they exist or explain what they are. He’s contrasting the way believers view these three with the way the world views them.

Those who reject God talk about these three things and act as if they are good or neutral. His exhortation is not to fall into this trap. Of course, it matters what you do. But it also matters what you say. Our speech reveals what we value, believe, and think is worth pursuing.

Gratitude results from understanding what God has done for us. When we value what God has done for us, why would we pursue the profane, immoral, or foolish? We are counting on God to save us from those things. Why talk about it now as if it were cool and worthwhile? The issue is not a surface issue of ‘watch what you say.” More profoundly, it’s remember what you think is true and let that influence the way you talk.

Ephesians 5:5-6.

5For you may be sure of this, that everyone who is sexually immoral or impure, or who is covetous (that is, an idolater), has no inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. 6Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. – Ephesians 5:5-6

Paul never describes Christian as those who automatically and necessarily cease to struggle with sin. Everyone fails in their struggle with sin on any given day. But is the struggle characterized by grief and repentance, by sorrow and seeking God? Or is it characterized by laughing, scoffing, and mocking God? The general trend of a believer’s life is important.

Immorality, impurity, and covetousness characterize the people who reject God. Believers are all tempted to follow them at times. There is always the social pressure to fit in with the so-called sophisticated, enlightened people of the world. But we should stand out.

Belief makes us different. Life repeatedly confronts us with the choice to pursue goodness or reject it. When we choose goodness, we will stick out.

Ephesians 5-7-10

7Therefore do not become partners with them; 8for at one time you were darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light 9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. -Ephesians 5:7-10

Nonbelievers reach their conclusions about sexuality, impurity and coveting because they’re in the dark. They’re ignorant of the truth. Their understanding goes no further than what their body tells them is right at the moment. They don’t see God’s purposes. They don’t value the gifts He has given them. Paul summarizes us all of that with this metaphor: They are in darkness. But we are in the light. By the grace of God, we understand reality. Once, we were also lost in our foolish darkness, but God shined the light of truth into our minds.

9(for the fruit of light is found in all that is good and right and true), 10and try to discern what is pleasing to the Lord. 11Take no part in the unfruitful works of darkness, but instead expose them. 12For it is shameful even to speak of the things that they do in secret. – Ephesians 5:9-12

Finally, we’ve come to the reason I brought us to this passage. The fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth. Paul described the immorality, impurity, greed and foolishness. What’s the opposite? Goodness, righteousness, and truth.

Goodness is not a quality of being nice to people. Goodness is pursuing that which is true, right and holy. Goodness rejects the lie that God’s standards mean nothing. Goodness rejects the lie that fulfillment is found in whatever the body desires. Goodness rejects darkness and evil because we walk in the light. We are learning what pleases the Lord and we pursue it.

Lies About Goodness

Most nonbelievers sees biblical goodness as laughable. They tell us life is more fun when we abandon those old-fashioned religious ideas of right and wrong. They say, we can’t fully experience life until we slip free of the bonds of goodness.

But Paul pictures goodness as a light in the darkness. Sin is a perversion of life. Immorality is a lie. Sexual immorality is not fulfillment, it’s a counterfeit idol. Sin always leads to some form of death or corruption.

When the world does embrace a concept of goodness, it’s usually a pale imitation of the biblical idea. Modern America has developed a system of goodness based on oppressors and oppressed. In this view, there is no right or wrong. There is only trauma. The oppressors (who are usually defined by their race and gender, rather than any actions they have taken) are evil no matter what. Victims are only evil because of past trauma they experienced as victims. Further, victims are justified in mistreating their oppressors. In this view, I can see myself as good if I can classify myself as a victim or if I vote for politicians who claim that they will help the victims.

That is not a biblical worldview.

Before God, there are no oppressors or oppressed, slaves or free, Jews or Gentile. Every one of us is a sinner in need of the mercy of God. Being an oppressed victim does not make you good. Being an oppressor does not disqualify you from receiving God’s mercy. Neither victim status nor perceived trauma qualify me as good before God.

Goodness as a Fruit of the Spirit

Goodness as a fruit of the Spirit is pursuing God’s values because the light of truth broke through our darkness and exposed the foolish way we were living. God has the right to tell us the purpose for which He made us. We find joy and fulfillment in following His purposes and rejecting the lies of those who walk in darkness.

Goodness is rooted in this profound shift of understanding what is true and what is a lie.

Finally, not only does the world often have a pale imitation of goodness, sometimes we in the church can have a pale imitation of goodness as well. We can see it in what Paul says to the Galatians. In this letter, Paul addresses people who thought keeping the rules made them good. We can similarly deceive ourselves by setting a low bar for obedience. But the goodness we strive for is profound and far-reaching. If we’re honest, we recognize we fall far short of God’s standards, including believers.

Goodness as a fruit of the Spirit is not self-satisfaction, legalism, self-righteousness, and or following a ridiculously low standard.

Goodness as a fruit of the Spirit acknowledges God is holy, just, and morally perfect. It acknowledges we are sinners who need God’s mercy. Then it commits to living in light of those truths.

Earlier in Ephesians, Paul said that we’re not justified by works. Our own accomplishments do not make us right before God. We are justified through what Christ did on the cross, and what’s the result of that? We don’t bring good works to Him, hoping to gain His blessing. Rather, God blesses us by making us people who can perform good works.

These good works are not good works like feeding the poor or caring for the sick. While those are great things to do, goodness as a fruit of the Spirit is more expansive and profound.

The Spirit of God convicts us of the reality of our faith and the truth we have embraced. He shows us that that goodness, following the ways of God, is a valuable thing. He makes us people who pursue the ways of God. Not that in this age we will always say and do everything right, but now we value and we strive for things that please God.

Copyright © 2024 · Krisan Marotta, WednesdayintheWord

Photo by Bill Williams on Unsplash

Season 24, episode 08

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