Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Jesus said, “If anyone would come after Me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow Me” (Luke 9:23). Many English translations erroneously translate it as, “he must deny himself,” but in the Greek the phrase is αρνησάσθω (arnesástho), which is the aorist middle passive, deponent imperative third person singular verb. What this means is that in third person, singular imperative Greek verbs, they are translated as “let him/her/it”; the second person would translate it as “must,” but it’s not in the second person. When we follow Christ, He enables us through the Holy Spirit to deny our flesh and follow Him every day, hence “let him.” So let the Holy Spirit empower you to follow Christ daily, even unto death. I explain the full meaning of these words in my article with Geeks Under Grace, Bearing Our Cross. Of course, as sinful human beings, we often fail. But fret not, “If we are faithless, He remains faithful, for He cannot deny Himself” (2 Timothy 2:13).
Yet what does it mean to have self-denial? Luther explains it as a daily baptism:
These two parts, to be sunk under the water and drawn out again, signify the power and operation of Baptism, which is nothing else than putting to death the old Adam, and after that the resurrection of the new man, both of which must take place in us all our lives, so that a truly Christian life is nothing else than a daily baptism, once begun and ever to be continued. For this must be practiced without ceasing, that we ever keep purging away whatever is of the old Adam, and that which belongs to the new man come forth. But what is the old man? It is that which is born in us from Adam, angry, hateful, envious, unchaste, stingy, lazy, haughty, yea, unbelieving, infected with all vices, and having by nature nothing good in it. Now, when we are come into the kingdom of Christ, these things must daily decrease, that the longer we live we become more gentle, more patient, more meek, and ever withdraw more and more from unbelief, avarice, hatred, envy, [and] haughtiness. (LC, Holy Baptism, 65-67)
It is no mistake that Luther lists several of the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus enables us to be fruitful—to daily put off the old Adam that was drowned in our Baptism. By this, He gives us the strength to remain faithful to Him. But we have to exercise the daily cognisance to obey our Lord. We cannot do this in and of ourselves, but when we choose to be faithful to Christ, it is by the power of the Holy Spirit given to us in Baptism. When we’re angry, the Holy Spirit gives us the strength not to sin in our anger. When we become hateful, He gives us the strength to turn that hate into love, joy, and patience. When we’re envious, He enables us to be content with what we have. When we have temptations to be unchaste, He gives us the strength to resist the temptation and impure urges. When we don’t want to give to the poor and are thereby “stingy” (ungenerous), He gives us the strength to show mercy and be generous. When we are arrogant, He gives us the strength to be humble. And when we’re tempted with unbelief, the Holy Spirit draws us near to the Father. By the Holy Spirit enabling us to put off these things, we remain faithful to Christ as He enables us to produce these fruit of the Spirit.
Stay tuned for next time when I talk about the next fruit of the Spirit: gentleness.