Fruit of the Spirit: Plant, Cultivate, & Grow Lesson 1
This is the first in a series of lessons from Galatians 5:16-26 on the Fruit of the Spirit. You may view the entire lesson here or download it in Word or a PDF.
“Stop, you’re killing me!”
Which of the following scenes produced the statement above?
- A teenage boy won’t stop tickling his little sister.
- A middle-aged woman just scored 75 points against her Scrabble partner.
- A masked man is beating a defenseless elderly woman.
Does it matter? Absolutely! In the first two cases, the statement is meant to be teasing and playful. But the last scenario is life and death! We must know the context of the statement to know if we should laugh or call 911.
Likewise, before we can understand and apply Galatians 5:16-26, we must know its context. Too often, we misunderstand and misuse God’s Word because we attempt to interpret a verse or passage apart from the whole.
Where do we begin? Context of Galatians
The way God chooses to apply the truths found in His Word can vary with the individual and their circumstance. However the meaning of a biblical passage never changes. It will always mean what God originally intended for it to mean. Before we can make application to our lives we must have a good grasp of the original meaning by considering the larger context. (For more information on biblical context read “Context is King” at DoNotDepart.com.)
Galatians is a letter written to a specific people at a specific point in history for a specific purpose. Therefore, we need to know who, when, and why to understand the meaning.
Read Galatians 1:1-9 and gives as many facts as possible about the following:
Author of this letter –
Recipients of this letter –
Purpose of this letter –
Many of you are probably familiar with Paul’s background and dramatic conversion. If not, you can get a good overview by reading the personal account of his story in Acts 22:1-21. A couple of pertinent facts about Paul is 1) he was raised a zealous Jew thoroughly trained in the law and 2) when Christ saved him God called him to take the Gospel to the Gentiles.
The recipients of Paul’s letter – the churches in Galatia – were comprised of mostly Gentile Christians who had been saved out of paganism. They had received Christ and the Holy Spirit by faith and had never observed the Jewish Law.
Purpose of Galatians
Understanding why Paul wrote to the Galatians will help us understand the “Fruit of the Spirit” and how it’s produced in our lives. Paul was concerned about false teaching in the churches, a “different gospel” which he refers to in Galatians 1:6.
Jewish Christians, who still held to the Law of Moses, had infiltrated these Gentile believers and falsely taught that they must observe the Jewish law to be Christians. These “Judaizers” were concerned that faith without the discipline of the law would lead to immorality, but their teaching had only minimized God’s grace and created a warped form of “Christianity.”
Paul, recognizing the danger, wrote to remind the Galatians of the truth of the Gospel message and to protect them from this false teaching. The letter emphasizes God’s grace while upholding God’s call to righteousness by living a life following the Spirit.
Read Galatians 5:1-12. Based on the passage and what we learned above list all the negative consequences of trying to live by the law.
Read Galatians 5:13-15. In addition to the Judaizers’ legalism, what other problem within these Gentile churches did Paul address?
Apparently the Galatians were using their “freedom” as an excuse to follow their sinful desires and they were hurting their fellow believers in the process. Paul longed for the Galatians to experience the freedom and unity only found in Christ while living a holy life that pleased God. That is also our goal! But freedom cannot be found in observing the Law. And indulging our sinful nature will never produce the righteous life God desires. What is the answer?
Read Galatians 5:16-26, our focal passage for this study. How can we find both freedom and righteous in Christ? (Check one)
___ Live however we want as long as it doesn’t hurt someone else.
___ Follow the law as closely as possible.
___ Live life submitted to the Holy Spirit, following His leading.
Today we laid the foundation for our study. Next week we will dig into the meaning of “fruit of the Spirit.” In the meantime, let’s talk:
So far in your Christian life do you feel you have been influenced more by the “law,” your own nature, or by the Spirit? (We may not have the influence of the Mosaic Law, but the “do’s” and “don’t’s” or religion are still prominent.)
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I’d like to pray for us as we start this study together!
“Father, as we begin this journey to learn more about the fruit your Spirit should produce in our lives, please make us fertile ground for your truth. Prepare our minds to understand your truth. Prepare our hearts to receive and obey it. Use our lives to demonstrate your love, grace, and mercy to the world. Amen.”
“So far in your Christian life do you feel you have been influenced more by the “law,” your own nature, or by the Spirit?”
I grew up in a very legalistic environment where salvation was all about “works” and nothing was ever mentioned about the grace and love of God. I was afraid of God because I was always on the lookout for that condemnation if I didn’t continually “do right” or do enough.
It wasn’t until I met my husband that I learned about how God truly loves me and that it takes faith and true knowledge of His Word that helped me to see the freedom from laws that I couldn’t even fulfill.
Kela, thanks for sharing that! You have first hand experience with what Paul wrote about in Galatians. The Judaizers held tight to the law because they were afraid freedom in Christ would lead to sin. As we’ll see the answer is: Freedom from the law gives us freedom to follow the Spirit!
So far in your Christian life do you feel you have been influenced more by the “law,” your own nature, or by the Spirit?
If I look at my Christian life as a whole – I’ve been influenced by all 3. The more I grow in the Lord, the more I strive to be influenced by the Spirit but that isn’t always the case. I would love to be able to answer in all honestly that I am 100% completely led by the Spirit at ALL times but that wouldn’t be truthful. Which shows me an area I definitely need to pray about. Thanks for this study. Looking forward to next week!! =)
Mandy, thanks for your openness! I would have to say I have experienced the same thing as you. Like the Judaizers I sometimes allow the “do’s and don’ts” to influence me and even let a little self-righteous attitude to slip in. Other times I follow my own desires and reject the Spirit’s leading. Like you, my desire is to follow the Spirit more and more. Then I will be living a life that pleases God in every way!
So far in myChristian life, I you feel I have been influenced tremendously by both the “law” and my own nature. BUT, a friend and I have been pushing each other to focus more and more on walking in the Spirit. We are chalenging each other tremendously in this area, which is one reason this study is so timely. I’m excited for the increase of the Spirit moving in my life.
Hi Kari! I love what you are saying about “accountability.” We all need that in our lives, yet we often hesitate to be as transparent as we need to be with another Christian. In fact, Scripture tells us to “spur one another on to good works.” I pray we can also do that for each other through this study.
The funny thing about this accountability is that it’s something I’ve been longing for but couldn’t find. What’s “funny” is that it was right in front of me all the time. Literally. The lady who sits in front of me usually at church. God is awesome!
This kind of accountability/kinship is something that I, myself, have cried out to God about. Waiting with eyes wide open 🙂
Kela, does your church have any kind of mentorship program? Maybe if you contacted the Women’s Ministry leader or a discipleship pastor they have others who are interested in an accountability partner. Maybe God wants to use you to get something started?
Thanks for that, Kari!
Kathy, nothing like that is in place (women’s ministry). You may be right…with me being the one to start something.
I totally get the crying out part for sure. Don’t give up. He will do this in time. For me, I see now that I was not ready for it until just recently. The Holy Spirit had some housecleaning to do in me first.
Kari, I love it when God does stuff like that!
Kathy, Just wanted to let you know something I am very excited about. Our above discussion has spurred a blog post for me on accountability partners. Look for it on Wednesday of next week. I love how the Spirit works like this, and I just wanted to thank you for being a part of that.
Kari, that’s exciting! Post a link here when it’s up so we can all read it!
Here’s the link to the post I was telling you about that was inspired by discussion here: http://www.struggletovictory.com/how-to-be-accountable/
In response to which way I am led: As a child, I believe I was led more by the law and my own nature. I knew right from wrong, etc. and heard the Holy Spirit mentioned but never really got it until I was an adult. I get it now and I am much more open to seeing and hearing and being prodded by the Spirit as far as which decision to make. However, I am human and still do go by my own nature and realize that it doesn’t always make you feel “good” to make the choices led by your human nature. My only regret is that I wasn’t taught or didn’t recognize the Holy Spirit sooner.
Robin, thanks for sharing this. It definitely sounds like God has been growing you! As I grow in spiritual maturity, I find I grieve my sin more and desire to please God more. I really hope as we go through this study all of us will become more sensitive to the Spirit and His leading.
I also have some regrets in my Christian walk. However, God is so faithful to forgive us and continue to work on us to shape us into the person He wants us to be!
Being totally honest, I feel that I am usually operating out of both my own nature and the Spirit. I can see times in my life when the nature was more so and also when the Spirit was more so prominent. Obviously, I’m longing and striving for a life led by more of the Spirit and less of me. (I grew up in a Christian home & always in church, but one where it wasn’t legalistic or focused on “religion”. However, I think because of the way we sometimes go about teaching children about God – mostly tangible ways like the laws & do’s/don’ts – I do remember wondering about God’s judgement on me (guilt & anxiety) as a kid/teen/young adult sometimes. And then yes, sometimes feelings of pride or self-righteousness creeping in when I would compare my life to others.) Looking forward to this study!
Kristen, I think you are right about the way we teach our kids. We don’t talk much with them about the Holy Spirit. Maybe because we are afraid they won’t understand? I think you also hit on an important point with mentioning “pride.” Our pride makes us want to “perform” and “do something.” Gets us caught up in works!
Been talking to my boys more about letting the Holy Spirit move in their lives with how they make decisions and avoid getting into rouble or even helping them to do the right things. My youngest came home from school so happy that he had heeded the Holy Spirit’s “voice” and that had kept him from getting into trouble with some other kids. With this, we also talk about intentions. Been trying to deliberately change how I talk to them. The cool part is that I am changing in this process!
Kari, thanks for sharing that example with us! I failed to really talk about the HS to my kids when they were little, but I will follow your lead and start early with my grandkids.
Like your experience, I have always found that when I teach – whether its a formal class or my own children – I learn and change in the process.
Striving to live with excellence (pursue holiness) is an exciting one. Love it!
I started my Christian walk in freedom. I wasn’t raised in church and didn’t know much at all. The church where I became a Christian, was a Pentecostal church. I remember seeing some of the women who I felt were “prayer warriors” wear dresses and skirts all the time. I wasn’t taught this was the way I was to dress, but I wanted what I believed these women had–a close relationship with God. I thought maybe that part of this closeness was found in what the wore. I began to imitate them in this. At first it was joyful, but then it became legalistic for me. I even looked down on other Christian girls and women who wore jeans and shorts. It took several years for me to lose this self-righteous attitude. I had been exposed to pornography as a very little girl and had not seen any since becoming a Christian. When I was around college age, I was exposed to this again while I was at a friend’s house. She was a Christian too. Her parents were unbelievers and had some cable channels with this stuff on it. While I turned the channel quickly, I ended up turning the channel back. This one act spiraled into several years of habitual sin. I am ashamed to say that I spent several years being influenced by my own nature. When I was pregnant with my son in 2009, I wanted to be done with this. I didn’t want him to be influenced or exposed as I was. I repented and asked God to give me a hatred for this sin. This last year, the Lord has used several avenues to help me get back into His Word. Last night, I was looking up Greek words for Galatians 5:19-21 and Matthew 7:20-23. It was interesting some of the words that I came across. I want so desperately to live my life submitted to the Holy Spirit. I have lived my life far too long by my sinful nature. It is a miserable way to live especially knowing the freedom that Jesus has given us.
Amanda, thank you for your openness and honesty. God will use your struggles and experiences to help, encourage, and minister to others. I believe way more Christians struggle with pornography than we know. It’s just one of those things people won’t talk about. If you continue to be open about your faith walk, God will bring others across your path that need you. He will not waste it, but instead redeem it for His purposes.
Isn’t it funny how we can turn just about anything into legalism? That is our human sin nature – to work and find pride and self-righteousness in it. God has taught you many valuable lessons! And it sounds like you are in a good place with Him now – “desperate to live your life submitted to the Holy Spirit!” Amen!
When I was 23 yrs old (32yrs ago) I gave my heart to Jesus. I was so hungry for God I easily fell into legalism and works! Just wanted to please the Lord, I was very zealous. Spent hours late into the night reading and hearing Gods truth. His word renewed my mind continually and straightened out my path! I found it was all to easy to put those do’s and don’ts on others! It took alot of seasons for Gods character to mold me! My walk with the Lord has been Him teaching me how to walk in the Spirit and live in the freedom of Christ. My own nature and carnal mind have often been my enemy. It is Gods nature and the mind of Christ I desire. I definetly know that the Spirit has great influence in my walk today. I am so aware of his presence and do not want to grieve Him.
I probably won’t get to this study timely on Thursday’s, but aim to stay on track before the next lesson 🙂
Hi Debbie! Thanks for sharing your testimony. I think for many of us it is easier to fall into following a list of do’s and don’ts than it is to let go and submit to the Spirit. But, it sounds like you are in a good place now! I love your heart’s cry for God!
Don’t feel pressured about “Thursday.” That’s one thing that is great about an online study. You can do it on your own timetable!