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Tu B'Shevat - The Fruit of the Spirit

The Fruit of the Spirit

Further Thoughts on Shavuot and Tu B'Shevat...

Regarding the middot ha-lev (qualities of heart) that are to mark the follower of Yeshua, the Apostle Paul wrote, "the fruit of the Spirit (פְּרִי הָרוּחַ) is love, joy, peace; long-suffering, generosity, acts of kindness; faithfulness, humility, and modesty – against such there is no Torah" (Gal. 5:22-23). Notice that while there is "one fruit" of the Spirit (i.e., "fruit" [καρπὸς] is singular), the expression of the "inner seed" produces a manifold yield, just as the Tree of Life (עֵץ הַחַיִּים) produces twelve different kinds of fruit, one for each month of the Jewish year (see Rev. 22:1-2).
 

  1. "The fruit of the Spirit is love..."

  2. Love
    (i.e., ahavah: אַהֲבָה)

    Of course love is the "first fruit" of the Spirit, and rightly so, since "God is love" (1 John 4:8) and the mark of the follower of Yeshua is likewise be love (John 13:35). The Greek word Paul uses is agape (ἀγάπη), which is one of the most frequently occurring words in his vocabulary of the Christian life. After all, loving God is the primary obligation of life: "Hear, O Israel... love the LORD your God with all your being" (Deut. 6:4-6), and the apostle later states that the practice of love is the fulfillment of the Torah: "For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (Gal. 5:14). "Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law (Rom. 13:8). This is the "kingdom law" (νόμον βασιλικὸν) mentioned in James 2:8. Love is the Source from which all the other virtues flow and is their underlying reason: "I live by faith in God the Son, who loved me and gave Himself for me..." (Gal. 2:20).

    "For God so loved the world that He gave..." (John 3:16). God's love is expressed in sacrificial giving, since He is the Source and reason for all that exists. "God, who needs nothing, loves into existence holy superfluous creatures in order that he may love and perfect them" (C.S. Lewis; the Four Loves). Perhaps the best definition of love (ἀγάπη) is found in 1 Corinthians 13, where it is described as longsuffering and kind, full of humility, generosity, forgiveness, and so on. Love always uses the "good eye" (עַיִן טוֹבָה) to resist thinking evil about about others (lit., "does not impute the bad" - οὐ λογίζεται τὸ κακόν, in 1 Cor. 13:5) and rejoices in the truth. Love bears all things, is full of trust and hope for the good... Such is the portrait of Messiah.

    Though God's love is the font and source for all the other virtues of grace, it has a practical focus in this list, suggesting that love for God will be manifested as good will and good deeds shown to others (1 John 3:17). Though the love of God has been "poured out" (ἐκκέχυται) into the hearts of believers in Yeshua by the Spirit (Rom. 5:5), love is nevertheless a matter of the will, an act of duty and a divine obligation, rather than mere sentiment or matter of the affections, and therefore we are called to love our enemies in this age, that is, to indiscriminately practice acts of righteousness that will benefit them.


     

  3. "The fruit of the Spirit is ... joy"

  4. Joy
    (i.e., simchah: שִׂמְחָה)

    The Greek word for "joy" is chara (χαρὰ), a word related to "grace" (χάρις), which is the expression of thankfulness for being forgiven and accepted by God. "We rejoice in God through Yeshua our Messiah, through whom we have received the atonement," i.e., καταλλαγή, the divine exchange of our guilt with His righteousness (Rom. 5:11). A characteristic mark of the grace of God, then, is an inward sense of joy, regardless of circumstances; a sense of rejoicing - even in the midst of sorrow (2 Cor. 6:10). The experience of joy is related to that of hope (תִקְוָה), since "we rejoice in hope of the glory of God" (Rom. 5:2). "For the kingdom of God (מַלְכוּת הָאֱלהִים) is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness (צְדָקָה) and peace (שָׁלוֹם) and joy (שִׂמְחָה) in the Holy Spirit" (Rom. 14:17).


     

  5. "The fruit of the Spirit is ... peace"

  6. Peace
    (i.e., shalom: שָׁלוֹם)

    Peace and joy are regarded as complimentary graces, "since we are justified by faith, we have peace with God through Yeshua our Messiah" (Rom. 5:1), and those who are reconciled to God have the greatest reason to rejoice (Rom. 5:11). The Greek word for "peace" is erene (εἰρήνη), though the Hebrew word "shalom" means more than the absence of strife, but also includes the idea of wholeness, health, balance, reconciliation, etc. In addition to the idea of having peace with God (ἡ εἰρήνη πρὸς τὸν θεὸν), shalom implies the peace of God (ἡ εἰρήνη τοῦ θεοῦ), which passes all understanding (Phil. 4:7). The LORD Himself is called the "God of Peace" (אלהֵי הַשָּׁלוֹם) who crushes satan under your feet (Rom. 16:20).

     
    Ultimately the first three qualities of heart come from Yeshua, who calls his followers to abide in His love (John 15:9) so they can know His joy (John 15:11) and experience His inner peace (John 14:27).

     

  7. "The fruit of the Spirit is ... long-suffering"

  8. Longsuffering
    (i.e., erekh apayim: ארֶךְ אַפַּיִם)

    The Apostle Paul uses the word makrothumia (μακροθυμία), which comes from "macros" (μακρός), "great," and "thuo" (θύω), "sacrifice," a word that suggests patient endurance of wrongdoing without taking vengeance, or, put positively, steadfastness and tenacity of purpose. The corresponding Hebrew phrase means "long of nose" (the word erekh means "long" and af (אַף) means "nose"), an idiom used to picture the slow venting of air through the nostrils which is characteristic of someone who is slow to anger. The idea implies that we are not easily offended by the faults and character defects of others, just as God graciously overlooks our sins in Yeshua... Since long-suffering is an attribute of God's Mercy (Exod. 34:6-7), it is a part of His essential character, and therefore Paul later writes that "love is longsuffering" (ἡ ἀγάπη μακροθυμεῖ) in 1 Cor. 13:4.


     

  9. "The fruit of the Spirit is ... generosity"

  10. Generosity (i.e., nedivut: נְדִיבוּת)

    The Greek word Paul used here is krestotes (χρηστότης), which refers to the disposition of kindness toward others. In the Greek Old Testament, krestotes is used to translate the Hebrew word for tov (טוֹב), i.e., "good"  (e.g., Psalm 34:8; 136:1, Nah. 1:7), as well as yashar (יָשָׁר), i.e., "upright" (Prov. 2:21). In the New Testament, krestotes is used to convey kindness that results from tenderheartedness and compassion, and therefore is associated with a generous disposition (Eph. 4:32). The Hebrew nedivut means "generosity" or "benevolence," and nedivut lev means having a generous heart (a nedavah is a "free-will" offering or donation from the heart).


     

  11. "The fruit of the Spirit is ... goodness"

  12. Goodness
    (i.e., gemilut chasadim: גְּמִילוּת חֲסָדִים)

    The Greek word is agathosune (ἀγαθωσύνη), a word that occurs only four times in the New Testament, though it undoubtedly it refers to acts of kindness that are esteemed as "good" (טוּב) in the eyes of God. Therefore Yeshua asked, "Is your eye evil because I am good?" (ὀφθαλμός σου πονηρός ἐστιν ὅτι ἐγὼ ἀγαθός εἰμι), which associates the good eye (ayin tovah) with a generous spirit (Matt. 20:15). In the Hebraic mindset, the outworking of the "good eye" is expressed as gemilut chasadim, "the bestowal of kindnesses" or the practice of love (i.e., chesed: חֶסֶד). Such benevolence is regarded as greater than tzedakah (doing the right thing out of a sense of duty) because love anticipates the needs of others and acts from a sense of compassion. As an old Jewish proverb states: "Tzedakah awaits the cry of distress; benevolence anticipates the cry of distress."


     

  13. "The fruit of the Spirit is ... faithfulness"

  14. Faithfulness
    (i.e., ne'emunut: נֶאֱמָנוּת)

    The Greek word pistis (πίστις) can refer either to the attitude of believing (i.e., trust), the content of belief (i.e., "the faith" in the sense of doctrine), or to the trustworthiness or integrity of a person (as in a "faithful friend," "a faithful spouse," etc.). Since the list of fruits here refer to ethical qualities, it is likely that Paul had in mind faithfulness that is associated with truth ("emet"), that is, reliability, trustworthiness, dependability, etc. Since God is faithful (i.e., can be trusted or depended upon), God's people are to be faithful, too, and the Holy Spirit enables them to be this way... The Hebrew word bittachon (בִּטָּחוֹן) is sometimes used to describe this dimension of faith, which comes from a root word (בָּטָח) that means to trust, to feel safe and secure.  The Holy Spirit enables the heart to be a safe source of counsel and strength for others.


     

  15. "The fruit of the Spirit is ... humility"

  16. Humility
    (i.e., anavah: עֲנָוָה)

    The Hebrew word anavah implies a sense of inner poverty that can only be healed by giving and serving others. "Blessed are the poor in spirit." Therefore Moses was described as עָנָיו מְאד מִכּל הָאָדָם, "very humble, more than all men" (Num. 12:3). The translators of the Torah into ancient Greek chose the word praotes (πρᾳότης) to describe Moses' humility (or "meekness"), a word that suggests moderation, gentleness, and even the inability to get angry. Likewise Yeshua described Himself as someone "gentle and lowly in heart" (πραΰς εἰμι καὶ ταπεινὸς τῇ καρδία) who offered rest for the burdened soul (Matt. 11:29). The Greek word therefore indicates "moderation" and courtesy by esteeming others as worthy of honor. Humility in this sense means being "teachable" and open-minded toward others. The humble or "meek" soul has the courage to ask the LORD, "Search me, and know my ways; test me, and know my thoughts; and see the wicked ways in me – and lead me in the way everlasting" (Psalm 139:23-24). Humility is not a "weakness," since on the contrary, it is a sign of spiritual weakness to be proud and self-serving...

    In Pirke Avot, the sages rhetorically ask, "Who then is wise?" and answer "the one who learns from every man." In the Jewish tradition, humility is among the greatest of the virtues, as its opposite, pride (i.e., ga'avah: גַּאֲוָה), is among the worst of the vices. Indeed God literally hates the eyes of the proud countenance (Prov. 6:16-17). Therefore Moses is described as the most humble of men: "Now the man Moses was very humble, above all the men that were on the face of the earth" (Num. 12:3), and likewise the great patriarch Abraham confessed to God: "Behold now, I have taken upon me to speak unto the Lord, who am but dust and ashes (עָפָר וָאֵפֶר)" (Gen 18:27).


     

  17. "The fruit of the Spirit is ... modesty"

  18. Modesty
    (i.e., tzeniut: צְנִיעוּת)

    This word is often translated as "self control," especially in reference to sexual affections or desires (i.e., "chastity").  The Greek word engkratea (ἐγκράτεια) literally means "inner strength" (from εν-, "in" + κράτος, "strength" or "power") referring to mastery over one's desires and passions. However, since the strength to turn away from evil to serve God comes from the indwelling Divine Presence of the Spirit, it is clear that this word ultimately refers to the life of Yeshua within the heart, providing strength to serve and please God. "I can do all things through the Messiah who strengthens me" (Phil. 4:13; Eph. 3:16). Perhaps this is why this virtue is given last in the list, as a sort of summation of the other virtues. Just as the love of God is the Source of all grace, so the life of God is its End...



     

Against these great graces of the Spirit-controlled life the law has "nothing to say," since the law (understood in its civil and judicial sense as "mishpatim") was intended to restrain and to punish evil behavior (i.e., the "works of the flesh"). As Paul wrote elsewhere, "the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted" (1 Tim. 1:9-11). In other words, Paul's use of the phrase, κατὰ τῶν τοιούτων οὐκ ἔστιν νόμος, "against such there is no law," is meant for rhetorical effect, since no valid law of God may circumvent the greater end of the law, which is the outworking of God's love for people. The qualities manifested by the Holy Spirit are of a different order of reality altogether: they are of the sphere of Divine Grace and Invitation, not the sphere of the judgment and law.... In other words, we no longer relate to God in terms of an external lawcode, but rather by an internal identity as God's beloved child. Just as the fruit of a natural vine comes from the vine's own life, so the qualities of the spiritual vine comes from the life of God. As Yeshua said, "Without me you can do nothing..." (John 15:5).

The Apostle Paul wrote, "For I through the law to the law have died; that to God I will live (᾽Εγὼ γὰρ διὰ νόμου νόμῳ ἀπέθανον, ἵνα θεῷ ζήσω): I have been crucified with the Messiah: It is no longer I who live, but Messiah who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness came through the law, then the Messiah died for no purpose" (Gal. 2:19-21). The "deepest root of the Torah" goes back to the Tree of Life whose branches extend to the very world to come... Yeshua is our Tree of Life, just as He is forever our Living Torah.
 

אָמֵן אָמֵן אֲנִי אוֹמֵר לָכֶם
 אִם לא יָמוּת גַּרְגִּיר הַחִטָּה
 הַנּוֹפֵל לְתוֹךְ הָאֲדָמָה
 חָזָה יִשָּׁאֵר לְבַדּוֹ
 אֲבָל אִם יָמוּת יַעֲשֶׂה הַרְבֵּה טְּבוּעַ
 הָאוֹהֵב אֶת־נַפְשׁוֹ מְאַבֵּד אוֹתָהּ
 וְהַשׂוֹנֵא אֶת נַפְשׁוֹ בָּעוֹלָם הַזֶּה
 יִשְׁמְרֶנָּה לְחַיֵּי עוֹלָם

amen · amen · ani · omer · la·khem
im · lo · ya·mut · gar·gir · ha·chi·tah
ha·no·fel · le·tokh · ha·a·da·mah
cha·zah · yish·a·er · le·va·do
a·val · im · ya·mut · ya·a·seh · har·beh · te·vu·a
ha·o·hev · et · naf·sho · me·a·bed · o·tah
ve·ha·so·nei · et · naf·sho · ba·o·lam · ha·zeh
yish·me·re·nah · le·cha·yei · o·lam
 

"Truly, truly, I say to you,
unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies,
it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.
Whoever loves his life is destroying it,
but whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life."
(John 12:24-25)



ἀμὴν ἀμὴν λέγω ὑμῖν,
ἐὰν μὴ ὁ κόκκος τοῦ σίτου πεσὼν εἰς τὴν γῆν ἀποθάνῃ,
αὐτὸς μόνος μένει· ἐὰν δὲ ἀποθάνῃ, πολὺν καρπὸν φέρει.
ὁ φιλῶν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἀπολλύει αὐτήν,
καὶ ὁ μισῶν τὴν ψυχὴν αὐτοῦ ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ τούτῳ
εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον φυλάξει αὐτήν.

 


"If there is no seed, there is no fruit;" and the type of seed always determines the type of fruit (1 Pet. 1:23; 1 John 3:9). We can sow to the flesh – and reap corruption - or we can sow to the Spirit - and reap life everlasting (Gal. 6:7-8). The formation of "Messiah-like character" is the result of discipline (παιδεία), a word that means to instruct or rear a child (παιδεύω) and is therefore connected with discipleship and education. Indeed, the Hebrew word for "discipline" is musar (מוּסָר), a term that refers to moral instruction and guidance, whereas the word for "education" is chinukh (חִנּוּךְ), a term that shares the same root as the word "dedication" (i.e., chanukah: חֲנֻכָּה). Unlike the Greek view that regards education as a pragmatic process of improving one's personal power or happiness, the Hebrew idea implies dedication/direction to God and His concrete purposes on the earth. Disciples of Yeshua are therefore called talmidim (תַּלְמִידִים), a word that comes from lamad (לָמַד) meaning "to learn" (the Hebrew word for teacher is melamad (מְלַמֵּד), a word that shares the same root). There can be no discipline apart from education..

The "heart of Scripture" is revealed the Book of Psalms, and the Psalms begin with the declaration that the one who delights in God's Torah (תּוֹרָה) and meditates upon it "day and night" will be blessed with a genuinely fruitful life:
 

וְהָיָה כְּעֵץ שָׁתוּל עַל־פַּלְגֵי מָיִם
אֲשֶׁר פִּרְיוֹ יִתֵּן בְּעִתּוֹ
וְעָלֵהוּ לא־יִבּוֹל
וְכל אֲשֶׁר־יַעֲשֶׂה יַצְלִיחַ

ve·ha·yah · ke·etz · sha·tul · al · pal·gei · ma·yim
a·sher · pi·re·yo · yit·ten · be·i·to
ve·a·lei·hu · lo · yib·bol
ve·khol · a·sher · ya·a·seh · yatz·li·ach

"He is like a tree transplanted by streams of water
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers."
(Psalm 1:3)



 


In the New Testament we read, "For the moment all discipline (παιδεία) does not seem full of joy but of sorrow, but afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been exercised by it" (Heb. 12:11). The Greek word used for "exercised" is gumnadzo (γυμνάζω), often used to refer to training for competitive gymnastic events. Despite the analogy of training or "exercising" the physical body to comply with the directives of the spirit, however, it is important to remember that the life of God is a miracle that comes from God's own source of Life.  It is the fruit of the Spirit, after all, and not the result of human effort or moral reformation. See John 15:1-8. Our lives are sanctified in the manner in which they were initially justified: wholly by faith in the love and grace of God... Just as we are unable to "crucify ourselves," so we are unable to produce fruit for God in ourselves. As Yeshua said, "Without me you can do nothing..." 

The tough question we need to ask ourselves is whether our lives indeed give evidence to the power and agency of the Holy Spirit. Strictly speaking, these nine virtues are qualities that only God Himself possesses, since He alone is perfectly loving, perfectly joyful, and so on.  But since we are created betzelem Elohim (in the image of God) and were given the Holy Spirit to help us resemble our Teacher (Luke 6:40), spiritual fruit should be seen in our own lives (John 14:12; 15:1-8; 26-7). The outgrowth of such fruit is invariably a matter of faith - trusting that God will help us live our lives in truthful union with Him. If our lives are devoid of fruit, perhaps we are devoid of faith, and therefore the first step is to return to the LORD for healing and life...

Nonetheless, fruit does not immediately crop up but requires time and its own season... The process of spiritual growth is ultimately mysterious and divine: "The Kingdom of God is like someone who spreads seed on the ground. He goes to sleep and gets up, night and day, and the seed sprouts and grows, though he does not know how. By itself (αὐτομάτη, "automatically") the soil produces a crop, first the stalk, then the head, then the full grain in the head. And when the grain is ripe, he comes in with his sickle because the harvest has come" (Mark 4:26-29).

In the list of the fruit of the Spirit, it is important to see what is not listed.... What is not listed are powerful signs, wonders, or the trappings of worldly success or power. Though spiritual impostors may simulate the exercise of spiritual gifts, they can never "fake" the fruit of the Holy Spirit.... Yeshua did not say that you shall know them by their flash, but rather "you will know them by their fruits" (Matt. 7:16-20).

The Scriptures state twice: שׁרֶשׁ לְמָטָּה וְעָשָׂה פְרִי לְמָעְלָה / "Take root downward and bear fruit upward" (2 Kings 19:30; Isa. 37:31). As Yeshua said, "unless a grain of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it abides alone; but if it dies, it produces a big harvest (John 12:24). We pray we might surrender ourselves to the Lord fully, being immersed in His passion, "bearing fruit in every good work (ἐν παντὶ ἔργῳ ἀγαθῷ καρποφοροῦντες) and growing in da'at HaShem (דַעַת אֱלהִים) - the knowledge of God" (Col. 1:10). The "fruit of the righteous is a Tree of Life" lit., etz chayim (עֵץ חַיִּים), "the Tree of lives" (Prov. 11:30). It is the fruit of Yeshua, the Righteous One, who bears fruits of healing for the lives of those who turn to Him in trust...

"I can do all things through the Messiah who strengthens me," not "some things," or a "few things," but ALL things (Phil. 4:13). Yeshua is the Tree of Life, the Source of all our strength. "May you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being" (Eph. 3:16). Let's remember to pray for one another and ask the LORD to help make each of us fruitful to the glory of our Heavenly Father (John 15:8).

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