LAW v FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT
Galatians 5:22-23 (Daily Prayer Bible)
Fruits of the Spirit and the Law of Moses
The Spirit, on the other hand, produces fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, fidelity, tolerance and self-control. In this, the Law and the Spirit agree, because the Law does not forbid such things.
Notes on the Scripture
This comment by Paul, concerning the fruits of the flesh and the fruits of the spirit, might seem odd. The very fact, that Paul finds it necessary to say it, shows how sharp the friction between Christianity and Judaism was in the 1st century B.C. The Jewish leadership, of course, had murdered Jesus and large numbers of His most vocal followers. In fact, Paul’s conversion occurred when he was headed to Damascus for this very reason, to round up Christians for punishment.
But decades later, Paul finds it necessary to fight against a more subtle means of destroying Christianity: an attempt by Judaism to co-opt Christianity, by trying to convince Christians that, to find God, they had to follow the Law of Moses. Contradicting their efforts forms the core purpose of the Epistle to the Galatians. Paul’s main argument is directly antagonistic to Judaism. The Jews are not, we are taught, the inheritors of God’s promise to Abraham; there is only one primary heir, who is Jesus Christ, and we become inheritors as His adopted brothers and sisters and/or children. (E.g. Luke 20:36; Romans 8:15.)
One might think that Paul’s remark — that the Law and Spirit agree about “fruits of the spirit” — appears, at first blush, to be motivated by a desire to make his message easier to swallow. After all, his audience were people who had been convinced, or were at least considering the merits of serving the Law, as a necessary part of their path to salvation. One might think he is saying, “Look, you can do this and be at least partially amenable to the arguments of the Judaizers.”
But having called them anathema, which is about the strongest curse possible, it is probably more accurate to think Paul had no good word to say about them. Rather, having (hopefully) convinced his audience that Judaism was a “curse,” he now wants to bring them back to see the moral foundations of Christianity in the Law, as well as the historical and narrative foundations.
“My Father’s business”
Jesus Himself taught that He has come to “fulfill” the Law, not to “abolish” it. If, as we believe, the purpose of the Law was to show us our sin, it did so by giving us correct rules about God’s will for the way we live our lives. In fact, Jesus’ arguments with the Pharisees, etc., never really contradicted the Law of Moses itself.
Rather, He showed us that the ritual was subordinate to the meaning. Marriage is a ritual; but the ritual can be empty words. The meaning transcends the ritual: when a man takes a woman to himself, and vice versa, they take their monogamy to heart, to become one flesh, not to lust after others, etc. We worship God in a ritual of some sort; but the meaning of worship is faith. God does not want to hear the words of love and praise; he wants us to experience love, joy and humility in relation to Him, within our deepest being.