16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 17 For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law (Galatians 5:16–18, NKJV).
In today’s passage, walking in the Spirit is equivalent to being led by the Spirit (v. 16, 18). Being led by the Spirit is a matter of free will, a choice to live by faith. The Spirit does not force Himself upon anyone. Being led by the Spirit is tantamount to living in the Spirit. By crucifying the flesh with its passions and bearing the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-25). Again, this is a choice of faith we make, a life we choose to live. The Spirit of God leads Christians when we hear (and obey) the gospel (the faith, Gal. 3:1-2; 1:11, 23). The Holy Spirit revealed the gospel, confirmed its validity through miracles, and inspired its proclamation (Heb. 2:1-4; Eph. 3:3-5). When we follow the Scriptures, we are following the Spirit of God. Do not expect the Spirit to act upon you in some way distinct from His word. He is speaking through His word to you and me. We walk in the Spirit when we submit to the gospel of Christ (Rom. 8:1-2, 5-8). See this choice of faith to follow the word of God and live by the Spirit in Romans 8:13, “For if you live according to the flesh you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.” We are alive in Christ and are led by the Spirit when we choose to live according to the gospel He revealed.
6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down’” (Luke 13:6–9, NKJV).
Jesus had just commanded repentance instead of rationalizing degrees of sin to escape personal accountability (Luke 13:1-5). The parable of the barren fig tree adds divine longsuffering and compassion to the necessity of repentance. (1) God expects us to bear fruit (v. 6). Disciples of Christ will bear fruit (John 15:1-8). (2) God is longsuffering, wanting sinners to repent (v. 7). The owner did not immediately cut down the fruitless tree. He searched three years for fruit. God seeks sinners’ repentance, not their demise (2 Pet. 3:9). So must we. (3) The compassionate mercy of God teaches us not to give up on sinners (vv. 8-9). The vinedresser asked for another year to tend the tree to stimulate fruit. Like Jesus, let us not quickly dismiss and forget those overtaken by sin (Gal. 6:1-2; James 5:19-20). They need our help, even as Christ helps us when we sin (Rom. 8:34; Heb. 4:14-16). (4) God will punish unrepented sin (v. 9). The owner would cut down the fruitless tree if it did not become productive (John 15:6). We will not escape accountability and punishment for our sins if we refuse to repent (Luke 13:3, 5). Redeem your time. Repent and be faithful to the Lord. God is compassionate, patient, and merciful; A jealous God who punishes sin yet shows mercy to those who love Him and keep His commandments (cf. Exod. 20:5-6).
15 “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles” (Matthew 7:15–16, NKJV)?
Where have all the false teachers gone? They still exist despite those who say false doctrine is not sinful and does not risk one’s fellowship and future with God. Jesus warns us to be on guard for those who falsely claim to speak for God. They appear innocent as their deceitful message soothes the ear (Rom. 16:17-18). But we must test their fruit (their message) and not be fooled by appearances (John 7:24). When the teacher’s doctrine contradicts revealed truth, it is not sound doctrine (1 Tim. 6:3; 2 Tim. 1:13; Titus 2:1). Jesus said we would know false prophets (false teachers) by their fruit (v. 16). False teachers are identifiable by their “destructive heresies,” “destructive ways,” and “deceptive words” (2 Pet. 2:1-3). We know the false prophet by his false message. The false teacher’s bad fruit (false teaching) is not God’s word. It is fit for destruction (Matt. 7:17-20). We must test the teacher’s fruit (teaching) against “the will of My Father in heaven” (Matt. 7:21; Gal. 1:8-9; Jude 3-4; 1 John 4:1, 6; 2 John 9). The Lord is not telling us to judge the teacher’s sincerity but the accuracy of what he teaches. Does it accord with the will of the Father (the Scriptures, 2 Tim. 3:16-17) or the wisdom and will of men? Indeed, we will know them by their fruits (1 Thess. 5:21-22).
5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace (Romans 8:5–6, NKJV).
We live according to where we set our minds. The person who fixes his mind on fleshly things lives for the flesh and produces the “works of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21). The apostle of Christ firmly declared, “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21). Conversely, to live “according to the Spirit,” we must set our minds on “the things of the Spirit.” What are those things? Nothing less than the things the Spirit revealed to the apostles, which they preached to the world (1 Cor. 2:10-13). The things of the Spirit are the words of truth He revealed, confirmed, and inspired. The “fruit of the Spirit” is borne in our lives when we follow the Spirit’s guidance that is in God’s word (Gal. 6:16-18, 22-23). Today’s passage explains we either live “according to the flesh,” or we live “according to the Spirit,” but not both. Spiritual death (separation from God) is the outcome of being carnally minded. Spiritual life and peace with God result from being spiritually minded. Have you set your mind on the things of the Spirit or the flesh? “Set your mind on things above, not on things on the earth” (Col. 3:2).
5 I tell you, no; but unless you repent you will all likewise perish. 6 He also spoke this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. 7 Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ 8 But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. 9 And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down.’” (Luke 13:5–9, NKJV)
Christ’s call to repent or perish in Luke 13:1-5 is urgent. When we repent, we will bear its fruit – a changed life (Lk. 3:7-14). This sets the scene for the parable of the barren fig tree. The Lord looks for the spiritual fruit of repentance in our lives. Like a fruitless fig tree, we are just taking up space when we fail to bear good fruit (see verse 7). Even so, the Lord is longsuffering toward us. He intensely desires our salvation, not our destruction, and so He gives us time and opportunity to repent (1 Tim. 2:3-4; 2 Pet. 3:9). Each of us should ask ourselves the piercing question, “Am I just taking up ground or bearing good fruit?” If our answer is the former, may we quickly repent and start bearing its fruit. If not, we will surely perish (Lk. 13:1-5, 9; 2 Pet. 3:9-10).
20 how I kept back nothing that was helpful, but proclaimed it to you, and taught you publicly and from house to house, 21 testifying to Jews, and also to Greeks, repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ. (Acts 20:20–21, NKJV)
Faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ will not exist in a person’s life until that person repents toward God. Repentance is changing the mind toward its object (in this case, toward God). It is about thinking differently, and then we live differently. Repentance is not the regret of feeling sorry toward God. Genuine repentance results from godly sorrow over sin (2 Cor. 7:9-10). Some think to repent means “to turn,” but this is also incorrect. Only when we think differently about God and our sin against Him will we turn to God for salvation. Paul shows the difference between repentance and turning to God in Acts 26:20 when he explained he preached the gospel to people so “that they should repent, turn to God, and do works befitting repentance.” Paul did not say, “turn (repent), and turn to God.” He said to repent (change your mind) and turn to God. Repentance, produced by godly sorrow, bears the fruit of turning to God (that is, “works befitting repentance,” cf. Lk. 3:7-14). The gospel requires repentance 1) Toward God, Acts 20:21; 2) Of sins, Lk. 5:32; 13:3, 5; Acts 8:22; 3) For the remission of sins, Acts 2:38; 3:19; and 4) Because God commands it, Acts 17:30. Without repentance, we will not escape the condemnation our sins bring from God (Rom. 2:3-5).
13 Those who are planted in the house of the Lord shall flourish in the courts of our God. 14 They shall still bear fruit in old age; They shall be fresh and flourishing, 15 To declare that the Lord is upright; He is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in Him. (Psalm 92:13–15, NKJV)
Old age does not prevent bearing fruit for the Lord. When one’s life is rooted in God’s house (a Christian in His church, 1 Tim. 3:15), age does not prevent us from declaring the righteousness of God and the solid foundation of security we have in Him. When age is coupled with faith in the living God we do not lose heart, for “even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day” (2 Cor. 4:16, 17-18). There is much you can do in the kingdom as an elderly Christian. You can pray earnestly and keep your hope firmly fixed on the Lord (Psa. 71:1-14). You can rejoice in God’s salvation and worship God continually (Psa. 71:8, 22-23). Like Simeon and Anna, you can speak God’s truth to others and tell the next generation of God’s strength and mercy (Psa. 71:18-20; Lk. 2:25-32, 36-38). What a marvelous and encouraging influence older Christians have as they faithfully assemble for worship, wisely teach and counsel from God’s word, and live in the hope of eternity! Although our bodies are growing drier and weaker, our faith will be fresh and flourish as we trust the Lord and do His will each day. The legacy you will leave is a life of faith and heavenly treasures in the Lord (Matt. 6:19-21).
15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:15–17, NKJV)
Christ’s warning against false prophets is centered upon their teachings, not the nature of their motives or the sincerity of their personal character. They are false because the fruit they bear is corrupt (false). No false prophet (or false teacher, 2 Peter 2:1) walks around with a signboard that says, “Beware, I am a false prophet.” We know them by the fruit they bear, that is, we know the false prophet (teacher) by what he teaches – that is his fruit. When we “try the spirits” to see whether a teacher is from God, it is the message that we test, not the heart of the one teaching the message (1 John 4:1, 6). We are fruit-testers, not heart-testers. This is what Jesus said in verse 16 of today’s passage (see also, Matthew 7:20). Test what you hear by the word of God. The true teacher of God teaches the true gospel, but the false teacher proclaims and advances error God’s name (2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:2-4). The false prophet (false teacher) speaks from his own heart and not from God’s revelation (Deuteronomy 18:20-22; Ezekiel 13:1-3).
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22–23, NKJV)
Christians are called by the gospel to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25), to be “led by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:18), to “live in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25), and to bear the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23). This is not a mystical, magical, miraculous control of one’s life by the Holy Spirit. It results from the deliberate choice to live under the control of the Spirit of God – to live by faith – by obeying the gospel we have heard from Him (Galatians 2:20; 3:1-2). Note that we are to bear the “fruit” of the Spirit, not the “fruits” of the Spirit. This fruit, while singular, is collective, with each part of the fruit bearing distinct attributes of God. Each part of this fruit must be carefully understood to develop properly. The fruit of the Spirit does not grow accidentally. Is it present in your life? His fruit will only grow and ripen in us with regular watering, nurturing, pruning and shaping of our lives by the Spirit-given word (Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 3:16).
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:5–7, NKJV)
Jesus is the source of all spiritual life. By abiding in Christ, we are a “branch” that bears much fruit. But, we are spiritually barren and dead – lost – when we do not abide in Him. Obviously, Jesus did not teach universal salvation. Verse 6 clearly states the condition upon which one will be cast into the fire and burned; “if anyone does not abide in Me.” Therefore, we must abide in Christ to avoid being lost. What does it mean to abide in Christ? Verse 7 helps our understanding. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you” – one who lives according to the words of Christ is the disciple who abides in Christ (see John 14:21, 23). Christians put the word of Christ into their hearts and by obeying Him, bear much fruit. If you do not follow His word, then you are not a fruitful branch. Your spiritual life depends upon abiding in Christ, the Giver of Life. Without abiding in Christ – following His word – you will be gathered up and burned like a lifeless, barren branch.