It is at this point that we find the next three ‘fruits’ primarily centred in the direction of our fellow men. This particular fruit of the Spirit carries the thought of being long-patient, using restraint in the light of circumstances, having forbearance or fortitude as an end product or result in view. Paul reminds us that ‘charity [love] suffereth long’. O, how this is so closely linked with the divine character that scripture speaks of, the longsuffering, patience of God. His love was so severely tried, whether we view it in the Old Testament or in the New.
Examples abound in the Old Testament where the expression ‘slow to anger’ is found, and of those who knew through personal experience to call upon the Lord at such times.1 Peter also speaks of the longsuffering of God, and in the days of Noah.2 In the New Testament we can certainly think of our blessed Lord as He spoke of Jerusalem with a tenderness that only He knew, ‘O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them which are sent unto thee, how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not!’ Matt. 23. 37.
The exhortation is of import to all who read the word of God and recognize the dealings of God in their lives. Although primarily to the Jew, the principle is the same to all: ‘Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance?’ Rom. 2. 4.
In light of the grace of God and the salvation that we have and enjoy, we, as believers, are to show a pattern of longsuffering to those whom we are seeking to reach with the glorious gospel of Christ, 1 Tim. 1. 16. We are to be an example to our brethren and sisters in Christ, particularly younger ones, 2 Tim. 3. 10. Those who are elders and those who teach the word of God as sound doctrine are exhorted to do so with all longsuffering in order that there be no departure from it, 4. 2.
Therefore, let us endeavour to exercise this fruit that we might be found of Him in peace, without spot and blameless, 2 Pet. 3. 14-15.
In each of the ten occasions this word is used in scripture, its import is good (once), goodness (five times), or kindness (four times); it also implies ‘kind’, ‘gracious’, and ‘better’. It is mildness of temper, calmness of spirit, an unruffled disposition, and a disposition to treat all with a gentle kindness.
We should not forget that it was through that same gentle kindness that God our Saviour moved towards us in salvation, Titus 3. 4, which was shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour, v. 6.
Once again, this trait of character is to be developed in us as something we put on, Col. 3. 12, as we seek to reach our fellow men, and in our dealings with one another. As Peter says in his Epistle, ‘If so be ye have tasted that the Lord is gracious’, 1 Pet. 2. 3.
David knew of this fruit from personal experience in the Lord’s dealings with him. ‘Thou hast also given me the shield of thy salvation: and thy right hand hath holden me up, and thy gentleness hath made me great’, 2 Sam. 22. 36; Ps. 18. 35. As we seek to reach our fellow men for Christ, may we emulate Him, ‘But love ye your enemies, and do good, and lend, hoping for nothing again; and your reward shall be great, and ye shall be the children of the Highest: for he is kind unto the unthankful and to the evil’, Luke 6. 35. In this way we can help them to understand that God is working in their lives, not only because He loves them but that His kindness might lead them to repentance, Rom. 2. 4. So often Christians are unkind and unforgiving to one another, and the exhortation of scripture is placed to one side, ‘And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ’s sake hath forgiven you’, Eph. 4. 32. May we, as His children, never forget that God will show us, throughout eternity, that kindness that we do not deserve, ‘That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace, in his kindness toward us, through Christ Jesus’, 2. 7.
The word is found four times in our New Testament. Its meaning is that which is of benefit to others, thus giving the intention of a disposition to do good to others. In other words, a Christian must be a good man or woman.
One thing that is emphasized in the word of God is that there is nothing good in us, forasmuch as ‘all our righteousnesses are as filthy rags in His sight’, Isa. 64. 6, and that we are not saved by good works, Eph. 2. 8-9. However, once we are saved, Paul states, ‘For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them’, 2. 10. There are many scriptures which the Saviour taught to emphasize that new life gives evidence of that which is good, even the relationship with the Father.3 It is that character that shows goodness and kindness toward our brethren and sisters and to the world around us. It is this that Paul referred to as he wrote to the saints in Rome, ‘And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another’, Rom. 15. 14.
We are exhorted to prove the reality of our surrender to Christ, in order that experimentally we would be found to be doing the ‘will of God’ from the heart, 12. 1-2.4
We now come to the last three, which are of concern to ourselves – self-ward – and the first of these is:
Faith is taking a person at their word. The pathway of faith began when we repented and trusted in the Lord Jesus Christ for salvation. That is, we took God at His word, we applied faith; as the scripture says, ‘So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God’, Rom. 10. 17. Then, as we began that step of faith and read His word, faith was deepened, and we began to know more of Him and His ways. But faith is a continuous journey, ‘For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, the just shall live by faith’, 1. 17. Indeed, experiences come into our lives, even unpleasant ones, in order that God may refine our character, and deepen our appreciation of His working in us, ‘That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honour and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ’, 1 Pet. 1. 7. God has His own glory and that of His own Son in view. God has willed it that we should be like His Son, ‘For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son’, Rom. 8. 29. How little we appreciate the wonder of it all! How marvellous that God would ever take worthless sinners and make us like unto His own Son!
To the world, meekness is often seen as weakness! Sadly, they don’t know what it really means. Meekness is a surrender of our rights in the face of provocation, for God is the One who judges righteously. Thus, there is only One, our Lord Jesus Christ, who could say of Himself that He was meek, ‘Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart’, Matt. 11. 29. However, there are others who are identified as having this calm and meek spirit:
a) Abraham – Gen. 14. 22 – 15. 1;16. 5, 6.
b) Moses – Num. 12. 3.
c) David – 2 Sam. 16. 10-12.
They each show a calm temper of mind, not easily provoked, Jas. 3. 13, gentleness linked with humility.
This virtue is to be evidenced in each of our lives, particularly in our dealings with other saints, Col. 3. 12. Paul mentions it where those who are spiritual seek to restore one who has been overtaken in some fault, Gal. 6. 1. Equally, Paul exemplified it, 2 Cor. 10. 1. But, this does not exclude our attitude or dealings with men and women in the world, Titus 3. 2. We are not to be angry with those who are ignorant of the truth, but, in meekness, seek to instruct them in the hope they will come to the acknowledgement of it, 2 Tim. 2. 25.
This word means self-control – the virtue of one who masters his desires and passions. Self-control is one of the hardest traits of character to develop and, sadly, one that in times of deep stress or illness is the first to be let go. At such times we often wish we could turn the clock back and retrace our steps when we have caused pain and sadness in the hearts of others because of a momentary loss of control of our tongues or actions. How often the problem is that we speak before we think. How appropriate the words of the psalmist, ‘I will take heed to my ways, that I sin not with my tongue: I will keep my mouth with a bridle, while the wicked is before me’, Ps. 39. 1.
This fruit of the Spirit is one of the things that overseers should possess. Sometimes they find themselves under attack, not from the world, nor by the devil, but by those whom they are seeking to shepherd. But, for all of us, our manner of life should be ‘walking not after the flesh, but after the spirit’, Rom. 8. 1, 4. We must mortify the deeds of the body, and walk in newness of life.
The possession of these virtues gives evidence of the work of the Spirit of God in the lives of every believer, as Peter exhorts in his Epistle, ‘And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; and to knowledge, temperance; and to temperance, patience; and to patience, godliness; and to godliness, brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness, charity. For if these things be in you, and abound, they make you that ye shall neither be barren nor unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ’, 2 Pet. 1. 5-8. Therefore, let us seek to give ourselves in surrender to the development of the same that we might ‘show forth the virtues of him who hath called us into his most glorious light’.
For example: (1) The remnant of Nehemiah and Ezra in their prayer, Neh. 9. 17; (2) The psalmist, Pss. 103. 8; 145. 8; (3) Joel’s cry to the nation, Joel 2. 13; (4) Jonah, at the repentance of Nineveh, Jonah 4. 2; (5) Nahum as he speaks of the character of God, Nahum 1. 3.
1 Pet. 3. 20; 2 Pet. 3. 9.
See Matt. 5. 45; 7. 17-18; 12. 35.
There are many examples given to us in the scriptures of those who manifested this fruit in their lives: e.g., Tabitha, Acts 9. 36; Barnabas, 11. 24, and Priscilla and Aquila, Rom. 16. 3-4.