The Fruit of the Spirit is Righteousness
(Ephesians 5, Romans 3 & 5, 1 John 2)
Introduction: Each week we have been going through the list of Spirit fruits found in Galatians 5:22. Last week we came to the end of the list in Galatians, so you might be wondering where we found yet another Spirit fruit? We found it on the "light tree!" Ephesians 5:9 says "for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness and truth." In the grocery store, the fad for some time now has been "light" food. This is the food that is supposed to be more healthy for us. Let's jump into our study of the Bible once again to find out what it means to have a "light" spiritual fruit, the fruit called righteousness!
- Finding Righteousness
- Read Romans 3:21-24. How do we become righteous? (It comes from God, it is free, and it requires faith in Jesus.)
- Read Romans 3:25-28. Can we become righteous by obeying the Ten Commandments? (No. If we could keep the law we would have something to boast about. But, righteousness comes from faith - and we cannot boast in the deeds of another (Jesus). This righteousness we are told (twice) is "apart from observing the law.")
- Read Romans 5:17-19. Whose act of obedience is the Bible speaking about? (Jesus' act of obedience.)
- Does this suggest that I need to worry only about Jesus' obedience and not my own?
- If that is true, then righteousness truly is a "light" fruit! What could be easier - let someone else do the heavy lifting!
- Acting the Part
- Read Romans 3:29-31. How does this conclusion (that "we uphold the law") logically follow? If we teach that we cannot become righteous by keeping the law, how does that uphold it? Doesn't that make the law irrelevant?
- It was someone else who took on the challenge of keeping the law and that victory applies to me! This keeping the law stuff is ancient history, right?
- Read Ephesians 5:1-3. Can you be a "holy person" and be greedy, sexually immoral, and impure?
- If you say, "no," then must we get rid of our greed, sexual immorality and impurity to become holy?
- Look again at Ephesians 5:1. What is God telling us when He says to "imitate" Him? (Romans 3 teaches us that we are evil, and our only path to righteousness comes from faith in Jesus. His holy life and death on our behalf, make us holy. However, a holy people are supposed to act like they are holy. Therefore we are called to "imitate" our Holy God.)
- Is an imitation the real thing? (No.)
- So, what does that mean for us? God is the butter and we are the margarine? God is the wood and we are the printed plastic? This does not sound very encouraging, so let's look more deeply into Ephesians 5.
- Read Ephesians 5:3-7. What has happened to my righteousness by faith? How can the same man (Paul) be inspired by the Holy Spirit to write these verses and Romans 3 & 5? (This "imitation" instruction is serious. We have a reputation to live up to. Since Jesus made us holy, we need to act like it. That is why the Ten Commandments are not some ancient, irrelevant text. They are at the heart of our "imitation.")
- Are some Christians deceiving us about the fact that our actions (and the law) do not matter? (Paul warns us in verse 6 about deception on this very point.)
- How would you sum up the lesson to be learned from Romans 3 and Ephesians 5:3-7? (We cannot earn righteousness by obeying the law. Jesus did that for us. But, we can lose our salvation by our evil works.)
- Isn't this just the "backdoor" way of saying that our works earn our salvation? Sort of like your employer saying "Your salary is a free gift as long as you are employed. But, if you don't work, then you are fired." You might reasonably conclude working is important. (Look again at Ephesians 5:5. Paul calls the people who are involved in these evil works "idolaters." This means they rely on something other than Jesus. Our works are an indication of our thought process. Works reflect the decisions of our mind. They reveal whether we have faith in Jesus or not. I think of them like the gas gauge in your car - the gauge does not power the car, but it reveals how much power is available.)
- Light Fruit
- Read Ephesians 5:8-10. Now we come to the light fruit. If someone told you to be "light," what would you do, jump? Move to the moon? Change your name to Edison?
- Does Paul explain what he means by "living as children of light?" (Yes. He tells us that what comes out of light living is "goodness, righteousness and truth.")
- Is this a choice? Or, is this automatic when we become righteous by faith? (Since Paul tells us in Ephesians 5:8 to "live as children of light," this tells us that we have a choice. We need to choose to live right lives.)
- How should we go about making that choice? Tell me how to do this, as a practical matter. (Notice Ephesians 5:10 again: "find out what pleases God." This is an instruction to read our Bibles, find out how God wants us to live, and then live life that way.)
- Read Ephesians 5:11-14. Notice that we have an assignment, as "light fruit," to "expose" the deeds of darkness. Does that mean we should videotape the sin in our community? Should we be in the newspapers identifying sinners?
- What does the Bible mean when it says "it is light that makes everything visible?" (The primary way in which we "expose" the darkness is to be an example of right-living. I don't think we should be shy about calling sin by its right name, but I don't think this is what the Bible is talking about here.)
- In what direction does Ephesians 5:14 say that Jesus will shine His light? (On us! This strengthens the idea that our "light" is about our good deeds - not directly pointing out the bad deeds of others.)
- What is the world's reaction to Christians who are not "light fruit?" (The world holds them (and Christianity) up to ridicule. We are saved by grace alone, but we are in a battle between light and darkness. How we live not only reveals our loyalty to the light side, but it helps the light side to win the battle against darkness.)
- Knowing God
- We have discovered that our right works, our "light," is an attempt to imitate God and is important to the conflict between good and evil. That seems to omit a very important question, what motivates us to do this? Is it the battle? Is it a desire for conformity with our God?
- Read 1 John 2:1-3. What does the Bible suggest as a motive for right-living? (Knowing God. As an aside, it is pretty hard to imitate someone if you do not know them.)
- What is the first thing that the Bible suggests is important about knowing God? (Jesus died for our sins, and is currently defending us in heaven.)
- Read 1 John 2:4-6. How does knowing God motivate you to do what is right, to walk in the light? (God's love for us motivated Him to live and die on our behalf. That gives me joy! My death sentence has been lifted! Knowing that Jesus died to satisfy the requirements of the law, knowing that the light of my life helps to expose the darkness of sin, these things motivate me to obey God. This begins the process in which (verse 5) God's love is made complete in me.)
- Friend, if you choose, you can be saved by grace alone. If you have made that choice, then you have an obligation to act like it. Would you like God's love to be made complete in you? If so, learn about God so that you can know Him. In that wonderful process, you will take your place in the ranks of the "light fruit," those who walk in the light, those who walk in righteousness.
- Next week: The Fruit of the Spirit is Truth.