Galatians 5:22 (Goodness)

Sermon preached on June 18, 2000 by Laurence W. Veinott. © Copyright 2000. All rights reserved. Other sermons can be found at

Unless otherwise noted, quotations are from The Holy Bible: New International Version (NIV). Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House.

I used to be in the habit of answering the question, "Larry, how are you?" with, "I'm good." To me it was just another way of saying, "I'm fine. I'm feeling okay." When I went to Scotland for my last year of seminary I didn't realize that they don't say that over there. One day one of the other students said to me,

"Larry, I never met anyone as good as you."

Unfortunately I knew that he was making some kind of joke. I said, "What do you mean?" He said something to the effect,

"Well, every time I ask you how you are, you tell me that you're good. You're amazing because you're always good. I'm not always good. Sometimes I do bad things or have bad thoughts. But you're always good."

Over there, they don't say, "I'm good," when you ask them how they are. I guess they must say, "I'm fine," or something like that. The word 'good' to them has ethical connotations. So when I said to him, "I'm good." it sounded to him that I was making a statement about my character and my conduct.

The word 'goodness' does have those connotations. It's that way with the word in our text. We read,

"But the fruit of the Spirit is
love, joy, peace,
patience, kindness, goodness…”

The fruit of the Spirit is 'goodness'.

Now what we see here is that

goodness is to characterize your life.

You are to be full of goodness. If you belong to Christ the Spirit will be working goodness in you. The fruit of the Spirit is 'goodness'.

Now this idea of goodness has both inner and outer aspects to it. The Greek word that Paul uses here has a range of meanings. It is very often used to mean '
goodness', 'uprightness'. It refers to 'moral goodness', to being 'full of virtue'. William Hendriksen refers to this goodness as,

"Spirit-created moral and spiritual excellence of every description."

Thus in refers to an 'inner quality of goodness'.

But sometimes it is used to denote the actions that this goodness produces. The inner goodness produces works of 'goodness' or '
kindness'. It sometimes refers to the 'generosity' that the inner goodness produces. John Murray summarizes what goodness is. He writes,

"Goodness is that virtue opposed to all that is mean and evil and includes uprightness, kindness, and beneficence of heart and life."

It is an inner virtue that expresses itself in acts of goodness.

Now this is important because it goes right to the heart of what it means to be a Christian.

You see, you don't become a Christian from the outside in. You don't become a Christian by starting to do good works. You don't become a Christian by starting to reform your life. Christianity doesn't just change you superficially. Let me illustrate.

Yesterday as we began the hike I told the children a bear story. It's the one where a bear is chasing a man and every time the man looks back the bear is getting closer. Finally, in desperation, the man prays to God and says, "Lord, please make this bear a Christian bear." Just then the bear catches him and knocks him to the ground. But then the bear stops. The bear then slowly gets to his knees and says, "Lord, I thank you for this food of which I am about to partake."

Obviously the bear's nature was not changed. Just a few superficial things were changed.

But Christianity is not like that. It goes right to our heart. Christianity starts by being born from above. Christianity starts with God giving you a new heart. You'll remember Jesus' words to
Nicodemus in John 3:3. He said,

"I tell you the truth,
no one can see the kingdom of God
unless he is born again."

That phrase 'born again' could also be translated, 'born from above'. God talked about the process in Ezekiel 36:24f. God told the Israelites that in the future he would gather them from all the countries and bring them back to their own land. He said,

"I will sprinkle clean water on you,
and you will be clean;
I will cleanse you from all your impurities
and from all your idols.
I will give you a new heart
and put a new spirit in you;
I will remove from you your heart of stone
and give you a heart of flesh.
And I will put my Spirit in you
and move you to follow my decrees
and be careful to keep my laws."

What is being a Christian all about? It's about being born from above, it's about God making us new. We see this as well in 2 Corinthians 5:17 where we read,

"Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,
he is a new creation;
the old has gone, the new has come!"

So if anyone is wondering about how to become a Christian, know assuredly that

You need to look outside yourself. You need to look to Jesus. You need to ask Him to save you. You need Him to give you a new heart. You need Him to give you a new life.

If you do, all at once their sins, past, present, and future are all forgiven. The perfect righteousness of Jesus in imputed to them. In a word, we are 'justified'. We read about this in 2 Corinthians 5:21.

"God made him who had no sin
to be sin for us, so that in him
we might become the righteousness of God."

Now that refers to our justification. Our sins were reckoned to Christ and the absolute and spotless perfection of His righteousness is reckoned to us. (Hughes) In Christ we are perfectly righteous so that Paul can say in Romans 8:1f,

"Therefore, there is now no condemnation
for those who are in Christ Jesus,
because through Christ Jesus
the law of the Spirit of life set me free
from the law of sin and death.
For what the law was powerless to do
in that it was weakened by the sinful nature,
God did by sending his own Son
in the likeness of sinful man to be a sin offering.
And so he condemned sin in sinful man,
in order that the righteous requirements
of the law might be fully met in usÖ"

That's all about our justification. But our justification has great implications for how we are to live. We have to become what we are. Paul continues,

"And so he condemned sin in sinful man,
in order that the righteous requirements
of the law might be fully met in us
who do not live according to the sinful nature
but according to the Spirit

We have been given the Spirit. The Spirit is in us to transform us and to ultimately bring our subjective state into conformity to our objective standing of complete righteousness. One day there will be a congruence of the two. As Philip Hughes says,

"Justification, indeed, does not preclude sanctification, whereby the believer increasingly becomes that which judicially he already is; on the contrary, justification presupposes sanctification…”

Anyone who has believed in Christ is a new creation. Philip Hughes tells us that a Christian is,

"reborn microcosm belonging to the eschatological macrocosm of the new heavens and a new earth—for whom the old order of things has given place to a transcendental experience in which everything is new."

A Christians is one, who, according to the apostle Paul, who has been taught, (Ephesians 4:22f)

"with regard to your former way of life,
to put off your old self,
which is being corrupted
by its deceitful desires;
to be made new in the attitude of your minds;
and to put on the new self,
created to be like God
in true righteousness and holiness."

Robert Haldane writes,

"As we ought continually and prominently to maintain that there is naturally nothing good in men, we ought likewise to give equal prominence to the fact that all believers, being born of God and made new creatures, work the works of God, and in their minds possess those dispositions which are produced by the Spirit through the truth. In our flesh there is nothing good; but from the work of the Spirit on our hearts we may be full of goodness."

Thus we see that this 'goodness' that is the fruit of the Spirit is the result of the Spirit working in us, conforming us to the glorious image of Christ. It's part of our sanctification. The Spirit does not work superficially on you. He does not just change you on the outside so that your outward behavior is different. Quite the contrary, His working is deep and powerful. His working in you is a working that renovates, that transforms. He is making us good. He is making us upright. He is making us to be full of virtue. He is making us to be opposed to all that is evil. He is making us more like Christ.

The second thing I want you to see about this goodness is that

it is something that we Christians need to cultivate.

God is working in you but you need to cooperate with God. In Philippians 2:12-13 the apostle Paul urged the Philippian Christians to,

"continue to work out your salvation
with fear and trembling,
for it is God who works in you
to will and to act according
to his good purpose."

You need to use the means of grace. Verses 25 and 26 of Galatians 5 read,

"Since we live by the Spirit,
let us keep in step with the Spirit.
Let us not become conceited,
provoking and envying each other."

How do you cultivate goodness?

Paul tells us in Galatians 6:7f. We need to sow in the Spirit. Paul writes,

"Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked.
A man reaps what he sows.
The one who sows to please his sinful nature,
from that nature will reap destruction;
the one who sows to please the Spirit,
from the Spirit will reap eternal life."

John Stott tells the story he read of a visitor to the mountains of California. The man in the story met an old mountaineer, whose two dogs were continuously fighting. The visitor asked him which dog usually won. The mountaineer chewed his tobacco for awhile in silence, and then replied,

"The one I feeds the most."

It's true. Whatever you feed the most will become stronger. It will become more powerful.

Do you cultivate goodness like you should? What do you let influence you? Do you evaluate things on the basis of whether they will help you to become a better Christian, on whether they will help you to become more 'good'. In 1 Corinthians 6:12 Paul wrote,

"Everything is permissible for me
—but not everything is beneficial."

In the same way, many things in this world, in the media, in entertainment, on television, in movies will not contribute to this quality of 'goodness' in you. You need to cultivate the things that will.

Each one of us needs to cultivate goodness. We need to do what the Holy Spirit urges us to do in
Philippians 4:8,

"Finally, brothers, whatever is true,
whatever is noble, whatever is right,
whatever is pure, whatever is lovely,
whatever is admirable
—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy
—think about such things."

Cultivate the things of the Spirit. Mediate on them. And then, put them into practice. Paul continues, (verse 9)

"Whatever you have learned
or received or heard from me,
or seen in me —put it into practice."

Christians, don't underestimate the power of evil. Evil is corrupting. It can stay with you. We need to stay away from it.

Let me illustrate. I heard an
off color joke over thirty years ago that I can't forget. I heard it during my lunch break when I was working summers as a longshoreman. They had hired a bunch of us young guys this summer and as we were in the lunch room on of the guys fathers started to tell a story. I had no idea it was going to be a bad story. I had never heard an adult tell a bad story. He told this story and the story had a twist to it so that it went from being just a little evil to being really evil. That story has stayed with me and about once every year or two something will remind me of that story and it will come to my mind. I think it's because of the twist in it. I wish I could forget that story. I wish it could be erased from my mind. Now I'm not meaning to suggest that that joke has ruined my life or anything like that. It hasn't. But many moments of my life would have been better if I'd never heard that joke.

So Christians, cultivate what is good. Think of things that are good.
Romans 12:9 reads,

"Hate what is evil; cling to what is good."

Use the means of grace. As Ephesians 5:8f says,

"For you were once darkness,
but now you are light in the Lord.
Live as children of light
(for the fruit of the light
consists in all goodness,
righteousness and truth)
and find out what pleases the Lord.
Have nothing to do
with the fruitless deeds of darkness,
but rather expose them.
For it is shameful even to mention
what the disobedient do in secret."

We need to use the means of grace and thus grow in grace, in righteousness, in holiness, in goodness.

Thirdly, Christians, don’t let anything change this goodness in you.

We are confronted with much evil in this world. Some of the evil is designed (by Satan) to turn you from being good. It's designed to turn you from God, to get you to stop walking with Him, to get you to stop being like Him. The powers of darkness don't want you to be like Christ. They don't want you to be good.

What I would urge you to do is keep your goodness in all situations.
Romans 12:21 reads,

"Do not be overcome by evil,
but overcome evil with good."

Overcome evil with good. That's what Jesus did. When they were nailing him to the cross, Jesus said, (Luke 23:34)

"Father, forgive them, for they do not know
what they are doing."

When Stephen was being stoned to death, he said, (Acts 7:60)

"Lord, do not hold this sin against them."

We are called to do the same- to overcome evil with good. Bless people when they curse you, do good to them when they despitefully use you, pray for them when they abuse you. If we do that we will be sons of our Father in heaven. Always do good, always be good. That's what we are called to.