An Analysis of Luther’s Understanding of the Fruit of the Spirit and Its Implications for our Sanctification Part I

Professor Sinclair Ferguson has said that “All the energy of the Trinity for our salvation has been focused on transforming us into Christ-likeness.”[1] Christ-likeness is our greatest goal in this present existence. Far from the existentialist who desires to live for the now, Christian religion is best understood when past, present, and future are joined in their pursuit of the one aim, being like our Lord. In the Scriptures we find a host of passages that seek to give guidance to the Christian in his pursuit of Christ-likeness (see Matthew 5-7, I Corinthians 13, etc.). Nevertheless, no one passage so clearly defines for us what Christ-likeness looks like than Paul’s description in Galatians 5:22-23.

Paul has already dealt with the barbaric nature of fleshly pursuit and he now finds it significant to contrast the life of “flesh” with the life of the “Spirit.” It is in this section where the German Reformer Martin Luther is very helpful in deciphering and enabling the reader to grasp such profound descriptions.[2] This portion of Scripture is commonly known as the “Fruit of the Spirit.” Here “fruit” is singular because it represents a unit, not a variety of manifestations at different times. Paul here advocates that when the Spirit grants new life to the unbeliever, he (the new believer) receives the fruit of the Spirit. These nine fruits serve as a profound demonstration that God has in mercy granted the sinner a new life in which the fruit are its proof. Luther in contrasting the fruit of the Spirit with the “fruit” of the flesh says that the fruit of the Spirit are “excellent fruits…for they that have them give glory to God and with the same do allure and provoke others to embrace the doctrine and faith of Christ.”[3]

[1] Professor Sinclair Ferguson’s lectures on Sanctification; also see his book The Christian Life.

[2] For further reference also see Video Series entitled: Developing Christian Character by R.C. Sproul.

[3] Luther’s Commentary on Galatians, Modern English Edition. Published by Fleming H. Revell; A division of Baker Book House Co. Grand Rapids, MI, 1988), p.378.

About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
This entry was posted in Christian Living, Luther/Lutheranism, Reformed Theology. Bookmark the permalink.

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