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

Interestingly, instead of relating “goodness” in Paul’s list as referring to a sort of benevolent human nature, Luther relates it to social matters. Once again the fruit of the Spirit are seen as outward manifestations of a new life. For Luther, “goodness” means to “help others in their necessity by giving, lending, and such other means.”[1] Evangelicalism at large has rejected the tremendous social dimensions of deeds of mercy to the poor and oppressed. Our response to the poor is not one of merit, but it is one that reflects the attitude of our Lord Jesus in the incarnation when He willingly gave up His riches for our misery and utter poverty. In the same manner, we ought to respond to the needy as Christ came for our needs.

Paul concludes with faith, meekness, and temperance. By “faith” he is not referring to faith in Christ, rather as Luther says it refers to “sincerity of one man towards another.” So, he concludes it is when “one man gives credit to one another.”[2] Meekness and temperance follow this faith. Luther summarizes by stating that meekness is when the Christian in his sanctification overcomes the provocation of men. Paul ends his list with “temperance.” Here it is noteworthy that this feature concludes the list. When one lives by the flesh, his sense of moderation is lost. He abuses all things that were meant to bring him pleasure. Instead of faithfulness he is unfaithful; instead of sobriety, he is drunk and so on. Temperance according to Luther is “modesty in the whole life of man.”[3] This is the essence of true spirituality. Our sanctification is marked by the fruit of the Spirit. This is what John Murray has called: “Progressive Sanctification.”[4] It begins at conversion and progresses to the end of our lives or at the coming of our Lord at the Consummation of all things.[5]

Brief Analysis of Luther and our Sanctification

Luther does not understand the fruit of the Spirit as mere individual expressions. He sees them always in relation to other believers. So in the same manner it is right to underscore this pertinent concern in Luther. We are sanctified and being sanctified by the work of the Spirit. This present work is a life-long process that requires a determined commitment to submit before the authority of Christ and live by His holy precepts. As the Psalmist so gladly remarks, “Happy is the man who does not walk in the council of the ungodly; but his delight is in the law of the Lord and in His law he meditates day and night (Psalm 1:1).” He who loves the church of Christ will also love Christ’s people and by constant reminder of God’s grace in their lives will manifest the grandeur of the fruit of Spirit. Soli Deo Gloria


[1] Luther, 380.

[2] Ibid., 380.[3] Ibid. 380.

[4] Murray, John, Redemption-Accomplished and Applied, (Grand Rapids, MI, 1955).

[5] Philippians 1:6.

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About Uri Brito

I am the Pastor of Providence Church (CREC) in Pensacola, Fl.
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