Goodness as a Fruit – Reclaiming Quality Christianity9 min read
Underlying the word good in the New Testament are two Greek words, agathos and kalos, the former of which is used in Galatians 5, which we are considering presently. Both are general words that describe something of desirable quality. One has said that agathos envisions something to be good in terms of its results, while kalos names the sort of good that is immediately recognizable. While this may be true in some cases, these connotations can interchange. Thus for a general consideration of the topic, we will consider both regardless of fine distinctions.
The First Mention of Good
In our case the first mention of “good” is important, for it supplies us a few basic assumptions needed to apply the principles of Scripture. Can you guess where it is found? Genesis 1:4 – “And God saw the light, that it was good, and God separated the light from the darkness.” It actually teaches us a few things that can be fittingly applied to our Christian understanding and walk.
- That which flows from God’s hand is good by nature. It is interesting that we don’t have to look very far in Scripture before we see a commendation of God’s glory and character in Creation; and His glory is in His goodness. Where He moves to glorify Himself is where we will see His goodness, and this will result from His workings. Has He not created something new in your life which he declares to be good, since it reflects His Son? Is He not working in you to will and to do of His good pleasure? Truly it is ours to say “All things work together for good… to those who are called according to His purpose.” And even in daily life with our blessings, we can be ready to exclaim “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.”
- That which is good must be distinguished from that which lacks goodness. From the very beginning God has set forth the principle that the good (represented by light) must be separated from the bad (represented by the darkness). This is the very theme of holiness – the state of being set apart. This is the meaning of being saints – a set apart people. The conclusion we derive from this is that goodness is distinct. It isn’t just what pleases someone: it has characteristics which have parameters and limits, which must be defined.
- Good is something which God’s eyes must determine. No one else at this time was present, except angels perhaps. Whatever the case, God is speaking by Himself. There is no authority to answer to. There is no one with any standing to question His authority. Because of His nature and self-oriented standard, He defined what was good, and it competed with no other definition. When God spoke it was as if He said “It is good. Period.” So then, when we have God’s Word speak to us, we need no second authority. We need to opinion with which we can weigh our options. God has spoken: will we listen? He has defined the standard of our walk: will we obey?
- Good is something which allows God’s creation to thrive. Think about the nature of light and what purpose it serves. Without light there could be no life. There could also be no knowledge, because there would be no way to take words or observations in since no means of seeing would exist. Every purpose and plan revolves around simple light switches and our sunrise-sunset schedule. So then, in one sense the light is good because of what it provides (defined by its results). But in another sense, it accomplishes what it does by the very fact that it is good (defined by its nature). Whatever sense we see this word in, we can conclude that it is profitable in itself. Going back to our subject of goodness as a spiritual fruit, it must be indispensable, for it represents an increase in our spiritual growth to extents we perhaps never could have imagined. It represents progress. It represents profitability. It represents evidence that we have life at all!
It is in light of these things that we must apply the different aspects of “goodness.” This then begs the question as to what constitutes “goodness” in the believer’s life. Generally in Scripture there can be two or more senses to a word or concept. For instance, with salvation, there can be salvation from sin’s penalty, salvation from sin’s power, and salvation from sin’s presence. With our case we can notice goodness as a quality, goodness as a moral feature, and goodness as an action.
Observation 1: Goodness is a Quality
Goodness is seen obviously as a quality of a thing, especially after what we have looked at in Genesis 1 and the Creation. The things God declared to be good were intrinsically good, meaning it was their nature to impart blessing unto their receivers. They had a certain quality to them which was naturally known. In our world today much money is spent on items that claim to have quality. If a cereal box doesn’t have a label pointing out the extra fibre which the brand contains, then people are less inclined to buy it. The problem is that most people know it is only advertising, not a genuine effort for real quality – only an appearance of quality. Now we are faced with the spiritual fruit of goodness in our own lives: “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” This seems to denote a special quality which the Spirit works within us, a certain sincerity that surrounds our vocation as believers. So then the question is this: what kind of Christianity do we subscribe to? What kind of quality does the onlooking world see in our profession? Is it a surface quality that is as if we only care for appearances and not lasting fruit? Or does our demeanor, care in speech, and effort in service reflect something of actual appreciation for Christ? The Spirit of God wishes to develop fruit in our lives, and the type of fruit He produces will not be mediocre. Oh thank God that His effort in our lives is great! And if His effort is great, He will be satisfied with no less than deep-rooted faith being developed in our hearts – the center of our real being. Let us then be quality Christians! Let’s have the real thing!
Observation 2: Goodness is a Moral Feature
Was this not the idea behind God’s revelation to Moses in Exodus 33 and 34? He could say “I will make all my goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the LORD before thee; and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will shew mercy on whom I will shew mercy. Thou canst not see my face: for there shall no man see me, and live.” Exodus could further record “And the LORD descended in the cloud, and stood with him there, and proclaimed the name of the LORD. And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth…”
These verses provide to us a very important aspect of goodness which most people in the religious and secular world do not think about. This is the aspect that says goodness is the expression of God holiness and Person. It is always consistent with truth. While it is associated with mercy and grace and longsuffering, it is actually the practical outworking of God’s very character. When it comes to our lives, the goal of each one should be godliness, that is, God-like-ness. This adds an entirely new dimension to “good works,” doesn’t it? It goes way beyond ritualistic accomplishments. It goes to greater heights than simple Christian practice, or at least what society makes it out to be. In reality it is not our standard at all. It is not even the standard of a rule book: it is the standard of God’s own Person. Our obligation is moral completeness. Of course we can’t obtain it, but our goal is toward it. True spiritual fruit will reflect that aim. True spiritual fruit will tell people “We have seen the Lord!” that it might be said “they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Is such a standard evident in your life?
Observation 3: Goodness is an Active Expression of Spiritual Realities
This is the aspect of goodness that most people imagine it to be. While the motive of most will be skewed in doing good works, the principle remains that God demands a Christianity that works, a Christianity that goes beyond claims into reality, a Christianity that goes beyond words to deeds, a Christianity that loves the truth and thus practices truth. “Jethro rejoiced for all the goodness which the LORD had done to Israel.” Was this not James’ point when he said “shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works”? Would Abraham have really been the father of faith if he didn’t trust God enough to sacrifice Isaac? Of course not. True belief is not a claim of faith. It is an outworking of faith.
Goodness, then, is active. After all, where would we be if “God so loved the world” and ended with that. No cross? No salvation? How could that be true love? Likewise how can we truly claim to have the mind of service without the humility of it? And how can we claim spiritual progress without spiritual production? Where’s the proof? This is what true Christianity calls for. In a day where any and all judgment is condemned – which is actually judging about judging (it’s kind of hypocritical) – we have been brainwashed by the masses that Christianity does not need fruit. We have subscribed to the type of Christianity that says “I have faith. Therefore believe me that I am a Christian.” Really? If that is the case, apparently James himself was legalistic in saying “Show me thy faith by thy works.” Apparently the Lord was legalistic when he said “By their fruits ye shall know them.” Were they? We know in our hearts that the answer is no. So are we really called to a Christianity with results? Apparently so. The question is, will we see those results in our lives?
Such considerations cause us to feel a burden for proper Christian testimony. We should be concerned with the kind of quality that onlookers see when they observe our steps. Are we pleasurable to be around in general demeanor? Are we ready to help when everyone else is too busy? Are we seen to take seriously our call to holiness, since it is indeed the character of God Himself? Let nominal Christianity be done away with. Let us say of the faith “This is what I am; this is what I do. Christ is my life!” This is not pointless piety. It is reclaiming quality Christianity.