By default, all humans are of the flesh. All humans are therefore caught up in the works of the flesh, whether they like it or not. For extrication from this reality, Jesus prescribed a radical transformation: “Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it”(Matthew 10:39) (ESV).
The works of the flesh produce fruits. But those fruits have got nothing to do with God’s Kingdom and eternal life. Probably, Romans 6:23 puts it aptly, for those desiring God’s Kingdom? “For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (ESV).
Sadly, it is only the works that produce the undesirable wages. Paul says those wages produce death. The definition of Sin is simply missing the mark. Humanity has missed the mark since the time of Adam. All our activities in this life can never bring the deserved eternal life.
One of the reasons that the Jews killed Jesus is assuming that works are necessary to access eternal life. But, as Paul shows, works produce wages, which, ultimately, produce death. Elsewhere, Paul says, all have sinned and come short of the glory of God (Romans 3:23).
The latter part of Romans 6:23 states something that has got nothing to do with works, yet with positive outcome: “….but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord” (ESV).
In the works there is expectation of wages, but those wages result in death. Indeed, in this life there is sorrow. Hard working is characterized with ordinary human toil. But, regardless of how hard-working one can be found to be, Paul says the only wages that one will eventually reap at the end is death.
However, what may escape most people is the aspect of “free gift,” with the package of eternal life. Now, if eternal life is a free gift the most poignant question is: Why are ordinary people appearing as not interested in it? Indeed, where there is confusion there is misunderstanding.
Where there is misunderstanding, there is need for indulgent analytical study, with careful observation. All problems, as known to exist emanate from inability to engage in such study. People just take things for granted, possibly, due to the environment and tradition? See [Observation is key to avoiding catastrophe].
Only in sin do we find works. In Jesus we find the gift of eternal life; whose package includes rest to our burdened souls: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest”(Matthew 11:28) (ESV). There cannot be any more important occupation in this life, than engaging in activities that remove confusion in Christianity.
There are Christian leaders whose preaching insists that it is not possible to attain salvation without doing anything. Such people are zealous for God’s Kingdom, but their problem lies in inability to understand.
The starting point is in appreciating that eternal life is attainable only through Jesus. If salvation is attainable only through Jesus, why do most people avoid Him, including everything that He taught?
Where there are works, there are wages to be expected and such wages cannot be mistaken for anything else other than death. This is just as all die in this life. Generally, works are regarded as an acceptable chore.
Obviously, everyone is at home with those advocating for hard work, as ensconced in humanity since Adam. Hard work is a principle that, even my writings in this blog, could be mistakenly attributed to hard work?
However, in all His teachings, Jesus talked about God’s Kingdom, into which all are invited. The only condition for those desiring to take advantage of that invitation is discarding everything considered to be of value in this life (Luke 14:25-33).
While some Christians preach that a Christian needs to work hard to acquire eternal life, Jesus advocated the opposite. The person has to renounce everything, ever considered to be of value. What Jesus advocated is synonymous with death, being the reason for His statement in Matthew 10:39.
The free gift is unconditional; therefore, requiring the person to discard works, that Jesus, the only way, the truth and the life, says produces wages of death. The biggest challenge remains in that ordinary people cannot believe that something as precious as eternal life can just be received for free?
But the most significant distinction to take note of is that the fruit of the Spirit is not identifiable with the flesh, whose works produce the wages of death. Such works are well documented in Galatians 5:19-21. The works produce wages or remuneration, as the saying goes: “You reap what you saw.”
The most sobering anecdote, as appearing not to be noticeable to most Christians is the last part of verse 21“…..I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God” (ESV).
For instance, there is no way a person can be jealous of another person’s achievements, without commitment to physical works. There is no way a person can engage in drunkenness or drug abuse, without stressful concerns, associated with works, in this life. Of course, life is considered stressful, as even leading to suicidal tendencies for most people.
The free gift of Jesus does not require works, but it is a gift, freely given; but with the package of the Spirit that bears fruit: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law”(Galatians 5:22-23) (ESV).
The fruit of the Spirit is synonymous with Christ. All Christians, in whom Christ dwells, ought to display the attributes of the fruit of the Spirit. But love cannot be applicable without joy. Love is also not applicable without peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
With the fruit of the Spirit, one can produce good results, but not the wages of works, necessarily. That fruit is as natural as all the nine components of the fruit cannot be produced by works. The quality of the attribute of the fruit of the Spirit is in Jesus, who declares to be the way, the truth and the life.
Perhaps, the most appropriate illustrative analysis can be in the parable of the Wedding Feast? (Matthew 22:1-14). The invitation is unconditional, and there is no expectation of doing anything, for the invitees, except enjoying the feast. Among the invitees, no-one is expected to bring along his/her own baggage. The host is the one in charge of everything.
“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth;’ For many are called but few are chosen (Matthew 22:11-14).
The interesting question is: Where did the friend, found without a wedding garment, get his garment from? The rest of the invitees were wearing the wedding garment, provided by the Master. But, from where did the disqualified man get his?
“Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure—for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints” (Revelations 19:7-8) (ESV).
Ahha!! The fine linen, bright and pure is the righteousness of the saints, which is the garment referred to by Jesus? But, still, what does the text mean by the righteousness of the Saints? This question is important, lest we be found wearing the wrong garment. Also, from where can the righteousness of the saints be found?
“For what does the Scripture say? ‘Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.’ Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: ‘Blessed are those whose lawless deeds are forgiven, and whose sins are covered; blessed is the man against whom the Lord will not count his sin’” (Romans 4:3-8) (ESV).
Obviously, this sounds unpalatable to the advocates of works and Law? How can God justify the ungodly? Nevertheless, blessed are those not disturbed by what Paul says in this passage? Such people can only be those, already, freed from the conundrums of the sins of this life.
Many Christians have maintained standards that they believe justify them to be in God’s Kingdom. But those standards could be a garment that will eventually incur the undesirable gnashing of teeth upon them? See [Unpacking the myth about Law and Grace]
Nothing is confusing, just as we can notice from the beginning of this article that the difference between what is given for free and that which is attained by works is as life and death are different. But what does it mean to believe in Jesus? Please see [Believing in Jesus is different from having faith in Jesus].
The burdens of this life maintain that you cannot survive without hard work. But Jesus declares: “bring all your burdens to me and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28). So, here is the irony; in Jesus there is rest, instead of hard work, and in that rest there is the package of eternal life?
Let us now take a bit of time to analyze Galatians 5:22:“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law” (ESV).
No-one can practice those nine attributes of the Spirit, mechanically. Those attributes naturally flow, with the Spirit. Probably, what can be regarded as the most important realization in this life is that in Christ we have freedom.
A simple test can be applied on any heroic individual known to have practiced altruism. As long as that person practices altruism, without ulterior motive, all the nine attributes, comprising the components of the fruit of the Spirit can easily be observable in that individual.
To me, the man that easily comes to mind is Nelson Mandela. However, I am aware that some people may have viewed Nelson Mandela, as not having exhibited all of the nine attributes of the fruit of the Spirit. But certainly he displayed some of them. In my view, Nelson Mandela did not die a bitter man.
He was treated badly in South African prisons, but he did not die a bitter man having facilitated the eradication of apartheid in South Africa. Could it have been possible for Nelson Mandela to achieve the globally acclaimed legacy, without any, or all of the nine components of the fruit of the Spirit? See [The flames that give whites undeserved supremacy].
I suppose some people may have to forgive me for being one of the admirers of Nelson Mandela. I am aware that there are various other notable achievers in this life, who can be evaluated according to how they display the fruit of the Spirit.
The works of the flesh occupy individuals with concern for survival, thereby, leaving them unable to escape the effects of Galatians 5:19-21. In short, all concerns for physical survival, leave any person ensconced in self-centredness and, therefore, unable to exercise altruism.
Generally, it cannot be possible to observe “Love” where there is self-centredness. It can also not be possible to observe “Peace” where there is self-centredness. How about “Patience” where there is self-centredness? Let alone the other components of the fruit of the Spirit.
Nevertheless, this revelation should serve to buttress the truth in that altruism, as contrasted with self-centredness, aligns with what produces the fruit of the Spirit. There is no justification for a person who doesn’t practice altruism, to identify him/herself as a Christian, regardless of the concerted assertive claim.
Andrew Masuku is the author of Dimensions of a New Civilization, laying down standards for uplifting Zimbabwe from current state of economic depression into a model for other nations worldwide. A decaying tree provides an opportunity for a blossoming sprout. Written from a Christian perspective, the book is a product of inspiration, bringing reliefs to those having witnessed strings of unworkable solutions––leading to the current economic and social decay. In a simple conversational tone, most Zimbabweans should find the book as a long awaited providential oasis of hope.
The Print copy is now available at Amazon.com for $13.99