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Wednesday, July 23, 2014

The Beautiful Fruits of the Spirit


Blessed are the poor in spirit,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Blessed are those who mourn,
    For they shall be comforted.
Blessed are the meek,
    For they shall inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
    For they shall be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
    For they shall obtain mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
    For they shall see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
    For they shall be called sons of God.
10 
Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake,
    For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Matthew 5:3-10

 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22 & 23

The question was, is there any similarity or connection between 'The Beautitudes' and the 'Fruit of the Spirit'?' Without doubt, there is much similarity there, and a very strong connection; they are both Part of the Story! However, there is so much similarity in these writing, and such a strong connection, that it would take a book to do it justice! We have neither the time nor the space to do so ( this is not the place ). We will, though, try to make this short study as concise as possible!

First of all, we might note the chiastic structure of 'The Beautitudes'! Jesus begins His little Benediction by saying, 'theirs is the kingdom of heaven', and ends it with the same phrase, using two very similar examples who are 'Blessed', again, ending with ''For theirs is the kingdom of heaven'. To gain a proper understanding of this Benediction, it is necessary to understand the historical context of Jesus' oration. To gather a hint of this, we need only read the end of His Benediction; 'Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake'. The Church was being persecuted most severely for the sake of Christ; rather than trusting in their own righteousness, as did the pharisaical Jews, they rested in the Righteousness of the Christ, their Messiah, and for this reason, they received much persecution, even to the death, from their adversaries!

Note the natural progression in 'The Beatitudes towards the middle, where Jesus promises that such will 'be filled'. Jesus said later on in His Sermon ( on the Mount ), 'seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness'. It is His Righteousness which is both the focal point of both 'The Beautitudes' & 'The Fruit of the Spirit'! It is His Righteousness which enables us to exhibit this 'fruit'!

As Jesus winds down His ( pre ) Benediction, He begins to reveal The Fruit of the Spirit, while at the same time, reiterating the first half! We see the conjunction between 'the merciful' & 'the meek', 'the pure in heart' & those who mourn' ( Isaiah 61:3 ), and between 'the peacemakers', 'those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake' &  'the poor in spirit'. Jesus elucidates those virtues which Paul later called 'the fruit of the spirit'!

Paul, you may note, follows much the same structure in his letter to the Church in Galatia! He begins by extolling 'love', 'joy' & 'peace', which is naturally followed by 'long-suffering', and is worked out through 'kindness', 'faithfulness', 'gentleness' & 'self-control', which is equal to the 'meekness' exhibited by  the 'sons of God'!

To conclude this short study, we may note that both of the passages in question are best understood in their historical context! Both passages center on the Righteousness of God & both are revelations of the Fruit of the Spirit! Jesus told His followers that those who exhibited these fruits would 'inherit the earth', while Paul reminded the followers of Jesus what these 'fruits' were. Paul's readers were under-going the persecution that Jesus warned His followers of ( it had started already ), and were gently reminded by Paul that 'Against such there is no law'.

Charles Haddon Shank

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