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  • Writer's picturePaige Patterson

My Problem with Galatians 5:22-26

Paige Patterson, I thought you were an inerrantist! I was under the impression that you believed every syllable of the Hebrew and Greek originals and every translation of the Bible to the degree to which they reflect the pristine Word of God as given to the prophets and apostles. Now you inform us that Galatians 5:22-26 is problematic! What is happening?

“My problem” has not one thing to do with the accuracy of Galatians 5, which, in fact, is the inerrant Word of the Lord. The difficulty is with me! As far as I can tell, I do not have a single one of the fruits of the Spirit in my natural Irish-Texan personality. How can I ever exhibit love, joy, peace, longsuffering, and so forth? Oh, now I see. These are the “fruit of the Spirit.” There are twelve to fifteen remarkable works of the Holy Spirit in the internal spirit of the believer in Jesus. One of the greatest miracles in Scripture is regeneration, an astounding act of the Holy Spirit by which He imparts new life and begins developing the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the individual.

Bearing Fruit or Living Barren is a relatively new book in which Preston and Kelly Condra develop these themes in a fashion that every believer can comprehend.[1] Condra correctly cautions,

Fruit-bearing has a divine power source; it is not an effort to search the flesh for the energy and desire to obey God. The natural man is accustomed to finding strength within himself. He pushes himself to do things he would rather not, to face challenges, to move through suffering, to hold his tongue, and perhaps even to live another day. A spiritual man, however, recognizes that he does not have to find these things within Himself. He looks to a promise of God in scripture with faith, knowing that his reliance upon God will make it so in his life (73).

Consideration of the nature of what God’s Spirit produces in the life of the believer begins with love. Many Christians already know the Greek term agape. Nearly an entire chapter in the Bible is devoted to the properties and products of agape. Space permits only passing observation, but consider just four characteristics. Agape“bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and endures all things” (1 Cor 13:7). What would happen if a man’s life began to reflect those four things in his church affiliation? What if he determined to bear with the failures of others, to believe the very best at least about the motives of others? What if eternal hope sprang like an artesian well from every pore of his body? What if he endured personal attack, misunderstanding, and misrepresentation? Would these properties of love place a clutch in your heart to disengage your mind from gossip? Might such attributes temper criticism of your pastor? Or would it prevent the sudden explosion of an intemperate tweet published for the world to see? You can now readily appreciate why I need the activity of God’s Spirit to produce genuine agape in my life.

Another attribute belonging to the fruit of the Spirit is peace, derived from the Greek word from which we get our English word “irenic.” Watching Vice President Pence during the VP debate the other night, I reminded myself of the gracious nature of this virtue. Forgetting all politics for a moment, the Vice President’s composure was a marvelous inner calm. I do not see how I could have remained so irenic—unless the Spirit of God provided the impetus.

The next attribute Paul mentions sank my boat. “Longsuffering” is a translation of makrothumia, literally “a long time to anger.” Did I mention my Irish-Texan derivation? Those who know me best would agree that if I show this kind of longsuffering, we are observing a miracle of God that passes all understanding. We could run the gamut of this list with similar results on every one. But join me in observing one more.

Gentleness is the word prautes referring to “meekness.” Yes sir, “Patterson The Meek” is how I am known! Alexander the Great had a horse named Bucephalus who was described as “a meek horse”; yet no one but Alexander could ride him successfully. So what did that mean? This descriptor meant that the horse was perfectly controlled by Alexander. To be a meek Christian means to live under the perfect control of God. I may have a powerful long way to go, but my heart’s desire is to exhibit that kind of devotion to Christ.

In light of these thoughts, you can appreciate the gargantuan problem I have with Galatians 5:22-26. Some of you may not be able to generate much sympathy; but if it comes to your mind while you are praying, I would covet your prayer in my behalf. Actually, would you pray for the whole church of the living God? Pray that in a day when such attributes have been largely jettisoned by our social order that the church may succeed in her witness precisely because we as believers excel when we allow the Holy Spirit to develop His fruit in our lives. And do not miss Condra’s books along the way.[2]


[1]This book is one of several prepared by the Condras for use in churches developing biblically-based teaching programs. I Have Some Good News focuses on the nature of the gospel. God’s Will shows why finding God’s will is much less elusive than most think. By Which We Are Saved presents marvelous insights on how and why to do evangelism. A much needed book for children is Papa Let’s Talk, getting children acquainted with God through a sufficiency-of-Scripture approach.

[2]You can learn more about the Condras books at their ministry website: In addition, the books are available on Amazon at Preston Condra’s author page:


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