Galatians 5.22 The Fruit of the Spirit is Joy!

The context of Galatians 5.16-24 is focused primarily on living out the Christian life.  It is a call to the converted.  It is another weighty reminder that the one who is “in Christ” will produce fruit.  That fruit is a demonstration and witness to the reality that we abide in Him, that we are His children.  The fruit of our life demonstrates our spiritual reality.  Are we led by the Spirit and producing this spiritual fruit?  Or, are we gratifying the flesh, producing the works of the flesh?  The fruit we are looking at here is the fruit of Joy.

What a strange word this has become to our culture.  We speak often of happiness.  We ask:  Am I happy?  Marriages fall apart because people aren’t happy.  We fill our lives chasing our desires in order to make us happy.  Yet as a feeling, and like all other feelings, happiness is fleeting.  It comes and goes.  Nothing really satisfies this desire.  But, is this what we mean when we say “the fruit of the Spirit is joy”?  Certainly not, we must understand that this flows outward regardless of everyday circumstances.

Joy simply runs deeper than happiness.  Joy flows from a heart that is fixed on something eternal.  “Joy is the deep-down sense of well-being that abides in the heart of the person who knows all is well between himself and the Lord”–MacAthur.  For the Christian it is first and foremost the outworking/result of Christ’s work of redemption.  It stirs our hearts in incalculable ways.  Consider the words of ‘Joy to the World.’  Please note that all creation echoes, or at least will echo in eternity, the joy that the Christian experiences now because of God’s affection towards us. 

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heav’n and nature sing,

Joy to the earth, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills, and plains
Repeat the sounding joy,

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found,

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love,

This is fruit the Holy Spirit will produce.  And yet, Galatians 5.22 is not merely about that Joy, but about applying this joy in life and specifically within the body of Christ.  If you look at Galatians closely you will notice that this section is sandwiched between 5.13-15 and 5.25-26.  Since this is so closely connected to how we relate to one another in the church, how then should we understand this joy?  What should this joy look like?  Listen to the way three theologians from the past put it.

“Joy does not here, I think, denote that “joy in the Holy Ghost” (Romans 14:17,) of which he speaks elsewhere, but that cheerful behavior towards our fellow-men which is the opposite of moroseness.”  Calvin

“Joy, by which may be understood cheerfulness in conversation with our friends, or rather a constant delight in God,” Henry

Are we humdrum and melancholy or filled with joy?

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, first, as comprehensive of the rest—then joy rising out of it.” Spurgeon

“They would seem to be total abstainers from joy! They are suspicious of it lest it should be carnal excitement or visionary hope. They hang their heads like bulrushes and go mourning all their days as if the religion of Christ knew no higher festival than a funeral and all its robes were the garments of despair! Brothers and Sisters, despondency is not the fruit of the Spirit! Make no mistake, depression is frequently the fruit of indigestion, or of satanic temptation, or of unbelief, or of some harbored sin, but, “the fruit of the Spirit is joy.” Constantly looking within your own self instead of looking alone to Christ is enough to breed misery in any heart.” CH Spurgeon

Might we say that our joy will be a reflection of the extent to which our affections are focused on Christ.  The further our love strays from Him the more fleeting our joy.  After all, “The fruit of the Spirit IS joy.”