Looking Like Him
What do people look like who look like Jesus? One part of the answer is this: they bear what is described by the Apostle Paul as the ‘fruit of the Spirit’, namely, ‘love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control’ (Gal. 5:22-23). In the days of his flesh our Saviour exhibited this fruit to perfection. And as God by the Spirit works in those whom he has predestined to be like his Son (Rom. 8:29) it is just such fruit that he enables them to bear.
It is clear from Paul’s list that there are many aspects to the Spirit’s work. A person who wants to take an old, rusty, beat-up car and repair and restore it to such an extent that he can proudly exhibit it at one of our car shows has his work cut out for him! And when the Spirit sets himself to repair and restore us he has his work cut out for him. What a mess we are in by nature! What damage sin has wrought! There are just so many aspects to the job! And what an illustration we have of that in the nine-fold fruit of the Spirit. We are evidently deficient in every one of these qualities since the Spirit needs to produce them in us in order to make us like Christ.
Evidently, too, there is something distinctive about his work. The fact that unbelievers (who are without the Spirit) can love, have joy and peace, and be patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and self-controlled raises a very important question: in what sense are the qualities Paul lists distinctively the fruit of the Spirit? The question can be answered in this way: the role of the Spirit is to take common qualities and do something special with them – something that only he can do by his presence and ministry in the sinner’s heart. Take love as one example. It is there in both Christians and non-Christians alike. But it is only the Christian who loves God and out of love for God obeys him. It is only the Christian who loves Christians – loves them because they are Christians and out of that love endeavours to serve them. The Spirit does something unique with love. In his hands it has new objects, springs from new motives, and comes to expression in new ways.
Once more, we can say that the goal of his work is a beautiful all-roundedness. In all of us there is an unevenness about the way in which these qualities are present and come to expression. One Christian may be singularly loving and yet a prey to anxious fears. Another may be joyful and yet not very patient. A third may be exceedingly kind and yet weak in certain areas of self-control. A fourth, resolutely faithful but at times far from gentle. What a contrast with Jesus! No one characteristic ‘stood out’ in him beyond the others. He wasn’t strong in one area and not so strong in others. There was an exquisite symmetry about his life as a man of God. Each of the Spirit’s fruits in him was equally and fully ripe. It is the very same all-roundedness that is the Spirit’s goal as he works to make us like him.
The Rev. Charles Simeon of Cambridge had a tendency in his earlier years to be somewhat harsh and self-assertive, character traits that definitely did not endear him to the daughters of the Rev Henry Venn whose Rectory Simeon had been visiting. Leaving their father in no doubt as to what they thought about him (!) he asked them, in response, to bring him one of the peaches growing in the garden. Expressing surprise because the peaches were far from ripe, Henry Venn said this to them: ‘Well, my dears, it is green now, and we must wait; but a little more sun, and a few more showers, and the peach will be ripe and sweet. So it is with Mr. Simeon.’1
And so it will be with each one of us in whom the Spirit is savingly at work. He will bring his fruit in us to perfection at last. And when he does so, the same beautiful all-roundedness that we see in the Son of God will be as clearly seen in our lives.
- Quoted in H. C. G. Moule, Charles Simeon, p. 44.
David Campbell is pastor of Grace Baptist Church, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
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