Sermon Presented on 06-29-13


              To date we have examined and discussed the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience and kindness.  It is interesting that Paul uses a Greek word for fruit that is grammatically in the singular and then goes on to list nine attributes that characterize what it means to manifest the Spirit of God in our behavior.  The implication is that to express the Spirit of God is to express all nine of these attributes.  All nine of these attributes define what it means to express the Spirit of God.  This could be analogized to having characteristics of nine different genetic variations contained in a single apple. You eat the apple and you experience all nine variations mixed in the taste.  Expressing the fruit of the Spirit is to experience all nine attributes of the Spirit Paul discusses.

       Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.


      Today we will examine the attribute of goodness.  Last week we discussed the attribute of kindness and I provided a number of examples of acts of kindness both from the Scriptures and the world around us.  When looking at the attributes of kindness and goodness, it would appear that they pretty much mean the same thing.  If you are kind and express acts of kindness, isn’t that the same as being good and expressing acts of goodness?   Why does Paul use both of these words in describing the attributes of the Spirit? 

        The Greek word Paul uses for kindness is chrestotes. Greek Lexicons show this word to mean goodness in action, sweetness of disposition, gentleness in dealing with others, benevolence, kindness, affability. The word describes the ability to act for the welfare of those taxing your patience.  We saw this meaning expressed last week in the story about the fifth grade teacher Mrs. Thompson and her student Teddy Stoddard.

       One scholar has noted that when the word chrestotes is applied to interpersonal relationships, it conveys the idea of being adaptable to others. Rather than harshly require everyone else to adapt to his own needs and desires, when chrestotes is working in a believer, he seeks to become adaptable to the needs of those who are around him.

       The Greek chrestotes is actually rendered “goodness” in some translations of certain Greek Scriptures.  For example, the KJV renders chrestotes as “goodness” in Romans 2:4, whereas the NIV renders this word as “kindness.”

       Romans 2:4: Or despisest thou the riches of his goodness (chrestotes) and forbearance and longsuffering; not knowing that the goodness (chrestos) of God leadeth thee to repentance?  (KJV).

       Romans 2:4: Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness (chrestotes), tolerance and patience, not realizing that God's kindness (chrestos) leads you toward repentance?  (NIV)

        The Greek word rendered “goodness” in Paul’s list of the attributes of the Spirit is agathosune. This word is only found in the NT and in some ecclesiastical writing outside the NT.  It is not found in other Greek writings.  It appears only four times in the NT, including its occurrence in Paul’s list of attributes associated with the fruit of the Spirit. Therefore, without the opportunity to see how this word is used in Greek literature outside the NT except for some ecclesiastical writing, it is somewhat difficult to determine exactly what Paul intended in his used of this word or how it differs in meaning from the Greek chrestotes which is rendered into the English as “kindness” or “goodness” depending on what translation you are reading.  

       So again, why does Paul use chrestotes and agathosune as designing two separate attributes of the Spirit when these words appear to be very similar in meaning?  By looking at how chrestotes is use in Scripture and how agathosune is used, chrestotes appears to be more descriptive of how we behave toward others while agathosune is more descriptive of what we are.  Agathosune appears to be more associated with identifying our inner character.  

       Romans 15:14: But I myself am fully convinced about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness (agathosune), filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct one another (NET).

      Ephesians 5:8-9: for you were at one time darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of the light - for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness (agathosune), righteousness, and truth trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but rather expose them (NET).

      1 Thessalonians 1:11: And in this regard we pray for you always, that our God will make you worthy of his calling and fulfill by his power your every desire for goodness (agathosune) and every work of faith, that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ (NET).

       As can be seen, Paul’s use of agathosune is in the context of we having the core attribute of goodness.  If goodness is a core attribute of our character, we will be moral and ethical in all our behavior.  We will always be conscious of doing what is right before both God and man.  Agathosune appears to go well beyond chrestotes in identifying how we are to behave.  While chrestotes is descriptive of how we are to be kind to one another, agathosune is descriptive of how we are to conductive ourselves in every way, including when we are alone and no one is seeing us but God. 

       How we act in private is a true test of our level of “goodness.”  Goodness is as much about how we act in private as it is about how we act in public. If goodness is a core attribute of our character, there will be no difference between our private and public behavior.  Thayer’s Greek Lexicon defines agathosune as “uprightness of heart and life.”  This Greek word is being used by Paul to describe how we are to behave in all aspects of life.  Paul told the Ephesians to “Walk as children of the light - for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness (agathosune), righteousness, and truth” (Ephesians 5:8, NIV).

       Walking in the light is a recurrent theme in the NT Scriptures.  Apostle John in particular speaks often of walking in light.

       1 John 1:5-7: This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all. If we claim to have fellowship with him yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not live by the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

       Living in the light is all about being good and doing what is good. While this includes expressing kindness, it goes way beyond kindness in that it has to do with our behavior at every level.  The Greek agathosune is derived from the Greek word agathos.  Agathos appears 102 times in the NT and in the Greek means to excel.  In the NT we see this word used to express goods works. God wants us to excel at doing good works.  Doing good works involves every phase of our activity.    

       Ephesians 2:10: For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

       There is great emphasis in the Scriptures on doing good works.  Doing good works is foundational to our Christian walk.  Paul speaks of overcoming evil by doing good.  When faced with evil we sometimes have the tendency to shrink back and avoid confronting evil or we react to it in anger but that is as far as it goes.  Sometimes we may simply cave in to evil and participate in it.  The Scriptures instruct us to overcome evil with good.

        Romans 12:21: Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. 

       1 Thessalonians 5:15:  See that no one pays back evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all (NET).

       Let me give an example of this principle at work from the move “Star Wars.”  The Emperor and a character named Darth Vader are evil. They do evil things.  Darth Vader is the father of a boy named Luke Skywalker.  Luke is not like his Father.  Luke is a good person.  The Emperor and Darth Vader begin to do evil things to Luke and his friends. They are trying to get Luke angry and hateful like them.  They want Luke to join the Dark Side.  If Luke allows the Emperor and Darth Vader to make him return evil for evil, they will have transformed a good Luke Skywalker into an evil person such as they are.  Luke will be overcome by evil.

       Paul teaches we are not to be overcome by evil but we are to overcome evil with good.  The Emperor and Darth Vader try to engage Luke in a battle.   Luke refuses to fight them.  The Emperor tells Luke to kill his father Darth Vader but he refuses.   Luke’s determination to not behave badly when he was treated badly has a deep impact upon Darth Vader.  It causes Darth Vader to change and decide to be good. Luke overcomes evil with good.

       A Christian is to be a Luke Skywalker. We are to overcome evil by refusing to let the evil actions of others determine our behavior. We are to overcome the evil others commit by behaving righteously in the face of their evil.

       Overcoming evil with good is a common theme in Scripture and it can be accomplished in a number of ways.  When God brought Israel out of Egypt, he facilitated their defeat of a number of nations that stood in the way of their gaining access to the Promised Land.  Once they arrived in the Promised Land, God gave made a covenant with them and gave them laws to live by. It appears that God intended for Israel to lead the world, not by dominating other nations but by setting an example for other nations to see and follow.  In other words, Israel was to overcome evil with good by projecting a good example of how to live.

        The nations around Israel were practicing much evil.  There was great immortality.  There was human sacrifice and other evil religious practices.  There was much selfish, self-centered behavior.  Nations were constantly warring against each other.  Many if not most of these wars were wars of aggression.  Wars designed to acquire more territory and more possessions.

       Israel was established to set an example for the nations of the world.  After taking possession of the Promised Land, there is no evidence that Israel was to continue to be an aggressor nation.  All indications are that Israel was to set an example of righteous living with the goal being that other nations would see the positive results of Israel’s example and want to live the same way.  

       Deuteronomy 4:5-8: See, I have taught you decrees and laws as the LORD my God commanded me, so that you may follow them in the land you are entering to take possession of it. Observe them carefully, for this will show your wisdom and understanding to the nations, who will hear about all these decrees and say, "Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people."  What other nation is so great as to have their gods near them the way the LORD our God is near us whenever we pray to him? And what other nation is so great as to have such righteous decrees and laws as this body of laws I am setting before you today?

       Israel failed miserably in setting a righteous example with the result being that other nations did not come to respect them and had no qualms about attacking them and causing them harm.  America is in a similar situation today.  Rather than being an example of righteousness to the world, we have instead exported our immoral, unethical degenerate life style to all parts of the globe and are reaping the negative results both here at home and abroad.   If America would repent and turn to living in harmony with the moral and ethical laws God has established for man to live by, we could be a legitimate force for overcoming evil with good.  Unfortunately there is no evidence that is going to happen any time soon. 

       Most of us are familiar with the statement made many years ago by Edmund Burke.  Edmund Burke was an Irish statesman, author, orator, political theorist and philosopher, who, after moving to England, served for many years in the British House of Commons.

        All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.

       Doing nothing is easy, but it can also be very dangerous. Where there is no opposition to evil, it tends to grow and become more intense.  Many of us fall into the trap of complaining about things that are wrong in our society and in life but never become engaged in an effort to change society. Complaining does nothing except discourage us even more.  It changes nothing because there is no positive power in complaining. Complaining is only of value as a means of identifying a problem.  Once a problem is identified it can only be resolved by being proactive in bringing about a solution. 

        Throughout history God has worked through people to bring about change.  There are many Biblical examples of God working through people to bring about change.  However, He doesn’t generally do this unless there is a willingness and expressed desired to be used by God to facilitate change.  We need to realize that we can be tools in the hand of God to facilitate change.  We can be used by God to express His love and focus on doing the good that will facilitate change.

       Matthew 5:16: Let your light so shine before men that they may see your moral excellence and your praiseworthy, noble, and good deeds and recognize and honor and praise and glorify your Father Who is in heaven” (The Amplified Bible).

       How do good deeds glorify the Father?  They glorify the Father because they fulfill what it is the Father wants us to do.   God wants us to be fruitful in demonstrating his very character in how we relate to each other and how we handle the circumstances of life.  That is what bearing the fruit of the Spirit is all about.  When we express the attributes of God’s Spirit we are expressing the attributes of God.  We are representing God on this earth. 

       John 15:8: Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

        Goodness is an attribute of God’s Spirit.  To be good is to behave in ways that reflect how God wants us to behave.  Jesus always behaved according to the will of God.  Jesus set the example of what it means to be good.  Being good often involves simply behaving in ways that reflect doing the right thing at the right time.  It involves helping others without expecting anything in return.

       Barb and I got married in 1965 and took out honeymoon in Mexico.  We drove the entire trip and on our way back from Mexico City we ran out of gas in the mountains of northern Mexico.  We were in the middle of nowhere and had no idea where we were going to find gas.  We spoke very little Spanish and so communication was going to be difficult.  We began thumbing for a ride to the nearest gas station.  Along came some Mexican men in a truck who picked us up and gave us a ride to the nearest town having a gas station. They would not take anything for their trouble.

       We did not have a container that was meant for gas and neither did the gas station.  Remember, this was 1965 in the mountains of northern Mexico.  We did not plan to run out of gas and so we didn’t have any backup plan or equipment for carrying gas.  The gas station operator found a round metal can with a small opening and managed to get gas into the can.  We paid for the gas and proceeded to walk back up the highway to where our car was.  As it turned out, the gas station operator had pumped quite a bit of gas into the can and the can was very heavy.  I hosted the can onto my shoulder but soon realized it was going to be very difficult trying to carry this heavy can back to the car.

       Along came a truck with some Mexican men.  They stopped and motioned for us to put the can on their truck and ride with them to where our car was located.  They too would not take anything for their efforts.

        The car we were driving was a new 1965 Pontiac Tempest convertible.  The gas tank opening was behind the rear license plate.  You had to pull the license plate down and then insert the gas pump nozzle into the tank opening.  The nozzle would open the protection flap that all gas tanks have and the gas starts to flow into the tank.  We didn’t have a gas pump nozzle.  What we had was a round can with a small opening we could not position in any way to fit into the tank opening and open the little protective flap that allows gas to pour into the tank.     

        We had planned our honeymoon so that we could arrive at Big Sandy Texas to keep our first Feast of Tabernacles at the Big Sandy Ambassador College campus.  We were going to be tent camping at the college and so we had a tent and tent poles in the trunk of the car.  I was able to bend one of the tent poles in a way to make it fit into the gas tank opening and open the protective flap.  The plan was to have my wife hold the pole while I hosted this heavy gas can up I the air and tried to gently pour gas into the tent pole. 

        All the while we were doing this; a Mexican man was standing in a wooded area close to where we were and was watching us trying to figure out how we are going to get gas into the tank.  When it came time to start pouring the gas into the tent pole, he came over and insisted on holding the pole while I poured the gas.  The tent pole had a small hole and pouring gas into it was a real challenge. Gas was running down the sides of the pole all over the man’s hands and arms. 

       Yet he didn’t flinch one bit but stayed the course and somehow we managed to get enough gas into the tank to start the car and travel to the gas station to fill up.  We tried to give him some money for his trouble but he wouldn’t take anything.     

       Here is an example of doing good.  Two truck drives and a bystander went out of their way to help someone in time of need.  They expected nothing in return and wouldn’t take anything for their efforts.    

        Doing good is all about the golden rule.  It is all about doing unto others as you would have them do unto you.   It is all about being there for others in their time of need.  Now I don’t know whether these Mexicans were Christians.  What I do know is that they displayed an attribute of God’s Spirit Paul calls “goodness” in helping us in our time of need. 

       God’s Spirit permeates the universe.  All things are upheld by the power of God’s Spirit. God is the source of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control, those attributes of God that Paul refers to as the fruit of the Spirit.   When people express these attributes in their behavior, they are tapping into this universal Spirit regardless of what religious views they may hold or not hold. 

        Luke 6:45: The good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and the evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For out of the overflow of his heart his mouth speaks.

       This teaching from the lips of Christ provides important insight into the human makeup.  Humans were created with the ability to express both good and evil.  Simple observation will reveal this to be the case.  When we choose the good we reflect attributes of the Spirit of God.  When we choose evil, we reflect the spirit of evil. 

       We use to often quote Jeremiah 17:9 where Jeremiah says the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked.  However, we seldom quoted the very next verse.

       Jeremiah 17:10:  "I the LORD search the heart and examine the mind, to reward a man according to his conduct, according to what his deeds deserve" (Jeremiah 17:10 [NIV]). 

       For God to search and examine an inherently evil heart and mind would be superfluous.  The implication here is that God examines the choices we make and the behavior that derives from those choices and responds to us accordingly.  This is the approach found throughout Scripture.  Humans are rewarded for righteousness and punished for sin.  This presupposes the ability to choose between good and evil and not that we are inherently good or evil.

       It should be evident from a review of human history that while much evil behavior has occurred and continues to occur, humans have also produced a great deal of good.  As Christ said, “a good man brings forth good things out of the good stored up in him,” or as the KJV renders it, “out of the good treasure of his heart.”  Many humans live the Law of Love and express their humanity within the parameters established by God.  Only one person has done this perfectly throughout His life, the man Jesus.  In a parable, Jesus speaks of how the word of God can fall on good soil characterized by a noble and good heart. 

        Luke 8:15: The seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop.

      Producing a good crop must be our goal.  Goodness is one attribute of that crop.  Next week we will continue to examine the attributes of God’s Spirit by looking at the attribute of faithfulness.  Faithfulness is another attribute of God’s Spirit and part of the crop we are to produce.