| Web Version | Mobile Version |


Issue No. 02 January 2014
The Works of the Flesh and the Fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:13-26)

In our Chapel sermons this semester at BGST, I want us to think about the nine attributes that Paul lists in Gal. 5:22-23 as ‘the fruit of the Spirit’: love; joy; peace; patience; kindness; generosity; faithfulness; gentleness; self-control – just nine words in the original Greek, but a great deal is packed into those nine words.

You cannot simply read quickly through Gal. 5:22-23 as you might other Bible verses, for example scene-setting verses in a narrative such as ‘he entered Jericho and was passing through it’ (Luke 19:1). Simply by setting these words down next to each other in 5:22-23, Paul seems to be inviting us to stop and think, to take each word by itself and reflect on it: what ideas come to my mind as I hear the word ‘love’? What would my life look like if I displayed this attribute? What things in my life must change if I want to be a genuinely loving person? How might I set about making those changes? (And so with all the nine attributes Paul lists.)

The words Paul uses almost immediately raise echoes in our own minds: as we hear them, we think of people we know or have known who were loving, kind, faithful, gentle, and so on. These words would also have raised echoes in the minds of Paul’s readers: echoes from Greco-Roman writers, who would have recognised some of these attributes as virtues worth cultivating; echoes from the Old Testament, as they were reminded of texts which spoke of God’s love, generosity and faithfulness, or of narratives (like the book of Ruth) in which humans display such qualities.

In short, by listing these nine attributes in nine words, Paul is inviting us to unpack each of them and reflect on them. That is what we will be doing at BGST Chapels this semester. But in what follows here, and by way of introducing what we will be exploring in more detail in later chapels, I want us to reflect on Galatians 5:13-26, the section which includes the verses in which Paul describes the nine-fold ‘fruit of the Spirit’.

Paul begins in vv. 13-15 by focusing on Christian freedom: we have been delivered, redeemed, freed from the burden of sin and guilt. These are powerful and precious truths. But ‘freedom’ in the Bible is not only ‘freedom from...’, it is also ‘freedom for...’. Like the Israelites who were freed from slavery in Egypt and then called to serve the God who had set them free, we Christians too have been set free for something. Paul deliberately puts his point paradoxically: we have been set free in order to enter into slavery! ‘Through love become slaves to one another’ (v. 13, NRSV). Or, putting the point differently, we are set free to serve one another in love.

Paul’s focus here is on community, on what builds up or destroys community. The Galatian churches were deeply divided as a result of the doctrinal controversies that had been raging in them. Paul’s response to these controversies in Galatians was that the gospel does indeed bring freedom: freedom, among other things, from observances such as circumcision, Sabbath-keeping and the OT food laws, things which had marked out Israel as God’s holy people in the period before Christ, but which were no longer appropriate in an era when God’s people was made up of both Jews and Gentiles (see 5:1-12).

Paul clearly takes sides in this controversy. He does not take the view that the way to Christian unity is to ‘soft-pedal’ doctrine. On the contrary, he is clear that the gospel sets Christians free, and he upholds that freedom in what he writes, attacking rival views of the gospel as a ‘different gospel... which is no gospel at all’ (1:6-7).

But he is also aware that an unrestrained exercise of freedom will be totally destructive. ‘If you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another’: how long would the churches in Galatia have lasted if the Christians there had continued to behave like that towards each other?

Paul goes on (vv. 16-18) to draw a contrast between ‘flesh’ and ‘spirit’. The ‘flesh’ is where we start as human beings: the term refers partly to our identity as human beings, our family, our ethnicity, the things which often divide us from each other; it also describes the ‘default options’ in our behaviour, the way we react when we are not thinking, our natural tendencies. Many of these tendencies are harmful in their effects. The ‘flesh’ is part of the reality that confronts us as disciples of Jesus Christ. But we also have the Spirit of Christ within us, working to shape us, to transform us, to restore the image of God in us.

There are thus two principles, two forces, at work in us, pulling us in opposite directions. This is a description of the Christian life. The result is that we cannot simply ‘do what comes naturally’ or ‘go with the flow’ of the kind of person we are. We have to be more discerning: we must recognise that certain impulses in us are to be encouraged, and others are to channelled in a different direction.

What should we avoid? Paul spells it out in vv. 19-21: ‘The works of the flesh are obvious...’. As we read through the unsavoury list that follows, we realise that these patterns of behaviour are harmful both to ourselves and to others.

Any society marked by this kind of behaviour will swiftly disintegrate. That is why people who behave like that (whose lives are dominated by this kind of behaviour and who make no attempt to change the way they behave) have no place in the kingdom of God: if the kingdom of God were full of this kind of behaviour, then the promised new heavens and new earth would be no different from the world familiar to us in the present.

Instead, Paul tells us (vv. 22-23), we are to seek the fruit of the Spirit, we are to encourage in ourselves the attributes of love, joy, peace, kindness; patience, kindness generosity; faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.

You will note that though Paul speaks of the ‘works [plural] of the flesh’, ‘fruit’ is singular: these nine attributes belong with each other, are all part of one larger whole. And these attributes are primarily expressed in our relations with other people. We can experience some of them by ourselves, perhaps (an experience of God’s love, a feeling of joy, a sense of peace); but most of them are displayed in relationships. They build up relations; they make for community.

How does this happen? How does the fruit of the Spirit grow in us? Does it simply happen without any effort on our part? After all, these attributes are the fruit of the Spirit, so do we simply wait for the Spirit to do his work in us?

We are talking here about the transformation of our characters, the restoration of the image of God in us; about becoming more Christ-like. The NT uses several figures of speech for this: ‘putting to death the deeds of the body by the Spirit’ (Romans 8); ‘presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God’, which involves being ‘transformed by the renewing of your minds’ (Romans 12); ‘working out our own salvation with fear and trembling’, knowing that ‘God is at work in us, enabling you both to will and to work for his good pleasure’ (Phil. 2); ‘stripping off the old self with its practices and clothing ourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator’ (Col. 3).

What these images have in common is that they speak both of God being at work in us to transform us and of Christians putting their own energies into this transformation process. Transformation of character, in these texts, is something which God works at and something which we work at.

You find the same ‘both/and’ teaching in Galatians 5. One the one hand, there has been a decisive change in our lives: we have committed ourselves to Christ, we have made a decision to turn away from old patterns of life; we have been baptised, symbolising that we share in the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, and that we now enjoy newness of life. All these ideas are summed up in v. 24, which tells us that ‘those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires’. God has entered our lives, has turned the direction of our lives around, so that our aims and goals are now different from what they once were. God is at work in us.

But, Paul goes on (v. 25) ‘if we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in line with the Spirit’ (For ‘keep in line with the Spirit’ other translations have: ‘be guided by the Spirit’ or ‘keep in step with the Spirit’.) The fact that the Spirit is at work in us does not entitle us to sit back and do nothing. On the contrary, effort is required on our part, moral effort, as we direct our energies to ‘keeping in line with the Spirit’.

We must think about the character of our lives: what needs to change? What vices need to be weeded out in us, what virtues need to be nurtured? How can we encourage the process of transformation in ourselves? Are there certain habits, practices, ways in which we use our time, that we need to change? Are there other things that we need to put in place in our lives?

We need to pray that the fruit of the Spirit will appear in our lives. We also need to practise certain virtues, such as patience, kindness and generosity. Practice is necessary: most skills – and virtues are somewhat like skills – are acquired by practice; the same is true of the fruit of the Spirit.

Is this ‘salvation by works’? No, this is the appropriate response to God’s grace. This is ‘presenting our bodies as a living sacrifice’ to the God who has saved us. This is ‘clothing ourselves with the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge according to the image of its creator’.

And we do this in our lives together. Note Paul’s concern in v. 26 that we not ‘become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another’. Throughout this section of Galatians 5 Paul is concerned about Christian community. These attributes which make up the fruit of the Spirit are developed mainly in Christian community, not in isolation; and they are also displayed in community, in our relations with each other.

It is easy to feel loving, joyful and peaceful when we are by ourselves, perhaps enjoying a quiet time; much less easy to display these qualities during a stressful day, when our brothers and sisters in Christ are rubbing us up the wrong way. But that is where the challenge and opportunity is: that is where growth in Christian character takes place.

The challenge is to display the fruits of the Spirit when under pressure. It is a challenge which confronts almost all Christians on a daily basis. But it is also an opportunity: if we feel ourselves to be under pressure, I hope that the sense that we are under pressure may drive us, first, towards God in prayer; and, second, to reflect on how we may best work together with our brothers and sisters in Christ to respond to the pressures we face.

May God bless us as we seek the beautiful fruit of the Spirit in our lives!

BGST Chapel, 15th January 2014

Philip Satterthwaite,

Principal, BGST

Chapel Announcements

There will be chapel on Wednesday, 22nd January 2014, 12 noon at BGST Chapel. Friends and visitors are welcome to join us for fellowship and devotion together at our school.

There will be no chapel on 29th January 2014.

Chinese New Year

Please note that during the Chinese New Year period, we will be closed from Thursday, 30th January at 1 pm to Monday, 3rd February 2014.

2014 BGST Convocation

scrollclass of 2014Our 23rd Convocation & Thanksgiving Service is on Sat, May 24th, 2014. If you intend to graduate, please kindly submit the Application to Graduate Form before 31st March 2014.

In order to graduate you need to hand in all your assignments for the courses that you need to complete your program by 30th April 2014.

Starting this year, BGST will be offering scholarships to the top 3 Grad DipCS graduates. Graduates who are awarded these scholarships will be required to complete the MCS programme within 3 years. We hope that these scholarships will serve as incentives for all existing Grad DipCS graduands to do their best.

With effect from 1st January 2014, there will be an administrative fee of $50 for any request to change from the MCS to MDiv programme or vice versa. This is in view of any administrative effort involved when processing such request. We appreciate your understanding.

Thank you so much.

BGST Church History Tour (3rd - 13th June 2014) - Postponement

ruinsDue to limited registration and feedback from interested parties, BGST will postpone the Church History Tour to September or October 2014.

The new dates and tour prices will be finalised and announced by end February 2014.  BGST will also contact registered participants separately on their bookings.

Parties interested in these new dates can register their interest with Mr Adam Peh (peh-adam@bgst.edu.sg).

Should churches or fellowship groups find it helpful for Dr Lai Pak Wah to visit and share further on the tour, please feel free to contact Dr Lai at laipw@bgst.edu.sg.

Launch of Semester 2 of AY 2013/14 Course Schedule

For the course offerings in Semester 2 of Academic Year 2013-2014, please visit our webpage at http://www.bgst.edu.sg/media/files/courses/2013-2014-sem2.pdf.

For course inquiries, please email us at inquiry@bgst.edu.sg.

Intensive Course in February 2014

AT247, 3 credits
[Equivalent to MDiv Core AT246]

Lecturer: Dr Vincent Ooi
Venue: BGST @ 50 Kallang Pudding Road, #07-01
Days, Dates & Timings: Saturdays, Feb 8 & Apr 26 (9:30 am - 4:30pm) / Weekdays, Feb 10, 11, 13 (7:15 - 10:15pm)

This is an introductory course on preaching, which focuses primarily on the theology of preaching and the art of sermon preparation and delivery. While recognising that there are many valid forms of preaching, this course will focus mainly on expository preaching.

By the end of the course, students should be able to:

  1. reflect theological about preaching
  2. appreciate the strengths and limitations of expository sermons
  3. identify characteristics of a good expository sermon
  4. discern sermon outlines from a range of scriptural texts
  5. compose expository sermons that are contextually sensitive and relevant
  6. use appropriate and creative means to communicate scriptural messages
  7. compose sermons for special occasions such as baptism, wedding and funeral
  8. Show appreciation for practical aspects of preaching

Read More ...

Upcoming Course in January 2014

CH101, 3 credits [blended learning]

[Required course for Grad DipCS, MCS, MDiv]

Lecturer: Dr Lai Pak Wah;
Venue: Mt Carmel BP Church, 152 West Coast Road
Days, Dates & Timings: Saturdays, Jan 25, Feb 22 (9:00am - 3:00pm) / Fridays, Mar 7, 21, Apr 4, 25 (7:15 - 9:45pm)

History of Christianity I is the first of a two course survey (3 credits each) of the history of Christianity over the last 2,000 years.

The aim of History of Christianity I is to identify the significant historical movements in the first 1,500 years of church history and consider their influence and relevance for contemporary Christians, especially those living in Asia. To begin, students will be introduced to the theological, historical and spiritual development in, what John Calvin calls the ‘Golden Age of the Church’, that is, the age of the church fathers (2nd to 5th centuries). From here, we will then examine the history of three major streams of Christianity, namely the Orthodox, Oriental and Western (Latin) Christianities, from the Middle Ages right up to the pre-Reformation period. Topics to be discussed include the formation and interpretation of the biblical canon and how this affects our Christian beliefs, the challenge of evangelism and Christian living in a multi-cultural and religious society like the Roman Empire, the insights that we may gain from the Nestorian evangelization of China in the eighth century, and the legacy of medieval theology and spirituality for modern day Christianity.

The guiding principle for our course is to consider the relevance of these historical movements for contemporary Protestant/ Evangelical Christianity and to benefit from the spiritual insights of our Christian forefathers.

Read more ...

Upcoming Courses in February 2014

Dr Tan Soo InnVOCATION, WORK AND MINISTRY, MM101, 3 credits
[Required course for MCS, MDiv]

Lecturer: Rev Dr Tan Soo-Inn
Venue: Telok Ayer Chinese Methodist Church (Wesley Hall 2), 235 Telok Ayer Street
Days, Dates & Timings: Tuesdays, Feb 4, 11, 18, 25, Mar 4, 11, 18, 25 Apr 1, 22, 29, May 6 ( 7:15 - 10:00pm)

This course aims to help students answer three key questions:

What is God doing in the world?
What am I called to do to be part of His work?
How am I to go about discerning my calling?

Through lectures, small group interaction and personal reflection, this course will help the participant better understand the context of the world of work today, the Bible’s teaching on work and vocation, what one has been called to do to be part of God’s purposes.

Read More ...

Mr Tan Kok ChoonDr Douglas MilneTHEOLOGICAL FOUNDATIONS I, TS211, 3 credits [Blended Learning]
[Required course for MCS, MDiv]

Lecturer: Dr Douglas Milne,
Tutor: Mr Tan Kok Choon
Venue: BGST @ 50 Kallang Pudding Road, #07-01
Days, Dates & Timings: Saturdays, Feb 8 (9:30 - 12pm) / Mar 8, Apr 5, May 10 (9:30am - 12 noon; 1 - 3:30pm)

Nothing is more foundational in theology than a right understanding of God. “The doctrine of God one espouses largely controls countless other areas of life and thought” (Don Carson). But we can only know God in His revelation of Himself to us. And when we do this, we discover that He has revealed fundamental truth about ourselves.

This course examines the great truths about God and Humankind that make up the prelude to the Gospel of Redemption in Jesus Christ.

Read More ...

[Required course for Grad DipCS, MCS, MDiv]

Lecturer: Mr John Chong Ser Choon
Venue: Prinsep Street Presbyterian Church, 77 Prinsep Street
Days, Dates & Timings: Tuesdays, Feb 11, 18, 25, Mar 4, 11, 18, 25, Apr 1, 8, 15 ,22, 29 (7:15 - 10pm)

This is an introductory course to provide a broad understanding to Christian Spirituality. The undergirding conviction and thrust of this course is that to be a Christian is to grow to more Christlike.

The course aims to be both academic and practical. Besides lectures, students will be in small groups for both class discussions and spiritual formation practicum throughout the course. They will be writing weekly journals, and meeting with the lecturer for personal spiritual conversations. There will be in-depth discussions dealing with how can we grow deeper in our spiritual life in a busy world e.g. finding the rhythm between work and rest, cultivating the spiritual disciplines to keep one's spiritual life vibrant.

Read More ...

Mr Tan Kok ChoonDr Edwin TayTHE CHRISTIAN FAITH, TS101, 3 credits [Blended Learning]
[Required course for Grad DipCS, MCS, MDiv]
TS101 will NOT be offered in Semester 1, Jul-Dec 2014

Lecturer: Dr Edwin Tay
Tutor: Mr Tan Kok Choon
Venue: Amazing Grace Presbyterian Church, 408B, Upper East Coast Road
Days, Dates & Timings: Wednesdays, Feb 12, 26, Mar 12, 26, Apr 9, 23 (7:15 - 9:45pm)

This is an introductory course to Christian theology and therefore assumes no prior technical knowledge of theology. Nevertheless, it takes for granted that students have a saving knowledge of God. In this course, theology will be taught from the standpoint of faith in the context of “the one, holy, catholic (i.e. universal), and apostolic church” as confessed in the Nicene Creed (A.D. 381). The lectures are divided according to the Trinitarian structure of the Creed with the aim of introducing students to the basic content of orthodox Christian doctrine. A conscious attempt will be made to demonstrate the necessity and relevance of theological reflection for Christian living.

Read More ...

CS211, 3 credits

[Required course for MCS, MDiv]

Lecturer: Dr Lai Pak Wah
Venue: St John's-St Margaret's Church, 30 Dover Avenue
Days, Dates & Timings: Thursdays, Feb 13, 27, Mar 13, 27, May 8, 15 (7:15 - 10pm)
[1 day Retreat on either Apr 26 or May 3, additional S$60]

Since Pentecost, the Spirit of God has been at work in the Church, teaching Christians His Word, leading them in paths less travelled and enabling them to grow and mature in Christ. While partaking in the one and the same Spirit of Christ, Christians have often experienced the teachings and guidance of God in diverse ways. For the desert fathers, it was spiritual progress through ascetic practice; for the medieval pilgrims, it was the sensory of experience of their journey and their encounter with God at the holy sites; for the English Puritans, it was through their faithful preaching and practice of the Word, just to name a few. The objective of this course then, is to survey the history of Christian spirituality, that is, the diverse writings and experience of Christian men and women over the last 2,000 years, so that their spiritual insights, this ancient wisdom, may still be used by God to guide us in our everyday spirituality.

Read More ...

50 Kallang Pudding Road, #07-01, Golden Wheel Industrial Building, S(349326).
Tel: 6227-6815 Fax: 6743-6847 Email: inquiry@bgst.edu.sg
To access previous issues of BTW click here | To access BGST website click here.
To subscribe click here | To unsubscribe click here.
Bookmark and Share