Lawyers and religious leaders would come to Jesus and ask what they must do “to inherit the kingdom of God.” After listing many offenses against God’s kingdom, Paul said in Galatians 5:21 that those who do these things 20 works“will not inherit the kingdom of God.” It’s the consequence of living according to our sinful nature. Those practices don’t fit in God’s kingdom and will not be present. Therefore those who practice the “works of the flesh” won’t be in God’s kingdom. But there is another way of living. It begins not with keeping the standards of God’s law, but by coming to Him, just as the prodigal son did, in humble recognition of our own sinful “selves” and looking in faith to Christ for our salvation. Christ always used the law as the standard by which all men could see themselves (as if in a mirror) as they really were. That then opened their hearts to God’s amazing Grace and love. While we all were yet sinners, God demonstrated His own love for us through Christ’s death on the cross. God so “loved” that He gave His only Son.

Our coming to faith in Christ as our only way into God’s Kingdom brings with it a new element. God’s love opens us to His Spirit. With the Spirit in us through faith in God’s expressed love on Calvary, we are brought into a new relationship with God. Instead of the “works” of our flesh, we can experience the “fruit” of the Spirit. Paul explains this to us in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Please notice in these passages that the “works” of the flesh are plural, but the “fruit” of the Spirit is singular. Most commentators, especially those that work from the Greek manuscripts, notice the singularity of the word “fruit.” I would suggest we translate this passage by saying “the fruit of the spirit is love followed by a colon. Love is the singular fruit that changes lives. God’s love for us first, then when God loves us first we can return His love and learn how to love others as well. When asked what the greatest commandment was, Jesus said it was “love.” The love Jesus spoke of was love in two directions; first to God then to others. Yet the singular characteristic was love. Jesus also said the whole law, the writings and the prophets were fulfilled in this one “singular” commandment; love! Instead of the works of the flesh the fruit of the Spirit sprouts joy in our lives rather than lust. It brings forth peace instead of contention. It blooms with patience with people all around us. It sprouts kindness, goodness, gentleness, faithfulness, and self-control. All these are direct contrasts to the “works” of the selfish flesh.