Fruit of the Spirit – Kindness, Goodness, Faithfulness

See the study on Love and Joy for a full introduction to our continuing study of the Fruit of the Spirit.  One paragraph from that introduction bears repeating here:

The intent of this study is not to send us out to work hard at bearing fruit.  It is impossible to simply decide to be kind, good and faithful.  The fruit comes as a result of walking.  It is important to remember that this is the fruit of the Spirit.  When we make knowing God the center of our lives, when we walk with Him in loving obedience, when we live thankful lives based on the gospel – THEN we bear the fruit that marks us as one of His.  The intent of this study is to recognize the fruit and assess where we are in knowing our Creator.  If the fruit is not there we should examine ourselves to make sure we are in the faith.  And then we should prayerfully work at knowing our Father and walking by His Spirit.

Aristotle defined kindness as helpfulness towards someone in need, not in return for anything, nor for the advantage of the helper himself, but for that of the person helped.  In Catholicism, kindness is considered one of the Seven Heavenly Virtues that combat each of the Seven Deadly Sins.  In the list, kindness is the antidote to envy and is defined as charity, compassion and friendship for its own sake

Kindness is love acted out (Love is kind – I Cor 13:4).  Consistent kindness does not exist apart from love and love never exists without showing itself in kindness.  If we fulfill the Law by loving our neighbor as ourselves (5:14), we will show kindness to our neighbor.  Jesus said – in the parable of the Good Samaritan – that everyone is our neighbor (Lk 10:25-37).  Thus as believers we are to be kind to everyone and show the existence of God’s love in our lives.

Kindness is treating others according to the golden rule – in everything treat people the same way you want them to treat you (Matt 7:12).  It is extending to others the mercy and grace we receive in the gospel. 

Since kindness is based in God’s love it is practiced completely apart from justice.  Kindness extended to others in return for kindness is a transaction.  True kindness is unmerited – or at least given with no thought of merit.  Nowhere in the Bible are we taught to do to others as they justly deserve.  People’s behavior does not enter into any teaching on how to treat them.  Jesus said in the Sermon on the Mount, “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you?  Do not even the tax-gatherers do the same?  And if you greet your brothers only, what do you do more than others?  Do not even the Gentiles do the same?  Therefore you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect” (Matt 5:46-48).  We are to love and act kindly toward others the way God does – completely apart from what they earn or deserve.

The ultimate example of kindness is what God extends to us through salvation.  When we walk by the Spirit He bears kindness in us because it is at the center of who God is and how He treats us.  The love of God seeks to show kindness to His children.  But God, beingrich in mercy, because of His greatlove with which He loved us, even when we were dead in our transgressions, made us alivetogether with Christ (by grace you have beensaved), and raised us up with Him, and seated us with Him in the heavenly places, in ChristJesus, in order that in the ages to come He might show the surpassingriches of His grace in kindnesstoward us in ChristJesus (Eph 2:4-7).

Outside of love, no attribute describes God more completely than goodness.  God is good.  God is the author of goodness and the standard of what is good.  The ultimate definition of good is God Himself.  Whatever God does is good and whatever is not from God is not good.  His acts cannot be judged by their goodness because they define what good is.  Unlike a creature, God’s goodness is His essence and cannot be defined outside of Himself.  Man only knows what good is because of God.  If God does it or says it, it is good (Gen 1:31).

That He is good gives the Christian confidence in a sinful world.  The believer knows the Author of all things – good and bad (from man’s perspective, Job 2:10) – is good.  Therefore God’s children can suffer hardship with hope because they know the purpose of hard times is ultimately good (Heb 12:10).  Paul could say that all things work together for good (Rom 8:28-29) because all things come from the One who is good – who IS goodness.

The goodness of God is a character trait which applies to every other attribute. God’s wrath is good. God’s holiness is good. God’s righteousness is good. God is good in His entirety. There is nothing about God that is not good. There is nothing God purposes for His children that is not good. God gives to His children only that which is good. And He withholds nothing good from us. God is good, and He is at work in our lives for good. Nothing which God creates, nothing which God accomplishes, is not good.  – Bob Deffinbaugh, The Goodness of God

There is such an absolute perfection in God’s nature and being that nothing is wanting to it or defective in it, and nothing can be added to it to make it better. ‘He is originally good, good of Himself, which nothing else is; for all creatures are good only by participation and communication from God. He is essentially good; not only good, but goodness itself: the creature’s good is a super-added quality, in God it is His essence. He is infinitely good; the creature’s good is but a drop, but in God there is an infinite ocean or gathering together of good. He is eternally and immutably good, for He cannot be less good than He is; as there can be no addition made to Him, so no subtraction from Him’ (Thos. Manton). God is summum bonum, the highest good. – AW Pink, The Attributes of God

Thus we cannot look at our circumstances and judge God’s goodness.  We cannot say when life is good that it proves God is good.  When life is bad God is still good.  When the cancer screen comes back negative God is good.  When it comes back positive God is good.  There is no good apart from God (Jas 1:17) and His acts cannot be judged by any standard outside of Himself.  It is the ultimate source of hope for the believer that God’s goodness is immutable.

Because God is good and the Author of all that is good, He knows the highest good for His creatures is to know Him more and be in His presence.  He works all things in the lives of His children to bring them closer to Him (or bring them back to Him).  Nothing that stands between the child of God and his Father is good.  Nothing that brings the child of God closer to his Father is bad.  But as for me, the nearness of God is my good; I have made the Lord God my refuge, that I may tell of all Your works (Ps 73:28).

Goodness is what infuses God’s omnipotence and omniscience and omnipresence.  If God were not good His other traits would be horrifying.  Even His love would be capricious without His goodness.  Since God is good, His children take great solace in His sovereignty and power. 

It makes perfect sense, then, that walking by the Spirit of the One who is good results in the goodness of the one who walks.  The Spirit of Goodness bears goodness in the one who walks after His lead.  As we become more like our Father we will of course reflect His goodness.

How to define goodness?  Since God is the standard of goodness, goodness is whatever God approves.  There is no higher standard of goodness than God’s own character and His approval of whatever is consistent with that character.  When we reflect the goodness of God – as we walk by His Spirit – we will also approve what God approves and delight in things in which He delights – Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology.

So walking by the Spirit means we grow in our approval of what God approves and apply it to our actions (especially as we interact with others).  We delight more and more in righteousness and holiness and desire to be more like our Father.  Our desire for wickedness decreases as our knowledge of God grows.  We bring glory to God as we reflect His goodness (II Thess 1:11-12) and no longer take pleasure in wickedness (II Thess 2:12).

As our desire for goodness grows, our desire for the Author of all that is good grows too.  God works in our life to bring us closer to Him (as mentioned above) but our desire for only Him will grow as we walk with Him too.  The Spirit bears in us a thirst that is directed at God Himself.  Things other than God fade in their attractiveness as our knowledge of the goodness of God increases.  Whom have I in heaven but You?  And besides You, I desire nothing on earth.  My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever (Ps 73:25-26).

One of the most transcendent qualities of God is His faithfulness.  God is always faithful and cannot be unfaithful.  He perfectly fulfills His word.  God cannot break a covenant and cannot be tempted to evil (Jas 1:13).  God’s commitment is so ironclad that when He gives His word He can only swear by Himself (Gen 22:16).

God explained His name – Yahweh – to Moses in terms of covenant.  He said Moses and the Israelites would know Him as their forefathers did not.  They would know Him by His character as the covenant-keeping God (Ex 6:2-8).  Throughout the history of Israel He repeatedly referenced His covenant name in condemning their disobedience.

The first two commandments God gave Israel at Sinai (Ex 20) regarded faithfulness – You shall have no other gods before me and You shall not make for yourself an idol.  These commandments – along with the third (You shall not take the name of Yahweh your God in vain) – were the only ones that carried with them a specific curse.  God did not take lightly the unfaithfulness of His people or the mocking of His name that denoted His covenant loyalty and love.  Nothing Israel did throughout its pre-Messianic history brought wrath as much as when they forsook God and broke these commandments.  Every king of Israel (and Judah) was judged simply by his fidelity to God through the keeping of the first two commandments.

God reminded the people of Israel repeatedly of His faithfulness to them through His covenant.  He also reminded them of the danger of their breaking the covenant.  Know therefore that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God, who keeps His covenant and His lovingkindness to a thousandth generation with those who love Him and keep His commandments; but repays those who hate Him to their faces, to destroy them; He will not delay with him who hates Him, He will repay him to his face (Deut 7:9-10).

God punished Israel for violating its covenants with Him but also for violating covenants with others.  He showed Israel how seriously He takes covenants when He sent His wrath on the people in David’s time for violating a centuries-old covenant with the Gibeonites that was made under false pretenses (Josh 9, II Sam 21).  He condemned the Israelites for dishonesty with each other and for violating their marriage covenants in the days of Malachi (2:10-16).

In Lamentations, Jeremiah mourned the destruction and captivity of God’s people but also celebrated God’s faithfulness.  All the warnings of the covenant came to pass just as God promised.  Israel was not faithful and God punished them and exiled them to Babylon.  But His faithfulness in carrying out the punishments of the covenant was reason for hope.  If God was faithful to the curses of the covenant, He would be faithful to the promises of restoration also.  The Israelites could not only count on being punished for disobedience but also on being restored after repentance.  This is why Jeremiah could say after witnessing the destruction of all he knew, “This I recall to mind, therefore I have hope.  The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail.  They are new every morning; great is Thy faithfulness.  ‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, ‘therefore I have hope in Him’” (Lam 3:21-24).

God is no less faithful to His covenants today.  To those who are His children He promises to faithfully walk with them until Christ returns.  “And lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matt 28:20b).  “For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus” (Phil 1:6).  Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  Faithful is He who calls you, and He will also bring it to pass (I Thess 5:23-24). 

It is vitally important to remember that just like His love and kindness, God’s faithfulness is based in Himself.  He is not faithful only to those who deserve it (which would effectively mean He would never be faithful) – He is faithful because of His nature.  He cannot be unfaithful.  For us to model the faithfulness of God we must be faithful because it is who we are in God – not because it is what our circumstances warrant.  Our Father is continually faithful to us even when we are not faithful to Him (If we are faithless, He remains faithful; for He cannot deny Himself – II Tim 2:13).  It is this knowledge which must undergird our actions toward others.

Faithfulness as listed in the Fruit of the Spirit likely means both fidelity to God and man.  The one who walks by the Spirit models the faithfulness of God both in how he serves God and in how he interacts with others.  The Spirit bears in him the desire to faithfully obey God’s commands and to serve others honestly and forthrightly.  In all relationships and in all things – both large and inconsequential – he remains faithful to God and to people (faithfulness to God will always result in faithfulness to others).  In public, in private, with many people or only a few, whether others know or not, he does what he says he will and reliably fulfills his responsibilities.  He sees all commitments as commitments to his Father in heaven and so serves God rather than looking to others for commendation or worth.

The Spirit walker is a man of covenants because he is filled with the Spirit of the covenant-keeping God.  The Spirit of the God who defines Himself by His covenants will bear in the man He walks with a desire to keep his word.  His words and his vows carry great meaning because they reflect the One who indwells him.

It is worth noting that the same God who sent a three-year famine and exacted the death of seven men as the consequence for Israel breaking a covenant that was hundreds of years old made with a people who tricked them into making it in the first place (II Sam 21), is the same God who walks with us today and watches our words and agreements (and marriage vows).

Faithfulness will permeate the child of God.  His communion with God through the Holy Spirit will cause him to act as God acts toward others.  He will see the people in his life not as individuals who deserve or do not deserve his fair treatment, but as opportunities to bring glory to the One he loves.  His knowledge and appreciation of God’s faithfulness to him will cause his actions toward others to become thank-offerings to the One who is ultimately and eternally faithful.

For the Lord is good;
His lovingkindness is everlasting,
And His faithfulness to all generations.
Psalm 100:5

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