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Author:Rev. W.B. Slomp
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Congregation:Immanuel Canadian Reformed Church
 Edmonton, Alberta
 www.edmontonimmanuel.ca
 
Title:The Fruit of the Spirit is Kindness
Text:Galatians 5:22 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Unclassified
 
Preached:2008-12-7
Added:2009-04-27
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

Sing:

Psalm 118: 8
Psalm 119: 25, 47
Psalm 141: 1, 2, 3, 4
Psalm 86: 2, 4
Psalm 136: 1, 2, 3, 12

Read: 1 Samuel 20: 1 - 17

Text: Galatians 5: 22 (kindness)
* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


Beloved congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ,

The fifth word of the fruit of the Holy Spirit is kindness. And what is true of all the other words belonging to the fruit of the Spirit is also true of this word, namely that if the fruit of kindness is not growing in you, then you are not bearing fruit. Then you are like that fruit tree the Lord Jesus spoke about, which had no fruit, and therefore deserved to be cut down and thrown into the fire.

Paul also wants to impress that upon the people belonging to the churches of Galatia. If there are any people who ought to hear this, it is them. For what has happened? A rift has come between brothers and sisters in the Lord. There are factions. Some people are stirring up trouble. They are fighting amongst themselves. That is clear from the warning Paul gives them in this letter. He says in chapter 5:15, “If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.” Thus he instructs them toward the end of his letter, “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.”

It is not as if they are incapable of kindness; not at all. They showed what kind of people they could be when Paul first came into their midst. He writes about that in Chapter 4:12ff. He says there, “You have done me no wrong. As you know, it was because of an illness that I first preached the gospel to you. Even though my illness was a trial to you, you did not treat me with contempt or scorn. Instead, you welcomed me as if I were an angel of God, as if I were Christ Jesus himself. …I can testify that, if you could have done so, you would have torn out your eyes and given them to me.”

They showed great kindness to him when he came through there on one of his missionary tours. He stayed with them for a little while and preached the gospel to them. They enthusiastically embraced that gospel with open arms. They realized the kindness of God; how he saved them in spite of their sins, so they responded in kind. 

But since his departure, some of them no longer feel so kindly inclined towards him. Some were even hostile to him and his message because all kinds of rumours were spread about him. Even his very apostleship was questioned. This was done by the Judaizers whose credentials were quite impressive and whose arguments appeared quite logical.  

Paul says to them therefore in this letter, “Have I now become your enemy by telling you the truth?” (chp. 4:16). Their kindness has worn off. Why is that? For no other reason than that they were no longer loyal to the true Gospel of the free grace through Jesus Christ! And once you leave the gospel, then you are no longer kind to one another.

For what is kindness? It especially refers to our relationship with one another. That is what the second cluster of fruit, to which this virtue belongs, is all about. But again, our kindness means nothing at all, if it is not rooted in God’s kindness. Let us discover what that means. What can we, as congregation of our Lord Jesus Christ, learn so that we too may be known as a kind congregation? Let us listen to the preaching of God’s Word as summarized under the following theme:

          The Fruit of the Spirit is Kindness

          1. The root of kindness

          2. The fruit of kindness

  

1.  First then let us look at the root of kindness. It is important that we are very precise in the way that we define this term for we do not have an exact English equivalent of this Greek word. For that reason the word is translated by different words in English. Sometimes we find the word friendliness, goodness, gentleness, or generosity. You will note that some of the words that Paul uses in this list of the fruit of the Spirit are quite similar to the word which we take into consideration today. What then exactly does it mean?

Originally the word translated here as kindness meant ‘to be useful’, or ‘to be adapted to its purpose’. The term expresses how a person so designated stands in relation to another person, especially a slave in relation to his master. A slave was known to be kind when he obediently and skillfully fulfilled the tasks which his master assigned to him. A slave who had a lot of skill was very useful to his master, especially if he did his work cheerfully, without grumbling and complaining. He did not question his master’s authority and protected his master’s interest to the best of his ability. He was loyal to him. He was eager to help. Such a slave, therefore, was pleasant to be around. So you can understand that that term came to mean ‘to be kind.’ Someone who respects authority, who is eager to be of assistance and who cheerfully holds on to his end of a contract is a kind person. Also in the Bible, someone who is kind is a person who has a deep sense of commitment and loyalty. 

We can see such kindness in the relationship between David and Jonathan. Jonathan’s kindness consisted of intense loyalty. This is shown in the way Jonathan goes to great lengths to assure David that he will see to it that David will not suffer any harm at the hands of Saul, Jonathan’s father. David knows that Jonathan is not yet wise to his father, and that he does not fully realize the extent of his father’s evil spirit. This becomes clear to him only later on. But in spite of all that, Jonathan nevertheless goes to great lengths to protect David.

Why do you think he did that? Do you think he did that simply because they are such good friends? Do you think he did that because he had such an emotional feeling of wellbeing because of him and because of their relationship? Brothers and sisters, if you look at this passage carefully then you will note that there is a lot more to it than that. In 1 Samuel 20:8 David says to Jonathan, “As for you, show kindness to your servant, for you have brought him into a covenant with you before the LORD. If I am guilty, then kill me yourself! Why hand me over to your father?” 

David wants Jonathan to show kindness to him because of the covenant they have with each other. They are to be loyal to each other and look out for each other’s interests because of the promise they made to each other. That was done not just for the sake of loyalty to each other, but out of loyalty to the Lord God.

Jonathan knew that David was the legitimate heir to the throne of Israel; that he is the anointed of the Lord. The Lord God had determined that his father Saul was no longer worthy of such a position. Jonathan had to recognize God’s hand in this. And he did. David did as well. Ultimately their loyalty to each other is shown only because both Jonathan and David want to do the will of the Lord their God. That is why in verse 8 they also speak about a covenant of the Lord. That is what it literally says in the Hebrew. Some translations give the possibility of the rendering “a covenant of the LORD.”  The King James Version also translates it that way. And so, their mutual loyalty, their mutual kindness is shown for the sake of the Lord their God and the covenant that he made with them.

It is quite noteworthy therefore, that Jonathan shows kindness to David, and not to his father. You see, Jonathan is well aware that we are not to show kindness to another person just because we like him or her, or just because you are related. Kindness is not just a human emotion. Kindness must never just be on a human level. No, it is much more than that. It must be rooted in the loving-kindness of God.   

Humanly speaking, Jonathan had a lot more to be gained with his relationship with his father. In reality he would have been better off with David out of the way. For Jonathan was a crown prince. David stood in the way of him becoming king one day. But Jonathan knew that God had anointed David to that position. Jonathan, however, is not interested in his own position. He is interested in the position of the Lord. He knows that to him belongs all the power and glory, and that his will alone has to be carried out. Jonathan’s kindness shown to David was shown for the sake of the Lord. He was mindful of the covenant they made with each other in the presence of the Lord. 

That is also how God expects us to conduct ourselves. It must be according to the covenant God made with us. For by now it should be clear that the word ‘kindness’ has everything to do with the covenant. God’s kindness means that he is loyal to his covenant people. He shows us his steadfast love. Elsewhere this is also called his loving-kindness. That is what we sang about during this worship service: “His steadfast grace and loving-kindness endure through all eternity” (Psalm 118:8). That term “loving-kindness” is always connected with God’s covenant love. It means that he is always loyal to his covenant people. It means that he is faithful to his covenant promises.

Think about how God has shown his loving-kindness to all of his creation since the beginning of days. He was kind to Adam and Eve. He did not want them to perish. Instead he gave them the promise of eternal life. He promised them that he would defeat the evil one. All they had to do was believe in Him. And in the meantime he would show them his kindness in numerous ways. He did this so that mankind would have a foretaste of the great riches stored up for them. 

God would speak to them, and allow man also to have access to his throne. He would give them the signs and the seals of the covenant, to remind mankind of his goodwill towards them and that he would never forsake his people. He established the ceremonial laws to teach man to wait for the paschal Lamb. Throughout the years he remained loyal to his creatures with whom he made a covenant.    

But do you know how he especially shows us his covenant loving-kindness? The greatest act of kindness ever shown was that God sent us his Son in the flesh to die for us. It is especially through Christ that he shows us his covenant faithfulness. Paul says to Titus in chapter 3:4-5, “But when the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit.” Christ did not think about his own position which he had with the Father. No, he stripped himself of his power and majesty. He came down to earth, in the midst of this sinful and miserable world, and allowed himself to be nailed on a cross. He shed his blood so that we could be washed clean in it. That is God’s kindness to all who believe.   

In Matthew 11:29-30, Christ says to all his covenant children and to all who want to listen and believe in Him, “Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is kind.” Take note of this translation. In English we read that his yoke is light. That is the way the NIV and the RSV render it. But in the original text, the same word that we have translated as “kind” is used. We know at this point what Christ means. His yoke is kind because of his covenant loyalty. It is a kind yoke because through him all the promises of God find their fulfillment in Him. Through God’s kindness, instead of death, we will have life, eternal life.

 

2.       That then is the root of kindness. But now we will hear about the fruit of kindness. In other words, how is God’s kindness to be shown in our lives? We come to the second point.

God’s kindness ought to remind us that we too are in a covenant relationship. We are in a covenant relationship in the first place with the Lord our God. That is what David says, for example, in Psalm 25:10, “All the ways of the LORD are loving and faithful for those who keep the demands of his covenant.” David reminds us of our covenant obligations in that regard. God’s loving-kindness ought to move us to loving-kindness towards our fellow man. That is also what the prophet Micah tells us in Micah 6:8, “He has showed you, O man, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love kindness (as it says in the RSV) and to walk humbly with your God.” The word “mercy” is used in the NIV but other translations use the word “kindness.” The Lord requires us to love kindness. That is to say, we are to be kind to one another. We must also be kind to the Lord God. Such kindness ought to be part of our own personality. For it is only through kindness that we can win others over. In that regard kindness has the same purpose as patience. Paul says in Romans 2:4, “Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, tolerance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness leads you toward repentance?”  

God’s kindness is given so that we may lead repentant lives. He shows us his covenant love first, and then expects us to respond. Our kindness ought also to lead to the daily repentance of others. Look at how the Lord Jesus Himself did that while he was on earth. He showed his great kindness to the multitudes. He showed a lot of compassion, especially to the downtrodden of society. He went to prostitutes and tax collectors and the adulterers and he had pity on them. He healed the sick and bound up the broken-hearted. He did not go to the high and mighty of the world, but he especially ministered to the down-trodden of society. He did not thumb his nose at those who were despised by others. No, he sought them out.

There was never a kinder man than the Lord Jesus. Why was he so kind? He was kind in order to bring mankind to repentance. Someone who is rich and powerful is a poor prospect for conversion for he does not realize the need for his redemption. He depends on his good health and his position in life to carry him through. He fools himself into thinking that his prosperity will last. Such people are proud people. And more often than not they get their wealth by caring more about themselves than others. That is why Christ went especially to the less fortunate: to the lame, the sick, and the prostitutes.

If you think there is suffering today, then you must remember the conditions that prevailed at that time. In those days there were no hospitals, no homes for the aged, no orphanages, no homes for the handicapped, or any other institutions of special care. The weak of society were pretty much on their own. The blind had to beg for money. The handicapped were looked down upon, because the pervading theology, taught by the Pharisees, was that any handicapped or disfigured person had only him or herself to blame for his/her plight. The Pharisees taught that any disfigurement was directly tied to a specific sin of either the person himself or his/her parents. It was a very cruel society. There was very little understanding for the effects of sin and the brokenness of earthly life. 

But Christ had compassion on the masses. His heart went out to them. He could not help but be kind to them. Christ was kindness personified. A kinder person than Christ has never lived. And the people loved him for it, especially in the beginning of his ministry.

But do you know how you can really tell that Christ was a kind and compassionate person? You can tell that from the way that children responded to Him. They were eager to be with Him. That is clear from the passage in Mark 10:13-16 where we read, “People were bringing little children to Jesus to have him touch them, but the disciples rebuked them. When Jesus saw this, he was indignant. He said to them, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these. I tell you the truth, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.” And he took the children in his arms, put his hands on them and blessed them.”

The Lord Jesus loved little children. And do you know why? Do you think it was because they look so cute, and do and say so many cute things? No, beloved, he loved them because the promise of the covenant is for them as well as for the adults. They are included in God’s kingdom. The same thing, therefore, ought also to apply to us. Our kindness is meant to show forth God’s kindness. Every believer is called upon to be kind to children. Why? Because through our kindness, children are to see God’s kindness.

The opposite of kindness is harshness. We can be quite harsh with one another at times, can’t we? That is especially the case in our homes where we feel less restrained. Husbands and wives can be quite unkind to one another at times. However, please remember that you are in a covenant relationship with one another and the Lord your God. You have made promises to each other when you made your wedding vows. Therefore your relationship ought to reflect the relationship God has with us. And so, let me ask you, how is it in your home? Husbands, are you kind to your wife? Or do you treat her harshly? Do you treat her like a doormat? Or do you deal gently with her, appreciating all her good qualities? For remember, the Lord commands you to be kind to your wife, treating her as the weaker vessel. You are to be kind to her even when you cannot always get what you want from her.

And what about you, wives? Do you also treat your husband with respect and kindness? Or are you always critical of him? Brothers and sisters, the sad reality is that there is so little kindness in this world, also in Christian relationships.  

We can also notice that in the church. The church is not always a kind place. Paul certainly discovered that. He was attacked in a most cowardly way. And the problem was a lot of people went along with what was happening. But do you know what the problem was in Galatia? The problem, brothers and sisters, was that the people were no longer loyal to the Lord their God. Their kindness was not rooted in the kindness of God. They forgot their covenant responsibilities. Their loyalty was to man. And that is why, as soon as Paul was gone, they transferred their loyalty to the Judaizers. For these were impressive people. They knew, so it seemed, what they were talking about. But they did not ask themselves whether what they were talking about was in accordance with God’s Word. 

Beloved, the church of God must be a kind church. Too often it happens in church that we become followers of men. We follow a certain personality – a minister or an elder. We overlook sins and shortcomings in others because we do not want to rock the boat, especially when we are dealing with people of influence. This happens quite often at the expense of the weaker members of the congregation, those who are not as able to stand up for themselves. And so we hold our hands above those who are not always honest in their dealings. We do not want to confront them if they do something wrong. We think we are being kind to them. After all, they do so much for the church. But that is not kindness, beloved. That is the opposite. It is cruelty. It is cruelty for those who are being wronged. Kindness can only be shown through loyalty to God in the first place. Kindness is shown especially to the weak and the oppressed. It is easy to be kind to people of influence. For that can translate in many benefits. But it is a lot harder to be kind to those who have little or no influence.

I hope that the children of the congregation are listening to this message. Children also can be very cruel to each other. Just like adults, they tend to be interested only in themselves, and realize little how their unkind words can cut others to the heart. Some children are very unhappy throughout their whole childhood because of the way they are treated by their peers. And so children, be kind to each other. Do not hurt others, especially in the way that you speak. Don’t say things that hurt. Think about how God wants you to treat others.

Office bearers especially are to be kind people. It says in 2 Timothy 2:24, “And the Lord’s servant must not quarrel; instead, he must be kind to everyone, able to teach, not resentful.” It is very easy for office bearers to become involved in or be the cause of all kinds of conflicts in the congregation. An office bearer should always ask himself, “Am I kind person?” That is to say, am I loyal to myself or to God in the first place? Do my own interests and the interests of others for my own sake take precedence, or my interest in the cause of God? Am I loyal to persons, or to God? Am I worried about my own name and reputation and the reputation of others, or the reputation of God? A minister, an elder, a deacon is called upon to be kind. He is a person who should be quick to listen, but slow to speak. He does not go by all kinds of rumors, but waits to hear the whole story before he makes his judgment. He will not condemn anyone rashly or unheard. He is a kind person. He is not quarrelsome.

But do not think, beloved congregation, that kindness ought to be equated with weakness. Do not think that kindness means that we are to overlook sin. That is what some people think. They think that they do others a favour by leaving them in their sin. Sometimes parents do that as well – they leave their children in their sins because they want to be kind to them. But if you do that brothers and sisters, then you are not a kind person, but a cruel one. If you see that a brother or sister in the Lord or one of your children is going on the road to perdition, you must call him or her back to repentance, and if you do not call him/her back to repentance then you are a very cruel person. Office bearers especially have to keep that in mind for we ought to lead others to God.

Peter says to his readers in his first letter, “for you have tasted the kindness of the Lord.” Peter speaks of that kindness of the Lord as a fruit which we can eat. Indeed we ourselves are fruits of the Holy Spirit. And that fruit has to grow and grow in our lives until it is ready for the final harvest.

Let me ask you, brothers and sisters, is the fruit of the Holy Spirit growing in you? Are you, by the grace of God, becoming a better person day by day? Are you becoming more and more loving, joyful, peace-loving, patient, and kind, day by day? If not, if instead you are regressing, you had better take a close look at your life. For at the final harvest, the Day of Judgment, the Lord will look you over and see whether or not you have indeed tasted of his fruit and shown the result of that in your life. He will look at you and he will see if you have indeed lived a life of faith. There must be growth in your life.

This world is a very harsh place. There is very little kindness in this world. And that is all the more reason that the fruit of kindness must grow in us. We are to be his image-bearers all the way. And when we live in that way today, and the rest of the days of our lives, then the Lord will also bestow his loving-kindness on us. He is our covenant God. He will always remain true to his promises. He will open his arms wide to his children and welcome us home. That is the kindness of the Lord, his kindness to those who showed forth his kindness here on earth. Amen.


* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. W.B. Slomp, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2008, Rev. W.B. Slomp

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