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“But the fruit of the Spirit is…kindness” Galatians 5:22

Last week, I listened to a panel discussing the new move of God, what God is releasing in this time, and what does it mean for the body of Christ.  One of the panelists said, “There is a lack of kindness in the body of Christ”.  As I was already thinking about kindness, his words caught my attention.  I thought about them for days and wondered; what does he mean by kindness?  I wrote last week how my interpretation of words are formed by usage and I don’t always understand what a word actually means.  I wonder what kindness, and the lack thereof, meant to this panelist.  Since I do not know him I cannot ask him.  The question remains an open one I hold in the back of my mind when I am listening to anyone speak: what exactly are they saying?  What do they think the word they are using means?  Does this really mean what they think it means?  What does it mean to me?

Have you ever attempted to define kindness to yourself?  I found it impossible.  I asked myself and realized my mind was returning an answer of, “Well, it’s being kind, you know, being a nice person.  Being good.  Doing nice things for others when you don’t really have to.”  I thank the Holy Spirit for guiding me into this study so that I have to take a hard look at what I believe and move from my vague ideas to a solid foundation of truth. 

I begin every study by opening my Comparative Study Bible to the passage I’m looking at and then my Strong’s Concordance.  It might interest you to know that the Amplified, New American Standard, New International, and New King James Version have “kindness” in Galatians 5:22.  The King James Version has “gentleness” which I found interesting but I didn’t think it clarified the meaning.  The Greek word in this passage is chrestotes (G5544) and means “usefulness.”  The Strong’s traces this word to chraomai (G5530) which means “to furnish what is needed.”  I found this both helpful and interesting but didn’t feel I was getting a grasp on the meaning of kindness.

Here is where I find a limitation in using the Strong’s Concordance.  The Strong’s number of 5544 only appears once under the entry for “gentleness”.  I knew the word could not have been used only once in the New Testament but there isn’t any way of using the Strong’s to track a word’s usage unless I search the columns for occurrences of 5544 and hope I don’t miss one.  I know there is Bible software I could use but I am old fashioned and prefer a book.  Thus, I have The New Koine Greek Textbook set and find this an invaluable resource.  It’s coded to the Strong’s Numbering System and, looking up 5544, I find a list of all scriptures where the Greek word is used.  As usage helps to define the meaning of a word, I want to know how it was used in other places.

Volume II/III of The New Koine Greek Textbook tells me how the Greek word was translated in the King James Version.  Comparing the information there with the Strong’s Concordance, I find the King James Version has chrestotes translated one time as “gentleness” (Galatians 5:22), one time as “good” (Romans 3:12), four times as “goodness” (Romans 2:4, Romans 11:22, Romans 11:22, Romans 11:22), and four times as “kindness” (2 Corinthians 6:6, Ephesians 2:7, Colossians 3:12, Titus 3:4).  I read each one of these verses substituting “usefulness”. 

How I recommend you do so!  The second chapter of Ephesians especially came alive for me.  I am so grateful for the teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit because I am horrified when I realize things I have believed about God and His feelings toward me come from an inadequate understanding of what the writers of the New Testament meant.  Consider Romans 11:22.  My Greek study word appears three times in that verse and my understanding of it was altered when I substituted “usefulness” for “goodness”.  The passage says, “Therefore consider the goodness (usefulness) and severity of God; on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness (usefulness), if you continue in His goodness (usefulness).  Otherwise you also will be cut off.”

I’m quoting from the New King James version here but, other than updating the language a bit, it made no changes to the King James translation.  The Amplified, New American Standard, and New International all have “kindness” and none help make this passage less confusing.  I’ve heard it used to warn believers to “continue in the goodness of God less ye be cut off” and meaning to spend eternity in hell.  Is this what this passage is really saying?  Does substituting “usefulness” as the actual meaning of the Greek make it any clearer?  Paul does contrast obedience and disobedience later in the chapter: could this passage be talking about doing good works or supplying what is needed, to return to the Greek?

I would not ever say helping another person is not necessary.  The second chapter of James shows believers how important it is to meet the needs of our community and he states, “for as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).  This being so, I do not believe the usefulness of God in Romans 11:22 is a mandate to do good works.  Paul is using a branch metaphor here and, while it isn’t the exact one Jesus used in John 15, the imagery is the same.  We must be vitally connected to the Life of Jesus.  That is how we continue in God’s usefulness.

The Greek word translated “continue” is interesting.  It’s epimeno (G1961) and means “to stay over, remain, abide.”  Epimeno is a compound word and its components are epi (G1909) meaning “superimposition” and meno (G3306) which gives the meaning of “to stay (in a given place, state, relation, or expectancy), abide.”  Superimposition is a cool word.  It means “to put, lay, or stack on top of something else”1.  The more I study the more I see that, while I am not passive, everything is the work of Jesus.  He opened up the way to the Holiest through His very self (Hebrews 10:19-20), and in Him I live and move and have my very being (Acts 17:28).  I cannot abide in Him on my own but His life is superimposed over mine and enables me to abide.

His life is not only superimposed but infused.  He grafts me to Himself and His very Life through His Spirit flows from Him to me.  Yet I am not passive.  I respond but the only response I can make is “Thank you.  It is so.  Amen.”  This is what it means to be the body of Christ.  It is not He is the head in heaven and I’m a member of His body on earth running around doing His works.  It’s a subtle point I’m trying to make but thinking that way still infers separation: Him up there and us down here, doing everything we can to abide, to continue in the goodness of God, and hoping we are not cut off. 

We are not separate.  No, we are vitally connected to Him and His Spirit flows through the Head and body the same way my head and body are connected and my life-blood circulates throughout.  The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in me.  In me!  I have a vital union with Jesus.  He could not be closer to me.  My body is the temple of His Spirit.  His Life is in me right now.  I can’t say it enough.  It is His life flowing in and through me that is the usefulness of God.

He supplies what is needed every moment of my existence (Philippians 4:19).  I do not live a life of scarcity no matter what my circumstances might look like on the outside because I have Jesus Himself living in me and all things are mine because I am His (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).  I do not seek to do good works on my own but rather; He fills me with Himself, He becomes a fountain within me, and He overflows to those around me.  I cannot give to others what I do not possess myself.

I will close this week with the Apostle Paul’s beautiful prayer in Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever, Amen.”

And Amen.

  1. Guralnik, David B., Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, 2nd Edition, William Colling + World Publishing Company, 1976

Other References:

Unless notes otherwise, scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982

The Comparative Study Bible, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984

Strong, James, LLD., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990

Walker, Allen G., The New Koine Greek Textbook, Volumes 1-5 and Supplements, 2014-2019.