But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Earlier in his letter to the Jesus believers in Galatia, Paul has argued that it is not by doing the works of the law of Moses that we are justified — declared to be in right relationship with God and His people — but by faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (Galatians 2:16). Though the terminology of justification comes from the law-court, the declaration Paul speaks of is not a hollow determination or “legal fiction.” In Galatians 5, Paul shows how the reality of this right relationship plays out, and it has to do with the Holy Spirit and with love.
You have become estranged from Christ, you who attempt to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. For we through the Spirit eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness by faith. For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision avails anything, but faith working through love. (Galatians 5:4-6)No one could ever have been justified by the law, because the law could never impart the ability to do what the law required. “For if there had been a law given which could have given life, truly righteousness would have been by the law” (Galatians 3:21). However, for those who are in Christ, who belong to Him through faith in Him, there is indeed life — His life. As Paul said, “I have been crucified with Christ; it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself for me” (Galatians 2:20).
This life is mediated to us by the Holy Spirit. Through the Spirit, we “eagerly wait for the hope of righteousness.” Hope is about expectation, and righteousness is about justification. We have an eager anticipation (not an anxious one) that on that day when we stand before God, He will count us among the righteous, because of the life of Christ in us and the work of the Holy Spirit.
The law that we could never keep on our own will be fulfilled. How? By love. “For all the law is fulfilled in one word, even in this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself’” (Galatians 5:14). And where does this love come from? It is the fruit of the Spirit. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.” This fruit displays the very character of the Lord Jesus Christ.
The law of Moses is certainly not against this. Indeed, the fruit of the Spirit, which is love, is what actually fulfills the law. But what the law was unable to work in us, the Spirit of God is in us to produce in our lives. So Paul can say, at the end of his letter, that those who sow to the Spirit will reap everlasting life.
Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith. (Galatians 6:7-10)The work of the Holy Spirit, and the fruit He manifests in and through us, demonstrates that eternal life is at work in us, which is the life of the age to come, the life of Him who is Life itself — the Lord Jesus Christ. His life in us, and our life in Him, fulfills all that righteousness requires. And when we stand before God on that final day, He will see that righteousness, that it is very real, and will be pleased with what He has done in us.