Question:

I am studying the fruits of the Spirit.  In fact, I am scheduled to give a talk on it this Sunday.  I'm conhfused over something.  We all know people who are not Christians and are nice people.  Not the nasty, evil person that Paul talks about before going into the fruits of the Spirit.  Paul says without the Holy Spirit you will be all those nasty things in Galatians 5:19-21.  How then, can non-Christians be such outstanding and warm, generous people?


Answer:

"Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law" (Galatians 5:19-23).

You are reading this passage incorrectly. Paul said that when people follow the desires of the flesh, they naturally gravitate toward all sorts of sinful behavior. Doing things because it feels good or because your body desires it does not lead to moral behavior. However, the fruit of the Spirit's teaching naturally results in good character traits. Notice that Paul said fruit, not fruits. These verses do not say that the Holy Spirit controls a person in a direct fashion. Paul is talking about the direction people choose to follow.

Just because a person hasn't become a Christian, it does not automatically mean that are not following moral principles in their lives. This is the mistake the Jews made concerning the Gentiles. They assumed that because they had God's word they were automatically righteous. They assumed that because the Gentiles did not have God's word they were automatically sinful. "(For not the hearers of the law are just in the sight of God, but the doers of the law will be justified; for when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do the things in the law, these, although not having the law, are a law to themselves, who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them)" (Romans 2:13-15). A non-Christian who still follows the teachings of God for the most part, will still show evidence of God's influence in their lives.