The Apostle Paul wrote, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law,” Galatians 5:22-23.
As mentioned in the previous installments, these nine attributes form the foundation or bedrock of what it is to be a believer in Messiah. If we desire to emulate and follow in our Savior’s footsteps, then we must adopt and live by the characteristics we find here. It’s not enough to keep the Sabbath and other commandments, but we must go beyond this and change who we are on the inside.
In Matthew 23 Yahshua refers to what He calls the weightier matters – judgment, mercy, and faith. I believe the attributes we see in Galatians 5 would also be considered the weightier matters. And as believers we should always be pursuing them.
Does this mean, then, that commandments like the Sabbath are not important? The answer is obviously no; Yahweh’s commandments are critically important. We know that Yahshua and the apostles, including Paul, faithfully observed the commandments including the Sabbath and Feast days. Is it possible to obey these commandments and yet NOT be found worthy of the first resurrection? Based on the examples of the scribes and Pharisees, I believe this is a real possibility. And for this reason we must not only focus on the outward commandments but also on how we’re to change inwardly.
Let’s now continue with this series on the fruits of the spirit and focus on the next one: Goodness.
The Virtue of Goodness
The Greek word for goodness is agathosune, and according to Strong’s Concordance means “goodness, i.e. virtue or beneficence.” Thayer’s Greek Lexicon tells us this word means “uprightness of heart and life, goodness, kindness.”
As for “virtue,” according to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, this word refers to a conformity, to a standard of right, and to moral excellence. It also refers to strength or courage and to a commendable quality or trait.
I believe virtue here would refer to living according to good works that exemplify righteousness and moral excellence in the context of goodness. In short, it’s doing what is right and living a life that rightly reflects the morality and standards of Yahweh’s Word.
In some ways, goodness can be viewed differently from the other fruits we’ve looked at thus far. Previously we’ve looked at love, joy, peace, longsuffering, and gentleness—attributes that we show to our fellow man. While this is true for goodness, goodness is also something we do individually. Living a moral and virtuous life requires a sense of fidelity to our Heavenly Father apart from how we interact with one another.
Agathosune is found only four times in the New Testament, including Galatians 5. Let’s review the three other instances where this Greek word is found, the first being Romans 15:13-14.
“Now the Elohim of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Spirit. And I myself also am persuaded of you, my brethren, that ye also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.”
Romans was written by the Apostle Paul. In this passage we see him refer to several important attributes, a few of which have been mentioned throughout this series. For example, we find here joy and peace. As a reminder, joy is a sense of happiness we find through the Holy Spirit that is not conditional or based upon our current situation. If we’re going through some sort of trial or tribulation, we should still be able to have a sense of happiness in Yahweh.
This passage also refers to unity within the Messiah’s body and the peace of mind we find through Yahweh’s promises. Peace is somewhat related to joy and for a moment, notice where we find these two characteristics.
Paul says here that the Elohim of hope fills us with joy and peace. So we see that these attributes are from Yahweh through the Holy Spirit.
Paul closes by saying that we should also be full of goodness, i.e., virtue or righteousness. This virtue leads to knowledge and the ability to rightly admonish one another.
Now what does it mean “to admonish”? Strong’s defines this word as, “…to caution or reprove gently.” As we learned in the “gentleness” segment, when we reprove somebody, we should do so with kindness.
Source of Goodness
The second example of agathosune is found in Ephesians 5:2-13. “And walk in love, as Messiah also hath loved us, and hath given himself for us an offering and a sacrifice to Yahweh for a sweet-smelling savour. But fornication, and all uncleanness, or covetousness, let it not be once named among you, as becometh saints; Neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor jesting, which are not convenient: but rather giving of thanks. For this ye know, that no whoremonger, nor unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, hath any inheritance in the kingdom of Messiah and of Yahweh. Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of Elohim upon the children of disobedience. Be not ye therefore partakers with them. For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in Yahweh: walk as children of light: (For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth;) Proving what is acceptable unto Yahweh. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather reprove them. For it is a shame even to speak of those things which are done of them in secret. But all things that are reproved are made manifest by the light: for whatsoever doth make manifest is light.”
Paul begins this passage by saying we should walk in love, as Messiah loved us. Yahshua gave His life as a ransom for our sins. During His ministry He said there wasn’t a greater love than to lay down one’s life for another.
As believers, do we have this same sense of love? If we want to be like Yahshua the Messiah, we must exemplify what it means to show love and concern for one another.
Paul also refers to specific sins within this passage. He mentions fornication, uncleanness, covetousness, filthiness, and other works of the flesh. He says that some within that assembly were in darkness, meaning that they were guilty of some of these sins, but now they are in the light of Yahweh, meaning that they are now walking in goodness and virtue.
We know that goodness and righteousness come from Yahweh’s Word. In fact, without the Bible we would have no way of defining what is good or virtuous.
Worthy of Our Calling
Let’s move on to the last example of agathosune in 2Thessalonians 1:11-12. “Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our Elohim would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power: That the name of our Master Yahshua Messiah may be glorified in you, and ye in him, according to the grace of our El and the Master Yahshua Messiah.”
Here Paul encourages the Thessalonians that Elohim would count them worthy of this calling. The concept of being found worthy has mostly been lost today. Many would even define this as legalism or trying to earn our salvation. We know that we cannot justify ourselves or earn salvation; this comes only through Messiah’s blood and the washing of water through baptism. But once we’re justified or free from our sin, we must then live a life of goodness or virtue.
What happens if we refuse to live a life of goodness, a life that reflects the morality and righteousness of Yahweh’s Word? We’re going to miss the mark and not be found worthy of our calling.
You know, being found worthy implies that we must act or do something, living a life based on Yahweh’s goodness and virtue. When we do this, we also glorify Yahshua the Messiah.
Walking in Integrity
So by living a life of goodness, not only will we be found worthy of our calling, but we’ll also bring praise and honor to our Savior. And I would hope that we would desire to glorify the One who died for our sins.
Let’s view a few passages on integrity from the Old Testament, beginning with Proverbs 10:9. “He that walketh uprightly walketh surely: but he that perverteth his ways shall be known.” (KJV)
The New International Version translates it as, “The man of integrity walks securely, but he who takes crooked paths will be found out.”
From both the King James and the NIV we find that walking uprightly is the same as a man walking in integrity. The word “integrity” is essential. It conveys the ideas of honesty and reliability, both of which are important to believers. When we walk uprightly or in a way that shows integrity, our path will be sure. This doesn’t promise health, wealth, and prosperity, but it does promise a direction that provides stability, if nothing else, of right morals and values. Even if we’re going through some trial or tribulation, it helps to know that the life we’re living and the decisions we’re making are based on Scripture. When we live according to Yahweh’s Word, there’s a sense of stability and strength within our lives.
In Isaiah 33:15-16, we find a promise of blessing for those who walk uprightly and in goodness. “He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil; He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.”
This passage gives a few examples on how to obtain this blessing: We don’t oppress others for personal gain, we refrain from taking bribes, we do no hurt to others, and we remove ourselves from seeing or participating in evil. When we do these things, Yahweh promises that we’re going to dwell on high and He’s going to provide for our needs.
While this passage is multi-layered, much is a prophetic promise pointing to His Kingdom. This is why it’s so important that we as believers live a life of goodness and virtue, that we practice what is right according to our Father’s Word. Many today believe that goodness or virtue is either outdated or never really existed. Many will argue that virtue is subjective and that my virtue is as good as your virtue.
As believers in the Messiah, though, we know better. We know there is a one-core truth and that is Yahweh’s Word. As we read in Malachi 3:6, Yahweh doesn’t change: “For I am Yahweh, I change not; therefore ye sons of Jacob are not consumed.”
Lessons from Daniel
We must never deviate from or compromise Yahweh’s Word. When it comes to uncompromising, I often think about three illustrations in the Book of Daniel.
The first is when Daniel and his three friends, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, refused to eat of the king’s meat (Dan. 1:8). Some believe the king’s meat was either unclean or possibly sacrificed to idols. I tend to think the latter was true, but either way we know that something wasn’t right about it. Daniel convinced the prince of the eunuchs to feed them only vegetables and after 10 days to compare their health to the others. And as we know from the story, this was done and “at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat,” (v. 15).
There’s a lesson here for us: Sometimes we must take a stand – whether it’s with our job or even our families. Maybe it’s refusing to work on Sabbath or not attending our family’s Christmas dinner. Like Daniel, when we stand on Yahweh’s Word we’re going to be blessed. Daniel could’ve upset the king by refusing to eat his meat, but in the end he was blessed for standing on virtue.
The second instance is Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego’s conviction when they refused to worship the golden image (Dan. 3). As the account goes, when the people heard the music, they were to bow down and worship this golden image.
But, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego refused to worship this image, and so the King commanded they be thrown into a fiery furnace, which did not affect them. Yahweh not only protected them from the fire, but one like the son of Yahweh was in the furnace with them. This was likely Yahshua the Messiah in His preexistence. Yahweh divinely protected these three men for their devotion. They showed goodness and virtue in their faith.
In the last incident we see Daniel defying the king’s command and openly praying to Yahweh (Dan. 6:10). Daniel’s enemies convinced the king to enact a law prohibiting anyone from praying to their mighty one for 30 days.
They did this because they knew Daniel would not comply and as we know from the story, he continued to pray somewhat openly to Yahweh with his windows open. After word got to the king, Daniel was thrown into a den of lions, but Yahweh protected Daniel. Just as the fire did not affect Shadrach, Meshach, and Abednego, the lions did not hurt Daniel.
For me, these cases show that Yahweh can do all things and when we choose to walk in virtue and integrity, we will be blessed.
Sometimes we lack the faith to walk in goodness or uprightness; we fear the consequences more than our Creator. But we should never fear doing what is right. Whether it means losing our job, upsetting our family, or even losing our lives, we should always seek to walk in goodness and do what is scripturally right.
Yahshua spoke about this in Matthew 5:15-16. “Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.”
Yahshua encourages us not to hide our goodness, but to allow it to shine so that others can see and benefit from it.
When we are about our daily business, do we show ourselves to be different? One way we do this is by not cursing or using foul language. Recently one of my coworkers apologized to me for swearing in front me. I said or did nothing to prompt that response; he knew from my behavior that I was not one to use that kind of language.
It’s often not what we say but what we do that makes the real impact. Our behavior speaks far louder than anything we can ever say and that’s why it’s so essential we walk in goodness and virtue.
Others notice our behavior and the words we use. After all, we may be the only Bible some will ever read. In other words, the integrity that we show in our lives may be the only exposure to biblical truth that some will ever see. And that’s why Yahshua says to let our lights shine and why we must live a life of goodness, virtue, and uprightness of heart.
Paul also speaks about the importance and blessings of doing good. “And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith,” Galatians 6:9-10.
What do you suppose Paul’s referring to when he comments, “we shall reap”? He’s indicating the promise of Yahweh’s Kingdom. The fact is, when we live a life based on the Word, we will often receive pushback and even experience trials and tribulations. Paul’s telling us that even though we suffer, it’s worth it; the journey is worth the destination.
I don’t believe we can fathom the greatness of Yahweh’s Kingdom. Not only will we live forever as spirit beings, but we’ll also do so in a kingdom without sin and all the trappings of it. Just as Paul does, I would encourage you to realize that no matter what you’re going through or may go through, it’s all worthwhile.
Paul also declares that we should do good to all men, especially to those in the household of faith or the assembly. According to Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon, the phrase “do good” implies to act in a way that is pleasant, agreeable, joyful, and happy.
Are we acting in ways that others would define as pleasant and agreeable? Do we bring joy and happiness to those in the assembly? If the answer is yes, that’s great, but we need to ask why and what we can do to improve and do better if the answer is no.
Goodness Begins the Journey
Ephesians 2:10 shows we have a special calling as believers in Messiah. “For we are his workmanship, created in Messiah Yahshua unto good works, which Yahweh hath before ordained that we should walk in them.”
When we are immersed into Yahshua’s name, we rise as a new creature with newness of mind. It’s so important that after baptism we recognize we are a new person in Messiah.
When I counsel for baptism, I stress the idea that after baptism we’re to think and behave differently. We can’t live like we did before, our decisions and actions must be based solely on Yahweh’s Word.
This is what it means to walk unto good works. Our lives should reflect Yahshua the Messiah in all ways. While Yahshua obeyed the commandments, He also showed by example how to live the weightier matters; we must do the same.
Second Peter 1:5-7 shows a progression that begins with faith and virtue. “And beside this, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue; and to virtue knowledge; And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience holiness; And to holiness brotherly kindness; and to brotherly kindness charity.”
Another word for virtue is goodness, which also refers to being upright in heart. He goes on to say we should add knowledge to our virtue, temperance to our knowledge, patience to our temperance, holiness to our patience, brotherly kindness to our holiness, and charity or love to our brotherly kindness. Notice that this progression begins with virtue or goodness and ends with love.