Books on the fruit of the Spirit (or even lone chapters dedicated to this topic) tend to be very general, leaving the reader with more fog than clarity. I have found the same problem with the sermons I’ve heard over the years on this topic. Thus I think it’s a good idea to bring an actual Bible expert into the discussion to write a book. The problem normally would be that the book would end up being too dry and “unapproachable” by non-academic (everyday) folk’s standards. But this proves to not be the case in New Testament scholar Christopher J. H. Wright‘s newest release, Cultivating the Fruit of the Spirit: Growing in Christlikeness (InterVarsity Press, 2017). Fusing scholarly rigor with simplicity, Wright gives us a book that is suitable for pastor and lay person alike.
Containing nine chapters, every chapter tackles one of the “fruits” named by Paul in Galatians. What I also really liked was how Wright would also deal with application in a careful way. (A common complaint of many is that they are “preached” what the fruit is and will proceed to go away wondering what the heck to do.) As much as I love reading theological reflections after the hard labor of exegesis is done, it’s all too common to leave such readings without knowing (or caring) about the application, but Wright’s reading won’t allow that. In this sense Wright doesn’t just give us good exegesis to “wow” us (as much as I love good exegesis) but rather he lets simple application follow. Below are two reason why I recommend the latest from Wright:
Wright, though being a renown scholar, doesn’t give us a book that will go over our heads but rather every page is marked by simplicity. Not only that, but this book stresses that the fruit is not some vague and foggy concept that we will obtain the “secret” to later in our walk with God, but Wright brings the fruit of the Spirit down to earth (which leads me to my second reason for recommending this book).
One thing that stood out to me and I appreciated was the way that Gnosticism (the concept that the material and the earth is un-important) was combated. an anti-earth philosophy far too common in Christian circles.Though this anti-earth philosphy is common in many Christian circles, many (myself included) have become convinced that this way of thinking stands in stark contrast to what Scripture actually teaches. Wright does a good job at relentlessly yet gently making clear that our Christianity should part ways with Gnosticism, embracing a holistic and robustly Biblical understanding of the earth.
In the chapter on Joy Wright writes that “the means by which we are saved…is the means by which also creation will be restored” (pp. 52-53, bold mine) and that “the Bible ends, not with us going up and away to some other destination, but with God coming down to dwell with redeemed humanity in the new creation” (p. 53, bold mine).
A Few Last Words…
A commitment to Scripture is evident throughout the book. Of course this should be expected from an evangelical Bible scholar. The book proves to be refreshingly clear and concise. Since the book isn’t dry (there are almost zero footnotes), I think it will do as a great guide for both laypersons interested in deepening their walk with the Triune God as well as the pastor preparing messages on this topic. If you want to better understand the concept of the fruit of the Spirit and are tired of this being an entirely vague concept, I would highly recommend this new release.
*Thank you InterVarsity Press for a complimentary copy!
Photo of Wright obtained from Wright’s blog (see here)