Setting aside the passions of the flesh and the vices of this world involves more than just avoiding the various manifestations of sin in our lives. If we are to be faithful to the apostolic mandate to stand firm in the faith by abandoning such things (1 Peter 2:1), we must also cultivate in our lives the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22–23). If we have truly been justified, we have also been given the indwelling presence of the Holy Ghost who will produce this fruit in our lives as we cooperate with Him in our sanctification.
Today we will conclude our study of the fruit of the Spirit by examining the fruits of gentleness and self-control. As we study the Scriptures we soon find that gentleness characterized the key figure of the old covenant. Numbers 12:3, for example, calls Moses a meek man — meek being a synonym for gentle. However, not only is gentleness a defining feature of the preeminent old covenant prophet, it is also an intrinsic quality of our new covenant Mediator. In today’s passage, Jesus tells us that He too is a gentle person (Matt. 11:29).
When we speak of a gentle person we are not speaking of someone who is reticent or fearful. Rather, the biblical view of gentleness presupposes strength. No one who has ever walked the earth has had absolute power except our Lord Jesus who is the very God of the universe. However, Jesus did not exercise His strength in an abrasive manner or use it to bully others. Rather, He tempered His strength with gentleness. He stood for truth when it was appropriate, but He also gave grace to sinners like the woman at the well when they were repentant (John 4:1–45). Such should not surprise us, for it is in God’s nature to be merciful with those whom He calls to Himself.
The ability to be gentle flows from the fruit of self-control. God does not exercise His power in a chaotic or unbridled manner. Rather, He is in perfect control of Himself and is thus able to combine His might with gentleness when He deals with His people. Though we must never forget that God is omnipotent, we must imitate His gentleness and self-control with sinners when we deal with those who cause us difficulty and try our patience.
God’s mercy and gentleness to unrepentant sinners will not last forever. One day they shall receive His wrath, and in some small way we will participate in the judgment of the world (1 Cor. 6:2a). Until that day, we must imitate the gentleness of Jesus, knowing that some to whom we give mercy may be elect and one day come to saving faith (Matt. 5:43–48). Be gentle with those to whom you have been severe, thereby imitating God’s mercy to all who repent and believe.