Thursday, October 11, 2012

Fruit Lost, Fruit Gained

J. V Fesko, The Fruit of the Spirit is . . . . Evangelical Press, 2011. Softcover. 80pp.

Reviewed by Ryan McGraw
This short work gives a call for personal holiness in a Christ centered manner and by tying together the teaching of the whole Bible. It is not simply an exposition of the “fruit of the Spirit” from Galatians 5:22-23. Fesko sets the discussion of the fruit of the Spirit in the context of what the first Adam lost on our behalf and what the last Adam regained for us (chapter one). Then he establishes the Old Testament background for what it means to walk by the Spirit (chapter two), the fruitfulness that should have characterized Israel, and that would characterize the Messiah Himself (chapter three). After examining each of the seven fruits of the Spirit (chapter four), the author closes by directing readers to use the ordinary means of grace to cultivate the fruit of the Spirit (chapter five). This book is well worth reading because it reaches a popular audience with valuable material that can otherwise become buried in technical works on biblical theology and exegesis, making them inaccessible to the average reader. The following features are particularly noteworthy.
  1. The Old Testament biblical theology in this volume sets it apart above all other features. In chapter two, Fesko demonstrates that in the Exodus, God designed Israel to walk by the Spirit in faith and obedience in the wilderness. Chapter three connects every aspect of the fruit of the Spirit to the coming Servant of the Lord in the prophecies of Isaiah, making Jesus Christ is the living embodiment of the fruit of the Spirit. In a valuable insight, Fesko argues that living according to the works of the flesh or growing in the fruit of the Spirit declares our allegiance to one of two kings in one of two kingdoms. The works of the flesh declare our affiliation Adam as fallen. The works of the Spirit declare our identity with the kingly reign of Christ (56). Christians bear the fruit of the Spirit as they participate in the new heavens and the new earth even in this life. However, this pursuit does not turn the gospel into a “new law.” “Rather, the fruit of the Spirit is the work of Christ and of the Holy Spirit, not of man” (56). The manner in which Fesko has tied these themes to the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ illustrates the glorious unity of the entire Bible as well as the fullness of the provisions of the covenant of grace.
  2. This work reflects a large amount of study and scholarship without bogging down a popular audience with footnotes. Readers who are familiar with Fesko’s other writings will see traces of several of them here. The author has drawn from his breadth of learning and he has skillfully woven together biblical and systematic theology, all in a way that ministers to the average person in the pew. Since this study began as a series of sermons, this fact points to the value of a well-educated ministry for clear, instructive, and heart-warming preaching.
  3. The book is implicitly Trinitarian throughout. Several recent authors have complained that the church is not as thoroughly Trinitarian in her thinking as she ought to be. Fesko’s work helps remedy this problem in that he ties all three persons of the Godhead to every doctrine that he sets forth. This provides a good model of Trinitarian thinking and piety. Hopefully readers will begin to think more intentionally about the work of all three persons in the Godhead as they read this material.
Towards the end of the book, Fesko includes a very pastoral section on the sanctifying effects of our temptations and trials (74-77). This is coupled with a very practical section on using the Word, sacraments, and prayer as the concrete divinely-appointed means for cultivating the fruit of the Spirit. The result is that this work is well-balanced in rooting personal godliness in a robust Christ-centered and Trinitarian faith, which expresses itself and grows through divinely appointed means.

The review first appeared in the January 2012 issue of Puritan Reformed Journal.