Sermon Presented on 08-24-13


             Galatians 5:22-23: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (NIV).


        Today we will discuss the eighth attribute of the Spirit found in Paul’s list in Galatians the fifth chapter. The NIV identifies this attribute as “gentleness.”  Some translations use the word “meekness.”   The Greek word Paul uses is praotees.  This word appears nine times in the NT narrative and all nine appearances occur in Paul’s various epistles.  In Greek literature outside of the NT, this word is used to express gentleness, mildness and meekness.  A different grammatical form of this same word is used by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount and in several other places in the NT record.   

       Matthew 5:5: Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth. 

       Psalm 37:11: But the meek will inherit the land and enjoy great peace.

       Matthew 11:29: Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.

       Here in Matthew 11, the Greek word rendered "gentle" is the same Greek word rendered "meek" in Matthew 5:5.  Jesus is quoted as saying, “learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart.” Christ said “learn from me” and then goes on to show how He is of a gentle heart. Jesus is telling us he is gentle, mild and meek.  Jesus instructs that we be the same. It is apparent Apostle Paul learned from Jesus since we see Paul instructing the Ephesian Christians to be meek.

       Ephesians 4:2: Be completely humble and gentle (Greek: praotees); be patient, bearing with one another in love.

      Meekness is a virtue which moderates the passion of anger and calms the desire for revenge.  It restrains one from wanting to inflict injury for injury. It enables one to remain tranquil in the face of wrongs done toward him. Apostle Paul stressed the need for holding back the urge to repay wrong for wrong in his letter to the Thessalonians:

       1 Thessalonians 5:15: Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.   

        When you read through Paul’s letters to the Thessalonian Christians, you fine a group of people under great persecution from the Jewish community who was out to destroy the Christian community.  Yet despite the intimidation, threats, and hostility these Christians were experiencing, Paul instructs them not to pay back wrong for wrong but to be kind to each other and everyone else.

       Now some may point out that Jesus wasn’t exactly meek when He came into the temple grounds with a whip and turned over the tables of the money exchangers.  Others may ask how was Jesus gentle when He laid into the religious leaders of His day and called them a brood of snakes and white washed tombs on the outside but filthy on the inside referring to the state of their heart.

       People often associate meekness with weakness.  One modern English dictionary, the Reader's Digest Oxford Complete Word Finder, listed the synonyms for meekness as  tame, timid, mild, bland, un-ambitious, retiring, weak, docile, acquiescent, repressed, suppressed, spiritless, broken, and wimpish.  It is these kinds of definitions of meekness that give meekness a bad name. 

       The Greek philosopher Aristotle defined praotees, the Greek word Paul used in Galatians five, as meaning the middle standing between two extremes, getting angry without reason, and not getting angry at all. Therefore, praotees is getting angry at the right time, in the right measure, and for the right reason. It is a condition of mind and heart which demonstrates gentleness, not in weakness, but in power. It is a balance born in strength of character.  This definition appears to fit the behavior of Jesus, Moses and Paul. 

       Meekness does not mean wishy washy.  It does not mean you avoid all confrontation, adversarial interaction or challenge to what you believe or what you promote.  Jesus was challenged constantly by the religious leaders of His day and He didn’t miss a beat in responding to their challenge.  It is the manner in which we respond and interact with others that determines whether we are meek or not.

       I use to write a monthly column addressing various nutritional issues for a publication called Wisconsin Christian News.  I also periodically submitted articles dealing with various theological issues.  In response to one of my theological articles, a church pastor from a church up in Northern Wisconsin took exception to something I wrote and presented his opposing view in a personal letter to me.  Well I didn’t mind that at all as a look forward to and welcome responses to my articles as it allows for additional dialogue.  The problem was that instead of dealing with the subject at hand, he went out of his way in the letter to impress me with his knowledge of Hebrew and Greek, his seminary training and his overall erudition as a trained minister of Jesus Christ.  The implication was that because of his great learning he alone had the right to be right on the issue we were discussing and I had to be wrong because he presumed I didn’t have the credentials he had.

       I responded to his letter by providing a very comprehensive Scriptural explanation for the position I was taking on the issue under consideration and I never heard from him again.

       This gentleman’s approach to defending his position on an issue was just the opposite of being meek.  He attacked me personally rather than simple discuss the issue.  When Jesus blasted the religious leaders of His day he still respected there authority in the religious community of Israel and told the people to respect what they say but not to do what they do.

       Matthew 23:1-3: Then Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples: "The teachers of the law and the Pharisees sit in Moses' seat. So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.    

         One major problem the religious leaders had was that they failed to be gentle with the people over whom they had authority.  They took advantage of their positions of authority and broke the very laws they were teaching the people to obey. This has been a problem in Christianity and all religious and political systems throughout history.  Leadership, teaching and preaching one thing and themselves doing something else has always been a problem.

       Being meek does not mean we stand by idly while others behave contrary to righteousness. When opportunity arises we have an obligation to stand up for the truth and be heard. But it is the manner in which we are heard that will speak volumes as to whether we are meek. 

       1 Peter 3:15-17:  But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

       We are to give an answer with gentleness and respect.  By being gentle and respectful we don’t give occasion to others to speak against us.  And if they do speak against us it will often be recognized as false accusation because we have maintained a civil attitude in our encounter. 

       Moses was a great and powerful leader. You could not be a wimp and accomplish what Moses accomplished.  He appeared before Pharaoh and demanded that the Israelites be let go.  When they were let go he supervised and facilitated their exodus from Egypt.  He showed his leadership and his authority when he came down from the mountain and smashed the two tablets of stone and made the people drink the pulverized golden calf that he mixed in with their water.

       Yet Moses must have been very gentle as a leader.  He must have been firm but fair.  He must have had a genuine concern for the welfare of the people and not out to promote himself in any way.  Meekness is all about avoiding self promotion and enhancing the welfare of others.  That Moses had this quality is evident from what we read in Numbers 12.

       Numbers 12:3: Now the man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth (KJV).

       Moses is seen as very meek.  Yet this man was a leader among leaders.  He had to make many decisions and judge among the people.  To say he was the meekest man on earth at the time says a lot about his character and the way he must have handled people.  He must have carried the burdens of the Israelites.  Bearing the burdens of others is what meekness is all about.

       Galatians 6:1-2:  Brethren, if a man be overtaken in a fault, ye which are spiritual, restore such an one in the spirit of meekness; considering thyself, lest thou also be tempted. Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfill the law of Christ (KJV).

       The law of Christ is the law of love.  The law of love is all about how we relate to one another.  How we relate to one another is all about our disposition.  Jesus, in the Sermon on the Mount, instructs as to disposition.  If you look up disposition in a dictionary it will tell you that disposition has to do with temperament, character and outlook.  Being of a meek and gentle spirit is a dynamic of disposition that God wants us to express in our behavior.

       We cannot be meek, however, unless and until we first recognize our total dependence on God and our need to recognize and repent of sin.  An absence of pride is what being meek is all about.  A meek person does not glory in himself.  A meek person comes to realize there is nothing in himself of which he can boast.

       When we come to the point of not glorying in ourselves it is then we are able to have genuine concern for others and truly treat others as better than ourselves.  It is then we can look at the faults of others and realize we are no better and thereby help restore someone else who is experiencing a trial or caught up in sinful behavior. This is what Paul is talking about when he speaks of restoring someone who has been caught up in a fault.  It has to be done in a spirit of meekness.  It is not to be done in a spirit of pride where one treats the other person in a condescending manner. 

       We humans tend to want to think of ourselves as better than others. This is especially true when someone else is caught in a fault.  We look at the person caught in a fault and conclude in our mind that we could never do such a thing.  We proudly go about our business in the satisfaction that we are better than that other person who committed a sin

       Philippians 2:3-4: Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves.  Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.


       Part of being meek which means to be gentle, is to treat others as you want to be treated.  It is the golden rule in action.  The very term “gentlemen,” which applies to both men and women, means we treat people with respect regardless of their station in life or the circumstances they fine themselves in.  We should never treat others in a condescending manner.  Paul instructed us to treat others better than ourselves.  Paul instructed that we are to look not only to our own interests but to the interests of others.  This is the opposite of being self-centered and self absorbed. 

       We all know people who are self-absorbed.  Everything is always about them. Everything is about what they want to do and what is going to please them.  Such people are oblivious to the needs and desires of others.  This is not the way a gentleman or women behaves.  Even though George Washington was a great army general and our first president, he was willing to be a gentlemen to a slave by tipping his hat to the slave and wishing him a good day.   To be a gentleman means to implement the Golden Rule in how we relate to our follow men. 

        Being gentle is also expressed in being forgiving.  In Scripture we have the classic story of Christ dealing with the women taken in adultery.  In this story Jesus does not condemn the women but treats her gently.  This event epitomizes the gospel message.  Jesus Christ came not to condemn but to forgive. He came to give us a fresh start.  He did not condemn the women but facilitated her leaving her life of sin.  

        John 7:53 Then each went to his own home.

        John 8:1-11:  But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. At dawn he appeared again in the temple courts; where all the people gathered around him, and he sat down to teach them. The teachers of the law and the Pharisees brought in a woman caught in adultery. They made her stand before the group and said to Jesus, "Teacher, this woman was caught in the act of adultery. In the Law Moses commanded us to stone such women. Now what do you say?" They were using this question as a trap, in order to have a basis for accusing him.   But Jesus bent down and started to write on the ground with his finger. When they kept on questioning him, he straightened up and said to them, "If any one of you is without sin, let him be the first to throw a stone at her." Again he stooped down and wrote on the ground. At this, those who heard began to go away one at a time, the older ones first, until only Jesus was left, with the woman still standing there.  Jesus straightened up and asked her, "Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned you?"  "No one, sir," she said.   "Then neither do I condemn you," Jesus declared. "Go now and leave your life of sin."


       You may wonder why I began to quote this passage of Scripture beginning with John 7:53 rather than begin with the women being brought before Christ. I did this because the passage of Scripture running from John 7:53 to John 8:11 is not found in the oldest extant manuscripts of the NT.  Therefore, many scholars believe it was not original to John and was instead added at a later date and may not be a valid event in the ministry of Jesus.

      Some translations place this passage in brackets indicating it is missing in ancient manuscripts.  The ASV and the ESV (English Standard Version) do this.  The NIV prefaces this passage with the statement “The earliest and most reliable manuscripts and other ancient witnesses do not have John 7:53-8:11.”  The NET translation brackets this passage and footnotes it with the following:

       “This entire section, 7:53-8:11, traditionally known as the pericope adulterae, is not contained in the earliest and best mss and was almost certainly not an original part of the Gospel of John. Among modern commentators and textual critics, it is a foregone conclusion that the section is not original but represents a later addition to the text of the Gospel.”

       Pericope is a word commonly used in Biblical studies to identify a particular section of a text. The story of the adulterous women is a section of the greater text in which it is found and is called a pericope (pe-ri-ko-pay).

       Over 100 manuscripts that contain the gospel of John do not contain this story, including the very earliest ones from the early third century.  Many of the early church fathers do not comment on the story, and a number of early translations of the NT into other languages did not include this passage. 

       Some scholars have concluded that the writing style of this passage does not match well with the writing style of the rest of John’s Gospel and the writing style actually appears to be closer to that of Luke.  In fact, one group of extant Greek manuscripts of the NT actually has this story in the Gospel of Luke after Luke 21:38.  The first surviving Greek manuscript to contain this pericope is the Latin/Greek diglot Codex Bezae of the late 4th or early 5th century.  Many other Greek and Latin MMS of John’s Gospel from the 4th century onward have this pericope.

       All this may raise the question in your mind as to why this story still appears in translations of John’s Gospel if it is true John is not the source for this story and it was not in his Gospel until much later.  Furthermore, you may ask why I would even use this story in my sermon if there is serious question as to its authenticity.

       As it turns out, there is less question about the authenticity of this pericope than some scholars would have us believe.  While its absence from the oldest Greek MSS that scholars currently have in their possession has led a number of scholars to believe the recording of this event did not come from the hand of the author of the fourth Gospel, there is strong evidence that it was a valid event in the life of Jesus and that it may have been carried along orally for some time and eventually found its way into the fourth Gospel. 

       In other words, it is believed this event did have eyewitnesses who passed along what they saw and heard to others.  It is believed that at some point someone included the account of this event in a manuscript of the NT.  However there is reason to believe this pericope was not added but was in John’s Gospel all along. The Catholic theologian Augustine suggested it was edited out by scribes who believed the account showed Christ sanctioning adultery.  Adultery used to be considered one of the worst of sins and some believe Jesus’ failure to condemn the adulterous women was not well received by Church leaders at certain periods in church history. Therefore, this pericope was removed from John’s text.  If this is indeed what happened, this event could have been recorded by the writer of the fourth Gospel and later edited out by scribes for the reasons stated by Augustine.

       The Church leader Cyprian, writing around AD 250, says that certain bishops who preceded him in the province of North Africa thought that reconciliation ought not to be given to adulterers.  Here we see strong feelings against granting adulterers forgiveness and this give credence to the belief that at one point in Church history Church leaders, who could not bring themselves to see how Christ could forgive an adulteress, had this pericope deleted.  Therefore, this pericope may not have been added at a later date but was in the fourth Gospel from the beginning.

       There is good historical evidence that there was strong prejudice against the account of Jesus forgiving the adulterous women.  This prejudice may have been responsible for this story being deleted by scribes.  The existence of this prejudice makes it more reasonable to suppose that the story of the adulteress was omitted from the text than to insist that in the face of this prejudice it was added to the text. There would be a motive for omitting it but no motive for adding it.

       While we can’t know for sure whether this pericope was included in copies of John’s Gospel prior to our oldest extant copies which lack this story, we can’t assume it wasn’t in older copies of John’s Gospel just because we don’t see it in the oldest copies presently available.  As already discussed, there are reasons to believe this pericope may have been part of the original text of the fourth Gospel.  Several non-canonical documents from the third and fourth centuries that pre-date the first appearance of the adultery pericope in the Bazae MS, speak of a woman caught in adultery interacting with Christ.  This gives evidence to this story being known by various Church leaders from early on.      

     In an article on this issue from the Expositor's Bible Commentary 1984, we read the following:

        “It is absent from most of the oldest copies of the Gospel that precede the sixth century and from the works of the earliest commentators. To say that it does not belong in the Gospel is not identical with rejecting it as unhistorical. Its coherence and spirit show that it was preserved from a very early time, and it accords well with the known character of Jesus. It may be accepted as historical truth.”     

       It is instructive that an early church leader named Papias, writing around AD 125, refers to a story of Jesus and a woman "accused of many sins" as being found in the Gospel of the Hebrews.  This Gospel did not become part of the canon but it does indicate there was a story known from early on of Jesus’ interaction with a sinful woman.

       Some scholars believe this pericope doesn’t fit the general context of John chapters eight and nine and therefore John could not have placed this story in His Gospel where it is found.  Therefore it must have been added later.  However, this begs the question as to why this pericope would be added to John’s Gospel in the place where it is found if indeed it doesn’t fit the context. If it doesn’t fit the context as some claim and it was added later, why would those who supposedly added it later place it where it is in John’s Gospel?   The very fact it is found where it is in MSS that include it gives evidence to it having been there from the time the fourth Gospel was written. 

       Therefore, all things considered, there is reasonable evidence to believe the story of Jesus’ encounter with the adulterous women is an authentic event in the life of Christ and was known from early on in the Church. There is also reason to believe it may very well have been recorded by the author of the fourth Gospel and not inserted at a later time as believed by a number of modern scholars.  This pericope is generally found in modern translations, though footnoted to show its absence from the oldest MSS.  Because there is reasonable evidence this event was known to the church from early on and reasons to believe it was recorded by the author of the fourth Gospel, I feel comfortable in using it despite questions about when it became part of the canonical Scripture.

       It should be noted that this story fits very well into the general context of what the Gospel is all about.  The Gospel is all about forgiveness and kingdom living.   Kingdom living is all about forgiveness and leaving a life of sin.  Kingdom living is all about reconciliation.  It is reconciliation with both God and man.  Christ came to introduce a new system.  This account of the women taken in adultery is a virtual exposition of the covenantal change that Christ came to facilitate.  Under the old covenant you were condemned and punished on the spot for sin.  Under the new covenant there is forgiveness and opportunity to live a new life. This teaches us that we are to be gentle with others and not jump all over others when a real or imaged sin is committed. 

       Ephesians 4:2: Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.

       Colossians 3:12: Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.

       The word rendered “gentle” in these passages is the same Greek word Paul uses in showing that an attribute of the Spirit is gentleness. As we are to clothe ourselves with other attributes of the Spirit, part of that wardrobe must include gentleness.