Book Review: Stanley D. Gale, A Vine-Ripened Life
Stanley D. Gale, A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness Through Abiding in Christ (Grand Rapids: Reformation Heritage Books, 2014). Reviewed by John Divito
With all of the confusion surrounding our growing in grace and godliness, I am always on the lookout for a good resource devoted to examining what the Bible teaches about becoming more like Christ. Stanley D. Gales’ new book A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness Through Abiding in Christ is a welcome addition to help laypeople gain insight and encouragement as they seek to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age.
The author begins by explaining the title of his book: “To speak of a ‘vine-ripened’ life points us to Jesus. Jesus describes Himself as the Vine of life (see John 15) through whom we live and grow and bear the fruit of a grace grown life. We ripen on the Vine, where we grow to bear the expected fruit of new life. Having begun in Christ we remain in Christ, continuing to draw our life from Him and maturing in grace” (x). With this in mind, Gale focuses his chapters on explaining the fruit of the Spirit as given in Galatians 5:22-23. After explaining the process of sanctification and growing in grace, each chapter examines the fruit of the Spirit in more detail. He concludes by considering how the fruit of the Spirit is produced by God’s grace.
While the entire book was an edifying read, I found especially insightful Gale’s look at the fruit of self-control. In explaining the difference between willpower and self-control, he writes:
Willpower is by definition “self-discipline.” It looks to exertion of the will for restraint. . . . Willpower is the secular version of self-control. Self-control us a fruit of the Spirit for management of self in the strength of Christ. Willpower is seated in the natural man, while self-control is rooted in the Vine and is a produce of abiding in it. It enables the believer to wage war against the deeds of the flesh (134).
From this point he continues to practically unfold how self-control is manifested in a believer’s life.
I also appreciated Gale’s chapter on humility. As he notes:
Every fruit of the Spirit is touched by humility. It is an essential element necessary for the production of the fruit of new life in Christ. Humility enables our abiding, drawing us to Christ, driving us to prayer, and drawing on the word of Christ to dwell in us richly. In that sense, it is not numbered among the listed fruit of Galatians 5, but it is present as a nutrient to all (144).
Additionally, this work is filled with helpful illustrations and practical application. Gale is not content to merely explain the fruit of the Spirit—he seeks to flesh out what this fruit looks like in our everyday lives. While I do not have time in my brief review to provide many examples and quotes, I can definitely say that Gale is a gifted wordsmith.
As a result, this book is delightful for devotional reading. Its small size and short chapters can easily be read and pondered in bite-sized nuggets. It would also be a wonderful resource to use in small group studies. With thirteen chapters including discussion questions at the end, it could easily be used in a weekly study over a quarter. I warmly recommend Gale’s book for all those who want to grow in their devotion to Christ.