What is the Fruit of the Spirit?
Romans 5:1-5; 12:1-21; 1 Corinthians 12:1-14:40; Galatians 5:16-26; Ephesians 4:1-6:20; 2 Peter 1:3-9
What does the work and empowerment of the Spirit mean to you?
The Fruit of the Spirit is the Holy Spirit, God’s active love and work within and through us so we bear and convey His Fruit. This means we add to as in supplement His Fruit, God’s love for us, which we are given and then we are to build by faith so we are able to bear this to others. This is a cooperative endeavor that happens by our relationship with Christ as we grow by faith in Him. What we add too and what He then multiplies. This is that active pursuit of Love as a spiritual Fruit that is built from our collaboration that we have with God to produce real godly character and commitment. It gives us the fiber of our moral center that stretches throughout our being, embracing and holding together our relationships and opportunities when it is sealed as a choice and commitment, and not just a feeling. The Fruit of the Spirit will synergistically combines with the other godly characters of our Lord to promote our ability to relate and grow in our faith, relations, to be better to and for Him as well as others as well as ourselves (John 1:1,14; 14:23; Gal. 5:16; 1 Pet. 2:24; 1 John 4:8).
The Fruit of the Spirit is described as a fruit, because it is made up of more than one substance; it has juice, pulp, peal, core, segments, and seeds, all held together by a skin or rind, and attached to the tree by a stem where its nutrients flow in. If you just eat of the pulp or juice and throw out the rest, how can you use the seeds to grow more? If you take the fruit off the vine, it will wither and rot; if the vine is not cared for, the tree will die. So it is with the Fruit of the Spirit. God makes it and it requires our growth of faith that necessitates our tending, and it is more than just one substance; all of its substances combined are greater than the sum of its parts (Hab. 2:4; Phil. 2:13).
How many Fruit(s) of the Spirit’s are there?
Is it “Fruit” of the Spirit or is it “Fruits” of the Spirit? If there are nine or more fruits, so it must be a plural? Yes and no, in the Greek language, it is referred too as “singular” meaning one Fruit. In classic Reformed and Evangelical theology it is listed as both (Oxford Dictionary of the Christian Church the definitive work and many other references too), but the singular is more correct way to refer to it. Then there is the number, is it nine or twelve or more? Catholics add modesty, continence, and chastity, which they get from the Latin Vulgate translation. Then 2 Peter 1 give a slight different listing. Basically, most biblical theologians look to the Galatians nine and the others, more than seventy total, are referred too as virtues or “characters.” Let us take a quick look at the main nine Fruit(s) of the Spirit that flow from God’s work and love working in us. These all flow from love and cooperate as one in one another (Galatians 5:22-23):
Love (John 13:1; 15:13; 1 Corinthians 13:3; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 John) will enable us to appreciate our brothers and sisters in the Lord, and, of course, our family and others around us. Love is taking the initiative to build up and meet the needs of others, without expecting anything in return.
Joy (Psalm 32:7-9; Proverbs 15:13; John 15:11; 17:13; 2 Corinthians 12:9; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Peter 4:13- 19; Hebrews 10:34) will allow us to enjoy our relationship with Christ, His creation, others, and our circumstances, with an expression of delight, and real, authentic happiness from and with harmony with God and others.
Peace (Isaiah. 26:3; Matthew 5:9; Luke 19:42; John 14:27; 16:33; Romans 5:1; 12:18; Galatians 5:22-23; Colossians 3:15; Philippians 4:7) is surrendering and yielding ourselves to the Lord, to be in His control, for He is our ultimate peace! Allowing tranquility to be our tone, control, and our composure. This will be fueled from our harmonious relationship with God, handing over control of our heart, will, and mind to Him. Once we make real peace with God, we will be able to make and maintain peace with others.
Patience (Hosea 2:19-23; Psalm 33:20; Matthew 27:14; Romans 5:3; 12:12; Galatians 5:1; 5:22-23; Colossians 1:11; James 1:3-4,12; 5:10-11) is showing tolerance and fortitude toward others, even accepting difficult situations from them, and God, without making demands or conditions. Patience allows us to endure a less than desirable situation, to make us better, more useful, and even optimistic and prudent. Hence, its other name, longsuffering. It allows us to put up with others who get on our nerves, without losing other characteristics of grace.
Kindness (Romans 2:1-4; 12:9-21; Galatians 5:22-23; Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:12-14; 1 John 3:16-23) is the medium through which Christ’s love becomes tangible through us. It is practicing benevolence and a loving attitude towards others. Kindness is the essence that shows the world that we are a Christian, like the fragrance coming from a flower. It is being convicted with God’s Word, and then modeling it to others. Kindness is the subject to the object of who we are in Christ!
Goodness (Amos 5:15; Proverbs 25:22; Matthew 19:16; Romans 12:17; Galatians 5:22-23; 2 Corinthians 5:20; Ephesians 5:8-9; 1 Peter 3:11; 2 Peter 1:3-8) displays integrity, honesty and compassion to others, and allows us to do the right thing. It is doing the right thing, even when it does not feel like we should, as Joseph did. He was betrayed and sold as a slave, yet, he chose to make his situation into something good, and to help and treat others better than he needed to. Goodness is the model for people to repent and accept Christ.
Faithfulness (Psalm 119: 89-90; Matthew 17:19; 25:21; Romans 1:17; 5:1-2; 1 Corinthians 12:9; Galatians 5:22-23; Hebrews 11:1; 1 Thessalonians 5:24) is the application of our faith in action, fused with being dependable. It is not faith itself, rather, the fruit and character of faith. It is the “gluing” fruit that will preserve our faith, and the other characters of the Spirit, and identify God’s will, so we can be dependable and trusting to God and others. Faith is the one fruit that we give to God, whereas faithfulness and the other fruits, virtues and characters are from the Spirit working in us! Faithfulness is authenticity, the power and motivation for Christian living. Because God is trustworthy with us, we can be faith-worthy in Him!
Gentleness (Isaiah. 40:11; 42:2-3; Galatians 5:22-23; Philippians 4: 5; Matthew 5:5; 11:29; 12:15; Ephesians 4:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:24; 1 Thessalonians 2:7) is the character that will show calmness, personal care, and tenderness in meeting the needs of others. It is to be more than just a personality; it is to be who we are, from the work of the Spirit within us.
Self-Control (Proverbs 16:32; 25:28; Romans13: 12-14; 1 Corinthians 6:12; 9:25-27; Galatians 5:22-23; 1 Thessalonians 5: 22; Titus 2:12; Hebrews 12:2; 2Peter 1:5-7) is allowing God to be in control of our will and heart, and seeking the Spirit to enable us. Then we will know what not to do, and guard the areas in which we are weak. This will allow us to have discipline and restraint, with obedience to God and others. It is not allowing distractions to derail or remove us from His will and plan, so we will not be held back from what Christ called us to do.
(More in-depth descriptions and Bible study on our The Fruit of the Spirit channel.)
The Fruit of the Spirit shows us that the Christian life comes with a responsibility to take the knowledge we have learned from His Word, our faith, discipleship, prayer and devotional life and apply it, while His love is working in and through us! And then we are to ask, “How then do I live?” What can I do now, today, or this week to implement the instructions given to me with my relationship to Christ, to others, and to myself?
The Fruit of the Spirit is God’s Power in us
God has given us the power to live for Him victoriously and with excellence! He feeds us the spiritual food, pays our spiritual debt, and gives us knowledge and the assets to be godly and good. If we truly trust in Christ¾not just as Savior but also as LORD¾we are given the power and ability to live a life of fullness, distinction of character, and supernatural spiritual maturity so He is glorified by our lives and living testimony. He gives us the resources. They are here for us, and are at our disposal. We are not alone or cut off from what we need! But, there is a catch. We have to go for it; we have to appropriate His gifts and opportunities into our lives, as in finding and engaging them. We take firm hold of our faith (make our election sure) when we trust and then obey what He has for us. If we do not, we live a life of waste and even sin, missing out what is soooo good and precious for us. Why would anyone forsake His love and gifts (Deut. 31:6; Phil. 2:13; 3:13-14; 4:13)?
There is a second aspect to receiving and applying His power of Fruit and Spirit into our lives. We have the responsibility to practice it. The sad part this is perhaps the most negated aspect of our faith journey for most Christians! We are not great at it at the start. Just like learning to drive or play a game, it takes time to master, no matter how talented we may be. We have to work at it by learning, absorbing, and then applying what we have learned. In using it, we grow and mature. The price is not too high since Christ paid for it. We have no excuse not to grow and serve Him! Never consider that it is too difficult or that you are not gifted or worthy enough, because the Spirit in you is able to do it (Psalm 87:7; Isaiah 40:29-31; John 14:13-14; 2 Cor. 9:8; Col. 3:23)!
Are you Active with the Fruit of the Spirit?
Why be active with the Fruit of the Spirit, because Christ has made us right with God. So, how do we live that faith? We can only begin to fathom all the precious privileges and wondrous blessings given to us by Christ. We have the responsibility to act upon them, and for the growth of our faith, character, and maturity. In addition, we are called to grow in Him! Why? Because when we receive a faith and salvation that we do not deserve or earn, we consequently respond with gratitude for what He has given, and we will even desire more. But to be so, we need Christ’s empowerment. This will come from knowing Him, growing in Him, and then having the desire for more. This means we are being called on to be productive and useful in the Kingdom as well as the community. If not, we are in disobedience and ignoring His love and gifts for us. Why would a Christian not want to be productive for the Kingdom (Phil. 4:8-9)?
Christ has called us to a faith that is real, impacting, and growing. That faith is precious and genuine because it is given to us. We are to take what we are given and then add more to it. We obtain faith then add more faith to it. As a Christian, we have faith to begin with; we are then called to multiply it. Just like the Parable of the Talents (Matt. 25:14-30), we are expected to invest and develop further what is given to us, not for personal gain, but rather to glorify Christ and bring honor and growth to His Church. The key to faith‘s multiplication is answered here¾our knowledge of Christ (2 Pet. 1: 1-4). The more we know and then subsequently apply to our lives, the more we grow; this is reciprocal. Peter also sends his blessings so that we can take what is given and make of it ever so much more. Cultivated faith in Him produces immeasurable divine blessings!
Christ has given to us all we need in order to grow. We have His Spirit, His Word, His Fruit, and our faith community. This does not even include the countess resources we have in our modern age. He has called us and empowered us, so what more could we expect? The clincher is that we have the responsibility to make it happen. Our faith is in our hands. He gives us the water, the fertilizer, the ground, the air, the “SON,” and the seed. He even plants it! All we have to do is cultivate what He has given. What stands in the way of the cultivation of our faith? Usually, it is not recognizing and taking to heart His promises, which leaves us unsure of what we can do.
The true application of the Christian life comes only from the result of a life that is transformed!
Therefore, I urge you, brothers, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as living sacrifices, holy and pleasing to God–this is your spiritual act of worship. Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is–his good, pleasing and perfect will. Romans 12:1-2
You may do good works without Christ, but they are out of a sense of obligation and guilt, and not out of a response to our sinful nature that has been covered by the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ creating a willing and loving heart to model the Fruit and character of our Lord!
The Fruit of the Spirit are the result of a life transformed by Christ!
We are called to partake of His divine nature. He gives us the power of His Fruit of the Spirit to do so, even to overcome temptations and evil. If we do not sidestep corruption and evil, we will become consumed with all that takes us away from Christ and His call to develop and mature our faith! Goodness cannot work when we are distracted away from Him. If we are not living the godly life, but rather are defending our positions from our pride, how can we lead others to Him?
The Spirits divine power is available and given to us. The knowledge of Christ increases our faith and power! This is also to counter Gnostic philosophy that states the soul and body are separate and we can do as we wish with our bodies as long as our hearts remain pure. Our hope is not in what we do; it is in what Christ has done for us! Thus through the Fruit of the Spirit we are given everything we need is granted to us. We have no excuse not to grow in Him. All that is important and eternal has already been given to us. What is important is what grows our faith and our spiritual formation¾the Holy Spirit, God’s Word, other believers who are mature and most important, Christ’s work for us!
How we are un-transformed: The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal. 5:19-21) Means not being rooted in Christ and then not practicing good thinking which will create discord, stifle, stemming and evil from a lack of accountability or a basis for a morality to be built upon.
There is a stern warning here for all of us! We have a responsibility to pursue our faith development and do a good disposition of modeling Christ (2 Cor. 5:20)! If we ignore our call to pursue our spiritual growth thus not developing our virtue and character, we will face life without God’s empowerment and benefits. When we have forsaken Him, He does not forsake us; nevertheless, because we did not take a hold of the benefits He gives, they will not be in our arsenal or developed enough to be of much use in dealing with life. Our shortsightedness and refusal to be prepared results from taking our eyes off Christ and placing them on our circumstances and stresses, thus making us empty and bankrupt to deal with those circumstances! Do not let this myopic thinking happen to you!
How we are transformed: But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. (Gal 5:22-26) God uses His Spirit and Word to transform us; it is what we do, and what He does. He sends us His Spirit, we respond. Because true application comes out of a Changed life and leads to a life transformed!
We are Called to Emulate Christian virtues!
We are also duty-bound to be diligent to take and receive them, not for our salvation but to grow in life and ministry. These benefits, which are the Fruit of the Spirit, God’s love and working in us, need to be known and then applied to be effective and real to us and those around us. If we know them and then do nothing with them, they are as useless as having health insurance but when you are sick not using it. The same is true with trying to apply a Fruit without understanding what it is and how it is to be used. We would be having an imitation or a skewed and perhaps even rotten fruit as His marvelous fruit goes unnoticed and unused. It is like never filling out the forms and starting the benefits. Not knowing God’s precepts means we will not be able to apply, because what we may be applying is not of Him!
We have privileges and responsibilities in Him. God has given us gifts, abilities, and promises that we are not to store when needed. When they are needed, they are for us to persistently use! Such benefits given will not only benefit us in our intimate relationship to Christ, but also empower and build much heartier relationships with others, too.
Do not be shortsighted concerning your faith and the opportunities Christ has and will still bring. If we do not have a desire to pursue the will of God, we have to ask ourselves why and what is in the way. Most, if not all of the time, it is the desire of sin that blocks us. Sometimes we may not recognize sin and perhaps rationalize it away. This happens especially when our view of Christ and or our involvement in discipleship is dumbed down. Our election is proven by our obedience and growth in Christ!
This is the willingness to live out the Christian life we claim we are living. It is the actual implementation of His precepts into our daily life, because these precepts are better than anything we had planned. We must have a life that matches what we say we believe; faith is the quintessential tool to make this happen. This is where we take what we have learned and believe and put it into action in our relationships and opportunities. Our faith and our deeds must not operate independently of each other (Psalm 34:4-6; James 2:18).
To make this happen further, we must have a mind that is focused, to the best of your ability, on God’s precepts and character. Instead of filling our minds with needless junk, let us fill it up with things that will help us grow in our faith. Instead of a romance novel or a cheap magazine, pick up a good book, a classic, a book to help you grow, and read the ultimate Book, His Word, the Bible. If you are willing to grow closer to God, then fill your mind with things and ideas that are pleasing to Him (Rom. 12:1-3; 1 Cor. 2:16; 1 Peter 2:1-2).
The Fruit of the Spirit is a description of who we are to be in our entirety. This is the basic, foundational character upon which the other characters rest. God’s Spirit empowering and working in us summarizes the essence of character in general as applied to our entire lives as Christians. It encapsulates work of God in us. This is what builds a life after God and a church in Him. We all have the ability to be good or be bad, to take what Christ has given us and use it, or ignore or even perverse it. This not just about our reputation and ambassadorship in Christ (2 Cor. 5:20); it is how we must be if Christ has a hold on us and our church!
Being a servant of Christ means we surrender all of what we are so He becomes more and we become less (John 3:30; Gal. 2:20-21). We do this because what we gain is so much more; it is peace, serenity, confidence, hope, and, especially, His Fruit that impact us as well as those around us. Think this is too hard? Consider Peter, who writes about the Fruit in 1 Peter 1, he is the example, through a slow and arduous process, found this to be workable and doable and something he could even excel at. He went from being the arrogant, headstrong, and reckless fisherman to calling himself a slave¾a remarkable picture of Christ’s imputing and impacting work that we can also have.
This Fruit in action comes from our submission to God, which produces love, kindness, gentleness… This happens when we are changed by what He has done. You have to ask yourself, “Am I doing this? If not, why not?” When we profess Christ as Lord or make a public testimony, we are declaring that Jesus Christ has a hold on our lives¾from now through eternity¾that transcends human understanding. We are no longer of this world, but belong to Him as His child¾saved and redeemed. This is the start of our personal relationship with Jesus Christ as not just Savior, but as LORD over all, over our desires, needs, and plans. This is imparted to us though our intimacy with Him (Psalm 15; 36:9). True intimacy with God is not found in our feelings, works, entitlement, deeds, the saying of creeds, or even by having the right theology in mind, which is important. Rather, real, true intimacy is a deep affection and knowledge of Christ that is generated by our heartfelt devotion, commitment, and trust. This is, in turn, demonstrated by our willingness and the action of moving forward in our journey of faith.
We are called to stretch and grow beyond what we think we can do!
It grieves our Lord deeply when we reject Him or turn from Him and His ways. He is especially grieved when we seek the tantalizations the world has to offer and ignore His wonder and blessings. As our Lord showed us by example, we are to follow up by caring for His people—our brothers and sisters in the Lord. This is a call to rescue, like a lifeguard rescuing a person who is drowning. People all around us are drowning in a sea of lost hope; we can be the person who hands them the lifeline of hope. We do this by praying and by example with humility, sensitivity, persistence, and by going out of our way for them.
Ministry is not just the proclamation of the Gospel; it is the example of the Gospel lived out in the lives of Believers as they show real compassion for individuals. If we are not doing this, we are not doing ministry. We are to not only care in word, but we are to show that care in deeds; even if we have to confront someone, we are always to do it in love and within the parameters of the Fruit of the Spirit. Thus, when we see someone start to stray, we are to come along side him/her in love and help him/her back to His path. We are to show His love and our genuine concern by being willing and able to help out beyond our comfort zone and cultural considerations. Do not wait; we are called to care and to care now!
So, how is your “fertility?” That is, how is the Fruit of the Spirit growing in you? How should His Fruit be growing in and through you? Keep in mind that it means Christ comes through you in all things and times! Our faith will be tested—not to attack or cause us to fail—but to teach us to be more faithful, stronger, and better so we can be better to those around us. God wants us holy and pure in Him.
To make us pure, He needs to prune and refine us. This is not drudgery but an opportunity to be more than we could ever be on our own. Our growth in Him means faith, spiritual maturity, and character development. These are things more precious than any gold, personal success, or financial portfolio. As we go through the tough stuff of life, we will grow and become stronger. We will worship Him more deeply and purely. We will honor Him more deeply, more relevantly, and touch the lives of others more deeply, too.
Life is not about our wants, needs, and comfort; it is about Christ working in us more powerfully and triumphantly. The key to turn on this engine of our spiritual formation is our willingness to pursue, endure, and grow. Allow the holiness of our Lord, His grace, His patience, understanding, faith, loyalty, goodness, and love to be exhibited in you—not by imitation, but with gratitude and submission, kept by His power (1 Cor. 1:30; Col. 1:27; Gal. 5:21-23; 1 Pet. 1:5)!
Is your Relationship with Christ Growing?
The Fruit of the Spirit is all about our authentic faith developed from our growing relationship and knowledge of Christ that is revealed to us is the foundation of our faith. We are being directly called to make every conceivable effort to put into practice our faith and the Fruit that is given and is at our disposal to use. Our faith is the benefit we have as Christians, just like working for a company building and having a retirement account, and various other benefits. Employers are not always obligated to do so, but in order to make a healthier and more productive work environment, they do. The employees are responsible to sign up and use the benefits. If they do not, those benefits will not be available for use. Their use is not mandatory, but needed and necessary for life. The parallels are similar with what God has given us. He is not obligated to give to us out of His love and grace, but He does so because of that love and grace.
We are called to know Christ better and to practice moral excellence. But before moral excellence can happen, our hearts and minds must be lined up with God; and before we can do this, we have to know Him. Character and Fruit are only exhibited when we are communing with Him¾not when we are negating or neglecting Him. The more we know God, the more we know His call, and the more we will have the desire and ability to grow in and apply it. Then we grow more in character, as the knowing and practicing also helps us to be built up in Christ. But, beware when we are myopic in our outlook on life; not seeing Christ or applying Him in our lives will cause us to fail at what is important, which is virtue and character!
© 2000 R. J. Krejcir Ph.D. Schaeffer Institute of Church Leadership, www.churchleadership.org