In the Book of Galatians, Paul explains how the Christian should live his life. Paul, by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, reasons that if a Christian is saved by faith, should he not continue to live by that same faith? Should his walk and conduct not be characterized by a dependence on God and the seeking of God’s direction and will? Paul reasons at length that these things should be so, but as he brings his explanation to a conclusion he further instructs us that the life of the Christian who lives in submission to God will be characterized by certain qualities. These qualities are described by Paul as “The Fruit of the Spirit.” They are enumerated in Galatians 5:22.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
Perhaps the first thing that must be noted in any consideration of the fruit of the Spirit is that it is different than the better known “gifts of the Spirit,” which we find in such passages as 1 Corinthians 12 and Romans 12. The spiritual gifts are functions and capacities which are given to Christians to enable them to serve in the church. Not all Christians have the same gifts. However, the fruit of which Paul speaks in Galatians is the manifestation of the Holy Spirit’s work in a person yielded to Him. This fruit should be found in its fullness and entirety in every believer.
A Christian whose life isn’t described by the fruit of the Spirit is likely walking far from God or perhaps has never truly been born again.
It is unfortunate that an overemphasis on gifts has led many Christians to neglect the virtues of the Spirit. Surely the development of Christian character should take precedence over displaying special abilities.
In considering the fruit of the Spirit, it is important to notice that Paul uses the singular form of the noun (i.e. “fruit” instead of “fruits”). This indicates the unity and the interconnectedness of the various virtues composing the fruit. As one grows in love, for example, then of necessity he will also grow in kindness, longsuffering, etc. It is impossible to demonstrate true Christian love and yet be unkind. In fact, as we will show in the associated articles, every one of the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit is an outworking of Christian love as described in 1 Corinthians 13.
Along those same lines, the fruit of the Spirit is a necessary consequence of spiritual life. Just as in the natural world a tree that doesn’t produce fruit is either immature or is dead, so it is in the spiritual world. A Christian whose life isn’t described by the fruit of the Spirit is likely walking far from God or perhaps has never truly been born again.
I am a missionary to Honduras, Central America. When I first came to Honduras about thirty years ago, we lived in an area with an abundance of mango trees and orange trees. One unusual thing about these trees almost immediately caught my eye. Most of the fruit trees had slash marks made by a machete on the trunks. I asked a friend as to why the people slash their fruit trees and he told me that it was so that the tree would produce more fruit. The explanation seemed rather implausible to me but later I talked to an arborist and he informed me that it was indeed so. He said that when a tree is stressed it often produces a more abundant crop.
I think there may be a spiritual lesson here, something illustrative of the fruit of the Spirit. You see, when a Christian passes through difficult trials it is at these very times that the fruit of the Spirit in his life will be demonstrated most clearly and noticeably. When others are worried, the Christian will have peace. When others are angry, the Christian will show love. When others are troubled, the Christian will have joy.
So how do you have the fruit of the Spirit? The answer is simple. It is to live in the Spirit. It is to set aside one’s own feelings and desires and rather seek that God may guide you moment by moment.
The Holy Spirit is often compared to water in the Scriptures (Ezekiel 47:4-5; John 4:14; 7:37-39). Just as a river is life-giving and refreshing, so is the Holy Spirit. Have you ever noticed that along the banks of a stream the vegetation is always abundant and luxurious, even in arid or drought-prone areas? Just as strong and sturdy trees grow along a river’s bank, in the same way as the Holy Spirit flows freely in our lives, a rich and beautiful character grows. That character is not dependent on the circumstances of the moment but is invigorated and sustained by the Holy Spirit Himself.
Perhaps it is fitting to close this introductory discussion of the fruit of the Spirit by citing a passage from the book of Jeremiah (17:7-8). Just as Paul in Galatians argues that the Christian should live by faith and thus have a fruitful life, Jeremiah declares the blessedness of the man who trusts the Lord.
Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord,
And whose hope is the Lord.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear a when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding fruit.
May you indeed be fruitful in your walk with God!
Jim Haesemeyer – Renew in Knowledge Core Team Member
Jim Haesemeyer is an elder at FreeWay Bible Chapel at Lubbock, Texas. Jim has served on the mission field in Honduras for nearly thirty years.