FRUIT OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
If the gifts of the Holy Spirit are like virtues, the fruits of the Holy Spirit are the actions that those virtues produce. Prompted by the Holy Spirit, through the gifts of the Holy Spirit we bear fruit in the form of moral action. Matthew 7:16-20 helps us to understand the Fruit of the Holy Spirit, which are the observable behaviours of people who have allowed the grace of the Holy Spirit to be effective in them. It spells, “Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” Therefore, the fruits of the Holy Spirit are works that we can perform only with the aid of the Holy Spirit. The presence of these fruits is an indication that the Holy Spirit dwells in believer of the Jesus Christ.
Believers in Jesus Christ are given the Holy Spirit to lead them and empower them. In Acts 2:8, Jesus said, “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” Ephesians 1:13-14 explains that the Holy Spirit is a deposit given to believers in Christ that guarantees their relationship with Christ. Therefore, we receive the Holy Spirit the moment we believe in Jesus Christ. When we receive the Holy Spirit into our lives, we have a new awareness of Christ, and can begin entering a relationship with Him. The primary purpose of the Holy Spirit coming into our life is change. The Holy Spirit’s role is to mould us into the image of Christ so that we may live in His likeness. In Galatians 5:22-23 we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit, which is love, joy, peace, patience (longsuffering), kindness (gentleness), goodness, faithfulness, humbleness (meekness) and self-control (temperance). The fruit of the Holy Spirit is the result of the Holy Spirit’s presence in our lives. The Bible also says, “against such things, there is no law.” (Galatians 5:23). However, these fruits are contrasted with the works of the flesh which are immediately precede them in verse 24 (Galatians 5:24).
In Galatians 5, Paul wants to make sure that people know how to spot the evidence of the Holy Spirit in their lives. The result of the Holy Spirit in their lives will be good things like love, joy, kindness, and self-control. He also wants to make sure that Christians know that evil actions like sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies are not the work of the Holy Spirit. The fruits of the Spirit are evidence of the work of the Holy Spirit in the lives of Christians.
The Greek word is singular, showing that “fruit” is a unified whole, not independent characteristics. As we grow, all the characteristics of Christ will be manifested in our lives. Yet, like physical fruit needs time to grow, the fruit of the Spirit will not ripen in our lives overnight. Like a successful gardener must battle against weeds to enjoy the sweet fruit they desire, we must constantly work to rid our lives of the “weeds” of our old sin natures that want to choke out the work of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit gives us the power we need to reject those old sinful desires. We can say “no” to sin and accept the “way out” God faithfully provides (1 Corinthians 10:13) by following the Holy Spirit’s leading.
As we give the Spirit more control of our lives, He begins to do in and through us what only He can do – to shape us and grow us to look like Jesus (2 Corinthians 3:17-18). Since God’s goal for all His children is for us to be like Jesus (Romans 8:29), the Holy Spirit constantly works to rid our lives of the “acts of the sinful nature” (Galatians 5:19) and display His fruit instead. Therefore, the presence of the “fruit of the Spirit” is evidence that our character is becoming more like Christ’s. The nine attributes of a person or community living in accord with the Holy Spirit are:
In Galatians 5:22-23, love is translated from the Greek word ἀγάπη, (agape). Greek has multiple words for love including eros, which is sexual love and philos, which is brotherly love. Agape’ is perfect love that only God can give. “In respect of agapao as used of God, it expresses the deep and constant ‘love’ and interest of a perfect Being towards entirely unworthy objects, producing and fostering a reverential ‘love’ in them towards the Giver, and a practical ‘love’ towards those who are partakers of the same, and a desire to help others to seek the Giver,” according to Vine’s Expository Dictionary. Love for God and others is the result of receiving God’s perfect agape’ love.
“And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). Through Jesus Christ, our greatest goal is to do all things in love. “Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Charity is the love of God and of neighbour, without any thought of receiving something in return. It is not a “warm and fuzzy” feeling, however; charity is expressed in concrete action toward God and our fellow man. “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins’” (1 Peter 4:8).
True, biblical love is a choice, not a feeling. It deliberately expresses itself in loving ways and always seeks the welfare of others. Biblical love is dependent on the giver’s character, not emotion. For instance, a mature believer demonstrating love will not exercise his or her freedom if that action might harm another Christian in some way. Rather than risking the possibility of causing the immature Christian to question and stumble, the mature believer will not exercise his freedom out of love for his brother (Romans 14:1-15). Love chooses to set aside one’s own preferences, desires, and sometimes even needs to put the other person first (Philippians 2:1-3). Jesus encouraged his followers: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. If you keep my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commands and remain in his love. I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete.” (John 15:9-11).
Joy isn’t emotional, in the sense that we commonly think of joy; rather, it is the state of being undisturbed by the negative things in life. Sometimes we Christians tend to downplay the meaning of joy. But, the Greek word translated as “joy” in Galatians 5 means “gladness and delight” – basically the same thing the world means when it talks about joy. It is a feeling of gladness based on our circumstances. Sadly, the world’s joy cannot last because it is based on fleeting, physical circumstances. But the joy of the Lord is established in our spiritual, eternal circumstances. It is rooted in God and comes from Him. Since it comes from God, it is more serene and stable than worldly happiness, which is merely emotional and lasts only for a time.
“Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice” (Philippians 4:4)! “Rejoice always; pray without ceasing; in everything give thanks; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus” (1 Thessalonians 5:16-18). “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Nehemiah 8:10). “Let us fix our eyes on Jesus, the author and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy set before Him endured the cross, scorning its shame, and sat down at the right hand of the throne of God” (Hebrews 12:2). Paul encourages us to: “Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face trials of many kinds because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance” (James 1:1-2).
“Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that you will abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). As we cling tight to Jesus, abiding daily in our saving relationship with Him, we will experience the fullness of joy He promised (John 15:4-11).
The Biblical concept of peace, εἰρήνη (eirene) in Greek, the Greek equivalent for the Hebrew word shalom, which expresses the idea of wholeness, completeness, or tranquility in the soul that is unaffected by the outward circumstances or pressures. The word eirene is inclusive of life without conflict, as well as wholeness and harmony with God and others. A life of peace is safe and secure both physically and mentally.
“You will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on You, because he trusts in You” (Isaiah 26:3). Jesus is described as the Prince of Peace, who brings peace to the hearts of those who desire it. He says in John 14:27: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid”. In Matthew 5:9 he says, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called sons of God.” “Therefore, since we have been justified through faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (Romans 5:1). “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Romans 15:13). Peace is a tranquillity in our soul that comes from relying on God. Rather than getting caught up in anxiety for the future, Christians, through the prompting of the Holy Spirit, trusts God to provide for them. “The mind governed by the flesh is death, but the mind governed by the Spirit is life and peace.” (Romans 8:6) Peace is a result of allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and minds. When we have peace, we are from fear and worry about finances, our safety, our salvation, and our eternal life. The fruit of the Holy Spirit is seen in the peace that comes even when our circumstances are far from tranquil. Jesus encouraged his followers in John 16:33, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcome the world.”
The world doesn’t offer much peace. Just look around. The world cannot give it because the world doesn’t know the One who is peace. But for those who have the Spirit of peace within us, the peace of Christ is possible, no matter our circumstances (John 14:27). We can reject the chaos of the world and embrace God’s peace. The book of Philippians tells us how (Philippians 4:4-9). First, choose to rejoice in God and who He is. Second, bring all your worries, fears, and concerns to God in prayer. Third, fill your mind with God’s truth. And fourth, choose to think about the things of God. “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 4:6-7). “Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful” (Colossians 3:15).
4. PATIENCE (LONGSUFFERING)
Exodus 34:6 describes the Lord as “slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.” Moreover, Psalm 37:7 spells that “Rest in the LORD and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who carries out wicked schemes”. Forbearance μακροθυμία (makrothumia) is not a word that most of us commonly use. The Greek word in Galatians 5:22-23 is often translated using other words such as patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, perseverance, longsuffering, and slowness in avenging wrongs. The Holy Spirit empowers believers to withstand challenging situations with perseverance and endurance. The Greek root of this word relates to two words that mean long and passion. Through the Holy Spirit we are able to wait longer before indulging our passions- we become “long-tempered” rather than “short-tempered.” Paul used this word when he was describing Jesus’ patience (μακροθυμία) with him.
“But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.” (1 Timothy 1:16)
Like Paul, we have all benefited from Christ’s immense patience with us. The evidence of the Holy Spirit in our life is also seen in our ability to persevere, be patience, steadfast and long-tempered. Ephesians 4:1-2 encourages us to “be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” We are “strengthened with all power according to His glorious might so that we may have great endurance and patience…” (Colossians 1:11).
We don’t see much patience in the world today, not even in the church. Maybe part of the reason is our fast-paced, want-it-now culture. But Christians have everything we need to be patient because we have the Holy Spirit living in us longing to display His character to those around us. Patient people put up with circumstances and other people, even when severely tried. Patient people display endurance, longsuffering, and perseverance. The New Testament also specifically connects patience with sharing the Gospel. God is patient as He waits for the lost to come to Him (2 Peter 3:9) and He calls His people to be patient as we extend the offer of salvation in Christ to others (2 Timothy 4:20).
Patience is the ability to bear the imperfections of other people, through a knowledge of our own imperfections and our need for God’s mercy and forgiveness. Longanimity is patience under provocation. While patience is properly directed at other’s faults, to be long-suffering is to endure quietly the attacks of others. “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). “Here is the patience of the saints; here are those who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus” (Revelation 14:12).
5. KINDNESS (GENTLENESS)
“Those who are kind benefit themselves, but the cruel bring ruin on themselves” (Proverbs 11:17). Kindness χρηστότης (chréstotés) conveys the meaning of moral goodness, integrity, usefulness, and benignity. In the King James Version this word is translated “gentleness,” which links it to the meaning of a gentleman or a gentlewoman, someone who behaved properly, with moral integrity and kindness. Romans 2:4 reminds us that it is God’s kindness that leads us to repentance not judgement. The Holy Spirit enables us to have moral integrity with kindness and not get trapped in self-righteousness judgement. Kindness is acting for the good of people regardless of what they do, properly, “useable, i.e. well-fit for use (for what is really needed); kindness that is also serviceable”. Kindness is doing something and not expecting anything in return. Kindness is respect and helping others without waiting for someone to help one back. It implies kindness no matter what. We should live “in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left”.
The characteristics of “kindness” and “goodness” are closely related. Together they present the picture of one who not only possesses moral goodness and integrity, but also generously expresses it in the way they act toward others. This “goodness in action” reflects God’s kindness and goodness toward us. God demonstrated His kindness and goodness to us in our salvation (Titus 3:4) and will continue to “show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us” for all eternity (Ephesians 2:7)! We should live “in purity, understanding, patience and kindness; in the Holy Spirit and in sincere love; in truthful speech and in the power of God; with weapons of righteousness in the right hand and in the left” (2 Corinthians 6:6-7). “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you” (Ephesians 4:32).
Kindness is the willingness to give to others above and beyond what we own them. To be mild in behaviour is to be forgiving rather than angry, gracious rather than vengeful. The gentle person is meek; like Christ Himself, Who said that “I am gentle and humble of heart” (Matthew 11:29) he does not insist on having his own way but yields to others for the sake of the Kingdom of God.
“Do not remember the sins of my youth or my transgressions; according to Your lovingkindness remember me, for Your goodness’ sake, O LORD” (Psalm 25:7). Popular English Bibles translate the single Greek word chrestotes into two English words: kindness and goodness. Goodness ἀγαθωσύνη (agathosune) means uprightness of heart and life, goodness, and kindness. Goodness is seen in our actions. This word relates to not only being good, but also doing good things. The Contemporary English Version of 2 Thessalonians 1:11 highlights this meaning, “We pray for God’s power to help you do all the good things you hope to do and your faith makes you want to do.” Through the Holy Spirit’s work in Christians’ lives, they are upright in heart, and they do good things. “Surely goodness and lovingkindness will follow me all the days of my life, and I will dwell in the house of the LORD forever” (Psalm 23:6). Goodness is the avoidance of evil and the embrace of what’s right, even at the expense of one’s earthly fame and fortune.
“Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of His goodness, and the work of faith with power” (2 Thessalonians 1:11). “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9). “Who among you is wise and understanding? Let him show by his good behaviour his deeds in the gentleness of wisdom” (James 3:13).
“Most men will proclaim each his own goodness, but who can find a faithful man” (Proverbs 20:6)? “A faithful man will abound with blessings, but he who makes haste to be rich will not go unpunished” (Proverbs 28:20). Faithfulness πίστις (pistis) is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s work in our lives. Faithfulness is a character trait that combines dependability and trust based on our confidence in God and His eternal faithfulness. “O Lord, you are my God; I will exalt you and praise your name; for in perfect faithfulness you have done marvelous things; things planned long ago” (Isaiah 25:1).
In the New Testament, faith is the belief in God and the conviction that Jesus is the Messiah through whom we obtain eternal salvation. “With this in mind, we constantly pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling, and that by his power he may bring to fruition your every desire for goodness and your every deed prompted by faith.” (2 Thessalonians 1:11) “I pray that out of His glorious riches He may strengthen you with power through His Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith” (Ephesians 3:16-17). Faith, as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, means living our life in accordance with God’s will at all times. “For we walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7).
To be “faithful” is to be reliable or trustworthy. For the Christian, this is faithfulness specifically to the Savior who redeemed us. Christian faithfulness therefore, is continued and consistent submission and obedience to the same Spirit who provides the ability for us to be faithful. This attitude is in direct contrast to our previous “faithfulness” to our own sinful desires and ways. The word also describes someone willing to suffer persecution and even death for Christ’s sake. “Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.” (2 Thessalonians 1:4)
8. GENTLENESS [HUMBLENESS (MEEKNESS)]
“A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1). Gentleness πρᾳΰτης (prautes) was translated “meekness” in the King James Version, means “a divinely-balanced virtue that can only operate through faith”. Closely linked to humility, gentleness is grace of the soul. It is not weakness, but instead it is strength under control. For instance, in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he wrote that the “Lord’s servant” will “correct his opponents with gentleness” (2 Timothy 2:25). And in Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, he wrote that those who have been caught in sin should be restored in a “spirit of gentleness” (Galatians 6:1). Gentleness, being the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest, is also a key ingredient in unity and peace within the body of Christ (Ephesians 4:2).
“Brothers and sisters, if someone is caught in a sin, you who live by the Spirit should restore that person gently. But watch yourselves, or you also may be tempted.” (Galatians 6:1). “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” (Ephesians 4:2). Jesus describe himself as gentle in 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.” “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (Philippians 4:5). “…to be peaceable, gentle, showing every consideration for all men” (Titus 3:2).
9. SELF-CONTROL (TEMPERANCE)
“Like a city that is broken into and without walls is a man who has no control over his spirit” (Proverbs 25:28). “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Proverbs 16:32). Self-control ἐγκράτεια (egkrateia) is ability to control one’s body and its sensual appetites and desires – physically and mentally – through the power of the Holy Spirit. Self-control relates to both chastity and sobriety, and particularly moderation in eating and drinking. Self-control is the opposite of the works of the flesh that indulge sensual desires.
As Galatians 5:16 says “So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want.”The last characteristic in Paul’s description of the fruit of the Spirit points us back to his list of the “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21. Those of us with the indwelling Holy Spirit has the strength to control our sinful desires, to say “no” to our flesh. Self-control gives us the power to say “yes” to the Spirit and foster a beautiful, bountiful harvest of spiritual fruit!
Continence is self-control or temperance. It does not mean denying oneself what one needs or even necessarily what one wants (so long as what one wants is something good); rather, it is the exercise of moderation in all things. “The end of all things is near; therefore, be of sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer” (1 Peter 4:7). “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love” (2 Peter 1:5-7).