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By Bob Longman

courtesy of www.spirithome.com


Fruit of the Spirit - Visible Growth in Jesus Christ

"Fruit of the Spirit" is a biblical term that sums up the nine visible attributes of a true Christian life. Using the King James Version of Galatians 5:22-23, these attributes are: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance. We learn from scripture that these are not individual "fruits" from which we pick and choose. Rather, the fruit of the Spirit is one ninefold "fruit" that characterizes all who truly walk in the Holy Spirit. Collectively, these are the fruits that all Christians should be producing in their new lives with Jesus Christ. 

Fruit of the Spirit - The Nine Biblical Attributes

The fruit of the Spirit is a physical manifestation of a Christian's transformed life. In order to mature as believers, we should study and understand the attributes of the ninefold fruit:

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).

Joy - "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).

Peace - "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).

Longsuffering (patience) - We are "strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness" (Colossians 1:11). "With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2).

Gentleness (kindness) - 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).

Goodness - "Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfill 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).

Faith (faithfulness) - "O Lord, thou art my God; I will exalt thee, I will praise thy name; for thou hast done wonderful things; thy counsels of old are faithfulness and truth" (Isaiah 25:1). "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).

Meekness - "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" (Galatians 6:1). "With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love" (Ephesians 4:2).

Temperance (self-control) - "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).


( The following is an expanded look at the subject of the evidence of the “Holy Spirit maturing a person” over time as that person grows as a Christian. The person contributes to this process by reading God’s word, acting on God’s word (putting it into practice), praying, giving to others, staying away from wrong things, judging others less, and just thinking about God and His laws, nature and ways etc……. Keygar)


The most famous passage about the 'fruit of the Spirit' is in Galatians 5:22, where Paul gives us a list of fruit. The list is meant as a contrast to the list of the deeds of the flesh' found in 5:19-20. The fruit list is clearly not intended as an exhaustive description of the fruit, but was given to highlight the fruit that Paul wants the Galatian church to keep in mind. He lists the following fruit:


When Paul follows the list of the fruit of the Spirit by saying that "against such things there is no law", he was talking about the fact that the societal and religious authorities find it pretty hard to object to behavior that shows these characteristics. Even a staunch enemy of the church will likely find these qualities appealing. And, God's law supports that kind of character. These are known to be positive characteristics by almost everyone, in most eras, in most lands.
Let's look at a few of these fruit. I'll set 'love' to the side for now, because Paul describes that well enough in 1 Corinthians 13, and Jesus deals with it even better in the Gospels. Check them out yourself, and see.
'Gentleness' is an interesting one. It has a tie-in to Jesus, too, for didn't he speak of the meek inheriting the earth? The gift of 'gentleness' isn't about being wishy-washy, indecisive, unassertive, or just plain wimpy. It is connected instead to a refusal to use power over anyone, an unwillingness to cut and slash at people, wounding them for vengeance, spite or control. It's about being out to build people up instead of harming them or scaring them. There are gentle ways to be bold, non-violent ways to stand up for what is right, non-manipulative ways to lead and to convince. But it is not in the human nature to be that way. It goes beyond 'instinct', or 'education', or 'society's influence'; we are simply not gentle creatures.

Certainly not males, despite the term 'gentleman'. Women have historically been more gentle, but that is a relative matter; they have their own ways of being vicious and destructive. No. If we are to be truly gentle, we need God to give us the ability to be gentle when it counts.
Then, there's 'long-suffering' or 'patience'. As someone who growls when the car in front of me doesn't move when the light turns green, I can't say that I'm a patient man. I'm a New Yorker, you understand, and I'm raised to demand instant action. I live in a fast-paced world which is getting faster even as age slows me down. Life's too short. I do not want to sit still for other people's troubles; my first instinct is to move on and let them stew in it. Me, suffer over someone else?

Bah! When I see someone spending a large amount of time in devotions and prayer, my first thought is that they're escapists running away from the world. Don't they know they're running out of time?? There's too much to do, and curse to hell anyone who gets in the way.
In that way, I am a man of my era. I'm today's human creature, unwilling to put up with that which doesn't conform, ditching the spouse if things aren't working out just right, making short-term investments to make quick bucks, dumping chemicals in a nearby stream (or a nearby slum), unwilling to wait until the commercials are done to get something watchable on television.

Those who bear emotional burdens over those they love seem like fools who should cut loose 'for their own good', or so it's said. However, the Spirit, who can be faster than any of us, is not in it for the quick hit. The Spirit counsels patience : you have all of eternity, and all that is not joy today will pass away someday. Remember that God wins in the end, and trust in that.


Notice that the Galatians list is made of stuff that is both something you are and something you do. It is the Spirit giving you the character of Christ. There are other such lists in the Epistles, and they are also relevant to any talk about the 'fruit of the Spirit'.

In 1 Cor 13, in the midst of Paul's description of the gifts of the Spirit, there is a section on love. While not directly about 'fruit', it is about what springs from love, and it is in much the same vein. According to verses 3-8, love:

suffers long
is kind
does not envy
does not parade itself
does not get 'puffed up'
does not behave rudely
is not provoked
does not think evilly, nor rejoice in sin
rejoices in the truth
bears all things
believes all things
hopes all things
endures all things

In Phillipians 4:8, Paul advises us to think on things that are:

of good report
of any virtue
worthy of praise

In Colossians 3:12-16, the church members are told to put on (wear) these things:

tender mercies

Then, they are further instructed to:

bear with one another
forgive one another
let the peace of God rule their hearts
be thankful
have the Word live in them
teach and admonish one another
sing with grace in their hearts

All of these lists are describing a Christian's character. There was no word in there about being given the Midas touch for resolving all financial woes. There's not even the slightest signal in there about tongues being the evidence of the Spirit's presence. There's nothing about crusading for a just society, though there is something about being just. These lists are completely silent about miraculous deeds or the gifts of wisdom or knowledge or discernment as signs of the Spirit's rule within a person.

It sounds instead like a repeated refrain from Jesus (Matt 7:16, 20) that one knows God's followers 'by their fruits'. Or, like Paul's urgings that the Roman church bear fruit for God, or James about being full of mercy and good fruit. Or John the Baptist, or even the proverb which says that "the fruit of righteousness is a tree of life" (an early example of 'fruit' to describe results). These matters of character are the stuff that gives life-ness to life. It is something you are, not just something you do.

In Jeremiah (6:19), God speaks of the disaster which is about to come, and speaks of it as "the fruit of their plans" -- that which comes from evil scheming. So bad character can also come to fruition.
The early church continued this concern about how those with the Spirit develop a character like that of Christ's. Some of them spend much of their writing time on describing what this character is. Polycarp, for instance, in his letter to the church in Philippi, wrote that the church's leaders are to have "a wide compassion for humanity", which does not put off doing kindnesses. (Think here of Jewish mitzvot ; it's about going beyond merely doing good, into being someone who is characterized by doing good, to honor God and for the sake of others.) He, like Paul, also writes about what is not a part of this character : gossip, the undermining of others, easily believing ill of others, loose sexual behavior, empty speech, quick temper, and most especially the eagerness for money.
The early Protestant pietists shared this concern. They knew from Scripture that if the Spirit dwells in a person, that person will start taking on the characteristics described as the fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit works to change Christians so that they have the depth of character the Bible talks about. It's not automatic or sudden.

Like everything else in this broken world and its broken people, it's something that arises in part, not completely, in this life. We are always 'under construction', just like any good web site is. Many later pietists and Holiness believers, unfortunately, forgot how deeply marred we are by sin, and saw failure to live in these 'fruit' as proof that the Spirit was not at work. This resulted in a new legalism made of a decision to obey behavioral rules rooted in law, not in a soul which grew through the Spirit's work to bear good fruit.
We don't need to turn to the Law to give rise to character in ourselves and our children.
We need to turn to the Spirit, and understand that the Spirit will be working overtime to change us, working literally till Kingdom come, refashioning us into being like Christ.
The early church understood this. They instead took each other aside and corrected each other, and those who understood the Christian way best (especially the apostles) taught it to the others. Even the apostles were not above correction, as Paul so sharply points out in Galatians. They understood that by way of mutual education and the use of discernment, in the power of the Holy Spirit, they could grow as Christians. The evidence of that growth was the fruit.


Unity is one of the fruits of the Spirit. But not always immediately. Jesus' work set father against son and mother against daughter, and the Spirit takes after Jesus' ministry. In Acts 15, even though the Jerusalem Council was being guided by the Spirit, division arose. It takes some wrestling with the matter, a struggling done with an attitude of submission, of 'show us, Spirit!'. While this is going on, we may differ, even vigorously. But the disagreement itself can be part of the process the Spirit uses to get the matter sorted out.
Often what results is a surprising unity, in which we have spiritually grown and stepped toward the future in a vision for mission. Sometimes the disunity may represent differing paths which may have to co-exist in tension, at least for a while, to inform and correct each other. Either result can be fully in keeping with the Spirit's work.

The organism known as the Christian Church is able to hold and to benefit from the human race's many cultures, outlooks, theologies, histories and styles. Yet that Church can only be whole when it embraces and sustains the whole truth. That means not just being broad in most ways, it also means being clear about what to reject.
Conformity and uniformity tend to be deadening, but at specific times may be crucial to the task at hand. Try, for instance, fighting to defend one's country against invaders. If everyone had a different type of gun, the supply of munitions would be impossible and the nation would fall. Or, can you picture how repairs would be done if every individual car's parts were all unique to that particular car? The core identity of the Christian faith is what identifies church from non-church, it is what allows us to operate together, even for a moment, even on any one matter, as if we were one body. In a way, we are, or so says the Bible.




Where there are 'the fruits of the Spirit', the Spirit is at work. We can trust that.

We can't be godly apart from the Spirit; we just don't have that ability.

As a matter of our nature, we are hell-bent on getting what we desire. Even the best of what we are gets twisted by this inner drive.

God has a very different way, and wants us to follow it. Since we can't, the Spirit grows us up, cleans us up, and makes good ('fruit') come from us.

Each person in the Spirit has a different share of each fruit, and each fruit has a different shape in each person.......

but all the fruits will show themselves in each Christian as he or she goes deeper into their walk with the Spirit.




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