The Fruit of the Spirit
Pr. Phinny Kuruvilla
The fruit of the Spirit is a phrase that the apostle Paul uses in the letter to Galatians to reveal the work of the Holy Spirit in the life of a believer in contrast with the deeds of the flesh. The Greek word karpos means fruit in the sense of edible fruits. In an agrarian community fruit is the result of hard work and careful nurture. We might also use the word ‘fruit’to denote ‘fruit of our labour’i.e.,the results of our work. The understanding of ‘fruit’ in this passage can also mean ‘deed, action, or result.’ The fruit or work of the Spirit in a believer’s life is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control (Gal. 5:22-23).
Spiritual fruit is the undeniable evidence of the presence of the Holy Spirit in an individual. There is no substitute for the fruit of the Spirit. Jesus told His disciples, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8). Fruit is the sign of growth. When there is no spiritual growth, the Christian life becomes barren and unproductive. Fruitlessness is a sign of stagnation. But where there is growth in the grace of the Lord, there will be spiritual fruit. Same as the physical fruit needs time to grow so also the fruit of the Spirit. It needs to be cultivated and developed in a believer, it will not ripen overnight. Like a farmer who fight against weeds, insects and other obstacles to produce the good fruit, we must constantly work in our lives to get rid of the weeds of our old sinful natures that want to choke out the work of the Spirit.
It is Fruit not Fruits
The Greek word for ‘fruit karpos’ is used in this passage in singular, showing that it is a unified whole and not independent. It is important to remember that these are multiple characteristics of but one fruit and inseparably related to one another. We have no freedom to pick these qualities, they must be all evident in the life of a believer. If one is missing then we can assume that either we are not living according to the Holy Spirit or we are quenching the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. Therefore, all the characteristics of Spirit must be manifested in the life of a believer.
Jesus’ analogy of fruit bearing
Jesus presented an analogy of fruit bearing in the gospel of Matthew and Luke. “Every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit” (Matt. 7:17-18 cf.Luke 6:43-45). Thus, He concluded that, “by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matt. 7:20).The fruit of the Spirit is an outward sign of salvation. Followers of Christ are to bear fruit. Certainly, Jesus commanded His disciples that “you should go and bear fruit” (John 15:16). Similarly Paul affirmed that, we have been raised to new life “in order that we might bear fruit for God” (Rom. 7:4).
Contrast between the deeds of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit
Apostle Paul presented the fruit of the Spirit in the epistle to Galatians in contrast with the deeds of the flesh. Deeds of the flesh are done by a person by his own will whether he is saved or not saved. Whereas, the fruit of the Spirit, is produced by the Holy Spirit in the lives of those who belong to God through faith in Jesus Christ. Another contrast between the deeds of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit is that the deeds of the flesh are in plural, while the fruit of the Spirit is in singular.
Apostle Paul lists nine characteristics of the fruit produced by the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life(Galatians 5: 22-23).New Testament believers are asked to bare all the nine manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit. Let us look into each of them:
1. Love (agape)
The first characteristic of spiritual fruit is love. Jesus Christ is the ultimate example of divine love. Jesus said, “This is my commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you” (John 15:13). Apostle John in his epistles presented this truth “We know love by this, that He laid down His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (1 John 3:16). Divine love is unmerited, transforming and unchangeable. It is this love which is demonstrated through Christ’s deathon the cross of Calvary for us. Now, because the Holy Spirit who is dwelling within a believer this love is to be shown towards other Christians and the world.
In Corinthians Paul says, it is the supreme virtue of Christian living (1 Cor. 13:13). Agape is the form of love that reflects personal choice, it is not just simply referring good emotions but the willing and self-giving service. “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Rom. 5:8). Paul also declares that, “For the whole law is summed up in a single commandment, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Gal. 5:14; cf. Rom. 13:10). For believers, love is not an option but a command. Paul declared, “Walk in love, just as Christ also loved you, and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma” (Eph. 5:2). This command can be fulfilled only through the work of the Holy Spirit.
2. Joy (chara)
The second manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit is joy. The term Joy is mentioned around 70 times in the New Testament.It is the deep sense of well-being that abides in the heart of a person who knows all is well between himself and the Lord.Joy is not the same as happiness. Happiness depends on the circumstances, whereas joy does not.Joy not only experience in our favourable circumstances but also can be experienced when we face most painful situations of life. Because our joy is based on God’s salvation in our lives as lost sinners. It is the inevitable overflow of receiving Jesus Christ as Saviour and our realization of knowing His continuing presence. It is God’s gift to his children. As Nehemiah declared, “The joy of the Lord is your strength” (Neh. 8:10).
This divine joy can be experienced in the life of a person only through trust and obedience to the Lord. Jesus said, “… Ask and you will receive, and your joy will be complete” (John 16:24).Apostle Paul commands to the Philippians that, “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice!” (Phil. 4:4; 3:1). InRomans Pauls said, “For the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 14:17). Joy that the world gives cannot last because it is based on the temporal things of this world; whereas, the joy that the Lord establishes is in our spiritual and eternal circumstances, it last forever. God’s joy is full and complete in every way. Nothing of this world can add or reduce from it.
3. Peace (eirēnē)
The Greek word for 'peace' is eirēnē which means the tranquillity of mind that comes from that saving relationship. Life without conflict, as well as wholeness and harmony with God and others. Peace is a result of allowing the Holy Spirit to work in our hearts and minds. As we look around the world, there is no peace because the world doesn’t know the one who is the prince of peace. Jesus said “let not your heart be troubled …” (John 14:1). There is no reason for a believer to be anxious or afraid. Jesus the Prince of Peace bestows His peace to those who belongs to him. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27).
Like joy,peace has no relationship to the circumstances. Because God is in control of all aspects of our lives. Apostle Paul declares that, “in all things God works for the good of those who love him, whohave been called according to his purpose“(Rom. 8:28). Paul also said, “And the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4:9). Since a child of God have the God of peace in their hearts, he/she need not to be anxious for anything. Paul further says, “the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus” (Phil.4:7). This peace is to be seen in all aspects of our lives.
4. Patience (Makrothumia)
The Greek word for patience is Makrothumia which means tolerance and longsuffering that endure damages imposed by others and the calm willingness to accept situations that are irritating or painful. The Holy Spirit empowers believers to withstand challenging situations with perseverance and endurance. We don’t see much patience in the world today and even seldom in the church, since we are living in a fast world and want-it-now culture. But a follower of Christ Jesus we have to be patient because the Holy Spirit is living in us and display His character to others. Followers of Christ Jesus are expected to follow the Lord’s patience. As Paul exhort the Colossians that, clothe yourselves with patience (Col. 3:12),especially with fellow believers. As he exhort Timothy, all Christian teachers and leaders are to minister “with great patience” (2 Tim. 4:2).
5. Kindness (Chrēstotēs)
Kindness Chrēstotēs means 'tender concern' for others. It is the genuine desire of a child of God to treat others gently, just as the Lord treats us. Paul showed his attitude to the Thessalonians that, he was gentle among them, as a nursing mother tenderly cares for her own children” (1 Thess. 2:6-7). The opposite of kindness is harshness. Harshness in word, thought and deed towards others. That will to put someone down but kindness is opposite of that.
Jesus the master is the best example for kindness. When the disciples rebuked the little children, Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these” (Matt. 19: 14). On another occasion Jesus said, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.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” (Matt. 11:28-29). Just as our Lord and master is kind, His followers are commanded “not be quarrelsome but must be kind to everyone” (2 Tim. 2:24). As the divine fruit, the Holy Spirit gives God’s children kindness.
6. Goodness (agathosune)
Goodness agathosunemeans uprightness of heart and life, goodness, and kindness. Goodness must reflected in our actions. This word relates not only being good but also doing good. David had a deep understanding of God’s goodness, as he sung, “Surely your goodness and love will follow me all the days of my life,and I will dwell in the house of the Lord forever” (Ps. 23:6). Paul defined this virtue when he state in Romans, “Very rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person someone might possibly dare to die” (Rom. 5:7).The followers of Jesus Christ are commanded to exemplify goodness in their lives. In the letter to Galatians Paul exhorts that, “as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers“(Gal. 6:10).
7. Faithfulness (pistis)
Faithfulness pistisis the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit that refer to loyalty and trustworthiness. To be “faithful” is to be reliable or trustworthy. To the Christian, faithfulness is to the Savior who redeemed us. Therefore, Christian faithfulness is continued obedience to the same Spirit who provides the ability for us to be faithful. Jeremiah declared that “Because of the LORD’s great love we are not consumed, for his compassions never fail. They are new every morning; great is your faithfulness” (Lam. 3:22-23). In the New Testament, faith is the belief in God and the conviction that Jesus is the Messiah through whom we obtain eternal salvation. In the book of Revelation the Lord Jesus asked his followers to “Be faithful unto death,” the Lord assures them that, “and I will give you the crown of life” (Rev. 2:10).
8. Gentleness (prautēs)
Gentleness prautēscan be better translated as meekness. Meekness is not weaknessbut instead it is strength under control.It is the humble and gentle attitude that is patiently submissive in every offense, while being free of any desire for revenge. It requires humility and thankfulness toward God, polite and kind behaviour towards others. Meekness is the outcome of true humility; bearing with each other happens only from a lowly estimate of ourselves. A lowly estimate of ourselves does not mean that having a low self-esteem; rather, it means not thinking of ourselves as higher than others. While Jesus was on face of the earth He was gentle and humble in heart (Matt. 11:29; cf. 21:5; 2 Cor. 10:1). Like our Lord and saviour, his followers are to actively pursue gentleness (1 Tim. 6:11) and to wear them like a garment (Col. 3:12). One of the primary purposes of the Holy Spirit is to conform us to the image of Christ and making us more like Him.
9. Self-control (egkrateia)
Self-control egkrateiais the ability to control one’s body, sensual and physicaldesires through the power of the Holy Spirit. In another words, abstinence from all that is evil. Those who has the indwelling of the 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 to have a beautiful spiritual fruit. Jesus Christ was the embodiment of self-control. He was never tempted in doing anything that was not consistent with His Father’s will and His own divine nature. LikeJesus, believers should “exercise self-control in all things” (1 Cor. 9:25; cf. 7:9), “applying all diligence, in their faith to supplyself-control” (2 Pet. 1:5-6).
In conclusion, a follower of Christ Jesus who walks in the Spirit and bear the fruit of the Spirit does not need any laws or regulation to express right attitudes and behaviour, rather they automatically rise within.The fruit of the Spirit is not an addition in the life of a believer but it is the evidence that the Holy Spirit is residing in a person. May God help us all to bear the fruit of the Spirit in our lives in this pandemic times.