Fruit of the Spirit Topical Study

Preaching and Worship Resources about Fruit of the Spirit

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The fruit of the Spirit is comprised of nine Christian virtues listed by the apostle Paul in his epistle to the Galatians. Although specifically labeled "the fruit of the Spirit" in only one passage, these traits are consonant with other lists of virtues found elsewhere in the New Testament. They also mesh with the overall image of "bearing fruit" as articulated by Jesus in John's gospel and as noted by Paul and others in other New Testament epistles. Bearing such fruit is the natural result of having been grafted by the Spirit into Christ.

In Scripture

Guided by the Spirit "By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against such things. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also be guided by the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, competing against one another, envying one another" (Gal. 5:22-26).

"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinegrower. He removes every branch in me that bears no fruit. Every branch that bears fruit he prunes to make it bear more fruit. You have already been cleansed by the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me as I abide in you. Just as the branch cannot bear fruit by itself unless it abides in the vine, neither can you unless you abide in me. I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in me and I in them bear much fruit, because apart from me you can do nothing" (John 15:1-5).

Died to the law "In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God" (Rom. 7:4).

Bearing fruit "In our prayers for you we always thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, for we have heard of your faith in Christ Jesus and of the love that you have for all the saints, because of the hope laid up for you in heaven. You have heard of this hope before in the word of the truth, the gospel that has come to you. Just as it is bearing fruit and growing in the whole world, so it has been bearing fruit among yourselves from the day you heard it and truly comprehended the grace of God (Col. 1:3-6).

"As God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience. Bear with one another and, if anyone has a complaint against another, forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony" (Col. 3:12-14).

"But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without a trace of partiality or hypocrisy" (James 3:17).

Points to Ponder

Fruit Versus Gifts: The work of the Holy Spirit in the church is manifold — indeed, most everything that happens in the church can ultimately be traced to the Spirit's incessant work in God's people. But in terms of broad categories, we often think of "the gifts of the Spirit" and "the fruit of the Spirit." But there is a vital distinction to be observed between these two categories of the Spirit's work: gifts differ and vary from person to person. It is legitimate for a given Christian to say, "I don't have the gift of teaching but I am gifted in the area of hospitality." However, the fruit of the Spirit does not vary from person to person — these traits need to be common to all believers. Thus it would be illegitimate to say, "In my life I bear the fruit of peace and goodness but I don't feel called to self-control." Gifts vary, fruit is common to all.

Countercultural Fruit? Some have noted in recent times that the list of spiritual fruit as detailed in Galatians 5 generally skews away from characteristics often associated with males (and certainly away from what is often labeled "macho" in some societies). What some deride as "feminine" behaviors are actually the virtues that all Christians, regardless of gender, are told they must bear through the nurture of the Holy Spirit. In a world that values brashness and bravado, the Spirit leads believers to gentleness and kindness. In societies where self-indulgence is encouraged and instant gratification is a value, Christians bear the fruit of self-control and patience. Taken together, the nine fruit as detailed by the apostle Paul are surely part of the New Testament's witness to the idea that the church is supposed to be a very different kind of community in a world where otherwise only the powerful and those skilled at the art of manipulation get ahead.

The Fruit and the Vices: In several places in the New Testament — including passages like Galatians 5 and Colossians 3 — lists of spiritual fruit and Christian virtues often follow (and so stand in stark contrast to) lists of human vices that Christians are called to flee. Sometimes labeled "works of the flesh," these vices are indeed the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit. Vices typically include strife and arguments and quarreling, whereas fruit includes love, joy, peace, kindness, gentleness. Vices include rank sexual immorality, greed that leads to dishonesty, over-indulgence that leads to drunken orgies, and carousing of all kinds, whereas true spiritual fruit includes self-control and restraint and patience.

Fruit and Grace: There is sometimes a perceived tension in the New Testament between celebrating our salvation by grace alone and the need to engage in good works and virtuous living that glorifies God. Although the apostle James is the loudest champion of the "no faith without works" line of thought, the apostle Paul also encountered a kind of libertine anti-nomianism that tried to turn grace into a license for indulgence (cf. Rom. 6). But the fact that grace and good works can (and must) go together is perhaps nowhere more clearly seen than in the very New Testament epistle that contains the classic list of spiritual fruit: Galatians. Although Paul spends over half of this letter screaming at the Galatians for their foolishly having traded in the gospel of pure grace for a legalistic works-righteousness, he concludes this same letter by detailing everything the Galatians Christians did indeed have to do as a result of so great a salvation. Paul pivots from saying, "Stop thinking about what you do" to saying, "Start thinking about what you must do" without missing a beat or being the least bit inconsistent. Grace entails fruit. Or, as Jesus put it in John 15, once you are grafted onto the true vine, the "sap" and energy of that vine will flow into you and you will bear good fruit. The grafting was all grace, but the fruit-bearing is an overflow of that same grace!

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Scripture quotations are from New Revised Standard Version Bible, copyright 1989, Division of Christian Education of the National Council of the Churches of Christ in the United States of America. Used by permission. All rights reserved.