One sure way to decide whether Jesus Christ is Lord in a life is to examine the evidence of everyday character. We can ask ourselves: Am I peaceful? Am I patient? Am I loving? These and many more qualities describe attitudes that motivate our actions. We can wash dishes that have accumulated in the sink with joy and thankfulness or with grumbling and complaining. Finishing a chore is one thing, but the mindset we have while doing it is totally another.
The fruit of the spirit is a standard for following Christ. Some think it is too hard to attain these characteristics, and others may think it does not matter how we do it, just get the job done. Looking at one part of Christlike life, the fruit of the spirit, we will get some great ideas of where we are doing well, and some ideas where change is needed.
The fruit of the spirit is mentioned several times in the New Testament (Galatians 5:22, 23; Ephesians 5:9; Romans 12:9-21 for a few). “Fruit” refers to the characteristics which Jesus forms within us by the power of the holy spirit. Gal. 5:16 tells us “…walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.“ It is clear there are two paths to take, and one is the Christlike way; the other is the way of destruction (Matthew 17:13). We have the “new nature” when we receive holy spirit. With that new nature, the power of Yahweh through Jesus gives the ability to be transformed into one who shows love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. These traits are called the fruit of the spirit (Galatians 5:22, 23) because they are borne from Yahweh.
It is a very interesting way to express these wonderful attributes by calling them “fruit.” If we use a plant that produces fruit as an example, we can understand that the fruit does not magically appear for us to enjoy. The fruit must have a branch to attach to that is connected to a source of sap for nourishment. Without nourishment sent from the roots up the plant stem or tree trunk (defying gravity) to the branches, the fruit could not exist. We can use this metaphor to acknowledge that we cannot produce the characteristics of love, joy, peace and others listed without being attached firmly to the branch. Along this line, Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; the one who remains in Me, and I in him [bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” It requires holy spirit to have godly fruit in our lives.
The word “fruit” being singular represents a clump of grapes that the 1st century people would be very familiar with. There are many grapes on one cluster depicting there are many ways to be Christlike. The fruit that is produced in our lives comes from Yahweh through the finished work of Jesus Christ, who, through the holy spirit, inspires and teaches us how to be gentle and kind. From the root to the fruit.
Is there a difference between fruit and ‘works’ that we do? Works are something we do like washing the dishes, tending to the needy, doing our jobs, praying, or attending church. The fruit is given by the holy spirit and is produced within the believer in order to do the works or tasks as Christ exemplified. When works are produced from our own desires and pleasures, they are fleshly. When they are inspired and strengthened by the spirit of God working in us, they are righteous deeds. Paul in 1 Corinthians 13 teaches that love, a fruit of the spirit, is greater than manifesting works of the spirit, such as speaking in tongues. Without love, what we do is useless.
As we look at the fruit of the spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23, take care to see if you have an active willingness to live in these ways.
LOVE: Paul lovingly tells us in 1 Corinthians 13:1-3, “If I speak with the tongues of mankind and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my possessions to charity, and if I surrender my body so that I may glory, but do not have love, it does me no good.” Previously in chapter 12, Paul explains how Christians have gifts to help move the gospel message. These gifts include performing miracles, healing the sick, speaking foreign languages, and prophecy. What a resumé of works we can do. Then Paul stops us short and says we can do all these things and more, but clearly states if we do not have love behind the doing, they are useless. All these gifts/works can terminate, but the one thing that will continue on—when Christ returns and we enter the Kingdom of God—is LOVE. 1 John 4:8 sums it up: “The one who does not love does not know God, because God is love.” We are to be imitators of God as beloved children (Ephesians 5:1), and since the one we imitate is love, we are to be loving also.
JOY: “True joy is determined not by where you are, but by what you are.”1 As humans, we think that the emotion we feel when our favorite team scoring the winning half-court shot at the buzzer is joy. We may consider it joy when we have our favorite cherry chocolate passion ice cream or a two-week vacation. Joy, according to Scripture, develops from the holy spirit indwelling within us. Believers are also transformed to feel godly joy through knowledge and experience of having an intimate relationship with Yahweh and Jesus. Experiencing surrender of ourselves to Jesus Christ as Lord in our life and acknowledging with faith that Jesus is going to return for us will bring us to joy. We have full joy in the presence of Yahweh (Psalm 16:11). Recorded in the book of Acts, early Christians experienced the fullness of joy when they were praying for imprisoned Peter and John, and they miraculously saw the two standing at the gate. There was great rejoicing at the power of Yahweh that set their friends and leaders free. We have holy spirit within us that enables us to have the emotion of spiritual joy in our relationship with our Father, His Son, and our world.
PEACE: “To be spiritually minded is life and peace” (Romans 8:6). Because of the great power we receive when we believe on Jesus as the Messiah, we are given the ability to have godly peace. As we endeavor to think the Word about every situation and relationship, we will experience peace. Isaiah 9:6b calls Jesus the Prince of Peace. It is only through what Jesus accomplished by his obedient death and resulting resurrection that we can receive peace. Remember about the sap running from the root to the branch and then to the fruit? Peace must come from the Source, Yahweh and Jesus, “and the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus”
PATIENCE: The Greek word for “patience” is defined as cheerful or hopeful endurance, constancy, and also enduring patience or waiting. We gain patience by relying on, having dependance on Jesus to teach us, help us, strengthen us, give us wisdom and understanding to deal with difficulties and tragedies. Paul tells us in Colossians 1:11 that he was strengthened with all might, meaning not just the power, but glorious power of Yahweh. This is so he could have patience with joy. Paul knew that whatever strength he had to withstand being shipwrecked, stoned by his own people, and imprisoned, had to be spiritual strength. Patience is a lot more than just not getting upset that the 2-year-old spilled his milk again at the table. Patience is an indwelling ability to maintain love, joy, and peace while facing seemingly unsurmountable difficulties. Those who are missionaries most assuredly require patience. It takes years and years to establish the gospel in some areas. Some of us find that is the case in our own life and for those around us.
We will leave off here in our discussion of the fruit of the spirit. This will give us some time to focus on these 4 abilities that we all have within us to be a springboard for our works. Remember as you reach for a piece of fruit that your character is nourished by the powerful holy spirit within you that is connected to Yahweh and Jesus. If you hear yourself say “I cannot”, then try, “I alone cannot, but I can have fruit in my life because of the holy spirit teaching and strengthening me. Start with love. The rest will follow.”
1Huffer, A. G. Systematic Theology. (1960). The Restitution Herald. pg. 26.