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The Fruit of the Spirit
The New Testament Book of Galatians shows that the purpose of justification by faith is to produce a life-style energized by the Spirit and characterized by the Spirit’s fruit. Thus the gifts of the Spirit must be accompanied by the fruit if we are to please God. Galatians 5:22–23 gives a list of the fruit. Peter gives us another list showing that the fruit grows as we exercise faith (2 Peter 1:5–9).
Love (Greek, agape) was demonstrated in its highest degree by the death of Jesus on the Cross (John 15:13). The old English of the King James Version sometimes translated agape as charity, sometimes as love. However, the highest meaning is always Calvary’s love.
We use the English word “love” in many ways. In the Bible it is a loyal, steadfast, unselfish, freely given love, including a love for the poor, the underprivileged, strangers, and our enemies. Without love, no matter what gifts operate through us, we are nothing and will have no reward (1 Corinthians 13:2–3). Paul goes on to describe love.
(1) Love is patient. This means it is even-tempered, especially toward those who provoke or injure. It endures insults and bears with those who disagree or mock or make fun of us. Love cannot be short-tempered with those for whom Christ died.
(2) Love is kind. It does more than put up with abuse. It is actively kind and returns good for evil, seeks out what it can do for others, and graciously puts itself in the service of others.
(3) It does not envy or boast. Because it is truly humble it never shows off, never parades its virtues, never draws undue attention to itself.
(4) It is not proud, never has an inflated ego. It does not lord over others or treat them as unimportant. It never demands its rights nor recognition even for faithful service.
(5) Love is not rude or indecent. Love never knowingly or needlessly embarrasses or humiliates anyone. Our earthly example is Jesus. His love was considerate and polite, never coarse or vulgar.
(6) Love is not self-seeking, grasping or greedy. God so loved that He gave (John 3:16). Love like His will make us more concerned about giving than getting.
(7) Love is not easily angered. Actually, the word “easily” is not in the Greek. If we are provoked, irritated or angered because of things done to us, that does not come from love. The Bible does mention God’s anger. But His anger rises because of what sin does to the people He loves.
(8) Love keeps no record of wrongs. Instead of resenting, it is forgiving. It takes the one who has done wrong into its heart and forgets the past.
(9) Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices in the truth. It never takes delight in the downfall or misfortunes of others, never says, “I told you so,” or, “It serves you right.” Nor does it dig up the sins of the past. Instead, it rejoices when it sees the advancement of the truth, that is, of the gospel and whenever it sees a sincere acceptance of the truth.
(10) Love always protects, trusts, hopes, and perseveres because its hope is fixed on Jesus. It has faith in others and encourages them.
Joy is not just a happy feeling. It is far more than having fun. It is not a smile we put on when people are watching us. It is an active delight in the things of God, in His saving work, in the truth, in what God is doing in our fellow believers, and in the eternal hope we have in Christ. Joy keeps us from self-pity. We can have this kind of joy even in times of trial, suffering, and persecution.
The kind of peace that the Bible speaks of is more than absence of conflict, more than quietness and rest. It is full of life and includes health, wholeness, harmony and well-being. It helps believers to move ahead for God in unity and to recognize their need for real fellowship with each other and with the Lord.
Patience includes putting up with people who mistreat us as well as being gentle with people who are different in race, culture, education, ideas and personality. It recognizes that it takes time for each of us to mature. Patience helps us to learn together, forgive mistakes without limit, and keeps us from being critical of one another. It is long-suffering in view of the fact Jesus is coming again and He will bring full restoration.
Kindness appreciates others because of God’s kindness to us. “When the kindness and love of God our Savior appeared, he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy” (Titus 3:4–5). Kindness follows the example of Jesus. It is never harsh, but appreciates and respects others as it seeks to heal and unite. The fruit of kindness does not sulk or expect a return from others, but freely and unconditionally gives to all. The Parable of the Good Samaritan is an example.
Goodness includes generosity that shares with those in need (Romans 12:13; Ephesians 4:28). It cares about others in a practical way, sharing both material and spiritual blessings without boasting or seeking thanks. Barnabas is an example (Acts 11:24). Goodness can also be expressed in rebuke and discipline that recognizes God’s holy righteousness. But in doing so, it is gentle, not harsh.
Faithfulness is more than outward conformity. It does not depend on circumstances. It comes from a life of faith and trust in God. It does not depend on passing moods, but reflects the faithfulness of God, who is always dependable. Because of God’s pattern of faithfulness we know He will carry out His plan and Jesus will come back to earth to fulfill all He has promised. By our faithfulness and obedience to God, we build relationships with each other and help them to build up their confidence in God.
Gentleness is not weakness and has no false modesty or self-depreciation. It flows from a humble concern for others. It is completely free from arrogance and is never manipulative or authoritarian. It does not quarrel, seek to defend itself, or call on God for vengeance. It puts no limit on helping others. Instead, it courageously seeks to protect others and encourage their gifts and ministries.
Self-control concludes this list of fruit and Paul follows it by saying, “Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.” Self-control means that we overcome temptations to immorality, anger and covetousness. Self-control means also that we will not allow our weaknesses to keep us from obeying God and His Word. Rather, we choose Jesus, recognizing that we are not our own, we are bought with a price (1 Corinthians 6:19–20). We are like the athlete who runs to win a prize (1 Corinthians 9:24). We depend on the Holy Spirit to help us. “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7).