What Is the Fruit of the Spirit?
- Kathy Howard Author
- 2018 9 Feb
How many times have you prayed for patience? You might as well stop. Praying for individual characteristics like patience, kindness, and gentleness is a good-intentioned, but misguided waste of time.
Yes, like you, I want my life to bountifully overflow with the fruit of the Spirit. But focusing on the result of the Spirit’s presence and activity in our lives is like trying to grow apples without first planting and tending an apple tree. Like the apple naturally grows on a healthy tree, the fruit of the Spirit will naturally grow in the lives of Christians who allow the Holy Spirit to freely do His work in and through us.
You may be familiar with the passage in Paul’s letter to the Christians in Galatia that lists the characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit:
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22-23)
In Galatians 5:22, the word “fruit” is translated from the Greek word karpos. According to Mounces Complete Expository Dictionary, karpos refers to the natural product of a living thing. Primarily used to describe the literal physical product of trees, vines, and crops, karpos is also used metaphorically to refer to the natural product of a spiritual being. Paul used karpos to help us understand the natural product of the Holy Spirit, who lives inside every believer. The fruit of the Spirit then is produced by the Spirit, not by the Christian.
Obviously, an individual cannot display the “fruit of the Spirit” unless the Spirit is present in that person’s life. The Bible tells us that when a person places his or her faith in Jesus as Savior and Lord, God provides and guarantees their salvation by placing His Spirit within them (Titus 3:4-7 and Ephesians 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit takes up residence or “indwells” every person who has a saving relationship with Jesus. If you are a Christian, you have the Holy Spirit living within you (Romans 8:9-11).
Yet, like physical fruit needs time to grow, the fruit of the Spirit will not ripen in our lives overnight. Like a successful gardener must battle against weeds and disease to enjoy the sweet fruit they desire, we must constantly work to rid our lives of the “weeds” of our sinful natures that want to choke out the work of the Spirit.
The great news is, the Holy Spirit gives us the power we need to reject those sinful desires and yield our wills to what the Spirit wants in our lives. We can say “no” to sin and accept the “way out” God faithfully provides (1 Corinthians 10:13) by following the Holy Spirit’s leading.
Then, as we give the Spirit more and more control of our lives, He begins to do in and through us what only He can do. The Spirit’s endgame – His primary goal - is to shape us and grow us to look like Jesus:
“For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.” (2 Corinthians 3:17-18)
From the moment of salvation until the end of our lives on this earth, the Holy Spirit works to transform our nature and character to reflect Christ’s. Since God’s goal for all His children is for us to be like Jesus (Romans 8:29), the Holy Spirit constantly works to rid our lives of the “acts of the sinful nature” (Gal 5:19) and display His fruit instead. Therefore, the presence of the “fruit of the Spirit” is evidence that our character is becoming more like Christ’s.
Significantly, the Greek word karpos is singular, showing that “fruit” is a unified whole. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary suggests we think of the fruit of the Spirit as a “bunch of grapes instead of separate pieces of fruit.” For instance, the Spirit won’t display patience in our lives and ignore gentleness or self-control. As we grow, all the characteristics of Christ – fruit of the Spirit – will be manifested in our lives.
What does that fruit look like? Paul uses nine characteristics to describe the fruit of the Spirit in the book of Galatians. Here they are:
- Love – True, biblical love deliberately expresses itself in loving ways and seeks the welfare of others; it’s dependent on the giver’s character, not emotion.
- Joy – This aspect of the fruit of the Spirit corresponds to “happiness” in the secular world. However, the joy the Spirit gives does not depend on our physical circumstances, but our spiritual, eternal circumstances.
- Peace – This state of tranquility fosters harmonious relations between people and with God; it is a sense of rest and contentment.
- Patience – This quality puts up with circumstances and other people, even when severely tried; it displays endurance, longsuffering, and perseverance.
- Kindness – This attitude acts in good and gentle ways toward others.
- Goodness - Closely to “kindness,” goodness is generosity that springs from kindness.
- Faithfulness – To be faithful is to be reliable or trustworthy. This word also describes someone willing to die for their confession of Christ.
- Gentleness/Meekness - Closely linked to humility, gentleness is grace of the soul, not weakness. It is opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest.
- Self-control – This is strength to control our sinful desires, to say “no” to our flesh.
Isn’t the fruit of the Spirit beautiful? As the Spirit transforms us more and more into the image of Christ, we will produce this beautiful, bountiful fruit harvest!
Father, thank you that you so generously give us Your Spirit. I long for Him to display the character of Jesus in me. Help me to allow the Spirit to accomplish all He desires in my life. Amen.
Kathy Howard helps women live an unshakeable faith for life. The author of 8 books and a former “cultural Christian,” Kathy encourages women to stand firm on our rock-solid God through difficulties or ease by embracing real, authentic faith. Find out more and get free discipleship tools and leader helps at: www.kathyhoward.org.
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