But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. – Galatians 5:22-23
When you become a Christian, God the Holy Spirit takes us residence in your heart immediately, permanently, and completely. If you do not have the Spirit of Christ, you are not a Christian (Romans 8:9b). If you are a Christian, you do not need to receive the Spirit. He is already there!
The indwelling Spirit gifts the believer for Christian service (1 Corinthians 12:4-7). These gifts, or gracious enablement for service to others, are important. But more important than the gifts of the spirit are the graces of the spirit. These graces are called “the fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22-23. The gifts of the Spirit are essential for Christian service. The fruit of the Spirit is essential for Christian living.
Here are seven lessons the fruit of the Spirit teaches us about the Christian life…
Spirit-Fruit is the result of Spirit-led living.
You cannot live for God in your own wisdom, strength, and resources. The Christian’s remaining sin nature, which Paul calls “the flesh,” cannot please God. It has no desire to do so. The flesh at work only produces the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-21). A spiritual warfare rages in a believer’s life. And spiritual victory cannot be won in the flesh, because your flesh is an enemy combatant. Paul the battle plan for victory: “But I say, walk in the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do” (Galatian 5:16-17). The flesh may counterfeit Spirit-fruit. But it cannot produce genuine fruit. The fruit of the spirit is the result of Spirit-led living.
Spirit-fruit is the positive side of godliness.
The fruit of the Spirit is the opposite of the works of the flesh. What are the works of the flesh? Paul explains, “Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these” (Galatians 5:19-21). Left to our own devices, our lives are dominated by sinful desires and behavior. The Holy Spirit restrains us. But godliness is about more than the absence of the works of the flesh. It is the presence of the fruit of the Spirit. And note the word “fruit” is singular, denoting that this metaphor teaches nine aspects of true godliness. The fruit of the Spirit is not a fruit stand where you select individual fruit. A godly life is marked by all nine of these Christlike virtues.
Spirit-fruit is assurance of salvation.
In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul lists the works of the flesh. It is a list filled with immoral attitudes and behavior. Paul ends this list of vices by adding “and these like these” (Galatians 5:19). This list of the works of the flesh is representative, not exhaustive. But what does it represent? Paul concludes, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21). The works of the flesh are not the behavior of a so-called “carnal” Christian. They are the behavior of a non-Christian. A professing believer whose life is dominated by the works of the flesh is walking in a false presumption of salvation. True Christians live in the Spirit, not in the flesh. That Spirit-life is evidenced by Spirit-fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is not evidence of spiritual maturity. It is evidence of genuine conversion.
Spirit-fruit is the character of Jesus Christ.
The fruit of the Spirit is not about the Holy Spirit. It is about the Lord Jesus Christ. At the Last Supper, Jesus told his disciples that when the Holy Spirit comes, “He will bear witness about me” (John 15:26). Jesus also said, “He will glorify me” (John 16:14). The Holy Spirit is the “shy” member of the Trinity. As he works, he never seeks to draw attention to himself. He always points the spotlight on Jesus. So it is with the fruit of the Spirit. These are not general principles for spiritual life. They are the character of Jesus Christ. God the Father has one primary purpose for the believer’s life: “to be conformed to the image of his Son” (Romans 8:29). It is the will of God to have the Spirit of God use the word of God to make the children of God look like the Son of God. The fruit of the Spirit is the work of sanctification by which God the Father shapes your life into the character of Jesus Christ.
Spirit-fruit is commanded in the New Testament.
The fruit of the Spirit is the work of the Spirit. But we do not passively receive the fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit does not implant the fruit of the Spirit in our hearts by surgery, while we are unconscious to the process. We must cooperate with the Spirit’s work within us through trust, obedience, and submission. Did you know that every virtue listed in Galatians 5:22-23 is commanded else in the New Testament? These virtues are not electives “spiritual” Christians pursue. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control characterize every true Christian who follows Christ, obeys the word of God, and walks in the Spirit.
Spirit-fruit is freedom from the law.
Paul exhorts, “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery” (Galatians 5:1). These young Christians had been saved by faith in the finished work of Christ. But false teachers claimed obedience to the law must be added to faith for salvation to be complete. Paul wrote this letter to show the Galatians that faith in Christ had set them free from bondage to the law. But Christian liberty is not a license to sin: “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another” (Galatians 5:13). Christians pursue godliness by submission to the Holy Spirit, not bondage to the law. “But if you are led by the Spirit,” Paul writes, “you are not under the law” (Galatians 5:18). The fruit of the Spirit is proof of godliness. After listing the fruit of the Spirit, Paul adds, “Against such there is no law” (Galatians 5:23).
Spirit-fruit is displayed in our relationships.
We do not receive the fruit of the Spirit through a transplant. It would be great if we woke up in the morning to discover that our ungodly ways had been replaced by the fruit of the Spirit overnight. But it does not work that way. The Holy Spirit cultivates his fruit in us through our relationships with others. He teaches us to love in relation to people who are hard to love. He teaches us patience in relation to people who get on our last nerve. He teaches us gentleness in relation to people to take our meekness for weakness. The character of Christ is developed and demonstrated in how we treat others. Faith in Christ is organically connected to love for all the saints. Spirit fruit is not manufactured in the pristine laboratory of our private prayer closet. The fruit of the Spirit is cultivated in the soil of messy relationships.