The Fruit of the Spirit: Summing Up Fruitfulness

The Fruit of the Spirit: Summing Up Fruitfulness

The Fruit of the Spirit: Summing Up Fruitfulness.

“The fruit of the Spirit is LOVE, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” (Gal. 5:22-23).

The Fruit is Love. In Paul’s phrase “fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5, the word for fruit is singular. The passage does not say “fruits.” One fruit, one product, one result of the Holy Spirit’s effect on our life. It’s as if there is one cluster of grapes, the cluster of love, the first fruit on the list. And every delicious grape in that cluster points to aspects of that love. Another way of thinking of it is that Love is indeed the one, singular, unifying fruit of the Spirit, and the list of virtues following are all aspects of Love. Just like aspects of a fruit might be aroma, taste, color, shape, size, texture, nutrition, ripeness. Just as those are qualities of a fruit, the list of virtues are qualities of Love. The fruit is love, and the elements of love are mentioned in that passage: lovingjoy, loving-peace, loving-patience, loving-kindness, loving-goodness, loving-faithfulness, loving-gentleness and loving self-control. Those are the products of the Spirit’s work in the garden of our heart. Those qualities are what love looks like, the outworking of love. Love is this cluster of virtues produced by the Holy Spirit in believers as they abide on the nourishing vine of Jesus. That is the only way to stay fruitful in the Christian life, the only way to grow in the fruit of the Spirit. Paul says much the same thing in Colossians 3:12-14, when, after listing much the same in terms of character qualities, he says, “And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.” (NIV).

Agape Love. The particular kind of love in Galatians 5:22 is agape love. It is the same love that the Father and the Son share. It is the highest form of love, and can only come from above, from God Himself. Agape love is the ultimate expression of God’s nature, the essence of His character (refer to Exodus 34). The most virtuous person on the planet cannot manufacture agape love as if it’s merely a highly esteemed trait. We don’t have it in us. We aren’t born with the ability to show agape love. It is impossible for us to demonstrate agape love on our own, because it can only derive from God, and not from human nature. Agape love is the supreme fruit of the Spirit, and can only be produced in us through the work of the Holy Spirit in our lives. “For we know how dearly God loves us, because He has given us the Holy Spirit to fill our hearts with love; God has poured out His love into our hearts by the Holy Spirit whom He has given us; We can now experience the endless love of God cascading into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who lives in us!” (Romans 5:5, various versions). This divine love being poured into our hearts is meant to be demonstrated to others through acts of kindness and compassion. This love, this affectionate regard of others, is deliberate and intentional. Agape love spills over from our hearts only after being poured into our hearts. Through the Holy Spirit, agape love can realistically become second nature to us and in us, by displacing the old loves in a Christian’s life, the love of money and things, of pleasure and self, of power and attention. In some beautifully mysterious way, the loyal, unconditional love from above in us is somehow completed when Christians love others. Agape love is the means by which God’s love may reach the world. Agape love is an eternal virtue, and it lasts forever (1 Cor. 13:8). Agape love is the primary fruit of the Spirit, the divine love offered to us to spread God’s love to others. Love poured into us, love splashed out to others.

The Fruit of Joy. Jesus had an underground spring of joy, and the sources of that joy at least included His communion with His Father, with creation, and with His ministry. But what is joy, exactly? Let’s describe it to better understand it, even though we’ll never get to the bottom of it. Joy is a settled assurance of God’s love and lordship. Joy is a deep-seated delight, a confident pleasure of the soul. Joy is an encouraged understanding of God’s presence and character. Joy is an inner gladness based on spiritual realities, that “we  live in a gloomy town but a merry universe.” (Chesterton). Joy is a quality of holy optimism that affects the whole personality. Joy is a foundational light-heartedness that overflows into one’s spirit. Joy is an abiding satisfaction that all is well with God. Joy is a hopeful sense of well-being that rejoices in gratitude. Joy is a gladsome result of faith, a by-product of love, a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Joy is our most dependable and accurate foretaste of heaven.

The Fruit of Peace. If the peace of God is beyond human understanding (Phil. 4:7), how do we define it? We can start by referring to the Old Testament Hebrew word shalom, and the New Testament Greek word eirene, which both mean pretty much the same thing. When we study those biblical terms, it’s clear that peace is not merely a negative, and is so much more than a fragile truce, an absence of conflict, or the removal of strife. Peace is instead a dynamic positive rather than a passive negative. Peace is much closer to the idea of flourishing, of abundant well-being. If peace were a diamond, here are some of its facets: completeness; wholeness; fulfillment; tranquility; harmony; health; reconciliation; soundness; resolution of conflict; healing of division; freedom from disquiet and disorder. Peace seems to be one of those ultimate qualities that turns out to be our heart’s deepest desire.

The Fruit of Patience. “a long holding out in one’s mind before it gives room to passion” (Bible Dictionary); gracious restraint; the power to endure without complaint something difficult, disagreeable or uncomfortable; waiting through discomfort with peace; to stick with things without quitting. There is no one specific word for patience in the Hebrew Bible. In Psalm 37:7 and 40:1 the word for “wait with expectation” was translated patience. To “bear long” was also translated patience. In the New Testament, two Greek words for patience: hupomons: means “remaining under,” as in bearing up under a burden or difficult circumstances; and makrothumis: means “long tempered,” the opposite of short tempered. Patience is indeed a virtue, but it is not a stand-alone quality of character. It is a combination of many virtues, including graciousness, generosity, self-control, humility, hope, trust, faith, peacefulness.

The Fruit of Kindness. Generous and considerate actions for the welfare and happiness of others in need; simple acts of compassion to bless others; practical helpfulness that meets a need; the love that manifests itself through acts of service and good deeds; unselfish acts of benevolence; tender-hearted concern for another. The Aramaic version of Galatians 5 has the word “sweetness” in the place of “kindness.” Perhaps kindness is love’s sweet flavor, compassion’s sweet aroma, and mercy when it is ripe for the taking. Because kindness is sweet-natured, it tends to  be unassuming. Kindness is not flashy, doesn’t attract attention, doesn’t put someone’s name in lights. Kindness leans toward simple and basic service, and so is often overlooked by others looking on. In reality, kindness makes the world go ’round, even though it so often goes under the radar. Kindness tends to be unspectacular and underrated in society, and the kind person is fine with that. Sweet kindness is its own reward. Kindness is the practical, useful aspect of Love. Love can be abstract, but it comes down to earth through acts of kindness. Love motivates the heart to feel compassion, and it moves the will to do kindness. All these aspects of Love overlap and it is somewhat difficult to distinguish between love, mercy, compassion, and kindness. One could say generally that compassion feels for the suffering of another, and is in solidarity with that sufferer. And kindness is not focused so much on the feeling aspect as with the doing. Kindness aims to meet a need in a practical, meaningful, and personal way. Kindness seeks to actively flesh out love in order to contribute to the happiness of another.

The Fruit of Goodness. moral excellence; virtue; integrity; mature in conscience; benevolence; righteous character; right living; Christian energy; the vigor and courage behind attaining moral valor; the middle quality of the Three Transcendents… Truth, Goodness, and Beauty. The Source of Goodness: The definitive self-revelation of God’s character in the Hebrew Bible is when the Lord and Moses were on the top of Mt. Sinai, and Moses said, “‘Oh, let me behold your Presence!’ And the Lord answered, “I will make all my goodness pass before you, and I will proclaim before you the Name Lord, and the grace that I grant and the compassion that I show… The Lord came down in a cloud; He stood with Moses there and proclaimed the Name Lord. The Lord passed before Moses and proclaimed: The Lord! The Lord! a God compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in kindness and faithfulness, extending kindness to the thousandth generation, forgiving iniquity, transgression and sin.” (Exodus 33:18-19, 34:5-7, Tanakh, JPS). In other words, the goodness of God is His love, grace, mercy, compassion and kindness. The Lord is filled with goodness, and it looks like Love. And the fruit of the Spirit is that very image of God being renewed and restored in the life of a believer.

The Fruit of Faithfulness: true to commitments; steadfast loyalty; consistent fidelity to truth; trustworthy; keeps promises; living in good faith; sustaining one’s belief; reliability; allegiance; staying true to one’s word. O Come All Ye Faithful.  God Himself is the source of our faithfulness. The Holy Spirit renews the image of God in us as He works in our spirit, and one primary quality of God is His faithfulness. We are unable to produce steadfast loyalty on our own. We don’t have the power or ability to do that. Tapping into the vine of Jesus will result in an on-going flow of God’s qualities into us, transforming us into renewed creatures. Faithfulness will become second nature as we live into God’s nature and produce the fruit of the Spirit.

The Fruit of Gentleness: kind and humble disposition; calm and even-tempered; not needing to force one’s way; peaceable; considerate; reasonable; tender.  God’s gentleness is the origin of any gentleness coming from us. We can’t manufacture gentleness like this without a divine source. The fruit of the Spirit implies that unless we tap into the vine of Jesus and receive the Holy Spirit’s life in us, there is no hope for producing anything of the sort. The Holy Spirit, the Spirit of the Father and the Son, will surely displace our harsh and forceful ways with that of divine gentleness. Gentleness seems impossible, and not even preferable. Our own human nature makes it very difficult to be gentle in any consistent way. In our weak moments, most of us are not exactly gentle. And gentleness surely runs counter to how things are done in our society. One doesn’t run a business by being gentle. Politicians don’t win an office by being gentle. Competitors don’t realize victory by being gentle. One doesn’t confront an injustice by being gentle. One usually doesn’t win an argument by being gentle. It seems that if one wanted to be successful or any type of cultural influence, a person would need to be the opposite of gentle. But when you study scripture with gentleness in mind, it appears that society has it all wrong. Do you want to be a success in God’s eyes? Be gentle. Do you want to influence people in a positive way? Be gentle. Do you want to reflect God’s character during a conversation? Be gentle.

The Fruit of Self-Control: Temperance; discreet sensibility; restraint over one’s impulses, emotions and desires (NLT); holding appetites and passions in check; directing one’s energies wisely (Peterson); the inner strength of self-discipline. If you want to start working on your self-control, begin with your words, whether verbally or through social media. Self-control can often be judged by the ability to hold one’s tongue in check. “If any one does not offend in speech, who never says the wrong things, he is a fully developed character, able to control his whole body and to curb his entire nature.” (James 3:2, AMP). If there was one major and practical topic that Solomon loved to write about in his book Proverbs, it was the tongue: the importance of wise speech, the effects of foolish speech, the need for self-control in one’s words. “An evil man is held captive by his own sins; they are ropes that catch and hold him. He will die for lack of self-control; he will be lost because of his great foolishness.” (Proverbs 5:22-23, NLT). “Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.” (Proverbs 16:32, NLT). “A person without self-control is like a house with its doors and windows knocked out.” (Proverbs 25:28, MSG).