Editor’s note: If you are doing a study of the fruit of the Spirit and have been directed here from another site, this is the introduction. Use the page links on the right to access information on each of the fruit of the spirit.
“Fruit” (karpov karpos) occurs sixty-six times in the NT and is used literary and metaphorically for descendants and spiritual traits in the Bible. There are various kinds of spiritual fruit. There is the fruit of light (Spirit, Textus Receptus), which is goodness, righteousness and truth (Ephesians 5:9); the fruit of righteousness (James 3:18); the fruit of converts (Romans 1:13; Philippians 1:22); the fruit of caring (Philippians 4:17); the fruit of our lips (Hebrews 13:15); the fruit of contributions (Romans 15:26-28); and the fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23).
John the Baptist told his audience to “produce fruit consistent with repentance” (Matthew 3:8). According to Jesus, spiritual fruit is not optional; it must be present in the life of a person.
A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire (Matthew 7:19).
In the Parable of the Sower, Seed and Soils (Matthew 13:1-8; Mark 4:3-8; Luke 8:5-8), Jesus teaches that not all who hear or receive the Word of God will produce fruit. There are hard-hearted people, who do not understand the message about the kingdom, the evil one comes and snatches away what was sown in the heart. There are shallow-hearted people, who receive the message joyfully, but it only lasts a short time. When trouble or persecution comes because of the Word, they quickly fall away. There are thorny-hearted people, who hear the Word, but the worries of this life and the deceitfulness of wealth choke it, making it unfruitful. Finally, there are good-hearted people, who hear the word and understand it. They produce fruit, yielding a hundred, sixty or thirty times what was sown.
Though the Holy Spirit is not mentioned in this parable, the fruit is the result of His power. What makes good soil—a good heart?
1. The believer hears what the Spirit says through the Word.
2. The believer responds in a positive way to what is heard of the Word.
3. The believer yields fruit coinciding with understanding and application of the Word.
As with the filling of the Spirit, the quantity of the Spirit’s fruit present in the life of the believer should increase with spiritual maturity.
The apostle Peter recognized that fruitbearing is Christ’s purpose for the believer.
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with goodness, goodness with knowledge, knowledge with self-control, self-control with endurance, endurance with godliness, godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they will keep you from being useless or unfruitful in the knowledge of
our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:8).
As previously discussed, the Holy Spirit produces righteousness in the life of the believer. Yet, it is clear the believer is not passive in bearing the fruit of the Spirit. The characteristics of righteousness might be defined best by the fruit of the Spirit, which has nine traits.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23 NIV).
Before looking at the nine traits of the fruit of the Spirit, let’s consider how the Holy Spirit works in our lives to produce the fruit of the Spirit. Two passages of Scriptures are especially helpful.
Blessed is the man who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked or stand in the way of sinners or sit in the seat of mockers. But his delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers (Psalm 1:1-3 NIV).
Here the bearing of fruit is clearly related to the place the Word of God has in the believer’s life. As we read and meditate on the Scriptures, the Holy Spirit, who inspired them, convicts of sin, righteousness and judgment, which leads to confession, forgiveness and cleansing of all unrighteousness from our life.
The second passage that is especially helpful deals with remaining or abiding in Jesus—loving Him by keeping His commandments, thereby bearing fruit—fruit that will last (John 15:1-17). Without the vine, the branch can do nothing. So it is with our lives. However, if we abide in Christ, maintaining an obedient, dependent relationship with Him—the Spirit works in our life, creating in us His fruit.
Some commentators hold that the fruit of the Spirit is the result of being filled with the Spirit, which is unlikely, since in nature fruit grows, matures and ripens, while being filled with the Spirit occurs instantaneous. Taken together the fruit are a portrait of Christ’s character that grows in the believer through the ministry of the Spirit.
We all, with unveiled faces, are reflecting the glory of the Lord and are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory; this is from the Lord who is the Spirit (2 Corinthians 3:18).
It is possible to define the fruit of the Spirit as being nine facets of love as seen in the following chart. However, love is one of the nine traits of the Spirit. It seems best to understand the fruit of the Spirit as characteristics of righteousness. Yet, the fruit of the Spirit is like looking into the multi-reflections of a diamond; therefore, we will look first at the Spirit’s fruit as it relates to agape (love).
In the fifth chapter of Galatians, Paul discusses freedom in Christ and contrasts the works of the flesh (5:19-21) with the fruit of the Spirit (5:22-23). Seventeen works of the flesh are manifested to both God and man. They cannot be hidden. Of course, there are more than these seventeen works of the flesh, but these are sufficient to describe the inward, outward and upward sins of man. They divide into four major categories:
1. Sexual sins, 5:19
2. Religious sins, 5:20a
3. Attitude sins, 5:20b-21a
4. Social sins, 5:21b
“Those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21c). When Paul originally preached in Galatia, he warned against the practice of such sins.
Contrary to the works of the flesh, the fruit of Spirit is a triad of triads based on the three greatest, most excellent and enduring ways: faith, hope and love (1 Corinthians 13:13)
The first triad of the fruit of the Spirit is inward and concerned, primarily, with the state of the believer’s heart. The second triad is outward and concerned with the believer’s interaction with others. The third triad is inward and outward, a reflection of Christian character and conduct.
When Paul says that “the kingdom of God is not eating and drinking, but righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit” (Romans 14:17), he certainly means that all nine traits of the Holy Spirit are intended to be displayed in our life. True religion does not consist in external observances. But in righteousness—the image of God stamped on the heart, beginning with love.