We often hear about the gifts of the Spirit in sermons and when Christians speak of their lives in Christ. The Apostle Paul points out that there are a vast variety of gifts, but they all come from the same source, the Holy Spirit, and they are for the purpose of the ministry of the same Lord to the glory of the same God and Father of all. 1 Corinthians 12:3-5. Gifts from the Spirit are, for the most part, visible; that is, they are apparent to others. For example, the gift of hospitality, Romans 12:13, is exercised when we welcome others into our home, this clearly being a service to others outside the family. The gift of teaching is, by definition, something done before others since we don’t usually teach ourselves! Ephesians 4:11. In short, the gifts of the Spirit are external, on display for the Body of Christ to see and profit therefrom.
The fruit of the Holy Spirit is different. Generally speaking, the fruit of the Spirit is quiet, internal, and personal. Love, joy, peace, patience … these things are not visible to others, they are characteristics that we have because of the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. We may exhibit actions that reflect these characteristics, but the fruit itself is based on our relationship with the Spirit and comes from beyond our ability – they are not just the power of positive thinking.
What does Scripture say?
Unlike the gifts of the Spirit, there is not a separate fruit for one person and another fruit for someone else. There is one Spirit and that Spirit produces fruit. In other words, the Spirit will give many giftS but it will only give one fruit.
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.
An analogy that I have used is the orange. It is one orange but it is made up of multiple segments. Those segments are not identical, although they are very similar. Think of the fruit of the Spirit as an orange, with each segment identified as one of the characteristics listed in Galatians 5.
Please don’t stretch the analogy too far. But, each Christian has the Holy Spirit in her heart. This means that she HAS the seed of the fruit of the Spirit implanted in the soil of her heart – and that seed will sprout and grow ALL of these qualities, because the Spirit encompasses EACH ONE of the qualities identified in Galatians chapter 5
Thus, a Christian woman can’t say “I don’t have the gift of patience!” as an excuse for her outburst at having to wait in line at the bank or for her frustration with the delay in God’s providing an answer to her prayer. If she is a Christian, she already HAS the fruit of the Spirit of patience, because it is part of the Holy Spirit and, at conversion, the Holy Spirit became resident within her. She may not have allowed the Spirit to control her actions, but it is not because this fruit is absent. That is an issue of yielding herself to the control of the Spirit.
Likewise, a man can’t say the he cannot control his anger, because this was not a gift given to him by the Spirit. Rather, self-control is a fruit of the Spirit and, if the man is a Christian, he has the Spirit within him and, thus, self-control is resident in his heart. He may not exhibit self-control if he is not letting the Spirit live through him, but, again, that is an issue of yielding to the Spirit, not an issue of an absence of the virtue.
A word of warning: we have to recognize that each segment of the fruit of the Spirit has a name that is similar to words that the world uses, but it is a mistake for us to think that the fruit of the Spirit is similar to anything that the world can experience. The world experiences a mere shadow of that which the regenerate person experiences because of the Holy God’s presence within them.
How does this apply to my daily life?
For now, I would challenge you to read and study Galatians 5:19-22 again. The first part of this passage details the actions of the person without Christ as their Lord and Savior. The second part details the fruit of the Spirit that illustrates living a life in opposition to that which was first listed. Compare the traits discussed and honestly look at your own heart. Where do you see your life with Christ?
Reviewing the fruit of the Spirit gives us clear guidance about how the Spirit should affect our daily lives. We are laying the groundwork here … have patience (that’s one segment of the fruit, by the way!). Soon we will begin consideration of the specific characteristics individually and will think about what the Scripture says, how that is different than what the world says, and there will be some challenges for applying what we have learned to your Christian life with the Spirit guiding your steps and your words.
Next time, we will consider what the Spirit is doing in our hearts with the fruit of the Spirit. What transformation are we talking about? Why should we want this? Then on to the first segment – LOVE. A hint: My bet is that it is not what you think it is! It is a lot more!
Blessings to you and I pray that you will continue to walk with me as we learn about the fruit of the Holy Spirit and as we mature in our transformation into Christian believers who speak and act as Jesus did and who share in the passions that Jesus had for the lost sheep and for the worship of His Father, the Almighty God.