The Fruit of the Spirit

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.

—Galatians 5:22-23

The Greek word translated “fruit” refers to the natural product of a living thing. Paul used “fruit” to help us understand the product produced, not by us, but by the Holy Spirit within us. The Greek word is singular, showing that “fruit” is a unified whole, not independent characteristics. As we grow, all the characteristics of Christ will be manifested in our lives.

The fruits of the Spirit need to be allowed to grow within us and become a part of who we are. When we plant seeds in our flower beds, we have to watch out and remove any weeds, which is a constant threat. Weeds will choke what we’ve planted. If weeds are allowed to grow, then what we planted will never have the opportunity to reach its full maturity and beauty. Just as we don’t want weeds in our garden, we must constantly work to rid our lives of the “weeds” of our temptations that want to choke out the work of the Spirit.

The Holy Spirit gives us the power we need to reject those old sinful desires. We can say “no” to temptation and accept the “way out” God provides through the Holy Spirit. First Corinthians 10:13 says, “No temptation has overtaken you except such as is common to man; but God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will also make the way of escape, that you may be able to bear it.” As we give the Spirit more control of our lives, God will shape us and grow us to look like Jesus. Second Corinthians 3:17-18 tells us, “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty. But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as by the Spirit of the Lord.”

Paul uses nine characteristics to describe the fruit of the Spirit in the book of Galatians: love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. The first characteristic is love (Greek: agape, Latin: caritas). Agape (love) seeks the highest good for others, no matter their behavior. It is a love that gives freely without asking anything in return and does not consider the worth of its object. Agape is more a love by choice than Philos, which is love by chance; and it refers to the will rather than the emotion. Agape describes the unconditional love God has for the world. Paul describes love in 1 Corinthians 13:4–8:

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails. But whether there are prophecies, they will fail; whether there are tongues, they will cease; whether there is knowledge, it will vanish away.

The second characteristic is joy (Greek: chara, Latin: gaudium) The joy referred to here is deeper than mere happiness; it is rooted in God and comes from Him. Since it comes from God, it is more serene and stable than worldly happiness, which is merely emotional and lasts only for a time. Without peace, there would be no joy. Peace is the third characteristic. Jesus is described as the Prince of Peace, who brings peace to the hearts of those who desire it. He says in John 14:27: ” Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” In the Beatitudes Jesus says in Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”

The fourth characteristic is long-suffering and sometimes referred to as patience. Generally the Greek world applied this word to a man who could avenge himself but did not. This word is often used in the Greek Scriptures in reference to God and God’s attitude to humans. Exodus 34:6 says, “And the Lord passed before him and proclaimed, ‘The Lord, the Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abounding in goodness and truth.’” The Lord is described as “slow to anger and rich in kindness and fidelity.”

Some English Bibles translate the single Greek word chrestotes into two English words: kindness and goodness, which are the fifth and six characteristics. In Greek, old wine was called “chrestos” which meant that it was mellow or smooth. Christ used this word in Matthew 11:30, ” For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Kindness is acting for the good of people regardless of what they do. Goodness can be defined in a number of ways: the state or quality of being good; Moral excellence; virtue; kindly feeling, kindness, generosity, joy in being good; or a general character recognized in quality or conduct.

The seventh characteristic is faithfulness (Greek: pistis, Latin: fides). The root of pistis (“faith”) is peithô, that is to persuade or be persuaded, which supplies the core-meaning of faith as being “divine persuasion”, received from God, and never generated by man. It is defined as the following: objectively, trustworthy; subjectively, trustful:—believing, faithfulness, surety, truth. The eighth, gentleness is “a divinely-balanced virtue that can only operate through faith.” Gentleness which is prautes in Greek, is commonly known as meekness.

The ninth and final characteristic is self-control. The Greek word used in Galatians 5:23 is “enkrateia”, meaning “strong, having mastery, able to control one’s thoughts and actions.” Second Peter 1:5-7 discusses fruitful growth in the faith, saying, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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