The Fruits of the Spirit (Part 1 of 2)
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
Before Jesus died on the cross for our sins, He taught about the importance of producing fruit. In John 15:1-8,16 , He said, “1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2 He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. 3 You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4 Remain in me, as I also remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. 5 “I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing. 6 If you do not remain in me, you are like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7 If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8 This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples…16 You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you so that you might go and bear fruit—fruit that will last—and so that whatever you ask in my name the Father will give you.” (NIV)
These verses show us that the Lord expects us to produce fruit for His Kingdom. In fact, we are appointed to bear fruit that lasts (verse 16). What fruits does the Lord expect from us?
Jesus’ teaching in John 15 is linked to the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-25. In these verses, Paul lists nine of them. They are: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (NIV). They are a series of attitudes that allow others to witness the Kingdom of God and thus give God the Father glory.
Before we can delve into the meaning of these fruits, one must understand that they operate differently than the gifts of the Spirit (nine of them are listed in I Cor. 12:1-10). A person can choose whether or not to exercise one of the gifts. On the contrary, the fruits of the Spirit simply grow as we walk with God.
Think of a tree. You cannot make fruit grow by shaking a tree. The tree must be nurtured, watered, and have a proper environment for the fruit to grow. We do not choose to manifest these fruits by human effort; they spontaneously manifest as we yield to the Spirit and Word of God (water) and obey Him in trials (sunlight). We choose to obey God, and they spontaneously manifest. To this end, the fruits are not nine characteristics that come from human effort.
A second factor to keep in mind is that we cannot define these characteristics by the way we view them in our culture. They must be viewed from the perspective of the Word of God and the life of Christ. He is the vine, and we are branches (John 15:1-5). We must take in from His example. Consider the first fruit: Love. In our culture, love tends to be looked at as merely a feeling. This is not the way love is viewed in the Bible. We tend to view kindness and meekness based upon a person’s countenance. As you will come to understand, this is not the Biblical context for these terms. The Spirit of God is the resurrected Christ living inside of us (Col. 1:27); these fruits are Christ’s characteristics manifesting in our vessels. We can see these in His life.
The first fruit of the Spirit is love. It is the first fruit because the Spirit of God is the love of God shed abroad in our hearts (Romans 5:5). We need the Love of God to love God and others. We cannot love with our carnality. This is the starting place and foundation of our faith. When you are first saved/converted, a mindset of love should overflow from within your vessel. The Greek word for love is agapeo. It is a decisive mindset where we desire to make any cost to please God. Jesus gave us this example by being our sacrifice (John 15:9-13). This fruit is first displayed by a person’s decision to obey the Word of God. As an example, Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commandments” (John 14:15). Instead of doing things our way, we begin doing things His way. We will treat others in a Christ-like manner. Agapeo love will manifest as action.
The second fruit is joy. We think of joy as simply being happy, but it is much more than that. Joy is a realization that your life has value to God in this world. This fruit also arises in our hearts and minds as we realize what He has done for us and others (Savior, redeemer, deliverer, provider, healer, etc.). This is why the disciples had joy when they heard about the work of God in the life of others (Acts 15:3). Said another way – this joy comes about as a person fulfills their intended purpose as a member of God’s family. This joy grows as we obey God (see John 15:9-11); one reason for this is that our Kingdom reward increases. The fruit of joy intensifies in our lives.
These first two fruits (Love and Joy) represent the first phase in the life of a believer. When a person first receives the Holy Spirit, they fall in love with God. There is joy from our new life. The next phase comes when we are growing in Christ and face trials.
Peace is the third fruit. In our modern culture, we define peace as the absence of war or conflict. Jesus told us there would be conflict in our lives for serving Him. He said that even our family would become our enemies (Matthew 10:34-39). The Hebrew word for peace is shalom, and it means wholeness. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:27). The fruit of peace is the inner wholeness that comes from walking with God.
Our lives are falling apart on the outside, but this outward environment has not changed our inward resolve to obey Him. God’s Spirit consoles us in this process and makes us whole in the trial. Jesus said we should not be troubled or afraid when He spoke about His peace. In the world, there is peace only when there is a lack of conflict. With Christ, there is peace with or without conflict. Of course, we must live in peace with others. This means having a wholeness of relationship (when possible) and not merely an agreement to avoid conflict. Through prayer, His peace will guard our hearts and minds. It surpasses human understanding because wholeness in the midst of outward turmoil is beyond our natural mind (Phil. 4:6-7).
The next fruit is patience. It can also be translated as endurance, perseverance, or longsuffering. In America, the word patience has a connotation of waiting for something. The Greek word literally means to breathe very passionately for an extended period of time. To have fruit that lasts, we must have trials that last. Some trials do not last long in terms of human time, but they seem long when we go through them. Patience manifests as we endure in trials. When we are provoked to act, we refrain. Our normal, fleshly reactions are restrained so that the longsuffering Christ had for us may be visible to others. In these tough situations, we allow our Savior to work out situations beyond our control instead of working them out by our human understanding. We must also have patience when we deal with others. After all, the Lord shows us patience and endures with us while we learn from Him.
When we experience the fruits of peace and patience, God’s character is being refined in us. This is preparing us to be used even more for God’s Kingdom Work.
Next week, we will finish by covering the last five fruits.
Kelly McDonald, Jr.
President, Bible Sabbath Association (www.biblesabbath.org)