Fruits of the Spirit (Part 2 of 2)
By Kelly McDonald, Jr.
This week we will continue our discussion of the fruits of the Spirit!
In Galatians 5, the fifth fruit listed is kindness. It can also be translated as gentleness or moral integrity. This word has a connotation of usefulness or benevolence. It is the Godly character needed so that you can be employed for God’s Kingdom. This character is beneficial in helping others already in the Kingdom or leading others into it.
Once you have developed character through trials, you can be engaged in Kingdom matters. This shows us a powerful progression. The first four fruits should flourish in a believer’s life before he or she should serve in certain positions within the church. This adds further depth to Paul’s statement in I Timothy 3:6 that novices should not be put into offices of the church.
The next fruit is goodness. Like kindness, it has a connotation of usefulness and excellence. In the Bible, this word is often used of people performing good works. This not only means doing the right thing but also the way in which something is conducted. It is also a decision-making process where good and upright decisions are made in the life of the believer and in Kingdom work.
A believer exhibiting the fruit of goodness will not just serve God. He or she will display honor and excellence while doing so. He or she will also display uprightness in dealing with others. This requires a level of zeal that may not be present when a person is only displaying kindness.
Someone displaying the fruit of kindness is a good helper. Someone with the fruit of goodness will fight and stand for what is good, even if it means disciplining or correcting others. It is goodness performed for God and on behalf of others. Christ exhibited this when He cleaned out the Temple of the money changers (see also Matthew 25:21-23, Luke 6:45).
These two characteristics unveil a further progression of usefulness to zeal in the work of God.
The seventh fruit is translated as faithfulness or faith. There is a common faith we must all have to be saved (Romans 10:9-11). The fruit of faith is different. It manifests as continued confidence in God and can also be applied to faithfulness in the work of God with diligence and persistence.
To this end, the fruit of faith can refer to being reliable and consistent. Jesus said, “…when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8) Christ posed the question as to whether people would have faith in Him upon His return. Another question to ask ourselves is: Will we be reliable in doing God’s work in the time just before His return?
Gentleness is the eighth fruit. It can also be translated as meekness or humility. This is not martyrdom, self-piety, or a lowly countenance. The Greek word translated as gentleness was used in ancient times of an animal that was wild, but now is tame (1). It has a connotation of being strong and powerful, but refusing to flaunt these traits. In other words, meekness entails knowing the right time and situation to exercise God’s power.
Jesus had the opportunity to call forth twelve legions of angels to rescue Him, but he did not (Matthew 26:53-54). He was meek. God almost destroyed the entire nation of Israel, but Moses interceded to stop this from happening. He was called the meekest man on the earth (Num. 12:3).
This fruit might be better translated as self-restraint. With gentleness, you are allowing Him to manifest the emotions and manner of actions you should display in a given situation. To this end, we display gentleness or meekness with those who are struggling in the faith or overcoming sin. We may have victory in an area where others are weak, but we should be meek in how we treat them (because we could fall into the same sin – see Galatians 6:1-5).
These two fruits continue the progression of God’s power growing in our lives. As we mature in His power, we will be consistent and show self-restraint.
The ninth fruit and final in this progression is self-control. It is sometimes translated as temperance. This virtue was held by some Greeks to be the foundational virtue (2). Paul made it the last virtue in this series. I believe that he did this to show that this fruit is not self-control brought about by human effort. Instead, it is a self-control which comes through the Spirit of God.
To the Greeks, this virtue involved the moderation of the human desires. In Christ, the human desires are subdued first through love for Him. We forsake those desires because of abundant love. Gentleness was properly displaying power at the right time; self-control is when the Spirit of God turns disadvantages into advantages.
Consider the following example. The Pharisees tried to trick Jesus many times. The Spirit of God countered this and turned the situation from a disadvantage into Christ’s favor. Others were not able to manipulate or mislead Christ. Hence, it is self-control.
This word can also indicate being master of one’s situations (by the Spirit). In the gospels, Jesus said, “I will not say much more to you, for the prince of this world is coming. He has no hold over me” (John 14:30). The devil had no hold on Christ. There was nothing in Him that Satan could manipulate, though he tempted Him many times. Disadvantageous situations were transformed into advantageous ones. Obviously, Christ had the highest level of submission to God that has ever existed. As we continue to submit to God, we will taste of this fruit.
We can see a steady progression as we look at these nine fruits. It starts as we fall in love with our Savior. This continues as we experience Joy from being part of God’s Plan. Our radically changed lifestyle brings conflict from others, but peace within. As we endure trials, we do not over react or lash out. Once we have passed these first four tests, our character is prepared for Kingdom work. At this point, we become useful to Him and others. As we are used by God, we develop a zeal for His holy things. Our zeal then becomes channeled into reliability. Reliability then grows into humility as God teaches us the proper way to respond to certain situations. Lastly, God turns disadvantages to advantages as He is in complete control. The first four Fruits prepare someone to enter into the ministry. They build the character of God within us so that we can serve God. The last five are attitudes and Godly character that increase the fruitfulness of an individual’s life in the Work of God.
We can have spiritual gifts without fruits, but true spiritual fruit will always bring about the gifts (see Matthew 7:21-23, I Cor. 13). The Fruits of the Spirit ensure that the gifts we use build something that lasts. The spiritual gifts are meant to be an extension of the fruits. Jesus said that we are His disciples by the fruit we bear (Matthew 7:16, 12:33, Luke 6:44). These nine fruits allow the world to see the character of Christ in our modern world.
(1) Barclay, William. The Letters to the Galatians and the Ephesians. Edinburgh: The Saint Andrew Press, 1958.
(2) Smith, Richard M. Studies in the Greek New Testament. Nashville: Publishing House Methodist Episcopal Church, South, 1893. p 105.
(3) Strong, James. Strong’s Concordance. Published: Nashville: Abingdon, c1980.
Kelly McDonald, Jr.
President, Bible Sabbath Association (www.biblesabbath.org)