What are the fruits of the Spirit in the Bible?
If you’ve spent time in a church you’ve likely heard this term at least a few times. It’s a common term used to describe what should be the markers of a Christian life.
What often happens when something becomes overly familiar to us is it just becomes white noise. We don’t pay much attention to it. And I think that’s what’s happened to this passage in Galatians 5:22 – 23. We just glance over it.
My hope for this blog post is that it would be a fresh look at the fruits of the spirit and a challenge to apply this passage to our life.
With that in mind, let’s look at the fruits of the Spirit.
What Are The Fruits Of The Spirit In The Bible?
We will look at each fruit of the Spirit in a minute. But before we do that I want to take a broad look at Galatians 5:22 – 23 to see what’s happening here. Let’s start by reading the passage.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:22-26
The above list that the apostle Paul gives is contrasted with a previous list that he calls the desires of the flesh (Galatians 5:16-18). The first list marked by sinful desires is what happens when we let our flesh control and dictate our lives. The second list is a result of the Holy Spirit. It’s what the Spirit produces in us when we go God’s way.
In essence what Paul is arguing is that your life is producing something. We don’t get to decide that. What we get to decide is what we produce. Will it be bad fruit? Or will we allow God to produce good things in our life?
Dwight Longenecker says it this way: “It appears that Paul is not so concerned with precisely how each of these matters works out in practice, but with the underlying orientation of selfless and outgoing concern for others. For in commitment to God through Jesus Christ one discovers a new orientation for life-an orientation that reflects the selfless and outgoing love of God himself.”
The Greek word that we translate as fruit (karpós) typically refers to a piece of fruit or vegetable. But what’s interesting about this word is that it carries with it the concept that this fruit is produced by deed or action. In other words it doesn’t come from nowhere, it’s cultivated over time.
In context of the fruits of the Spirit it’s God who is growing this fruit in our life. On our own all we can produce is the sinful desires of the flesh. But when we place our trust in God we produce good fruit by the power of the Holy Spirit.
So, what are the fruits of the Spirit? Let’s dive in and look at each fruit individually.
The Fruits Of The Spirit Explained
Below are each of the fruits of the Holy Spirit found in Galatians 5:22 – 23. We will look at what each means and how they apply to our life today.
What we should take note of is these 9 fruits are broken into 3 categories:
1. Qualities From God
2. Qualities Displayed Toward Others
3. Qualities Of Self
With that in mind, let’s take a closer look at each specific fruit of the Spirit.
Fruit Of The Spirit Meaning | Love
It should be no surprise that the first fruit listed is love. Throughout God’s Word and especially the New Testament, love is the most prominent characteristic of God and his followers.
In English we only have one word for love, so it often gets muddled. Here’s an example of different things I love: my wife, football, ice cream, my son, and the mountains. While I love all those things, I love them in different ways. But our English word cannot capture these differences.
In the Greek language there are multiple words for love. This helps distinguish what kind of love is being referenced. Here’s a few the Bible uses: eros for erotic love, philia for platonic love, storge for love within a family, and agape love is the perfect love of God.
In Galatians 5:22 love is translated from agape (ἀγάπη). This kind of love can only come from God. It encapsulates how we love God, and how we love those around us. This love isn’t based on a feeling, rather a choice. We choose to love even when we don’t feel it, and they don’t deserve it.
We don’t deserve God’s love, yet he gives it anyway. Followers of Jesus are to embrace this same attitude. And with the power of the Spirit of God we can.
What are the fruits of the Spirit? Agape love means that we love based on our choice and not what we are feeling.
Fruit Of The Spirit Meaning | Joy
I’ve been around too many Christians that are just miserable and grumpy. That should never be the case for Jesus’ followers.
Listen, God doesn’t want you to be miserable. He wants you to be full of JOY.
The word translated as joy is chara (χαρά). It means to be full of gladness and delight. It goes beyond just feeling happy. This joy is not based in our circumstances. The Bible tells us time and time again that we can have joy in our difficulties and trials. Even in the valley of the shadow of death God is with us, and we can have joy.
For many joy is conditional. If things are going well in life then we can be joyful. But the joy of the Lord is something that is with us even in the hard times. With the help of the Holy Spirit joy can be a marker in a Christian’s life.
What are the fruits of the Spirit? Joy should be present in our lives even when times are tough.
Fruit Of The Spirit Meaning | Peace
Peace is hard to come by. Our lives are chaotic and the world around us is constantly in conflict. Jesus offers something better, eirene (εἰρήνη), peace.
Much like joy, peace isn’t based in our circumstances. Peace is found when we fix our minds on the one who is bigger than our circumstances.
In other words, we can find peace even in the middle of storms. How? Because God is bigger than whatever it is we are facing. We can be at peace when we keep our eyes on him.
What are the fruits of the Spirit? God’s peace isn’t found in the absence of storms, but rather in the midst of them.
Fruit Of The Spirit Meaning | Patience (forbearance)
I’m not a patient person. When I have to wait even a few minutes I can get pretty agitated. Thankfully God is not that way with us. He’s patient.
The word for patient in Galatians 5:22 is makrothumia (μακροθυμία). It means to endure, be steadfast, long-suffering, and slowness in avenging wrongs. This patience isn’t really talking about waiting in a long line. Rather it’s talking about having patience with those who have wronged us.
This is exactly what God does for us. We’ve sinned, committed wrongs against him, and he is patient with us. He waits for us to return to him. He doesn’t force us or get frustrated and give up. He is slow to anger, steadfast in his love, and endures our continued disobedience. He is patient with his children.
It’s this fruit that God wants to grow in our life. And isn’t that what the world today is in desperate need of? Just as we benefit from Christ’s patience, those around us can benefit from our patience displayed toward them.
What are the fruits of the Spirit? We should model for others the same patience God has shown us.
Fruit Of The Spirit Meaning | Kindness
The world is often not a kind place. Just look at the comment sections on social media. People are anything but kind.
Paul uses the word chréstotés (χρηστότης) here to show how followers of Jesus should be different. This word means to be full of moral goodness and gentleness. This kindness is displayed in our actions, particularly how we treat others.
I see far too many Christians try to bully and argue people into following Jesus. That’s not effective, and that’s not what God does. It’s God’s kindness that leads us to repentance, not his judgment.
Christians should be full of gentleness and kindness towards others. Especially those who they disagree with.
What are the fruits of the spirit? The fruit of kindness is what shows those around us the love of God, not judgment and condemnation.
Fruit Of The Spirit Meaning | Goodness
The fruit of goodness is closely tied with kindness. The word used in Galatians 5:22 is agathosune (ἀγαθωσύνη). It means to show kindness and be upright. This fruit focuses heavily on how we treat those around us.
Do you see a theme here? God cares deeply about how we treat those around us. He wants to grow in us fruit that loves people as he loves people.
I see an increasing number of Christians tear people down in the name of “truth.” That’s not what Jesus did, nor is that what we should do. We should be full of goodness and display kindness towards those around us.
What are the fruits of the Spirit? Goodness should flow from our lives.
Fruit Of The Spirit Meaning | Faithfulness
Paul uses the word pistis (πίστις) here and literally it means to have faith or to believe. To be faithful means to be reliable or trustworthy.
As with all the fruits of the Spirit God models this for us. He shows us what it means to remain faithful even when the going gets tough.
He’s been faithful to us, and we are called to be faithful to God. Even when it’s difficult and we want to abandon ship, being faithful means that we remain trustworthy. We can only do that through the power of the Holy Spirit.
What are the fruits of the Spirit? Being faithful means that we remain trustworthy even when the storms come.
Fruit Of The Spirit Meaning | Gentleness
The word that is often translated as gentleness is prautes (πρᾳΰτης). This word is also commonly translated as meekness. Which we often view as weakness. But that’s not what this word means. It means to have your strength under control.
This is not a value of our culture. We think to get what we want we need to be brash, loud, and force our way. But God calls his followers to another way. To be gentle. To be in control of our strength.
Consider how God is gentle with us. He could destroy us, but instead he keeps his strength under control and displays gentleness. This is the quality we are to display towards others.
What are the fruits of the Spirit? We are called to keep our strength under control and practice gentleness.
Fruit Of The Spirit Meaning | Self-Control
To practice self-control, the Greek word egkrateia (ἐγκράτεια) means to be in control of one’s own body and desires. It means that we don’t let anything, even a good thing, control us. Instead, we remain in control physically and mentally.
We tend to think of freedom as doing whatever we want when we want. But that practice enslaves us to our own desires. It’s self-control that actually leads us to freedom.
Self-control should be a marker in a Christian’s life. We shouldn’t become addicted to, dependent on, or in need of anything other than God.
What are the fruits of the Spirit? Christians ought to be in control of their desires rather than a slave to them.
How Galatians 5:22 – 23 Applies To Our Life Today
When Paul wrote Galatians 5:22-33 he meant for it to be a direct contrast to the previous list. He’s challenging his readers to evaluate their life and see what kind of fruit they are producing.
To end this post let’s do just that. Let’s read the two lists and ask ourselves, which list better describes the fruit my life is producing?
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery;idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factionsand envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. Galatians 5:19-21
This is the list of things that we used to be about. It’s full of the acts of the sinful nature. And Paul is saying that because of the love of God our lives should now look different. Now our lives should be marked by the aspects of the fruit of the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other. Galatians 5:22-26
Which list better describes your life? Maybe not perfectly, but which one are you trending towards?
Hear me on this, all of us have parts of our life that still resemble our old lives. We will never fully embody the fruits of the Spirit this side of heaven. God gives us grace for our mistakes. And that grace makes it possible for us to continue producing much fruit. Not by our power, but rather by the power of the Holy Spirit living in us.
Thanks for reading this blog post! I hope that you enjoyed it and that it helped you better understand Galatians 5:22 and the fruits of the Spirit. If you found this post helpful would you share it with a friend or on social media? That way more people can benefit from it as you have.
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