“These will wage war with the Lamb, but the Lamb will overcome them, for He is Lord of lords and King of kings. Those who are with Him are called and chosen and faithful.” (Rev. 17:14, MEV).
Martin Luther defined faith as “a living, daring confidence in God’s grace, so sure that one would die a thousand times for it.” Faith as a fruit is clearly distinguished from the act of faith which brings initial salvation and the gift of faith which is a special operation of faith. The same God gives each. But there is growth to be achieved. The fruit must grow until faith permeates every aspect of the believer’s life.
Such synonyms as trust, faithfulness, conviction, integrity, and fidelity often translate the Greek word ‘pistis’ or faith. Thus the list of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5 is capable of a double meaning of faith and faithfulness, though the majority of 20th century translations prefer faithfulness or fidelity rather than the KJV’s rendition of faith. Growing out of the believer’s steadfast faith in God there is a dependability beyond the ordinary.
Faith in God produces faithfulness toward God and man. The job of the Holy Spirit is to bring faith into the Spirit-filled life. The Christian full of the Spirit and faith is faithful. God is absolutely reliable and constant (James 1:17). The man of faith is himself faithful because he is obedient. Having faith in God involves keeping faith with God. True faith manifests dependability in doing the work of God, in fact in doing both temporal and spiritual tasks. Much of the success of the early church was due to the efforts of the saints of God who prayed, testified, visited, gave their means, and opened their homes. They were not faithful just to men, but they had real vision for the work of God. They were faithful in the commonplace things of life, the monotonous routine of the day. They were just as faithful when it was raining as when the sun was shining. The disciples and apostles found the place where God wanted them to be, and they stayed there and were faithful.
For example, consider Paul. God called him to be an apostle, to a life of hardship. He could have quit any time. He didn’t really need shipwreck, stripes, persecutions, hunger, thirst, imprisonment. He could have said, “This is too hard; I’ll just go back to the Sanhedrin.” But he stayed where God wanted him, and it was while he was in prison that we wrote the beautiful epistles that give God’s instructions for the early church and for our own spiritual growth.
Saving faith puts us in Christ, but faith the fruit of the Spirit puts Christ in us. The fruit of the Spirit creates a new character of us. The nine-fold fruit of the Spirit is intended to develop our characters and make us holy so that we can work effectively for Christ. Through this kind of faith, the presence of Christ comes into our lives and indwells us, controls us, speaks through us, works through us. The world will then see Jesus in us. We cannot produce the fruit of the Spirit ourselves. It is produced in us by the abiding presence of Christ in our lives.
Some Christians think that after conversion they must exercise a strenuous self-discipline so that the fruit of the Spirit can be seen in their lives. When they are persecuted, they tell themselves, “now I must show long-suffering. I must not lose my temper.” But all the time they are ready to explode. Self-discipline cannot produce spiritual things because it belongs to self. What we need is Christ discipline, or to become disciples of Christ. In John 15, Jesus says that if we let Him abide in us, we’ll produce much fruit. This fruit doesn’t apply to soul-saving or the results of our work for the Lord. This fruit is the fruit of the Spirit. When the presence of Jesus fills our lives, the faith of the Son of God will be seen in our characters.
Of all the fruit of the Spirit, faithfulness may be the most inconspicuous. The faithful one is usually taken for granted. In spite of that, however, faithfulness is one of the most necessary Christian virtues. The reliability of people shows in related attributes of loyalty, honesty, and integrity. Such a person is faithful in words, in deed, and in character. The servant of God must be faithful in the small and mundane, for those who are faithful in little will be faithful in much. God’s ideal of faithfulness is a work of the Spirit. The work of the Holy Spirit is to mold and develop Christ-like character. The believer cooperates in this by denying himself and allowing the Spirit to produce its own harvest—the fruit of the Spirit.
James F. Linzey is the chief editor of the Modern English Version Bible and a retired Army chaplain with the rank of Major. He is a graduate of Vanguard University of Southern California and Fuller Theological Seminary.