The Fruit of the Spirit
To be victorious as a Christian one must live a holy life.
To make that possible God has provided for one to be born again and baptized in the Holy Spirit. The Baptism in the Spirit is a gateway to abundant blessings in both the gifts and the fruit in one’s life. Gifts of the Spirit aid the baptized believer in acts of service to God and man while the fruit assists the believer in his or her relationship to God, fellow man, and even self.
The Fruit of the Spirit
Interestingly enough, Paul speaks of the fruit rather than fruits of the Spirit. Thus, one does not pick a favorite fruit from the tree of the Spirit. Instead, the fruit of the Spirit is like the petals on the rose or the inseparable colors of the rainbow. The fruit of the Spirit comes as a whole as He works constantly in the life of the Spirit-baptized believer. Through this provision a believer can live a holy and fruitful life if he or she follows the teachings of Paul on the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). The Baptism in the Holy Spirit makes possible the growth of spiritual emotions, which enhance one’s relationship with the Lord; godly actions, which improve association with others in life; and attitudes towards oneself, which allow the individual to experience good mental health surpassing what might otherwise be enjoyed.
The fruit of the Spirit includes knowing spiritual emanations such as love, joy, and peace. Each of these occurs far above the level of ordinary human emotions (Gal. 5:22-23). These emotions stem largely from the fact that one is in a right relationship with God. Paul may intentionally list love first here. Jesus designated love as the first commandment (Matt. 22:37-38). Elsewhere Paul shows how it is first (Rom. 13:9-10). Love binds the rest of the fruit together as the sash, belt, or girdle did the loose-fitting clothes that people wore in the first century (Col. 3:14).
To discuss this virtue, Paul uses the strongest of four Greeks words for love: eros, philia, storge, and agape. Eros suggests a fleshly emotion that causes men to associate it with sexuality. Philia pictures more of a friendly or brotherly love. Storge speaks specifically of familial love. Scholars commonly associate agape with godly love. It is this last one, that is Paul’s choice of words in this passage.
The love here is not the impulsive sentiment of modern man. It does not provide a license for the free expression of passion. It is the opposite of lust, which is probably the way the word love should be spelled according to Hollywood’s definition.
Love here is a deep-seated state of being that involves emotion, intellect, attitude, and will.
As a fruit of the Spirit, it goes beyond natural love of friends, relatives, or even one’s companion for life. The Song of Solomon says that marital love is as strong as death (8:6-7). Parental love belongs in the same category. The mother arises to attend a crying baby at night by an act of her will rather than by just being moved by an emotional feeling so often associated with the common definition of love.
As a fruit of the Spirit, love is shed abroad in a Christian’s heart by the Spirit (Rom. 5:5). Rather than a common social, economic, or educational background or even compatible personalities, love is the bond that cements believers together in the church. It makes possible the forgiving of a brother who has wronged another, even when one’s emotions are slow to catch up with the process. It provides for the loving even of one’s enemies (Matt. 5:43-48). Jesus said, “Father forgive” (Luke 23:34), and Stephen said, “Lord forgive” (Acts 7:60), both referring to those who executed them. Genuine love demonstrates itself through giving, more than in any other way (John 3:16); it wants to give to others rather than get for self.
The second of the godly emotions in the fruit of the Spirit is joy.
The Greek word for this virtue appears in the New Testament sixty times, and the word for rejoice appears seventy-two times. Thus it seems that to speak of an unhappy Christian is to use contradictory terms. Joy is the opposite of sorrow; yet as a fruit of the Spirit it is not a light, carefree happiness. It is not like the pleasure the world experiences at a sports event. Rather, it is full of glory, and thus is unspeakable (1 Pet. 1:8). Biblical joy is distinguished from natural pleasure or happiness in that the worldly emotion is based on circumstances; is short-lived (Heb. 11:25); and is partial in contrast to the fullness of joy that Jesus has provided for the believer (John 15:11).
The third of the godly emotions in the fruit of the Spirit is peace.
Light is sometimes defined as the absence of darkness, and cold as the absence of heat. Peace as a fruit of the Spirit, however, is not merely the absence of war, anxiety, and worry. Rather the fruit of peace provides harmony, order, general well being, and wholeness.
It is not the peace of the radical political movements of today. Their peace at any price involves compromise with sin and evil. Yet the believer can have peace when waging war on sin, the world, and the devil. It begins at peace with God (Rom. 5:1) then continues in the life of the Spirit-baptized believer as a fruit of the Spirit.
Thus the world can know nothing of this peace. Jesus said, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you” (John 14:27). A profound serenity results from being right with God and man. By it Jesus slept peaceably in a storm (Matt. 8:24) and appeared calm before Pilate in the face of death (Matt. 26:62). By it Peter slept like a baby during the night before his scheduled execution (Acts 12:6). Thus it is a peace that passes understanding (Phil. 4:7).
Second, consider the godly actions that are demonstrated in a right relationship with others. The Spirit-controlled life also assists the believer with fruit needed in relations with one’s fellows. Such a believer will know longsuffering (forbearance), kindness (generosity), and goodness (uprightness), to a degree not possible within himself or herself alone.
- The list of godly actions begins with long-suffering.
This virtue is much needed in the family, at the church, and on the job. Christian businessmen, politicians, pastors, teachers, and parents badly need this fruit.
Longsuffering provides tolerance, patience, and forbearance in dealing with others. It involves showing such qualities especially toward any who annoys, opposes, or has wronged the believer. It involves refusing to avenge oneself when in a position to do so. Jesus demonstrated it during the course of His trial before Pilate and through the time of His execution (1 Pet. 2:23).
- Next after long-suffering in Paul’s list of the fruit of the Spirit comes kindness.
It refers especially to goodness toward the evil and ungrateful person. It is easy to be kind to nice people. Kindness as a fruit of the Spirit, however, manifests itself most in the face of unkindness. Further, it demonstrates itself in being sensitive toward the feelings of others, and accompanying that sensitivity with appropriate actions.
In addition to showing gentleness toward others, kindness is mildness of temper, an unruffled disposition, and a calmness of spirit. It is the opposite of a crabbed, harsh, sour disposition. Gentleness is power under perfect control. The strong, robust father gently handles and carries his infant child. No one is as strong as a gentle person.
Goodness completes the list of virtues in the fruit of the Spirit assisting the believer in his relationship with others.
It refers to both uprightness in conduct and generosity toward others.
It goes far beyond the world’s goodness. If a man is patriotic, provides for his family, participates in community affairs, and is fairly decent in a moral sense, others say he is a good man. However, goodness as a fruit of the Spirit goes far beyond that kind of living.
As to generosity, this is of the open-hearted variety which a person shows when its recipient is totally undeserving. Goodness sees a need and meets it. It serves whether appreciated or not. Dorcas was full of such good works (Acts 9:36, 39).
Third and finally, the fruit of the Spirit includes provisions for the healthy attitudes that the believer must hold in a right relationship with himself. These include faithfulness, meekness, and self-control. These virtues allow him to enjoy the best of all possible mental health.
- The first in the list is faithfulness.
Paul’s word in the Greek is pistis, commonly translated as faith. However, the context seems to justify rendering the word in such a way as to focus on faithfulness. Thus it indicates fidelity or dependability. In one’s attitude toward oneself, it is important to have enough self respect to be dependable, including the practice of keeping promises. The Bible declares that the Lord honors the man who swears even to his own hurt and still keeps his promises (Ps. 15:4). Psychologists consider “predictability” as the core of personality and the hub of all stable social relations. In the end the Lord will reward faithfulness more than anything else in the record of those He judges (Matt. 25:21).
- Following faithfulness comes gentleness or meekness.
The Greek word prautes was used of an animal that had been broken to wear the yoke. Such an attitude is not natural to the human heart; it must be produced within as a fruit of the Spirit. Thus meekness includes humility toward self, resulting from an honest appraisal of one’s own heart. However, it also includes courteous consideration for others. It is the opposite of the self-assertion, self-reliance, and headstrong arrogance that modern psychology tends to say is necessary for good mental health. On the contrary, Scripture reflects self-control rather than self-expression as a virtue. Contrary to the thinking of some, biblical meekness is not weakness; the weak do not have the strength to be meek.
- Coming last in the list of all the fruit of the Spirit is temperance or self-control.
Some define temperance as moderation in all things. The Greeks promoted “the golden mean as the goal for all men. However, the Bible does not teach moderation in lying, stealing and murder; it teaches self-control, which means total abstinence in most cases.
Temperance as a fruit of the Spirit is that self-control of the man who walks by the window of a jewelry store and steals nothing, rather than stealing moderately. He steals nothing because he knows it is wrong rather than because he fears getting caught and being sent to prison. Society does not have to keep him behind bars to prevent him from stealing. He lives by a much higher code of ethics than the law of the land.
This, then, is the road to constant victory over sin. The blood of Jesus cleanses from all sin, past and present. The power of the Spirit assists the believer to overcome all temptation, regardless of the source. Further, the truth sets him or her free from the false guilt that would otherwise come from the Accuser of the Brethren. It lifts the individual above the plain of a constant sense of defeat.
Certainly, the Spirit-filled Christian need not be tormented by fears of demon possession, despite the warnings of writers such as Jessie Penn-Lewis. According to her, one cannot even know if he or she is possessed. She says, “It is possible, also, for deception and possession to come about, and pass away without the man being conscious of either.” How frightening are her words about the believer: “He prays, resists, gets through to victory in his will and spirit, then comes a great ‘feeling’ of peace, and rest, which may be as much an ‘attack’ as the onslaught, but more subtle and liable to mislead the believer if he is not on guard . . . for the believer may ‘feel’ it is victory when it is defeat, and vice versa.” Penn-Lewis says the Christian can be so under demonic control as to be unable to distinguish the evil spirit’s actions from his or her own. She says that such spirits can totally counterfeit the individual’s own personality.
How different is what the Bible teaches on how to live a victorious Christian life!
John said a correct understanding of the love of God, as demonstrated in the plan of redemption, frees the believer of all tormenting fears (1 John 4:18).
As this series of articles indicates, Scripture shows that temptation comes from more than a single source, and that victory over sin necessitates being freed, through salvation, from the guilt and power of sin. That deliverance, however, does not remove the potential for sin from the believer. Indeed, flesh and Spirit stand in opposition to each other in every believer’s life, and the mere existence of the conflict sometimes produces a sense of false guilt in the Christian’s conscience. However, God’s provision in salvation frees one from both true and false guilt. Wondrously, too, the Baptism in the Holy Spirit, along with the fruit the Spirit, produces and makes possible a life of constant victory over sin.
About the Author
Dr. Charles Harris is a recently retired Professor of Bible and Pastoral Ministries as well as the Chairman of the Division of Church Ministries at Central Bible College in Springfield, Missouri. He was associated with the college for thirty-eight years.
In addition to his duties as an educator, Dr. Harris is also an author. His writings have appeared in The Sunday School Counselor, God’s Word for Today, and The Adult Teacher. Among his works are three books, What’s Ahead, Proofs of Christianity, and Under the Glass: An Analysis of Church Structure, as well as a commentary on Second Corinthians in The Complete Biblical Library. He was a contributing author of Power Encounter, A Pentecostal Perspective.
Dr. Harris holds a bachelor’s degree in Bible, a master’s degree in counseling, and a doctorate in education.
Lewis, C. S. The Four Loves. New York: Harcourt Brace, 1960.
Penn-Lewis, Jessie. War on the Saints 3d ed. Leicester: The “Overcomer” Book Room, 1922.
Bibliography for the Series of Articles
Bubeck, Mark I. The Adversary: The Christian Versus Demon Activity. Chicago:Moody Press, 1975.
Ensign, Grayson H., and Edward Howe. Bothered? Bewildered? Bewitched? Cincinnati:Recovery Publications, 1984.
Gee, Donald. All with One Accord. Springfield, Mo.: Gospel Publishing House, 1961.
Graves, Arthur H. “How to Receive the Baptism of the Holy Spirit.” Unpublished manuscript. Central Bible College Library, Springfield, Mo.
Hendriksen, William. Galatians. Vol. 8, New Testament Commentary. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1968.
Holdcroft, L. Thomas. The Holy Spirit: From a Pentecostal Viewpoint. Santa Cruz, California: Bethany Books, 1962.
Lindsay, Gordon. The Baptism of the Holy Spirit. Dallas: The Voice of Healing Publishing Co., 1964.
MacArthur, John, Jr. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: Romans 1-8. Chicago: Moody Press, 1991.
Morris, L. L. The New Bible Dictionary Edited by J. D. Douglas. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962.
Ockenga, Harold J. The Holy Spirit and Tongues. Boston: Park Street Church, 1965.
Lewis, C. S. The Four loves. New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1960.
Packer, J. I. The New Bible Dictionary. Edited by J. D. Douglas. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1962.
Penn-Lewis, Jessie. War on the Saints 3d ed.. Leicester: The “Overcomer” Book Room, 1922.
Pethrus, Lewi. The Wind Bloweth Where It Listeth. Chicago: Philadelphia Book Concern, 1945.
Unger, Merrill B. Demons in the World Today. Wheaton, Ill.: Tyndale House Publishers, 1971.
Unger, Merrill B. What Demons Can Do to Saints. Chicago: Moody Press, 1977.
 C. S. Lewis, The Four Loves (New York: Harcourt, Brace, 1960).
 But see Matt. 5:3-12.
 Jessie Penn-Lewis, War on the Saints 3d ed. (Leicester: The “Overcomer” Book Room, 1922), 96.
 Ibid., 245.
 Ibid., 180.