The Fruit of the Spirit is
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. Galatians 5:22-23
Here is a blessed contrast to what we saw in verses 19-21. There the Apostle set before us seventeen works of the flesh, products of the carnal mind that hates God, works produced by the efforts of hearts at enmity against the holy Lord God. All who continue in such works must be forever damned. Here he shows us that which is the fruit of the Holy Spirit, that which is produced in (not wrought by, but produced in) the heaven born soul by the almighty grace of God the Holy Spirit.
Paul does not deal with the fruit of the Spirit as many things, but as one. He is describing the fruit (singular) not the fruits (plural) of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is a cluster of fruit, like a cluster of grapes, brought forth in all who are born of God in the new creation of grace. This fruit of the Spirit is not spoken of as that which ought to be in the believer, but as that which is produced in the believer. Paul is not setting before us that which is given to some as an extra-ordinary gift of God, but the common, constant fruit of God the Holy Spirit in all who are born again.
In this cluster Paul specifically names nine things as the fruit of the Spirit: Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance. With reference to God, all believers have created in them love, joy, and peace. With reference to one another, all are given long-suffering, gentleness, and goodness. With reference to themselves, all who know God are people of faith, meekness, and temperance.
The fruit of the Spirit is love. Man by nature loves himself and really only himself. He loves all other things (family, friends, possessions, etc.) only for what they add to himself. Though many who do not even profess faith in Christ claim to love God, they only love their own concept of what God ought to be. All men by nature vainly imagine that God exists only to benefit men. This is a condition that never changes. That which is born of the flesh is flesh; that which is born of the Spirit is spirit (John 3:6). Love is the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of the flesh. It is like faith, indeed, along with faith, the gift of God. When a person is born again, he gains the capacity to love God, to love God as he is revealed in the Scriptures, as he is revealed in Christ, to love God as he really is in his true character. He not only gains the capacity to love God, he truly does love God (1 Cor. ; 1 John ).
All who are born of God love and seek his glory. This is part of the miracle of the new creation in Christ (2 Cor. ). Because the believer truly loves God, all other loves are never the same. He no longer loves only that which gratifies and exalts the flesh. He always has an eye to that which honors God his Savior. All other loves are made subservient to this love. And when our love for family and friends, yes, even for men in common, is subservient to love for God, then we truly love others and seek to serve their best interests in all things.
No, this love is far from perfect. It is nothing about which we have reason to boast. Yet, this is the true testimony of every heaven born soul. We love him because he first loved us. We do not love him as we desire. We do not love him as we know we should. We do not love him as we soon shall. But we do really love him. It is not possible for a man to experience the grace of God in salvation and not love the God of all grace. It is not possible for a man to know the efficacy of Christs blood in his own soul and not love his gracious Redeemer. It is not possible for a man to have his heart renewed by the power of the Holy Spirit and not love the Spirit of life. In spite of our many weaknesses, sins and failures, we do honestly and sincerely confess, Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee.
We know also that we would never have loved him if he had not loved us first. The love of God for us precedes our love for him. He first loved us. He loved us before we had any desire to be loved by him. He loved us before we sought his grace. He loved us before we had any repentance or faith. He loved us before we had any being. He loved us eternally. Does he not say, I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I called thee? He chose us, redeemed us, and called us because he loved us.
Not only does Gods love for us precede our love for God; but Gods love for us is the cause of our love for him. We love him, because he first loved us. Our hearts are so hard and our wills so stubborn that we would never have loved the Lord, if he had not intervened to conquer us with his love. In the midst of our sin and corruption, he passed by, and behold it was the time of love. He revealed his great love for us in Christ. As we beheld the crucified Christ, dying in the place of sinners, the love of God conquered our rebel hearts. Trusting Christ as our only Savior, we are compelled to love him, because he first loved us.
The fruit of the Spirit is joy. Believers possess and enjoy a gladness of heart, a joy, of which the world knows nothing. Unregenerate men enjoy the pleasures of sin for brief seasons; but theirs is misspent and transient happiness that comes and goes with the empty bubbles they chase. The believers joy is based on something more substancial. We rejoice in the Lord (Phil. 4:4). With Habakkuk, we sing, Although the fig tree shall not blossom, neither shall fruit be in the vines; the labour of the olive shall fail, and the fields shall yield no meat; the flock shall be cut off from the fold, and there shall be no herd in the stalls: Yet I will rejoice in the LORD, I will joy in the God of my salvation (Hab. 3: 17, 18). Having no confidence in the flesh, we rejoice in Christ Jesus (Phil. 3:3).
When Job lost everything, he yet blessed the name of the Lord because the object of his love and joy was God his Savior, not what God had given him, but God himself. It was only when he feared that the Lord had turned his back that horror and despair cast their ominous shadow over his soul. This is not natural to man, but is the gift and fruit of the Spirit.
Believers do not fake joy. They possess it. We do not walk like giddy air-heads, oblivious to real sorrow and grief, as some many do. We do, however, possess real and enduring joy, rejoicing in him by whom and in whom we are so monumentally and eternally blessed, being assured of his unfailing goodness and grace (Rom. 8:28). Pastor Chris Cunningham wrote, Our joy is irrepressible because the object of our delight is infinitely and invariably delightful.
When others despise us, as Michael despised David, we rejoice in Gods electing love as David did. When men and Satan hurl accusations against us, as Shemei did against David, we rejoice in the knowledge that our God sends them for our good, to drive us to Christ our Redemption and Righteousness. When our weakness is manifest, we rejoice in Christ, whose strength is made perfect in weakness. When we see our utter insufficiency, we rejoice to know that our sufficiency is of God. When it is obvious that things are out of control, as far as we are concerned and as far as all other creatures are concerned, we rejoice to see God our Savior, the Lamb upon his throne. When our bodies are dying, we rejoice in Christ who is our Life.
The fruit of the Spirit is peace. We have peace with God being reconciled to him by the death of his Son, and peace from God being ruled in our hearts by the Prince of peace, and the peace of God because the Spirit of God has spoken peace to our hearts giving us faith in Christ. Though we are, by nature, like the troubled sea, when it cannot rest, whose waters cast up mire and dirt (Isaiah 57:20), by the gift and grace of God the Spirit, we are as lambs under the ever-watchful eye and omnipotent care of the Good Shepherd. Though our sin is ever before us, we have peace in our consciences, knowing that all our sin and guilt is forever put away by the sin-atoning sacrifice of our Lord Jesus Christ. Though, at times, the weight of the world and its care crushes our souls, we have peace of mind, casting all our care upon him who cares for us. And God gives us peace in our hearts, causing us to be fully satisfied and delighted with him, knowing that he is fully and forever satisfied and delighted with us in his Son, who has washed away our sins in his blood and robed us with his perfect righteousness. And when our time on earth is finished, we shall, like Simeon of old, depart this body of flesh in peace, having our eyes fixed upon our Salvation. In that day, we will lay down in peace and sleep, for thou, Lord, only makest us to dwell in safety (Ps. 4:8).
With reference to God, all believers have created in them love, joy and peace. With reference to one another, all are given long-suffering, gentleness and goodness. The fruit of the Spirit is long-suffering. God the Holy Spirit, when he creates life and faith in our souls, gives us long-suffering, and teaches us to be long-suffering. He gives us patience to endure trials from our heavenly Father and troublesome, irksome things in and done by others. Grace experienced in the soul makes saved sinners slow to anger and ready to forgive. Grace causes people who are, by nature, easily offended and quick to retaliate to patiently bear affronts and be forbearing with those who offend.
Our Lord Jesus is more than an example for us to follow. Everything he did in life, he did in obedience to the Father as our Mediator and Representative, working out perfect righteousness for us. And everything he endured in death, he endured as our Substitute to satisfy the justice of God for us. But we must never forget that in all his life and death, our blessed Savior is also our example (1 Pet. 2:21-25). Should any ask, What is long-suffering? I say, Look to Christ. He is the very embodiment of long-suffering.
When his disciples displayed an utter ignorance of the things he taught, he patiently taught the same truths again and again. When they were filled with unbelief and fear, he showed them their folly, not by belittling them, but by removing the cause of their fear. Even when they forsook him (and they all did), he did not abandon them. Rather, like the Good Shepherd he is, as soon as he was risen from the dead, he began seeking his scattered sheep. When Peter was ashamed to come to him, he sent his messengers to Peter to tell him that he would meet him in Galilee.
How great is his long-suffering toward us! Throughout the days of our rebellion, with every breath and deed, we spewed out our hatred against him; but his long-suffering was our salvation. We scoffed him; but he was long-suffering to us. We blasphemed him; but he was long-suffering to us. We despised his blood and righteousness; but he was long-suffering to us. And in all the days of our lives, since he snatched us as brands from the burning out of the very jaws of hell by his omnipotent mercy, how we have sinned and continue to sin against him. Yet, he knows our frame and remembers that we are dust, and refuses to deal with us after our sins and reward us according to our iniquities.
That is what Paul means by this term, long-suffering. God the Holy Spirit makes chosen, redeemed, called sinners long-suffering. Yet, as with our love, joy, and peace toward God, our long-suffering with one another in this world is such horrid short-temperedness that it must be bathed in the blood of Christ, robed in his righteousness, and forgiven by his grace. Yet, Gods saints are a people patient and long-suffering with one another.
The fruit of the Spirit is gentleness. Long-suffering is accompanied with gentleness, kindness, and courtesy. This gentleness is seen in our attitudes toward others, our speech to and about others, and our treatment of others. This, too, is exemplified in the gentleness of Christ. Gentleness is a mild, peaceful, moderate spirit, bestowed upon those who are made partakers of the divine nature. It is the spirit of Christ our Savior (1 Cor. 10:1) and the spirit he gives by his grace, by which fallen men are made to be great men and wise (2 Sam. 22:36; Ps. 18:35). The wisdom that is from above is gentle (James 3:17). This gentleness is not a passive spirit of compromise and cowardice that destroys manhood and usefulness. That is a vice rather than a virtue, a display of depravity rather than of grace. Our Lord Jesus was the most gentle man who ever lived, and the boldest and most courageous. Charles Buck very accurately says of gentleness, It renounces no just right from fear; it gives up no important truth from flattery: it is, indeed, not only consistent with a firm mind, but it necessarily requires a manly spirit and a fixed principle, in order to give it any real value.
Yet, gentleness is the very opposite of harshness and severity, of pride and arrogance, and of violence and oppression. It is charitable spirit of brotherly love and kindness that causes Gods saints in this world to take great care neither to offend nor hurt another. It causes the believer to seek to relieve the needs and burdens of others, be patient and forbearing with the offenses of others, and prevents severe judgment and retaliation. Gentleness is that spirit of meekness and humility that causes believers to restore one another when fallen (Gal. 6:1-2), weep with those who weep, and rejoice with those who rejoice. Believers are not bitter but benevolent, not harsh but helpful, not mean but merciful. Truly, gentleness is both greatness and wisdom!
The fruit of the Spirit is goodness. Goodness is a readiness to do good, particularly a readiness to do good to and for one another. Yet, the Apostle Paul, writing as a believer, said I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing (Rom. 7:18). Goodness is not in us by nature. There is none good, but God, our Master declares. God alone is good, infinitely good, immutably good, and perfectly good. Fallen man is not good, but bad; and there is no possibility of any man doing that which is good. There is none that doeth good, no, not one. Still, when God the Holy Spirit performs his mighty operations of grace in chosen, redeemed sinners, he makes them to be a people whose lives are marked by goodness. Any goodness found in us or performed by us is Gods work in us, the fruit of the Spirit.
What is this goodness that is the fruit of the Spirit? How is it manifest? Is there ever an act performed by, or even a thought in the heart of a believer that is truly and absolutely good and pure, perfect and righteous, worthy of Gods acceptance? The answer, of course, is, No. Both the Scriptures and an honest consideration of our own life experience compel us to acknowledge these things (1 John 1:8, 10). The Spirit that is in us is good, perfectly good. That which is born of God cannot sin (1 John 3:9); but our old nature is nothing but sin. How, then, can the fruit of the Spirit in us be called goodness?
Goodness is that indwelling grace of God the Holy Spirit, that attribute of the divine nature of which we are made partakers in the new birth, which disposes believers to acts of goodness to others. There is much talk in the religious world about good works. As defined by men, good works are measured by the observance of various rules of conduct relating to dress codes, diet, and outward appearance. But in the Word of God good works are always connected with acts of brotherly love, kindness, self-denial, and sacrifice: visiting the sick, feeding the hungry, helping the needy, etc. (Matt. 25:31-46; James 1:26-27).
Good works, works acceptable and well pleasing to God, are works of faith, works by which faith is shown (James 2:14-26). Good works are never spoken of in Scripture except as manifestations of faith. If faith without works is dead, then what are works without faith? A good work is a work of faith, arising from and connected with faith in Christ, without which it is impossible to please God (Heb. 11:6). Our good works are acceptable and well-pleasing to God only in Christ, only because we are one with Christ, who alone is our Righteousness (Eph. 4:32-5:2; 1 Pet. 2:5).
With reference to God, all believers have created in them love, joy, and peace. With reference to one another, all are given long-suffering, gentleness and goodness. And with reference to themselves, all who know God are people of faith, meekness and temperance. The fruit of the Spirit is faith. As Paul uses the word faith here, it refers not so much to our faith in Christ (though that is included) as it does to our faithfulness as believers in all things. In other words, Paul is saying, The fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness. The one thing God requires of all who serve him as stewards in his house and kingdom is faithfulness. And when God the Holy Spirit makes sinners the willing servants of Christ, he makes them faithful.
There is nothing more admirable in our God and Savior than the fact that he abideth faithful. And there is nothing more admirable in his children than faithfulness. Believers are people who are faithful: faithful to God, faithful to his Word, faithful to his glory, faithful to one another, and faithful in their lives. This faithfulness certainly includes dependability; but many are dependable in their responsibilities who have no knowledge of the eternal God at all. This faithfulness is more than that. This is an inward principle of grace, an inward, heart fidelity to Christ, by which the lives of Gods saints are regulated in this world.
The fruit of the Spirit is meekness. With regard to meekness (as with all other spiritual matters), it must be stated and clearly understood that the opinions of unregenerate men are exactly opposite to the teachings of Holy Scripture. Meekness is not a weakness of character that makes men useless wimps. We read in the Book of God that, The man Moses was very meek, above all the men which were upon the face of the earth (Num. 12:3). But I am pretty confident that had anyone who asked Pharaoh for an example of meekness, Moses would have been the very last man to come to his mind.
Meekness is a spirit that is not easily provoked, a tamed spirit (James 3:7-8). It is that attitude of heart, created in Gods elect by the Holy Spirit in the gift of faith, that causes believing souls to be at ease in the world. Where the Prince of Peace reigns meekness reigns. Meekness is that frame of mind, that disposition of soul in believing men and women that arises from a recognition of the fact that we are sinners forgiven and accepted of God in Christ and that we belong to God our Savior. We are his property, his children, and his servants.
This meekness makes believers humble before God and men. We know that we are nothing but sinners saved by grace. That knowledge causes us to walk humbly with our God and to be gracious to one another. At the same time, meekness (true meekness) gives people backbone. It causes men and women as the children and servants of God to be bold, courageous, and faithful, knowing that he who is God indeed is our God and Father. The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The LORD is the strength of my life; of whom shall I be afraid? (Ps. 27:1).
Most everyone thinks of the man Christ Jesus as a man of weakness, which they call meekness. But our Lord Jesus was truly meek. In meekness he voluntarily bowed to his Fathers will and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. In meekness he drove the money-changers out of the temple. In meekness he set his face like a flint to go up to Jerusalem. In meekness he denounced as pretentious hypocrites the most highly respected religious leaders of the day. In meekness he called idolaters idolaters, adulterers adulterers, and self-serving politicians foxes. In meekness he cast out the prince of this world and triumphantly conquered death, hell, and the grave in his sin-atoning death.
The fruit of the Spirit is temperance. Temperance is self-control, continence, or control from within. Without question, it is seen in the control of our appetites, in moderation in eating and drinking; but there is much more to temperance than self-discipline. When God the Holy Spirit comes in saving power, Christ sits up his throne in the hearts of saved sinners and makes them kings (1 Pet. 2:5, 9; Rev, 1:6; 5:10; 20:6). Kings are men who reign. The Lord Jesus reigns within the hearts of his people, giving them dominion over their passions, over the world around them, and even over death, so that all who are born of God live in this world in temperance, being controlled not by the things around them but by Christ who reigns within them.
This fruit of the Spirit is altogether contrary to nature. It is not something produced by us, but something produced in us by God the Holy Spirit. It is the result of the new birth, the gift of faith in Christ, and the indwelling Spirit of God. If it is ours, it is ours only by grace (1 Cor. 4:7). It is fruit found in every believer. In some it is but newly planted seed in the heart. In others it is mature fruit. In none is it perfect. But in all it is present. Of this fruit, John Gill wrote
It may be observed, that these fruits of the Spirit are opposed to the works of the flesh. So love is opposed to hatred; joy to emulations and envying; peace to variance, strife, and seditions; longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, and meekness, to wrath and murders; faith to idolatry, witchcraft, and heresies; and temperance to adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, drunkenness, and revellings.
Against such there is no law. Obviously, these things are in full agreement with Gods holy law. To practice such things is to by love serve one another. But Pauls declaration here refers not to the fruit of the Spirit, but to those in whom this fruit is found, to those who walk in the Spirit, to those who are born of God, to those who live by faith in Christ. He is saying, There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. The works of the flesh and those who live after the flesh are under the curse and condemnation of the law. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law.