The Fruit of the Spirit
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The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. And those who are Christ's have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. (Gal. 5:22-24)
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The nine qualities that Paul here identifies as "the fruit of the Spirit" make an excellent outline of study. How much more pleasant our world would be if everyone would make an effort to inculcate these virtues in their life! Getting people to grow these character traits should be a high priority in every congregation and in every preacher's sermon schedule, right?
Not exactly. The word "fruit" suggests that these attributes are the natural outgrowth of some underlying influence. We cannot isolate one of these items--say, longsuffering--and decide that we will master it like learning to play the piano. All nine are descriptors of a single "fruit" that is developed holistically. Either they grow together as the result of a deeper process of spiritual maturation, or they don't grow at all.
This "fruit" is the product of a transformation effected by the Holy Spirit. But how does the Spirit accomplish this? The common understanding is one of God injecting a mysterious life force into our hearts when we become Christians. In this view, we are entirely passive recipients of a new life infused into us from God.
The surrounding verses provide clues that give us a more accurate understanding of the Spirit's work. We are to "walk in the Spirit" (v. 16), "be led by the Spirit" (v. 18), and "live in the Spirit" (v. 25). We are to "crucify the flesh" (v. 24). This is the language of decision-making. The Spirit imparts guidance to us through the Word (Eph. 6:17), and we make a conscious choice to yield to its influence. Our choice hinges on a deeper frame of mind that can be labeled either carnal or spiritual (1 Cor. 2:10-16).
The carnal person struggles to make improvements in these qualities, because in his heart he's really not that interested. Even if he claims to be a disciple, his shallow faith inhibits robust growth. The Spirit cannot gain much traction in his heart, so the "fruit" in his life will be weak and shriveled.
The spiritual person is sensitive to the Spirit's influence. His study of the word will gradually break down his stubborn will and transform him into a different person--a person of deeper love, more genuine peace, greater patience, kindness, and so forth. The fruit will naturally grow in his life, because the Spirit is changing him from the inside.
Is the fruit of the Spirit being manifested in you? If not, look deep in your heart and examine your real motivations in life. Spiritual fruit will only grow in spiritual people.