You are reading: The Fruits of the Holy Spirit and Their Meaning
Galatians 5:22-23 tells us, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” The fruit of the Holy Spirit is the result of the Holy Spirit’s presence in the life of a Christian. The Bible clarifies that everyone receives the Holy Spirit the moment they believe in Jesus Christ. One of the primary purposes of the Holy Spirit coming into a Christian’s life is to change that life. It is the Holy Spirit’s job to conform us to the image of Christ, making us more like Him.
The fruit of the Holy Spirit is in direct contrast with the acts of the sinful nature in Galatians 5:19-21 that says, “The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity, and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions, and 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.” This passage describes all people, to varying degrees, when they do not know Christ and therefore are not under the influence of the Holy Spirit. Our sinful flesh produces certain types of fruit that reflect our nature, and the Holy Spirit has types of fruit that reflect His nature.
The Greek word translated “fruit” refers to the natural product of a living thing. Paul used “fruit” to help us understand the product of the Holy Spirit, who lives inside every believer. The fruit of the Spirit is produced by the Spirit, not by the Christian. The Greek word is singular, showing that “fruit” is a unified whole, not independent characteristics.
As we grow, all the attributes of Christ will be manifested in our lives. Yet, like physical fruit needs time to grow, the fruit of the Spirit will not ripen in our lives overnight. Like a successful gardener must battle against weeds to enjoy the sweet fruit they desire, we must constantly work to rid our lives of the “weeds” of our old sin natures that want to choke out the work of the Spirit.
The Holy Spirit gives us the power we need to reject those old sinful desires. We can say no to sin and accept the “way out” God faithfully provides by following the Holy Spirit’s leading. As we give the Spirit more control of our lives, He begins to do in and through us what only He can do, to shape us and grow us to look like Jesus. Since God’s goal for all His children is for us to be like Jesus, the Holy Spirit constantly works to rid our lives of the “acts of the sinful nature” and display His fruit instead. Therefore, the presence of the fruit of the Spirit is evidence that our character is becoming more like Christ’s.
The Fruits of the Holy Spirit and Their Meaning
Paul uses nine characteristics to describe the fruit of the Spirit in the book of Galatians. Here’s a look at the fruit of the Spirit list and what each of them means.
1 John 4:7-8 tells us, “Dear friends, let us love one another, for love comes from God. Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God. Whoever does not love does not know God because God is love.” True, biblical love is a choice, not a feeling. It intentionally expresses itself in loving ways and always seeks the well-being of others. Biblical love is dependent on the giver’s character, not emotion. For instance, a mature believer demonstrating love will not exercise their freedom if that action might harm another Christian in some way. Rather than risking the possibility of causing the immature Christian to question and stumble, the mature believer will not exercise his freedom out of love for his brother. Love chooses to set aside one’s preferences, desires, and sometimes even needs to put the other person first.
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Sometimes, Christians tend to downplay the meaning of joy. Still, the Greek word translated as “joy” in Galatians 5 means “gladness and delight,” basically the same thing the world means when it talks about joy. It is a feeling of gladness based on our circumstances. Sadly, the world’s joy cannot last because it is based on fleeting, physical conditions. However, the joy of the Lord is established in our spiritual, eternal circumstances. As we cling tight to Jesus, abiding daily in our saving relationship with Him, we will experience the fullness of joy He promised, as described in John 15:4-11.
Unfortunately, you’ll notice that the world doesn’t offer much peace if you look around. The world cannot give it because it doesn’t know the peaceful One. However, for those who have the Spirit of peace within us, the peace of Christ is possible, no matter our circumstances. We can reject the chaos of the world and embrace God’s peace. The book of Philippians tells us how, specifically in Philippians 4:4-9. First, choose to rejoice in God and who He is. Second, bring all your worries, fears, and concerns to God in prayer. Third, fill your mind with God’s truth. And fourth, choose to think about the things of God.
We don’t see much patience in the world today, not even in the church. Maybe part of the reason is our fast-paced, want-it-now culture. However, Christians have everything we need to be patient because we have the Holy Spirit living in us, longing to display His character to those around us. Even when severely tried, patient people put up with circumstances and other people. Patient people show endurance, longsuffering, and perseverance. The New Testament also specifically connects patience with sharing the Gospel. God is patient as He waits for the lost to come to Him, and He calls His people to be patient as we extend the offer of salvation in Christ to others.
Kindness and goodness.
The characteristics of kindness and goodness are closely related. Together, they present the picture of one who possesses moral goodness and integrity and generously expresses it in how they act toward others. This “goodness in action” reflects God’s kindness and goodness toward us. God demonstrated His kindness and goodness to us in our salvation and will continue to show the immeasurable riches of His grace in kindness toward us for all eternity, described in Ephesians 2:7.
To be faithful is to be reliable or trustworthy. This faithfulness is specifically geared to the Savior who redeemed us for the Christian. Christian faithfulness, therefore, is continued and consistent submission and obedience to the same Spirit who provides the ability for us to be faithful.
This attitude directly contrasts our previous faithfulness to our sinful desires and ways. The word also describes someone willing to suffer persecution and even death for Christ’s sake. 2 Thessalonians says, “Therefore, among God’s churches we boast about your perseverance and faith in all the persecutions and trials you are enduring.”
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Closely linked to humility, gentleness is the grace of the soul. It is not a weakness. Instead, it is strength under control. For instance, in Paul’s second letter to Timothy, he wrote that the “Lord’s servant” will “correct his opponents with gentleness,” as seen in 2 Timothy 2:25. In Paul’s letter to the church in Galatia, he wrote that those caught in sin should be restored in a “spirit of gentleness,” as seen in Galatians 6:1. Gentleness, being the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest, is also a key ingredient in unity and peace within the body of Christ.
The last characteristic in Paul’s description of the fruit of the Spirit points us back to his list of the works of the flesh in Galatians 5:19-21. Those of us with the indwelling Holy Spirit have the strength to control our sinful desires, to say “no” to our flesh. Self-control gives us the power to say yes to the Spirit and foster a beautiful, bountiful harvest of spiritual fruit.
As Christians, we have the Holy Spirit producing His fruit in us, and we have the Holy Spirit’s power available to conquer the acts of sinful nature. A Christian will never be ultimately victorious in consistently demonstrating the fruits of the Holy Spirit. It is one of the primary purposes of the Christian life, though, to progressively allow the Holy Spirit to produce more and more of His fruit in our lives and allow the Holy Spirit to conquer the opposing sinful desires. The fruit of the Spirit is what God desires our lives to exhibit and, with the Holy Spirit’s help, it is possible