The Everyday Fruit of the Spirit (Galatians 5:22-23)
[But] the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, ²³gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22–23)
Few Christians in history can legitimately claim to have experienced the power of the Holy Spirit in degree and frequency comparable to the apostle Paul. The record of his life and ministry, from his dramatic conversion on the Damascus Road to his final imprisonment in Rome, is laced with powerful manifestations of the Spirit. When he rhetorically asks the Corinthian Christians, “Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?” the implied answer is clearly, “No” (1 Corinthians 12:29–30). But when it came to Paul, I think the answer was “Yes,” since it appears the Spirit empowered him to exercise all these spiritual gifts at various times.
That fact makes his description in Galatians 5 of the fruit of the Spirit in a Christian’s life all the more poignant. Conspicuously absent from his list is any reference to “the demonstration of the Spirit and of power”—meaning signs and wonders (1 Corinthians 2:4). Why?
Because Paul knew from Jesus’s teaching and example that the demonstration of the Spirit’s power is not necessarily a fruit of the Spirit. He knew because of Judas that true demonstrations of the Spirit could manifest through false disciples (Luke 9:1). He knew that false prophets and teachers would perform signs and wonders (Mark 13:22). He knew the “good fruit” that mattered most to Jesus, the only true evidence of a “good tree,” was the morally good words and deeds produced from a heart that loved neighbors sacrificially because it treasured God supremely (Luke 6:43–45)—a heart that had been reborn by the Spirit (John 3:3–6).
For Paul, the most powerful demonstration of the Spirit was not healing or miracles or prophecy, but a heart governed by the “desires of the Spirit” over the “desires of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16–17). For such a heart was “free indeed” (John 8:36), since no law existed to constrain its desires.
Therefore, “if we live by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25), we will bear the fruit of the Spirit. And in bearing much of the Spirit’s fruit, we will glorify the Father and prove to be Jesus’s disciples (John 15:8). For the good fruit of the Spirit is the greatest, most satisfying manifestation of His power Christians will ever experience in this age. And a “tree is known by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33).
Of all the evidences Paul could have chosen that a Christian is “walking by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16), why did he select these nine “fruits”?
Read what Jesus said in John 13:34–35, then ponder its connection to His statement, “By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples” (John 15:8). If you were to ask someone who knows you well, “How do you know that I’m a Christian?” how do you think they’d answer? Perhaps ask them.
As you reflect, what fruit(s) do you discern the Spirit particularly cultivating in your life right now? What’s one way you can intentionally and practically pursue bearing that fruit today?
If time allows, read 1 Corinthians 12 (the importance of gifts of the Spirit) and 13 (the importance of love). How are Spirit-empowered gifts and Spirit-empowered love interrelated in the life of a fruitful believer?
Jon Bloom serves as teacher and co-founder of Desiring God. He is author of three books, Not by Sight, Things Not Seen, and Don’t Follow Your Heart. He and his wife have five children and three grandchildren and make their home in the Twin Cities, MN.