on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness
and holiness." (Ephesians 4:24)
When we accept
Jesus Christ as our Lord and Savior we begin a life-long process
of transformation and maturation. To use Jesus' image, we have entered
the narrow gate; now we travel along the narrow road (Matthew 7:13-14).
We seek to be "transformed by the renewing of your mind"
(Romans 12:2). We seek to "become mature" and to "grow
up into him who is the Head, that is Christ" (Ephesians 4:13,
15).We seek to be "Transformed into [God's] likeness with ever-increasing
glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18). One indication of whether this
is happening is whether we show the "fruit of the Spirit"
(Galatians 5:23). (Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture quotations
are from the New International Version and any emphasis is mine.)
I have discussed
this process of transformation in my paper, "Be Transformed
by the Renewing of Your Mind". I there point out that the primary
purpose of this transformation is that we become like God in character.
In this paper I want to take a more detailed look at one very important
aspect of this transformation, which Scripture calls the fruit of
the Holy Spirit. We hear much talk about the gifts of the Spirit,
and moving in the power of the Spirit, and they are important. But
if we do not also have the fruit of the Holy Spirit, anything we
do in our life as Christians will not have the success it could,
and it may cause harm.
I believe the
key to producing the fruit of the Spirit is found in Galatians 5:16,
"live by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of
the sinful nature." We cannot hope to be transformed into God's
likeness by our own efforts. Jesus said, "apart from me you
can do nothing" (John 15:5). This miraculous transformation
can occur only by the power of God, in the form of His Holy Spirit
dwelling in us. We are "strong in the Lord and in his mighty
power" (Ephesians 6:10), and it is only in his power that we
can succeed. We can, as I shall show later, consciously seek to
cultivate each aspect of the fruit in our lives. But our primary
emphasis, our primary focus, should be on living by the Spirit,
on giving the Holy Spirit the primary position in our lives, on
being guided and empowered by the Holy Spirit in all that we do.
If our focus is on the Holy Spirit, the fruit will come.
THE IMPORTANCE OF FRUIT
fruit you will recognize them." (Matthew 7:20)
Strong's #2590, means fruit, literally or figuratively. Vine defines
it, in the figurative sense, as "the visible expression of
power working inwardly and invisibly, the character of the 'fruit'
being evidence of the character of the power producing it."
(W.E.Vine, Merrill F. Unger and William White, Jr. "An Expository
Dictionary of Biblical Words", Thomas Nelson, 1984, p. 463).
As Paul points out in Romans 7:4-6, when we were "controlled
by the sinful nature" we "bore fruit for death";
when we "serve in the new way of the Spirit" we "bear
fruit to God". Different heart conditions lead to different
kinds of fruit. God's desire is that we bear "the fruit of
the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22), the "fruit of righteousness"
(Philippians 1:11), a "harvest of righteousness and peace"
(Hebrews 12:11), the "fruit of the light" (Ephesians 5:9;
see also Romans 6:21-22, speaking of the "benefits" we
Fruit can be
shown by a person's actions, or character attributes, or both. It
is shown by such things as the way we conduct ourselves, whether
we have a godly influence on others, and whether we properly represent
God to others. The New testament uses "fruit" in two main
senses: (a) the harvest of souls that we bring to the Lord, and
(b) the evidence of a godly character. In this paper I shall focus
on the second sense.
is the "visible expression of power working inwardly and invisibly",
our emphasis should be on allowing the power of the Holy Spirit
to work within us. If we do that, the fruit of the Spirit will appear.
If we "live by the Spirit" (Galatians 5:60) we will show
the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit can be counterfeited; the condition
of our heart cannot. There are those who may seem to display many
of the characteristics listed in Galatians 5:22-23, but if they
are not living by the Holy Spirit they do not have the fruit of
this in my family. We had a strong "family code" which
included peace, patience, self-control and some other aspects of
the fruit of the Spirit. It was in many ways a good code of behavior.
It was not based on the Holy Spirit, and neither I nor my other
family members had the Holy Spirit living in us. It was not the
fruit of the Spirit.
BY THEIR FRUIT YOU WILL RECOGNIZE THEM
"By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you
love one another" (John 13:35). (Love is one aspect of the
fruit of the Spirit). A major problem in the body of Christ today
is that outsiders do not see the fruit. They look at professing
Christians and say, "I can't see that they are acting any differently
from the rest of us. If their faith doesn't produce a change in
the way they live, what good is it? " Someone has asked, "If
you were accused of being a Christian, what evidence could be presented
to show that the accusation is true?"
In 2 Corinthians chapter 3, beginning with verse 7, Paul is writing
about the time when Moses came down from Mount Sinai and "the
Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because
of its glory." In verse 18 he compares that with what should
be happening with us, "And we, who with unveiled faces all
reflect the Lord's glory, are being transformed into his likeness
with everincreasing glory." Isn't this saying that Spirit-led
Christians should look different? That there should be something
about them that sets them apart from non-Christians? Indeed, Paul
emphasized that the present glory is greater than that in Moses'
time. Hence the evidence of the fruit of the Spirit should be striking
One of the
meanings of "glory" is appearance, reputation, the recognition
belonging to a person. (See Spiros Zhodiates (ed), "Hebrew-Greek
Key Word Study Bible", King James Version, A.M.G Publishers,
Chattanooga, TN, 1991, p. 1708, #1391.) We are supposed to show
who God is by what we are. We lost this ability with the Fall of
man (Romans 3:23), but now because of the Cross it has been restored
to those who believe in Jesus Christ. Thus it is that we can "be"
witnesses (Acts 1:8), we can be living epistles (2 Corinthians 3:3).
When we fail to do this we misrepresent God, and cause his name
to be blasphemed among non-believers (see Romans 2:24).
Fruit is also
important as the means by which we tell the true from the false.
Jesus said, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you
in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By
their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from
thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears
good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear
bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that
does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus,
by their fruit you will recognize them" (Matthew 7:15-20).
The fruit is how we tell true prophets from false prophets. The
same principle applies to every kind of ministry.
24:4, speaking of the end times, Jesus began by saying, "Watch
out that no one deceives you." In verse 24 he warned us that
in the end times "false Christs and false prophets will appear
and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect -
if that were possible." As we approach the end times we need
to be especially alert to deception. The spiritual gifts can be
counterfeited. There are psychics and New Agers today who receive
words of knowledge, prophesy, heal, do miracles, and the like, but
if they do not receive their gifts from the Holy Spirit, do not
have a relationship with Jesus Christ and do not show the fruit
of the Spirit they are "workers of iniquity" (Matthew
7:23 KJV; compare Deuteronomy 13:1-5).
SPIRITUAL GIFTS WITHOUT FRUIT
ARE EMPTY AND EVEN DANGEROUS
Spiritual gifts. In 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 Paul says that those
who speak in tongues, have the gift of prophecy, have knowledge,
and have great faith (all gifts of the Spirit) but do not have love
(one aspect of the fruit of the Spirit) are nothing and accomplish
nothing. If we do not have the fruit of the Spirit our gifts may
turn out to be nothing, and we may be false prophets or ministers.
Faith. "What good is it, my brothers, if a man claims to
have faith but has no deeds? Can such faith save him? Suppose a
brother or sister is without clothes and daily food. If one of you
says to him, 'Go, I wish you well; keep warm and well fed,' but
does nothing about his physical needs, what good is it? In the same
way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead"
Paul would not
disagree. "And we pray this in order that you may live a life
worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way, bearing fruit
in every good work" (Colossians 1:10; see also Ephesians
2:10; Ephesians 4:11-12; 2 Timothy 3:16; Romans 1:5).
Love. John wrote, "Dear children, let us not love with
words or tongue but with actions and in truth" (1 John 3:18).
And again, "This is love, that we walk in obedience to his
commands" (2 John 6; see also John 14:23; 1 John 5:2-3).
Acceptance of Jesus. Jesus
said, "Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord' will enter
the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father
which is in heaven" (Matthew 7:21). Jesus never accepted mere
lip service. He said, quoting Isaiah 29:13, "This people honor
me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me" (Matthew
15:8; see also Matthew 23:25-28). It is the fruit that shows where
the heart is.
LIVING BY THE HOLY SPIRIT
by the Spirit and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful
nature." (Galatians 5:16)
THREE WAYS OF LIVING
Paul contrasts three very different ways of living. Two are led
by the flesh and result in death. The third is led by the Holy Spirit
and results in life.
The Way of Legalism. Much of Galatians 1-4 deals with this way
of life. In it everything is done by rule. It is a life based on
human effort. "After beginning with the Spirit, are you now
trying to attain your goal by human effort?" (Galatians 3:3).
It seeks to obtain justification by our own efforts in observing
the law, rather than by faith in the saving power of Jesus Christ.
"If righteousness could be gained through the law, Christ died
for nothing" (Galatians 2:21). It is a reliance on the letter
of the law, which kills, rather than the Spirit, which gives life
(2 Corinthians 3:6). Paul calls it a life "burdened... by a
yoke of slavery" (Galatians 5:1), and says that those who advocate
it are "turning to a different gospel - which is really no
gospel at all" (Galatians 1:6).
In Romans Paul
points out that the law was unable to save men from sin. He says,
"For what the law was powerless to do in that it was weakened
by the sinful nature, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness
of sinful man to be a sin offering" (Romans 8:3). Those who
seek to be changed into the image of God cannot succeed if they
rely on their own efforts and strength.
The Way of License. In
Galatians 5:1 Paul says, "It is for freedom that Christ has
set us free, Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened
again by a yoke of slavery." Then in verse 13 he issues a warning,
"You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your
freedom to indulge the sinful nature." He expresses a similar
thought in Romans 6:1, "What shall we say, then? Shall we go
on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We died to sin;
how can we live in it any longer?"
The way of
license leads to "acts of the sinful nature", such as
those listed in Galatians 5:19-21. It leads to "deeds of darkness"
(Ephesians 5:11). It leads to "death" (Romans 6:16, 21),
while the Spirit-led life leads to "eternal life" (Romans
The Spirit-led Life. Having
described two false ways of life, Paul then presents the true way.
"So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the
desires of the sinful nature" (Galatians 5:16).
life is a life of co-laboring with God, of being "God's fellow
workers" (1 Corinthians 3:9). It does not rely on human effort
but on the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit living within us
(2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2). We must do our part; we must
choose, "make every effort" (2 Peter 1:5; Hebrews 12:14),
and "pursue" (1 Timothy 6:11 2 Timothy 2:22). But without
the Spirit's power and influence we cannot hope to achieve it. It
is a disciplined life. God's discipline "produces a harvest
of righteousness and peace" (Hebrews 12:7-12). It is a life
of obedience, but the obedience arises out of and is the result
of our love for God (John 14:23; 1 John 5:2). The Spirit-led life
is the result of our allowing the Holy Spirit to rule our spirit,
soul and body. Its goal is to become like God in character.
THE INTERNAL CONFLICT
Paul tells us
that there is a war going on inside us. The Spirit and the fleshly
nature are in conflict. "For the sinful nature desires
what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary
to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that
you do not do what you want" (Galatians 5:17). In Romans he
puts the same thought even more strongly, "For in my inner
being I delight in God's law, but I see another law at work in the
members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind
and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members"
(Romans 7:22-23; see also Romans 8:7). Peter also uses martial language,
"Abstain from sinful desires, which war against your
soul" (1 Peter 2:11).
this conflict primarily in terms of the second and third ways of
life, the way of license vs. the Spirit-filled way. But since the
way of legalism also depends on the flesh rather that the power
of the Holy Spirit, the conflict he describes applies to that way
of life also.
We are talking
about spiritual warfare that goes on inside us. It is with this
internal warfare that 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 primarily deals. Paul
says that "the weapons we fight with" "have divine
power" to "demolish strongholds", to demolish "every
pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God",
and to "take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ."
Each of us has internal strongholds - habits, addictions, push-button
reactions, patterns of behavior and thought - that are rooted in
the desires of the flesh. Each of us has mindsets - ingrained ways
of thinking - that set themselves up against the knowledge of God.
Each of us needs to take our thoughts captive to obey Jesus Christ.
The battle is within us.
When we are
saved, the Holy Spirit comes to live in our spirit. But our soul
and our flesh need to be brought under the Holy Spirit's control.
The primary battleground is the soul - the mind, will and emotions
- what Scripture sometimes calls the heart, as in Jeremiah 17:9,
"The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who
can understand it?" (KJV says "trust").
When the soul
has been brought under the control of the Holy Spirit the process
continues to bring the flesh into complete subjection. "May
God himself, the God of peace, sanctify you through and through.
May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless at the coming
of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful and
he will do it" (I Thessalonians 5:23).
of gradually bringing the soul and body under the control of the
Spirit is the process of sanctification, of becoming holy, because
the Spirit is holy. It is achieved through "the sanctifying
work of the Spirit" (2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2). It
is the process of being transformed by the renewing of our minds
(Romans 12:2). It is the process of putting off the old self and
putting on the new self (Ephesians 4:22-24; Colossians 3:9-10).
It is the process by which we "are being transformed into his
likeness with ever increasing glory" (2 Corinthians 3:18).
of looking at this is to say that there are two spirits warring
against each other. The flesh is governed by "the spirit who
is now at work in those who are disobedient" (Ephesians 2:2).
The spirit is governed by the Holy Spirit of God. There is war between
them until we yield all of ourselves to the Holy Spirit.
THE FRUITS OF THE FLESH AND THE SPIRIT CONTRASTED
The Fruit of the Flesh. In Galatians 5:19 Paul begins to contrast
in detail the results of living by the flesh and living by the Spirit.
The list of acts of the flesh is obviously not complete. Mark 7:20-23
gives a somewhat different list of things that come out from inside
a man and make him unclean. There are other listings in other Scriptures
(see Ephesians 4:25-31, 5:3-7; Colossians 3:5-11). But it is clear
what kind of things Paul is talking about. It is this kind of thing,
Paul says, that bears "fruit for death" (Romans 7:5).
Notice how relevant
this list, written almost 2,000 years ago, is to conditions in today's
society. "Sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery"
are rampant, not only in the media but in real life. "Idolatry
and witchcraft"are also rampant today. An idol is anything
we put ahead of God; many today have things they put ahead of God,
such as physical comfort, power, influence, popular opinion, etc.,
and many have turned away from the one true God to worship secular
humanism, New Age pantheism or other false gods. Outright witchcraft
and satanism are on the rise, but note also that the Greek word
for witchcraft, pharmakeia, is closely related to drugs.
"Hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition,
dissensions, factions and envy" are just as common today as
they were in Paul's day. The same can be said of "drunkenness,
orgies and the like."
The Fruit of the Spirit. "But the fruit of the Spirit is
love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness
and self-control. Against such things there is no law" (Galatians
5:22). These are all aspects of one fruit, they are interrelated.
We shall discuss each of these aspects in detail in a later part
of this paper. Again, there are other formulations of them, sometimes
less complete and sometimes somewhat different. (See Ephesians 4:32-5:2;
Colossians 3:12-17; 1 Timothy 6:11; 2 Timothy 2:22; 2 Peter 1:5-7.)
In a sense, much of Scripture, including most of the Sermon on the
Mount, deals with the fruit of the Spirit. I shall focus, in this
paper, on the formulation in Galatians 5:22-23.
THE CONSEQUENCES OF THE CHOICE
We can choose
which fruit we will produce. The consequences of our choice are
5:21, after listing the acts of the sinful nature, Paul says, "I
warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not
inherit the kingdom of God." Ephesians 5:5-6 says the same,
and adds a further warning: "No immoral, impure or greedy person
- such a man is an idolater - has any inheritance in the kingdom
of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for
because of such things God's wrath comes on those who are disobedient."
Colossians 3:5-6 warns, "Put to death, therefore, whatever
belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust,
evil desires and greed, which is idolatry. Because of these the
wrath of God is coming."
Later in Galatians
Paul uses even stronger language. "Do not be deceived. God
cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. The one who sows to
please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction;
the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap
eternal life" (Galatians 6:7-8).
In Romans Paul
again paints the contrast as one between life and death. "Those
who live according to the sinful nature have their minds set on
what that nature desires; but those who live in accordance with
the Spirit have their minds set on what the Spirit desires. The
mind of sinful man is death, but the mind controlled by the Spirit
is life and peace; the sinful mind is hostile to God. It does not
submit to God's law, nor can it do so. Those controlled by the sinful
nature cannot please God" (Romans 8:5-8). "Therefore,
brothers, we have an obligation - but it is not to the sinful nature,
to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful
nature you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds
of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit
of God are sons of God" (Romans 8:13-14).
Paul uses the imagery of darkness and light. "For you were
once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children
of light (for the fruit of the light consists in all goodness, righteousness
and truth) and find out what pleases the Lord. Have nothing to do
with the fruitless deeds of darkness... Be very careful, then, how
you live" (Ephesians 5:8-11,15).
In Romans chapter
6 he uses yet another image. "Do not offer the parts of your
body to sin, as instruments [literally weapons] of wickedness, but
rather, offer yourselves to God, as those who have been brought
from death to life; and offer the parts of your body to him as instruments
of righteousness" (Romans 6:13).
us to crucify the sinful nature with its passions and desires (Galatians
5:24), to "put to death... whatever belongs to your earthly
nature" (Colossians 3:5).
In these letters, all written to believers, Paul puts the choice
very starkly. If we live according to the sinful nature, according
to the desires of the flesh, we will not inherit the kingdom of
heaven, we will incur the wrath of God, we will receive destruction
and death, we will not be the sons of God, we will live in darkness,
and we will be instruments for satan. If we allow the Spirit of
God to control our flesh, we will have eternal life, we will be
children of God, we will live in the light, we will be instruments
of God, and we will become like God in character.
THE POWER OF THE HOLY SPIRIT
While we must
choose which way of life we want to live, it is only by the power
of the Holy Spirit within us that we can overcome our fleshly desires.
In Romans Paul speaks of the war within his self that prevents him
from doing what he wants, and cries out "What a wretched man
I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? Thanks be to God
- through Jesus Christ our Lord" (Romans 7:24-25; see also
Continues on Next Page