The 9 fruit of the spirit give us guidance and advice about our personal conduct. In other words, it tells us how we should behave as our behaviour shows what type of person we are. Just as the fruit of a tree shows the type of tree it is, so our behaviour shows the type of person we are. In this article we will consider the attributes we need to develop – these are the fruits of the spirit.
The 9 fruits of the spirit are listed in Galatians chapter 5 and verses 22 and 23.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The fruit tree
Most of us at some stage have had something to do with gardening. Perhaps we have had a fruit tree in our garden, and have realised how pleasing it would be to have fruit upon that tree—whether it were a pear, an orange, apple or a plum tree. If we see a little fruit appear on the tree, how happy we are, how highly we value it, although perhaps the produce of the tree might be bought more easily at a grocery store.
This very natural desire of growing fruit trees God has used as a figure to express in His Word His mind towards men and women. He likened Israel to a vine which He had brought out of Egypt, and He expected this vine to bring forth fruit, but, disappointingly, instead of producing juicy grapes as it should have done, it brought forth “wild grapes,”. As a result, God had to root it up—for the time being, He had to change His purpose toward Israel.
The Lord Jesus Christ in the parable of the husbandman, shows how God had taken great care of His vineyard, had done everything which he could in order that it might produce fruit, but it did not produce the results intended. We have Christ’s application of the parable:—“Therefore say I unto you, the kingdom of God shall be taken from you (the nation of Israel), and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.” This is the nation of baptised believers.
When we consider the fruit of the Kingdom of God and compare that to the fruit of the Spirit we find that they are one and the same. As the parable indicates, the Kingdom of God is now offered to a people who shall manifest the fruit of it. That offer has been extended to the Gentiles (non-Jews), and in connection with the Gentiles it has come to each of us individually, but it is conditional upon our bringing forth the fruit of the kingdom, which is the fruit of the Spirit.
We see from that, how necessary it is that we should fully understand and realise what the fruit of the kingdom or the Spirit is, in order that we may bring such forth and as a result inherit the kingdom. In the sayings of Christ we are told that a good tree brings forth good fruit, and also that a good tree is known by its fruits (Matthew 7: 15-20). We are, therefore, to be known by the fruit we produce.
The remainder of this article looks at the fruit we must produce. As we consider them, let us strive to store up in our minds the things which God requires of us as essential to an entrance into His glorious kingdom. The fruit must grow and develop in you but you will not become a better person with no effort. Also, we should not try to succeed on our own. It is through God’s power that we become spiritual and grow fruit. God helps our efforts.
Here they are again:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
We need to develop these attributes within ourselves and the way we behave.
The two greatest commandments are to love God and love your neighbour.
And he said to him, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind. This is the great and first commandment. And a second is like it: You shall love your neighbour as yourself. (Matthew 22: 37-39)
The law of love is found throughout the Bible and is the foundation of the gospel message and also of the believer’s life. There is no hope if we do not have love. God has shown his love through grace and we can see that reflected in his forgiveness, patience, mercy, gentleness and kindness.
The apostle writes beautiful words about what exactly is love:
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never ends. 1 Corinthians 13: 4-8
Love is not optional thing in our life. It is commanded and essential to living a life as a Christian. It is not a emotion that we can’t control but rather it is a choice. Love is not a feeling we have, it is shown through our actions.
When a sinner repents there is rejoicing in heaven. The repentant sinner also experiences great joy as he knows that his past mistakes can be wiped clean and he can move on with his life. However, a believer should continue to have joy:
Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. (James 1:2-4)
In Christ strength is available to overcome trials, for faith can provide the way to victory. The apostles rejoiced when under trial:
Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name. (Acts 5:41)
Paul also spoke about this to believers:
Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand; do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 4-7)
For those who become baptised there is a sense of joy that can remain untainted from the effects of the world. Joy is a constant and active force in the disciple’s life. This will point forward to even greater joy when Jesus returns to establish the Kingdom.
When Jesus suffered extreme pain he looked to the future joy for his comfort:
looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith, who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is seated at the right hand of the throne of God. (Hebrews 12:2)
Mark chapter 4 and verses 35 to 41 tells of a great storm:
On that day, when evening had come, he said to them, “Let us go across to the other side.” And leaving the crowd, they took him with them in the boat, just as he was. And other boats were with him. And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” And they were filled with great fear and said to one another, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?”
Have you been in a big storm whilst you were in a ship? The furniture on the ship gets thrown across the room. The people are finding it hard to stand up. It is very difficult. Or maybe you have been on a cliff top and you see a big storm coming into land. The waves hurl themselves against the rocks below you.
When you see these big storms it makes you feel helpless doesn’t it as there is nothing you can do to control the weather. You get the feeling that nature cannot be controlled. It is not in man’s power to control it.
Back in the first century such a large storm came across the Sea of Galilee. The waters of the Sea of Galilee had been relatively still. Jesus wanted to go to the other side of the sea so he and his disciples climbed into a boat. Whilst they were sailing towards the other side Jesus fell asleep as he lay on a cushion at the rear of the boat. Then a storm came across the Sea of Galilee and the waves started entering into boat causing it to almost sink. The disciples were getting very worried and they woke Jesus and said “Teacher, don’t you care if we drown?”. Jesus got up and called to the wind and said to the waves: “Quiet! Be still”. Then the wind died down and it was completely calm.
When they asked him “don’t you care if we drown?”, of course Jesus cared. He still cares now. He will continue caring until the time for caring is no longer needed and everything is at peace. Jesus knows that there will not be true peace joy and tranquillity until the Kingdom of his Father. It will only be then that there is true peace.
When they were in the boat, we are told that Jesus stopped the violent wind and waves. By doing this he was showing them that he gives peace to all those who follow him. Jesus later on said to his disciples:
Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid. (John 14:27)
So what did Jesus mean by these words? He was saying that after he died and was resurrected that nothing would ever be the same again for the disciples. The disciples would face magistrates and torture and even death, but they would be reassured that ultimately they could not be destroyed. They would ultimately be given eternal life and allowed to live in a future kingdom. It would be here that they would have peace that no man in this current world could ever comprehend and understand.
Jesus was offering a peace in the future that would be like nothing we know now. This was taught to the people at that time:
As for the word that he sent to Israel, preaching good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all), (Acts 10:36)
In the future there will be everlasting peace and prosperity. We have peace now if we have confidence in Jesus and believe that everything he has taught us about the future will truly take place. We have peace if we have faith. We have peace if we look forward with confidence to the future.
Paul tells us that we can find peace by prayer:
do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4: 6-7)
Jesus is our peace by reconciling us to God.
Therefore, since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ. (Romans 5:1)
We also need to play our part by living in peace with those around us.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. (Romans 12: 18)
JESUS, in his life, showed great patience. He was reflecting a quality of his Father. God was described as being:
merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth. (Exodus 34:6)
As believers it is our responsibility to reflect the qualities of God in our lives. Patience is one of these characteristics. We must be patient in waiting for the Lord Jesus Christ return with the assurance that God will work out His will at a time decided by Him. We must also be patient with those around us with the humility first to acknowledge our own imperfection.
Jesus had amazing patience. He was patient in prayer, often spending whole nights in meditation. He was patient with his disciples who often lacked faith and failed to understand the purpose of his mission. Jesus shows loving patience and supports us when we lack faith.
As a fruit of the spirit, patience is grown from a seed and is the result of loving attention to its growth. When Jesus was explaining the parable of the sower he says that if we hear the word, keep it and bring forth fruit, then we are classed as good ground or soil. This fruit is the result of many years of patient cultivation.
As for that in the good soil, they are those who, hearing the word, hold it fast in an honest and good heart, and bear fruit with patience. (Luke 8:15)
The vine is a good example since it takes seven years for it to be fully productive. As a result, the owner of the vine has to practise patience. Likewise we cannot expect to produce the fruit of patience as soon as we are planted anew in Christ (i.e. when we are baptised). For the spiritual health we need to practise patience.
The Bible presents us with many patient men and women. For example, Abraham and Sarah demonstrated that their patience was closely linked with their faith. And so it should be with us. As our faith increases, so too must our patience:
Love is patient and kind; (1 Corinthians 13:4).
We appreciate it when someone is kind to us. Therefore we should also be kind to others at all times.
Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, (Colossians 3:12)
Jesus told his disciples to do to others as they would want to have done to them. In other words, if we want others to be kind to us then we should be kind to them.
God showed his kindness to us by sending his son Jesus Christ.
…so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus. (Ephesians 2:7)
As God has shown kindness to us, we need to show that kindness to others.
The characteristic of “goodness” is almost exclusively a description of God’s character. To be good means to be useful, morally excellent, gentle and kind. All these qualities are brought together in Christ. Yet even Jesus recognised that his Father was the source and giver of these attributes. Despite God demonstrating His usefulness, moral excellence, gentleness and kindness, the majority of Israel through history preferred to walk after their own desires and not what God wanted. However, Jesus followed the supreme example of his Father. He practised goodness throughout his life.
Note then the kindness and the severity of God: severity toward those who have fallen, but God's kindness to you, provided you continue in his kindness. Otherwise you too will be cut off. Romans 11:22
The goodness that God has provided is Jesus Christ. We can only be blessed with goodness if we continue to stand with him. Jesus is able to sympathise with our weaknesses because he has been tempted in every way, just as we are. The difference is that he was without sin. What Jesus wants us to do is to place our burdens on him so that we are free to express “goodness”. When we try to be useful, gentle and kind let us not boast of moral excellence but rather recognise that we are not in any way intrinsically “good”.
Goodness is the very essence of God’s character and he wants us to have this as part of our character. This is why it is one of the fruits of the spirit. Paul has some lovely words in relation to this:
Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Philippians 4:8)
Faith involves believing there is a God and He has a plan for this earth.
And without faith it is impossible to please him, for whoever would draw near to God must believe that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him. (Hebrews 11:6)
If someone chooses to follow God, they must be baptised and then be faithful to the end. They must trust God and then remain faithful to Him. The Bible has many examples of believers who were baptised.
To be faithful involves believing in something without having actually seen it. For the believer it involves looking back through the events of history. The Bible is full of history, much of which has been proved true by modern scholars. The Bible sheds light on the past but not just as a historical record but more importantly to teach us about God and his plan for this earth. The words of Scripture have to drive a change in our lives now. By faith we live for the glory that is yet to be revealed when Jesus returns to the earth.
We are told that we are justified by faith, works and—in case any should boast—by grace. By faith we need to cleave to Jesus with all our being. In this sense we “abide in Christ and Christ in us” (John 15:4).
In Hebrews chapter 11 there is a list of believers of faith. One outstanding example of faith is that of Abraham. For this reason, in the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Jesus uses “father Abraham” as a symbol for himself. For both Abraham and Jesus, faith was not a mere passing phase but a continuing attitude. Abraham’s faith began when he was called out of Ur. He continued in faith more perfectly than we could ever hope to achieve. Jesus is “the author and finisher of our faith”; and only by faith—the perfected faith of one who could see “the joy that was set before him”—could he have “endured the cross, despising the shame” (Hebrews 12:2).
Paul wrote about being gentle when you are a believer.
Nor did we seek glory from people, whether from you or from others, though we could have made demands as apostles of Christ. But we were gentle among you, like a nursing mother taking care of her own children. (1 Thessalonians 2: 6-7)
In a similar way he wrote to Timothy, teaching that spiritual leaders should be gentle (1 Timothy 3:3). Even if we are not a leader we still need to be gentle towards others. Rather than harshly criticising others we should rather behave in a gentle and kind manner.
And the Lord's servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, (2 Timothy 2:24-25)
The apostle Paul was writing a letter to a young believer called Timothy. In the letter he gave Timothy some advice on how he should live his life. The advice can be found in 2 Timothy chapter 1 and verse 7:
“God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control”. (2 Timothy 1:7)
So what is self-control? What does it mean when we have self-control in our lives? We have self-control when we limit and restrain those things which are in opposition to what God requires. Self-control in a person can take many forms. In other words, self-control will be shown in different ways for each individual person.
So you can understand what it means let’s consider some examples of self-control.
If you enjoy food – some people will keep on eating it beyond what is healthy. These people need to show restraint in the amount of food they eat – they need self-control. They need to control how much food they eat.
If a person likes drinking alcohol, that person may be tempted to drink a lot of it and become drunk. But if you exercise self-control you will only drink alcohol in moderation. You will never drink it excessively and become drunk.
If someone does something bad to you – some people may want to get even with that person by abusing them or hitting them. The person needs to exercise self-control by restraining themselves. They exercise their self-control over their anger.
Paul thought that self-control was important and so he wrote a lot of advice about it. We just read some of his advice to the young man Timothy. He wrote more advice on self-control in a letter he wrote to Titus. He was giving this advice to the overseers. These are the older ones who all the others looked up to for guidance. Paul says that the elders or older ones must be self-controlled.
Since an overseer is entrusted with God's work, he must be blameless—not overbearing, not quick-tempered, not given to drunkenness, not violent, not pursuing dishonest gain. Rather he must be hospitable, one who loves what is good, who is self-controlled, upright, holy and disciplined. Titus Ch.1:7-8 NIV
If we look carefully at those words we can see what it means to have self control over yourself. He or she must not be quick tempered. In other words, they must control their anger and not get angry quickly. Another one is drunkenness. This is the one we mentioned before about not drinking alcohol excessively. We must have self-control over how much alcohol we drink. Another one is self-control over pursuing dishonest gain. This is talking about people who try to increase their money by dishonestly taking money from others. So we need to show self-control over ourselves and always act honestly with our money.
In many other places Paul tells different people to show self-control. He tells old men to be self-controlled (Titus 2:2). He tells older women to teach self-control to the younger women
Likewise, teach the older women to be reverent in the way they live, not to be slanderers or addicted to much wine, but to teach what is good. Then they can train the younger women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled and pure, to be busy at home, to be kind, and to be subject to their husbands, so that no one will malign the word of God. (Titus Ch.2:3-5)
Paul also tells the young men to have self-control. (Titus Ch.2:6)
So from these writings of Paul we can see that everybody needs to learn to be self-controlled. Paul made this such a big point because he knew that self-control does not come naturally to us. We need to work on it.
Self-control is a challenge to everybody. It is a challenge to all of us. Each person has some area in thought or action where they find self-control difficult. However, if we don’t exercise self-control then it can lead us to being disobedient to God. If we can control ourselves it is the greatest of all victories. It is something we can feel good about.
There are many examples of those who had self control over their temper or their anger. King David stayed calm when he was cursed. Nehemiah also showed that he could control his spirit even when the enemy sneered at him and attempted to destroy him.
God encourages each one of us to exercise self-control in all things we do. It is so important that it is one of nine fruits of the spirit. It is listed amongst the nine most important things that we should show in our lives
All people must show self-control but especially the elder who others look to as an example:
Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money. (1 Timothy Ch.3:2-3 NIV)
Even though these words were spoken to the older ones who others look up to, they are words we all can take to heart and adopt in our daily lives.
The lesson for us is to develop the characteristic of self-control in our lives. It is a good characteristic to have and it is one which God requires us to have. Consider these words in 1 Peter 1: 5-6
For this very reason, make every effort to add to your faith goodness; and to goodness, knowledge; and to knowledge, self-control; and to self-control, perseverance; and to perseverance, godliness; (1 Peter Ch.1:5-6 NIV)
I will finish this article on the nine fruits of the spirit with these words of Galatians 6: 7-10:
Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. And let us not grow weary of doing good, for in due season we will reap, if we do not give up. So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.