The apostle Paul listed nine characteristics that must be growing in our lives if we are to call ourselves Christians. What is the fruit of the Spirit?
Galatians 5:22-23 lists nine character traits as the “fruit of the Spirit”:
Verse 23 concludes with, “Against such there is no law.” These characteristics are totally in harmony with the full spiritual intent of God’s holy and beneficial law, and every human government would be happy to have citizens exhibiting these traits.
Growing in the fruit of the Spirit is expected of those who have decided to turn to God. These characteristics aren’t suggestions or possibilities; they are aspects of the mind of God. We are to grow to think and act more like God does, and the fruit of the Spirit helps outline the path of a Christian.
Yet many who claim to be Christian don’t display these fruits very well. It takes more than saying you are a Christian; it takes the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of the Spirit.
Those who have been baptized and received the Holy Spirit should be demonstrating these traits more every day. In fact, without God’s Spirit, the full spiritual maturity of the fruit of the Spirit cannot be achieved. The human spirit can only achieve these characteristics on the surface level, and more often it produces the works of the flesh Paul describes in Galatians 5:19-21:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.”
What does the fruit of the Spirit show others?
Christians who have been given the Holy Spirit have the opportunity to be walking billboards of God’s existence and wisdom. When we demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit, people watch and take notice. Whether they mock us for being naive when we patiently trust in God through trials or commend us for our generous and loving attitudes, they do see. Whether they laugh at us for controlling our human impulses or stare in amazement as we find fulfilling peace amidst tragedy, they see.
The fruit of the Spirit shows that God’s way of life, teachings, Spirit and truth are beneficial. It shows that God knew what He was doing when He inspired men to write the words of the Bible. It shows that we are committed to Him and want to help others get to know Him.
The fruit of the Spirit isn’t about just sitting and waiting for the Kingdom, but rather about training for living God’s way of life now with every thought and action of our lives. Then the example of peace and comfort that comes along with those changed attitudes and standards will be a witness as to why the Kingdom of God is so sorely needed on this earth.
Why we need to grow in the fruit of the Spirit
If we call ourselves Christians, having Christ’s mind in us as new creations, then we must be ever increasing our demonstration of the fruit of the Spirit. This not only affects others around us through our example, but it affects us as well.
In 1 Thessalonians 5:19, Christians are commanded, “Do not quench the Spirit.” We must stay connected to God and always ask Him for more of His Spirit. We must obey God and use His Spirit to become more like Him. Becoming lax in demonstrating the fruit of God’s Holy Spirit is dangerous to our spiritual life. As Christians, we believe that the Holy Spirit is our guarantee or down payment on eternal life (2 Corinthians 1:21-22; Ephesians 1:13-14).
Knowing this, what happens if the very evidence that we have that Holy Spirit begins to slowly decrease and maybe even eventually disappear due to cynicism, life’s trials, mockery and complacency?
Imagine the Holy Spirit as a roaring campfire. What happens to the fire when we stop putting in the fuel and instead throw dirt on it? It goes out. It no longer produces the light or heat for which it was started.
In the same way if we neglect our relationship with God and become focused on the things of the world, we will extinguish the presence of God’s Spirit in our lives and no longer produce the fruit of the Spirit.
In addition to the importance of showing others how God’s Spirit can work in our lives, Christians must never underestimate the importance of fulfilling the covenant we made with the God of the universe when we were baptized and received the greatest gift of all: His Holy Spirit.
Overview of the articles in this section
The other nine articles in this section cover the fruit of the Spirit listed in Galatians 5:22-23: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The articles about each individual character trait include:
- A description of the trait.
- Evidence from the Bible detailing why God wants us to demonstrate it.
- Examples of it found in the Bible.
- A self-examination questionnaire.
- Some ideas of how to grow more of it in our lives.
As we discuss these essential traits of our Christian character, let’s make a firm decision to do our best to demonstrate them in our thoughts and actions. If we call ourselves Christians, we can do no less.
To gain the most from these articles, you need to first answer the following questions by reading these prerequisite articles: