By Pastor Glenn Pease
A doctor, an engineer, and an attorney were debating whose profession was the oldest. The doctor said, " it's obvious the medical profession was the first. The Bible refers to God creating Eve from Adam's rib, and that is surgical procedure." But the engineer said, "No! before that, God created the world out of chaos, and one must be an engineer to create a world." "But wait," said the lawyer, "where do you think that chaos came from?"
Lawyer's do create a lot of chaos, because the very nature of their profession involves the chaos of broken laws, and the resulting broken lives. Chaos is their bread and butter. One lawyer had a bumper sticker that read, "PLEASE HIT ME-I'M A LAWYER." The complexity of the law is so vast because, as judge Harry Shafer writes, "we have fifty million laws trying to enforce ten commandments." There has to be a law against so many human actions because they are offensive and harmful to other persons and their property. Paul lists fifteen acts of the sinful nature of man in verses 19-21 of Galatians 5. But then in verses 22-23 he lists nine things which he calls the fruit of the Spirit, and he ends verse 23 with this statement, "against such things there is no law." Laws are to restrain people from certain behavior, but there is no need to restrain from these nine things.
In all the huge volumes of laws around the world you will search in vain to find a law against love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. So it is not true that everything good is either illegal or fattening. None of these nine fruits will add a pound to your body or any guilt to your conscience, for there is nothing illegal or fattening. There is no need for laws to control the growth of this fruit, for in contrast to the acts of the flesh, these acts and attitudes do not hurt people in any way. They help and heal, and they add beauty and pleasure to all relationships. These fruits are a foretaste of heaven, and the goal in this life is to become a garden where they grow in abundance.
The Greek word for fruit is KARPOS, and it is a very popular word in the New Testament. It is used 66 times, and Jesus uses it more than all the rest combined. It was one of His favorite words. I looked up a number of the texts where Jesus used the word fruit and discovered that sometimes he said fruits, in the plural. At other times he used the singular to convey the plural. The singular and the plural are used interchangeably. My conclusion is that there is no basis for the debate over which is most correct to say, the fruit of the Spirit, or the fruits of the Spirit. It makes no difference if you call them the fruit of the fruits of the Spirit. Either way you are dealing with nine distinct values.
Fruit is a very positive word, for it brings to mind the images of delicious and tasty food we enjoy. God started the world with a very healthy environment, for the basic food was fruit in the garden of Eden. Fruit is basic to the good health of the body. The Bible ends with fruit as the key food also, for in the book of Rev. we see the Tree of Life, and it bears twelve kinds of fruit-one for each month of the year. If the Bible begins and ends with fruit, that ought to be a good clue as to what a healthy diet is in the eyes of God. There is no image of paradise anywhere that does not include fruit as a major factor in its beauty and pleasure
The word fruit comes from the Latin word FRUCTUS, which means enjoyment. Fruit got this name because it is the source of such quick and easy pleasure. You just grab an apple off the tree and sink your teeth into it and enjoy it right now without any preparation or cooking. So it is also with many other fruits. In contrast, grains, vegetables, and meats call for delayed pleasure until they are prepared for eating. It is the instant nature of their enjoyment that is a distinguishing characteristic of fruit.
This is the case with the nine fruits of the Spirit also. They give instant pleasure to the soul. Like physical fruit, they may take time to develop, but when they are ripe they give immediate enjoyment to both producer and consumer. People who eat only fruit are called fruitarians. In this series on the Fruits of the Spirit we are going to be Biblical fruitarians, and strive to consume all God has revealed about spiritual fruit.
The Fruits of the Spirit are actually superior to the Gifts of the Spirit. The Gifts can be abused and need laws to regulate them, lest they do more harm than good. And if you have gifts but not the fruits, they are worthless, as Paul says in ICor. 13. You can have the gift of tongues, and speak like an angel, but without love you are just a noisy gong and clanging cymbal. You can have the gift of prophecy and knowledge and understand all mysteries, but without the fruit of love, you are nothing. Even if you have the gift of faith and can do miracles like moving mountains, but lack love, you are no asset to the kingdom of God. The point Paul is making is that the Gifts of the Spirit need to be under the direction of the Fruits of the Spirit, or they lose their value Gifts have to do with what you do, but Fruits have to do with who you are. Being comes before doing. Doing the right thing can be done even by the most evil of people, but being the right kind of person is what God is after. Being Christ like has to do with character and not just conduct. The Fruits focus on character and the inner being and not just on conduct.
The really good news about the Fruits of the Spirit is that they are available to all Christians. So many of God's people feel they have no gifts, or certainly none that are spectacular. But Paul makes it clear that nobody is second class when it comes to the Fruits. The gifts are like body parts. The eye has the gift of seeing, the ear the gift of hearing, the feet the gift of walking, and so on. Each has a specialized function that the other members of the body may not have. But the Fruits of the Spirit are for all members of the body, equally.
No Christian can say that they do not have the capacity to love, feel joy, have peace, etc., like other Christians. They may not have the gifts of others in the body, but all have equal access to these fruits. These are not exclusive to any part of the body. They are for all parts of the body, and every member of the body is expected to grow these fruits. You and I can be just as loving, and just as joyful, and just as peaceful as Billy Graham, or Mother Teresa, or any other well-known Christian you can think of. There are people in every church who have just as many Fruits of the Spirit as the best known leaders around the world. Many people can walk into their back yard and pick an apple off a tree that is just as good as any of the name brand apples you can get in your supermarket. So there are masses of marvelous fruits in obscure places that almost nobody knows about, but they bring pleasure and beauty to those who do know of them. Every Christian is a potential fruit producer.
You know an apple tree by its fruit. If there are no apples on a tree, but pears instead, you know it is a pear tree. All fruit trees are identified by their fruit. So the Christian is to be identified by the fruit they bear. How do you know if a Christian is growing in Christ likeness? You cannot tell by the position they hold in the church, or by the gifts they display, or by the awards they may win. You can only tell by the fruit that they bear. If they are not adding to the pleasure and beauty of the kingdom, but are adding strife, and negatives of all kinds, they may be gifted leaders even, but they are not fruit bearing believers. This is to be our primary goal. Nothing else matters if we do not produce the Fruits of the Spirit. These are the nine marks of the growing Christian. These are the nine signs of spiritual maturity. These are the nine evidences of Christ likeness.
The importance and significance of these fruits is all the more magnified when we read the words of Donald Gee, the Pentecostal theologian who writes from a charismatic perspective. He makes it clear that Pentecostals make a major mistake in thinking that the gifts are all that matter. He writes,
When the great Forth Bridge in Scotland was
nearing completion we are told that one dull, cold
day the builders tried unsuccessfully all day long
to bring certain important girders together. Every
available device of mechanical power was used,
without success, and at the end of the day they re-
tired completely baffled. But next morning the sun
shone in summer warmth upon the great masses
of steel, and the expansion thus produced soon
enabled them to make the connection. So it is with
much of the work of the Spirit: His power some-
times works more irresistibly in the silent
influences of love, joy, and peace, than in the mightier
manifestations of miracles or prophesying.
That is a powerful testimony coming from a Pentecostal charismatic, for he recognizes that the power of the fruit available to all Christians may be greater than the power of the gifts available to the few. There is no doubt about it, the study of the Fruits of the Spirit can be the most important study of our lives if we allow the knowledge we gain to be transformed into actual fruit. The study of love is only of value if we become more loving, and so it is with each of the fruits. Our prayer need to be like that of the poet who wrote,
Love through me, Love of God,
There is no love in me,
Oh Fire of Love, light thou the love,
That burns perpetually.
Flow through me, Peace of God,
Calm river, flow until
No wind can blow, no current stir
A ripple of self-will.
Shine through me. Joy of God,
Make me like Thy clear air
Which Thou dost pour Thy colors thro'
As though it were not there.
Oh blessed Love of God,
That all may taste and see
How good Thou art, once more I pray:
Love through me, even me.
All of these fruits hang together like a cluster of grapes on the vine. You can't pick and chose which ones you will have and leave the rest alone. They come together, and you have them all, or you don't have them at all. You cannot say I'll be loving and joyful, but I'm not going to be kind and good. This is a package deal, and although your personality may favor some of these over others, they all have to be a part of your personality for you to be Christ like. The lack of any one of them can spoil all the rest. They are one, and that is why some prefer the singular of fruit rather than fruits of the Spirit. They are like nine segments of an orange. They are parts, but together they make one orange. There is one fruit of the Spirit in nine segments.
Even the man of the world might have some of these fruits, but they will be offset by the works of his flesh, and so he will not be Christ like. The Christian is to be in glaring contrast to the man of the world by having the whole package. If one or more is missing we know we are quenching the Spirit. We are keeping some part of our soil in our own soil bank to raise what we want to raise rather than the fruits of the Spirit. To have the full crop we need to surrender our whole being to the Holy Spirit and allow Him freedom to produce in us all that He desires.
This means all of life can be seen as an opportunity to grow one or more of these fruits. If life is going great and all is smooth sailing, let your life grow abundantly in love, joy, and peace. But if life gets hard and there are trials and battles galore, let the Holy Spirit produce in you patience, faithfulness, and self-control. The point is, rain or shine, the Christian needs to learn to use all weather for growing these fruits.
Ian Barclay tells of the girl who read an article in a gardening magazine about a fruitless apple tree. She showed it to her father who was frustrated about his tree, which was just like that. The article said to drive a few nails into the trunk of the tree. He decided to try it, and the next year the tree bore fruit like never before. Sometimes pain and suffering can be productive. It is like pruning a tree. Do not waste hard times. Ask the Holy Spirit to use them as fertilizer to encourage the growth of some fruit. The fertilizer may be awful, but the effects can be wonderful, if the end result is growth of the fruits of the Spirit.
Remember, these are not our fruits, as if we could produce them by our own efforts. They come to us by the working of the Holy Spirit in us. Our task is to open up our lives and let Him work. It is a matter of submission and surrender so that He can change us from within. Can we resist the Spirit, and quench the Spirit, and hold our life down to the level of scrawny crab apples rather than big red delicious apples? Of course we can! That is why we need to study these fruits. Billy Graham preached on these fruits many years ago, and he said in that message, "now these things, these nine things, nine clusters of fruit, are to characterize the life of every Christ-born child of God....But what do we find? We find in the average so-called Christian today, the very opposite." The very opposite being the works of the flesh. Graham is saying Christians can be so worldly there is no way to distinguish between them and the world.
In order to make a difference in this world, Christians have to be different, and the key to that is the production of the fruits of the Spirit. Christians are to be in the fruit business. Why was Israel replaced by the Church to fulfill God's plan? It was a fruit issue. In Matt.21:43 Jesus said to the leaders of Israel, "Therefore I tell you that the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people who will produce its fruit." One of the key reasons Christianity has been superior to Judaism is because it has been more fruitful. The Jews chose to be exclusive, and keep God for themselves. The Christians said, God loves the whole world, and we must heed the command of Christ to go to all people with the good news of His love.
God chose the Gentile world because they would prove to be more fruitful. God is a wise investor, and He wants to get a good return on His investment. He wants fruit, and when He gets it He gives more resources. As we let the Holy Spirit work in our lives to produce fruit, we will be blest by more and more of the grace of God. Fruit produces more fruit until there is a bountiful harvest.
The motive for developing the fruit of the Spirit is both for pleasing God and for self-advancement. The most selfish thing you can do is yield yourself to the Spirit of Christ, for He will do with your life what you could never do. He will produce in you that which could never come from doing your own thing. The Christian wants life to be full of the joy, pleasure, and happiness just like the non-Christian. The non-Christian seeks it primarily by means of the works of the flesh. The Christian is to find it primarily by the Fruits of the Spirit. That is the goal of the following nine chapters.