|But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. — Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)|
Fruit is the delectable product of that which is created by the inner life of the vine. On the eve of the Crucifixion, the Lord Jesus put it thus: “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). Earlier on a Galilean hillside, He had said, “By their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20). The fruit we bear as believers is evidence of His abiding on the throne of our lives.
At first glance, there appears to be a grammatical error in this verse. Note carefully: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace . . .” The truth is that the fruit of the Spirit is love. Love, period. The nine fruits listed here are a cluster describing the evidence of the life of Christ within us. The fruit is singular here because it is the outcropping of one’s life within. The fruit represents what we are rather than what we do. Here we are reintroduced to the principle of being before doing. What we do is determined by who, or whose, we really are!
The fruit described in Galatians is a triad: three clusters with three fruits each. They are reflected in a countenance that is obvious, conduct that is orderly, and a character that is obedient.
A COUNTENANCE THAT IS OBVIOUS “love, joy, peace”
Certain individuals seem to have a countenance of love, joy, and peace. The word translated “love” here is agape, God’s own love. This is the highest level of love, the kind that always seeks the other’s highest good. It is the same word we found back in the John 3:16 statement that “God so loved the world.” It is no coincidence that love is first on the list of nine pieces of fruit here. It is the fountain of all others. Everything good issues out of God’s love.
Next comes joy. It is the inner joy of Christ that reveals itself through our very countenance. This is the joy spoken of by Christ to His disciples on His last night in their presence: “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). If ever there were an attribute deserving of a place next to love, it is joy.
Peace makes up this triad of characteristics that are obvious in the countenance of the Spirit-controlled believer. Inner peace is God’s very special gift to us. Again, on the evening before His death on the cross, Jesus speaks these words: “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid” (John 14:27). When we are abiding in the Spirit, the natural outcome is love, joy, and peace. It becomes obvious in our very countenance.
A CONDUCT THAT IS ORDERLY “longsuffering, kindness, goodness”
Longsuffering is synonymous with patience. This translates from a compound word in Greek meaning “far from anger.” This type of conduct, which is virtually void of a spirit of retaliation, cannot be worked up. It is produced from within. In our fast-paced, self-seeking world, patience does not seem to be in high demand. Like all the others in this cluster of fruit, longsuffering arises from love. Love’s greatest triumph is not always in what love does but—more often than not—in what love refrains from doing.
The conduct of one who is abiding in Christ is also characterized by kindness. This same Greek word appears in the Ephesian epistle: “that in the ages to come He might show the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus” (Ephesians 2:7). Since Christ shows His kindness to us and He abides within us, we are to pass this kindness on to others in a conduct that is orderly.
Paul then introduced the fruit of goodness. Jesus “went about doing good” (Acts 10:38). There is a genuine sense of goodness about those who are abiding in Christ and being controlled by His Spirit. This orderly conduct is seen in the lives of many who have come to Christ. Where once they may have been impatient, now they have supernatural patience. Where once they were self-centered, now they show kindness toward others. Where once they may have been self-seeking, now their actions are characterized by goodness.
A CHARACTER THAT IS OBEDIENT “faithfulness, gentleness, self-control”
What better could be said of someone than that he or she is characterized by faithfulness to God! Jesus reminded us that “he who is faithful in what is least is faithful also in much” (Luke 16:10). When we live a life of faithfulness, there is something inherent about it that strengthens our own sense of self-worth.
Another fruit that issues out of the abiding life in Christ is gentleness. This is the same word we translate “meek” in Matthew 5:5. On the surface it sounds a bit weak. However, it is one of the strongest character traits that can exist. The word picture is of a stallion that has been domesticated. Or, as the cowboys here in Texas would say, “The horse has been broken.” Once it was a bucking bronco and now it has a gentleness about it. This Greek word speaks of power on a leash. It describes an animal that has come under the control of a master. Gentleness is the natural outflow of that life within.
Finally, we come to the last piece of fruit in our cluster— self-control. It is impossible to achieve the highest level of self-control apart from God’s abiding Spirit within us. Self- control does not come by the outworking of mere fleshly energy and effort. Like all the rest of the fruit, self-control is the outcropping of the life of the Holy Spirit within us. When we come to know Christ as a personal Savior, the Father sends the Holy Spirit not only to seal us, indwell us, and fill us, but also to produce fruit through us.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. — Galatians 5:22-23 (NIV)
Memorize this verse and meditate on a few questions: What about my countenance? Do others see love, joy, and peace in me? What about my conduct? Are patience, kindness, and goodness characteristic of who I am? What about my character? Do I exhibit faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control? The fruit of the Spirit is love! Allow Christ’s love to reign and rule in you and through you today. Being comes before doing, for what we do is always determined by who we are.
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