When the gospel is preached and there is a true conversion, then your life changes (Fruit of the Spirit).
Now we are ready to talk about the fruit of the Spirit.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control.
Paul – why does he use fruit? Why not say, traits? He’s using an analogy of botanical growth. Bearing fruit is as gradual as the growth rate of a blade of grass. You can never see it while it is happening. Take for example a young boy or girl. We may say to our child whom we see everyday, I think you’ve grown, but I’m not sure. Growth is so small, so gradual that you can’t see it.
So we need to be patient. In terms of spiritual growth, we don’t often see dramatic change. There are some exceptions like Apostle Paul who seemed to blossom overnight. But for the vast majority of us, there is slow growth. There are long stretches of winter. But there are also seasons of growth in the springtime.
Spiritual growth of fruit is gradual. It’s mysterious. We can’t self-generate growth. We can’t will growth, even physical growth, you can’t will it. How much more we are utterly powerless to grow ourselves spiritually. It’s the fruit OF THE SPIRIT. The Spirit does the growth and we can’t fully explain it. It’s mysterious. And it’s seasonal. No growth, nothing, nothing, week after week, then a sudden spurt of growth.
Growth can never be measured. It can only be tested. Let’s take a runner. You ask a runner, do you feel faster now than you were last year? It’s hard to say. Until you are tested. The stopwatch comes out and you can measure it. Same goes for spiritual life. Have you grown in the fruit of the Spirit? It’s hard to tell until you’re tested. A trial comes. Trouble hits. You are in a jam. Someone speaks a harsh word to you and you don’t react with harshness. And you realize, wow, I’ve grown in patience. I never would have been this patient last year.
Christian growth is inevitable. If you have the Spirit of God within you, you will grow. You must. It’s like an acorn. It grows into a tree and it is powerful enough to split the sidewalk. An acorn vs. a thousand pound slab of concrete. Who wins? It’s no contest. The acorn will always win. A tree grows and it splits the pavement. Botanical growth has this kind of power in its gradual-ness. How much more powerful is the fruit of the Spirit?
Let’s be clear. You are not saved by fruit. You are saved by faith in Christ. This is the gospel. A genuine encounter with Christ that leads to a true conversion will result in change, growth, fruit. You are saved by faith, not fruit. But also, you are not saved if your faith is fruitless. True faith and true fruit are inseparable.
The question is, how do you know if you have the fruit of the Spirit? Don’t ask yourself. Ask your friends. What does your spouse and your kids say about you? Your best friend who is not biased and blindly loyal. What do they say?
Have you been a Christian a long time and yet you can’t keep secrets? Or you can’t control your temper or your tongue? You have secret sins that nobody else knows about and you are powerless to overcome. You’re always feeling snubbed. You get offended easily so you jump from group to group, church to church until you give up altogether and you are left with yourself. These are warning signs that you lack the fruit of the Spirit. You can’t know for sure if you are a Christian without there being change in your life.
The change is gradual and it’s inevitable. An acorn can be under the slab for a long time. But it will poke through eventually. The change is gradual, it’s inevitable, and it’s internal.
There is a difference between mechanical growth and organic growth. For example, you can make a pile of bricks. And the pile may be growing, but it is not growing organically. It’s mechanical. It’s not the same as the way a child grows.
John Wesley and Martin Luther – they did good things, wrote commentaries, taught the Bible, gave alms to the poor, clothed the homeless, fed the hungry, they did things to grow their spiritual resume, but they weren’t growing themselves. Until they met Christ and they were born again later in life.
Love comes from the inside out. 1 Cor 13 – the point of this chapter is that you can have all these external giftings, but if you are harsh, if you’re rude, then the bottom line is, you’re not loving. 1 Cor 13, Matt 7, Gal 5 – God is God so he can use your gifts to save people, even if you are not saved. If all you have is external change or mechanical change, God can still use your life to achieve his purposes. But in the end, Jesus will say, I never knew you. If people’s lives are being changed through you, through your ministry, but you are not being changed, stop everything you’re doing and go to Jesus. Ministry can be a sign of true spiritual life, but it can also be a leaf.
If you are not being changed, you don’t know whether or not you have true salvation. I’m not saying you are not saved, but you have no way of knowing for sure.
Spiritual change or fruit bearing is gradual, it’s inevitable, it’s internal and its symmetric.
Notice that it says in Gal 5:22, the fruit of the Spirit, not the fruits. This was the wildest thing when I learned this. I never saw this in all my years until a couple of years ago. The subject is singular and the predicate is plural. Did you ever notice that? What is going on here? Why is Paul breaking the rules of grammar? Real Christian change – all of these things–love, joy, peace, and so forth–are one. It is a singular fruit.
Here’s an excerpt from Charity and Its Fruits” by Jonathan Edwards.
“Thus it appears that all the graces of Christianity are concatenated and linked together, so as to be mutually connected and mutually dependent… They are all communicated in the same work of the Spirit, namely, in conversion. There is not one conversion of the soul to faith, and another conversion to love to God, and another to humility, and another to repentance, and still another to love to man; but all are produced by one and the same work of the Spirit, and are the result of one and the same conversion, or change of the heart. And this proves that all the graces are united and linked together, as being contained in that one and the same new nature that is given us in regeneration.” (p. 274-76)
The key word in the Edwards quote that helps unlock the mystery of Gal 5:22 is the word “concatenated.” The graces of Christianity are concatenated, or linked together, connected. Apply this to Gal 5–it’s one singular fruit. Think of the fruit of Spirit as a singular cluster of fruit, all linked up and dependent on one another.
All the graces of Christianity go together. There’s a symmetry. For example, peace and humility. What if you are proud, but you are at peace all the time. Then, it’s a counterfeit peace. True peace comes from humility. The root of worry, or the lack of peace is pride. It’s a refusal to take a humble posture before God. Anyone who worries thinks they know what they need. An arrogant person is very sure of what he needs. This is the complete opposite of a person who is at peace out of his humility. God, I know you are always there. Lord, you know what I need. I don’t know. I put myself in your hands. I’m a child. You’re my Father. Peace is always connected to humility. If you are proud, you think you are at peace, but your “peace” is the result of wise choices you made, the job security you have, and so forth.
Some people are very gentle but they are not faithful. Faithfulness here refers to loyalty and courage. You can be gentle, but that may simply be your temperament. A personality trait. Some are just sweethearts by nature. It’s your Myers Briggs-ness. You are sweet but you’re a coward. You have a natural sweetness, but you are too afraid to hurt anyone. If you are cowardly and you’re gentle, then you’re not really gentle.
Fruit of the Spirit. One fruit. They’re all connected. They all come together. Also, they’re interdependent. A lot of people think they have self-control. Yet there are things they are addicted to. The reason you get addicted to things so easily is because you lack joy. So you settle and get addicted to something vastly inferior to the object of true joy, God himself.
Concatenation of the graces. Peace and joy are present consistently. You have integrity. Meaning you’re consistent, however you slice you, in whatever situation, you’re always the same. It’s not true peace and joy if those are absent when circumstances change or if they fly away when you’re around a different set of people.
You can be a bubbly person. You seem joyous, but you can’t keep friends. That’s being extroverted, but it’s not the same thing as true joy.
Some are so accepting, they’re non-judgmental. But the underlying reason you are gentle is because you are always falling into sin, you lack discipline so you are tolerant of other people as a way of dealing with your own conscience.
Some appear unflappable. They seem to be at peace because they’re never rattled. Yet, they are not gentle, not kind. Where did they get their peace from? It’s not from the Spirit. It came from a heart that says, I don’t care what other people say, I don’t care what happens to me, I’m secure in myself and my abilities.
Final question, how do we bear fruit? Fruit-bearing requires two things. First, v24–
24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires.
You have to crucify the sinful nature. Does that mean just stopping certain behaviors? That’s like cutting off a branch. You have to deal with the root, not the branches. Our sin arises because there are things in our hearts that we desire more than Jesus. There is something at the root level that is more important to you than Jesus Christ and that thing is running your life and creating the works of the flesh. Those things need to be crucified. You need to go home and identify the things that need to be crucified.
25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit.
While the flesh desires things like self-glory, recognition, the applause of men, the Spirit only desires one thing–Jesus. The Spirit is in love with Jesus. We are the bride of Christ and Jesus is the Bridegroom and the Spirit is like the best man and the maid of honor who brings us together. And the Spirit says, look at how beautiful Jesus is. The reason you lack self-control and the reason you worry and the reason you waste your life away on idols is because you don’t recognize the beauty of Christ.
Paul does not say, fruit vs. weeds. It’s fruit vs. acts or works. Why does Paul mix his metaphors? Works of the flesh is something you do. Fruit of the Spirit is something you avail yourself to. The gardener doesn’t make the seed grow. All he can do is to create the right conditions for growth.
What are the right conditions for growth? A heart that has crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. Examine your passions and desires. Are there things that you are more passionate about than Jesus? Things that you desire more than Jesus? Those need to be crucified. Second, you need to live by the Spirit and keep in step with the Spirit as he directs your attention to the beauty of Christ. Now we are full circle. We are back to the gospel. Jesus is the gospel embodied. He not only saves us, he sanctifies us as we abide in Christ moment by moment.
If you understand the gospel and you are truly converted, your life will change. Fruit will be born as you continue to reckon your flesh as dead and as you rely on the Spirit, whose sole job is to point you back to Christ, not just for salvation, but for your sanctification.