“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.”Galatians 5:22-23 NIV
I’ve always been intrigued taht the apostle Paul used the term “fruit” as opposed to “fruits” when referring to the nine components of the fruit of the Spirit. Hmm. There must be a reason.
“Fruit” Is A Singular Term
There is a very common misunderstanding of the answer to this question in the evangelical church today. Many of us tend to understand the list of characteristics as different “fruits” that the Holy Spirit will grow within the hearts and lives of believers. With that interpretation, we are then interpreting the word fruit as a plural. But it isn’t. The Greek word, “karpos” is a singular term, not plural. Therefore meaning one fruit, not many fruits or different kinds of fruit. When we read what the fruit of the Spirit is, Paul is not naming different kinds of fruit that the Spirit gives, instead he is describing the different characteristics of the grace that the Spirit is working in you.
Maybe you’ve participated in a Bible study on the “Fruit of the Spirit.” One of the application questions may have been, “Which fruit do you seeing growing in your life? Which fruit do you need some growth in? What are some things you can do this week to help you grow in love, or in joy, or in peace, etc.”
The problem with this is that Paul is pointing to a filled, Christ-like disposition that will be in the heart of someone who has the Holy Spirit within them. If we just treat them as all different fruits that a believer could individually have, then anyone can find one or two of these dispositions that they may display in their lives.
Not A Few Of The Characteristics, But All Of Them
I know many unbelievers who are gentle, or who really do good things, or who may have a more patient disposition than many Christians I know. If we assume that the presence of those characteristics is evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence in their lives, that person may find a false confirmation that they really have God at work in their heart, when in reality it’s merely their own nature being expressed. We all have different temperaments and personalities. And some are more disposed to being patient or gentle, or even peaceful. But those dispositions are not coming from the Spirit’s presence in us. hey are simply just coming out of our own temperament and personality.
What Paul is helping us see is that if the Spirit is truly in us, then we should see the evidence through the presence of the entirety of the “fruit,” which is described by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Not one or two characteristics, but all of them.
Growth And Maturity Over Time
Yet he is talking about a fruit, and fruit doesn’t appear all at once. Fruit must grow and mature. Sometimes the growing season for the fruit is rather long. But the thing about fruit is if it is growing, you see it. You know it’s there. That is what it is like when the Holy Spirit is lives within a person.
We are in the midst of our growing season. None of us are exact representations of the fruit in of the Spirit. but if the Spirit is really in us, then the fruit will be evident at some level. We are recognizable.
“The real fruit of the Spirit always grow up together. They are one.”Author Tim Keller
If the sum total of our lives were placed on a balance scale, would the scale lean toward the “works of the flesh” of verses 19-21? Or would it lean toward the “fruit of the Spirit” of verses 22-23?
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