Fruits of the Spirit

By contrast, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Galatians 5. 22-23a NRSV)

One cannot rightly exercise the gifts of the Spirit without first bearing the fruits, although the gifts are given freely and given in order to be manifested. But our Lord Jesus said, “Each tree is known by its own fruit. Figs are not gathered from thorns, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush.” (Luke 6. 44 NRSV)

Likewise, pure and unadulterated prophecy cannot be “gathered” from the thorns of sin and hypocrisy, from heresy and outright paganism. The same may be said for discernment; after all, how is one to properly discern what is right and wrong, true and false if that same one is already deceived in his mind? Yes, it is impossible to gather grapes from the bramble bush.

In commenting on the fruits of the Spirit, G. B. Caird notes:

Paul once again reverts to what was a matter of firm agreement between himself and his Galatian audiences – that their Christian experience began with the gift of the Spirit … (and) the Spirit is not to be understood in terms simply of miraculous acts and casting off restraints; Christ-like character is the principle product of the Spirit…

(So) in contrast to the works of the flesh there is the fruit of the Spirit. ‘Fruit’ is a natural metaphor to indicate the consequence or result of actions or lives, whether good or evil… The recognition that fruit was a clear demonstration of the nature of the tree which bore it was proverbial. Paul’s point, then, is that the nature of God’s Spirit is demonstrated in the quality of character exemplified in” what he has listed as fruits of the Spirit.[1]

The supernatural is awesome and mesmerizing. The miraculous is astounding and exciting; however, we are often in danger of overemphasizing the sensational to the expense of taking up our daily cross and simply following Jesus (cf. Mark 8. 34; Luke 9. 23; Matthew 16. 24). And, by the way, this involves denying ourselves, which may mean denying ourselves the sensationalistic pleasure of supernaturalism.

Is this to say that we should not pray for healing? No, absolutely not! Is this to suggest that we should not seek the gift of prophecy? No, certainly not! Should we be discouraged from praying for discernment? God forbid! This is  saying we should be very careful not to put “the cart before the horse,” so to speak. First things first … and first is the fruit! God would have us “firmly planted by streams of water, which yield their fruit in its season.” (cf. Psalm 1. 3)

So seek the gifts of the Sprit, but first desire and cultivate the fruits!

[1] James D. G. Dunn, The Epistle to the Galatians, 308


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