Not long ago, I listened to a sermon series on the fruit of the Spirit, taken from Galatians 5.
Midway through the series, I suddenly thought. Now wait a minute. Are we getting this mixed up?
Reading the passage over added to my growing suspicion that the teaching we often hear on the fruit of the Spirit puts the cart before the horse!
This becomes clearer if you read the verses immediately before the list of Spirit-fruits.
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, orgies, and things like these. I warned you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:19-21 (ESV)
How many bad people have to be taught to be bad? How many of them think, I really need to be more immoral. How can I practice immorality so I get better at it? I wish I could get angry more often. Fits of anger, as often as possible. I’m just not very jealous. Who can teach me how to be more jealous?
It’s so much simpler than that. Living in the flesh produces flesh-fruit.
In the same way, walking in the Spirit produces Spirit-fruit.
But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.
Galatians 5:16 (ESV)
I believe the list of Spirit-fruit is given to us as a description of what a Spirit-filled person looks like. A description, not a list of things to do.
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23 (ESV)
We forget that Spirit-fruit is, in fact, the Holy Spirit’s work, and we pick the passage apart and try frantically to exercise all the good things listed there.
Instead of trying harder to be good, can we put our effort into knowing God?
Perhaps there is value in learning to recognize Spirit-fruits. I hear this in how I teach my children. Hold the door open for your little sister instead of rushing through and letting it slam in her face. That is what patience looks like. But ultimately, the lack of these qualities in our lives signifies a lack of room for the Holy Spirit to work.
If we walk with God and gaze on His glory, we will find ourselves changed. This must be one of the most awesome feats of God, the transformation of humanity by His holy, holy Spirit!
And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.
2 Corinthians 3:18 (ESV)
When our roots grow deep into the Spirit of God, the fruit of His reign in our hearts is immeasurably sweet.