In the November 1992 issue of this paper I wrote two short articles about the "works of the flesh," as the apostle Paul called them. The works of the flesh were identified (Gal. 5:19-21); at least many of them were. They were shown to be evil based upon the teaching of God‘s word; and those who practice such things cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. Hence, the importance of knowing what these sins are and avoiding them like a terrible plague, which they are. I hope that this study stirred us anew to refrain from all of these sins. They are sinful and should absolutely have no place in the life of any Christian. Christians are opposed to such and this should be plainly seen in our lives and in our teaching.
In Gal. 5:22-23, the apostle Paul wrote: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law." Here he praises and commends these things. He identifies nine things which constitute "the fruit of the Spirit". Note his statement that "against such things there is no law". Who would want to make a law forbidding such things as are here praised? This old world would be a total "hell on earth" if these "such things" were never found among those who are supposed to be the saints of God. They are qualities or characteristics of true, faithful disciples of Jesus; that is, all Christians. None of us can so live as to demonstrate all of them in full measure all the time, but each of us should be trying to make our life and behavior measure up to these characteristics as much as we can.
Any sensible person can immediately see the vital difference between the "works of the flesh" (Gal. 5:19-20) and the "fruit of the Spirit".
On the one hand the "works of the flesh" make a shameful and terrible picture of human behavior. The "fruit of the Spirit" is seen at once as altogether vital and beautiful. One is to be shunned and the other is to be desired and readily seen in the life of every saint of God. Christians must abstain from the one and cleave to the other. The practicing of the "works of the flesh" means condemnation by God to eternal punishment; while producing the "fruit of the Spirit" in our life and works means our final acceptance by God as His own people and an entrance into heaven, provided that we are Christians, children of God.
There are two levels or two planes upon which the children of God may live – a lower or a higher, meaning a carnal or a spiritual. Those who practice the works of the flesh live on the lower, carnal level. The higher, spiritual plane is where the fruit of the spirit is manifested. One cannot live a faithful life as a Christian without bearing the fruit of the Spirit. To bear fruit is the supreme and ultimate purpose of the Christian. "Every branch in me that beareth not fruit, he taketh it away; and every branch that beareth fruit, he cleanseth it, that it may bear more fruit ... He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same beareth much fruit; for apart from me you can do nothing. Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; and so shall you be my disciples." (John 15:1-8). Paul said: "For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are the Sons of God." (Rom. 8:14). Only those led and guided by the Spirit of God are children of God; and the Holy Spirit leads us through or by the written word of God, known to us as the sacred Scriptures. This person is being led by the Spirit and in the life of such an individual there will be produced "the fruit of the Spirit" (Gal. 5:22-23).
Look again at the wonderful characteristics of one who is being led by the Spirit as set forth in Gal. 5:22-23. These elements arc called "the fruit of the Spirit" because these things are the inevitable result produced in the life of one who truly follows the leadership of the Spirit. It should be remembered that it takes a conscious and determined effort on the part of the individual to follow or be led by the Holy Spirit. Constant attention should be given to this all-important matter in order that the fruit of the Spirit not become "dried up" in our lives. This fruit is not produced by hap-hazard, careless, half-hearted, or part time obedience to the Spirit's leadership. It would be well if all of God's saints would give this point the serious attention it deserves.
Those who are caught up in the affairs of this world are not likely to produce the fruit of the Spirit in their lives. Those who seldom or never pray, those who give little attention to learning God's word; those who niggardly serve the Lord and who cling to worldly things cannot possibly produce the fruit of the Spirit to a "ripened" and accepted degree.
The test of the Christian life is "the fruit of the Spirit." It is as easy to recognize such as it is to identify the works of the flesh. Jesus said: "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits." (Matt. 7:16-20). Faithful Christians are known by the fruit of the Spirit in their life.
It will be observed that Paul speaks of "fruit" and not "fruits"-- plural. Why? Perhaps the singular number is employed to emphasize that the combination of graces described is in its entirety the proper outcome in each individual of the Spirit's guidance. The character which the Spirit would make of every soul subject to His dominion, comprises all these features, so the absence of any one lessens to a degree the perfection of the product. This means that it takes all NINE of these to form the one (total) fruit of the Spirit. The Christian's character must be fully and harmoniously developed. Christians must mature into the likeness of Christ and this cannot be accomplished except by the full application of the Spirit's teaching in our lives.
These nine graces (fruits) fall naturally into three groups, each group consisting of three. The first group: "love, joy, peace," touching our relationship to God. The second group, "longsuffering, kindness, goodness," have to do with our relationships with our fellow-men. The third grouping, "faithfulness, meekness, self-control" deal with the regulation and conduct of our own individual life. It is not to be understood that the nine different elements mentioned are the ONLY "fruit" of the Spirit. This seems to be only a reasonable sample of what composes the whole of the fruit of the Spirit. That there are other fruits belonging to this class appears evident when Paul says "against such there is no law."
Some disciples are such weak believers that they do not let the Holy Spirit produce fruit in their lives. Christians may "quench" the Spirit (1 Thess. 5:19), and are warned against such. They may "grieve" the Spirit (Eph. 4:30), and are warned against this. Those who grieve or quench the Spirit cannot bear the fruit of the Spirit. Their eternal destiny is sure and certain if this is the case.
Dear brother or sister, are you "producing" the "fruit of the Spirit" in your life? May God help us all to dedicate ourselves to the bearing of the fruit of the Spirit! -- CAH