But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience.
(Colossians 3:12 NIV)
“Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
It has been noted by many that Galatians 5:22-23 (above) speaks of the “fruit” of the Spirit, not the “fruits” of the Spirit (singular, not plural). The point here is that all of the characteristics listed should be apparent in our lives as we follow Jesus. The fruit of the Spirit is not like various abilities (or “gifts”) given by God, which are distributed differently to different believers (as discussed in the next chapter). The characteristics listed as the fruit of the Spirit should be apparent in every believer’s life to some degree.
Scripture contrasts the fruit of the Spirit with the works of the flesh:
Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Galatians 5:19-21)
Jesus taught that we can discern false prophets by their fruit:
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” (Matthew 7:15-20)
Note that it may be difficult to discern a person’s fruit from just occasionally observing their public actions. The fruit of the Spirit is not religious actions, such as giving to the needy, praying, fasting, preaching or prophesying, driving out evil spirits, or performing miracles (see Matthew 6:1-18, 7:21-23). Actions like these may be done by both the saved and the lost, and are not a reliable indicator of true salvation.
What about you? Is your life characterized by the fruit of the Spirit, or by the works of the flesh?
For Further Reflection
Matthew 3:7-10: Bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
Matthew 12:33-34: Make a tree good and its fruit will be good.
Luke 6:43-45: Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.
Luke 13:6-9: He went to find fruit.
John 15:1-8: The branch cannot bear fruit by itself.
Romans 7:4-6: Bear fruit for God.
Ephesians 5:8-12: The fruit of light.
Philippians 1:9-11: Filled with the fruit of righteousness.
Colossians 1:9-12: Bearing fruit in every good work.
James 3:17: Full of mercy and good fruits.
Jude 1:12: Without fruit.
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