Summary: When the Fruit of the Spirit is at work in the body, it is alluring to an unbelieving world.
Beginning this morning, we’ll embark on a new journey that will take us through the various aspects of the fruit of the Spirit over the next nine weeks. Each week, I’m going to open our time with a short story from a book titled Home Town Tales, which is authored by a Quaker minister named Philip Gulley. This morning’s story is titled “Stitches in Time”.
As you might guess this morning we’re going to be focusing on love. But before we do that we need to take a few minutes to set the stage for where we’ll be going for the next nine weeks. So go ahead and turn to Galatians chapter 5. I’m going to begin reading in verse 16. You can follow along as I read this passage that contains some essential context that will help us accurately understand the fruit of the Spirit.
16 But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 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. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.
In this passage Paul describes several different aspects of the fruit of the Spirit that are crucial to a proper application of the things that we’ll be learning over the next nine weeks. I’m going to briefly discuss three of the most important ones.
THE FRUIT OF THE SPIRIT
1) Is demonstrated by being not doing
One of the first things that we see in this passage is the stark contrast between the works of the flesh described in verses 19-21 and the fruit of the Spirit described in the following verses. It is quite instructive that nowhere are the nine qualities that make up the fruit of the Spirit ever described as “works”. Instead Paul uses the metaphor of fruit to describe these nine character traits.
We also note that “fruit” is singular, not plural. It is not the “fruits” of the Spirit. This is really similar to what we saw with the book of Revelation – it is the Revelation (singular) of Jesus – not Revelations (plural). Unfortunately, it is very easy to fall into the trap of calling these nine qualities the “fruits” of the Spirit. While that may not seem like a big deal, there is a subtle danger in using the plural here. Let me illustrate
If I go to the produce section at the grocery store, I can pick among the variety of fruits I find there. I am free to choose some and not others based on my personal preferences. If we accurately refer to the “fruit”, rather than the “fruits” of the Spirit, then it lessens the temptation for us to pick and choose among the nine character traits based on our own preferences or areas of strength in our lives. In his book, The Fruit of the Spirit, Stuart Briscoe writes these relevant words:
The fruit of the Spirit is to be seen not as a collection of unrelated fruits that can be selected or neglected according to personal preference, but rather as a composite description of all-around behavior that is the result of a relationship with the living Lord who indwells his people by his Spirit.
Although our actions are certainly important, God is much more concerned with who we are. Because when we are controlled by the Spirit and develop the character traits that make up the fruit of the Spirit, the right actions will automatically follow.
2) Is developed as Christ followers cooperate with the Holy Spirit
The second important aspect of the fruit is that it is the fruit of the Spirit. That means that these are not merely nine character traits that we can somehow generate on our own. They are derived from the Holy Spirit who dwells permanently in the life of every believer. However, that doesn’t mean that we don’t have an important role to play in the development of this fruit.