Summary: When the Fruit of the Spirit is at work in the body, it is alluring to an unbelieving world.
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.
It is interesting how frequently the Bible uses agricultural references in its teaching. In fact the Bible is framed by two fruit producing trees – the first in the Garden of Eden and the final one in the New Jerusalem. I’m convinced the Biblical writers made such frequent use of these agricultural illustrations because they so vividly picture the importance of both works and grace in the life of a Christ follower.
Each summer and fall, we really enjoy going up to Howard’s Orchard in Catalina to pick peaches, pears and apples. And when we’re there we see how much work that Mr. Howard and his wife have to put in so that they will have fruit each year. They have to water, fertilize and trim the trees throughout the year. But ultimately, the quality and quantity of their harvest is mostly out of their hands and they have to depend upon God. A couple of years ago there was a late hard freeze and they had almost no peaches and then last year the trees were so full of fruit the branches were breaking from the weight.
Developing the fruit of the Spirit is a lot like that. We must do what we can to develop the fruit. In a sense, we have to give God something to work with. But ultimately only the Holy Spirit can bring fruitfulness to our lives. Paul confirms this concept with these familiar words from one of his other letters:
Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.