Summary: In Galatians 5:22–23 Paul lists nine representative characteristics of the godly fruit produced by the Holy Spirit in a believer’s life.
What qualifies someone for a task? There is a story of the testing of a candidate for missions work:
One snowy morning at 5:00 a.m., a missionary candidate rang the bell at a missionary examiner’s home. Ushered into the office, he sat three hours past his appointment time waiting for his interview. At 8:00 A.M. a retired missionary appeared and began his questioning. “Can you spell?”
Rather mystified, the candidate answered, “Yes, sir.”
All right, spell “baker.”
“Fine. Now, do you know anything about numbers?” the examiner continued.
“Yes, sir, something.”
“Please add two plus two.”
“Four,” replied the candidate.
“That’s fine,” said the examiner. “I believe you have passed. I’ll tell the board tomorrow.”
At the board meeting, the examiner reported on the interview. “He has all the qualifications for a fine missionary. First, I tested him on self-denial, making him arrive at my home at five in the morning. He left a warm bed on a snowy morning without any complaint. Second, I tested him on promptness. He arrived on time. Third, I examined him on patience. I made him wait three hours to see me. Fourth, I tested him on temper. He failed to show any anger or aggravation. Fifth, I tried his humility by asking him questions that a seven-year-old child could answer, and he showed no indignation. So you see, I believe the candidate meets the requirements. He will make the fine missionary we need.”
Spirit-given abilities are needed, but Spirit-produced fruit is more significant.
(Green, Michael P.: Illustrations for Biblical Preaching : Over 1500 Sermon Illustrations Arranged by Topic and Indexed Exhaustively. Revised edition of: The expositor’s illustration file. Grand Rapids : Baker Book House, 1989)
It is one thing to overcome the flesh and not do evil things, but quite something else to do good things. The legalist, like the Judaizers, might be able to boast that they are not outwardly guilty of adultery or murder (but see Matt. 5:21–32), but can anyone see the beautiful graces of the Spirit in his life? Negative goodness is not enough in a life; there must be positive qualities as well.
• This message of fruit would have spoke to the Galatians because it represented attitudes that control and dictate actions, rather than the actions themselves. Thus the believer’s manner of life flows from a genuine inner principle, not from adherence to an external law (Edgar H. Andrews: Free in Christ: The Message of Galatians. Evangelical Press. 1996, p. 298)
The spiritual behavior of walking by the Spirit (v. 16) has the negative effect of causing the believer to put away the habitual, ongoing evil deeds of the flesh and positively causes a believer to bear the good fruit produced by the Spirit.
Contrasted with the deeds of the flesh is the fruit of the Spirit. Deeds of the flesh are done by a person’s own efforts, whether they are saved or unsaved. The fruit of the Spirit, on the other hand, is produced by God’s own Spirit and only in the lives of those who belong to Him through faith in Jesus Christ.