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.
The first contrast between the deeds of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit is that the products of the flesh are plural, whereas the product of the Spirit is singular. Although Paul does not mention the truth here, there is also a contrast between the degrees to which the deeds and the fruit are produced. Of the deeds of the flesh, a given person could only habitually practice some, perhaps one or two, or perhaps a half dozen, of the sins Paul mentions here. But it would be practically impossible for one person to be habitually active in all of them. The fruit of the Spirit, on the other hand, is always produced completely in every believer, no matter how faintly evidenced its various manifestations may be.
Please turn to John 15
Illustration: A machine in a factory works, and turns out a product, but it could never manufacture fruit. Fruit must grow out of life, and, in the case of the believer, it is the life of the Spirit (Gal. 5:25). When you think of “works” you think of effort, labor, strain, and toil; when you think of “fruit” you think of beauty, quietness, the unfolding of life. The flesh produces “dead works” (Heb. 9:14), but the Spirit produces living fruit. Fruit has in it the seed for still more fruit (Gen. 1:11) (Wiersbe, Warren W.: The Bible Exposition Commentary. Wheaton, Ill. : Victor Books, 1996, c1989, S. Ga 5:22):
John 15:1-8 [15:1]"I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. 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. If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. (ESV)