Fruit of the Spirit – Living and Growing in the Nine Biblical Attributes

The fruit of the Spirit is a physical manifestation of Christ as it shines forth from the transformed lives and the godly attitudes of His disciples. Only as we live and grow in the fruit of the Spirit can we truly be a disciple. And if our sincere desire is to follow Jesus in discipleship we must continually live and grow and take a mature spiritual attitude as believers to study and understand the attributes of the ninefold fruit of the Spirit:

The first fruit is Love – In 1 John 4:16 “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.” And again in 1 John 4:16 “And we have known and believed the love that God hath to us. God is love; and He that dwelleth in love dwelleth in God, and God in him.”

From these two passages we see that God is not only the source of love, but He is love itself. And then in verse 19 John says that “We love Him, because He first loved us.” And in verse 20 and 21 he continues by saying “If a man say, I love God, and hateth his brother, he is a liar: for he that loveth not his brother whom he hath seen, how can he love God whom he hath not seen? And this commandment have we from Him, That he who loveth God love his brother also.” This is the distinction between being identified as a child of God and being a disciple of Christ; both having the fruit of the Spirit of love, the first, although they have it do not actively exercise it, and the second not only have it but the are actively living and growing it in!
If our goal is to be the true disciple of Christ Jesus we must strive through the Spirit to live out and show forth the fruit of love; to live to do all things in an attitude of love. And we must first begin with our family; our spiritual family and our natural family. In our spiritual family, i.e. the church, we must strive to openly display the fruit of love in our interaction with our brothers and sisters in the church kingdom. This means that we must live with them and love them despite their imperfections; that is as it is often said “warts and all.” And in our natural family we must live it out in our interaction with one another as husbands and wives, and to openly live it before our children to nurture the fruit of love in their lives.

The fruit of the Spirit of love is displayed in the attributes of the godly character of those who have it within them. This is what John is talking about in 1 John 5:1-4 when he says “Whosoever believeth that Jesus is the Christ is born of God: and every one that loveth Him that begat loveth him also that is begotten of Him. By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God, and keep His commandments. For this is the” fruit of the “love of God, that we keep His commandments: and His commandments are not grievous. For whatsoever is born of God overcometh the world: and this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”

The love of God is expressed in the faith that God has placed with us. And when we’re talking about living and growing in the fruit of love the term used in the scriptures is “charity.” As far as I can tell this particular word “charity” is for the most part not used in the modern so-called translations. According to Webster charity is defined “In a general sense, love, benevolence, good will; that disposition of heart which inclines men to think favorably of their fellow men to think favorably of their fellow men, and to do them good. In a theological sense, it includes supreme love to God, and universal good will to men.” Charity then is the fruit of love when it is put into action, or is active love. Jesus Christ is the love of God in action to save His people from their sins.

Paul illustrates this aspect of the fruit of love in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8. He says that love, i.e. “charity suffereth long” or is patient, that it is “kind,” gentle, considerate and helpful. It “envieth not,” its not jealous nor has any ill-will toward others, but is content with knowing that God has blessed another person with good fortune. Charity he says “vaunteth not itself,” never bragging, boasting or showing off. It’s not “puffed up,” never haughty, arrogant, disdainful, proud or egotistical. Charity is never rude, never behaving “itself unseemly.” It is “seeketh not her own,” because it is never self-seeking. It is “not easily provoked,” or angered, it “thinketh no evil” because it never keeps a record of wrongs. Charity “rejoiceth not in iniquity” or evil, harm or sin “but rejoiceth in the truth.” It “beareth all things;” protecting that which is right. It “believeth all things,” always walking in faith, it “hopeth all things,” looking forward to Jesus who is the author of salvation, it “endureth all things” always persevering through life ups and downs, good times and hard times. And charity, the fruit of love, like its originator “never faileth” but is eternal and will never end.

The second fruit is Joy – “…the joy of the LORD is your strength.” The fruit of joy, unlike happiness which is external is internal. It begins inwardly in the spirit of the inner man with God and shines outward. The writer of Hebrews says in Heb. 12:2 that we are to look “unto Jesus the author and finisher of our faith; who for the joy that was set before him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God.”

But how can we know whether we are living in the Joy of the fruit of the Spirit? We can use the acronym J.O.Y. which stands for JESUS first; OTHERS second, and YOURSELF last to help us along. As we live and grow in the fruit of joy we are to have Jesus Christ and His kingdom church as the priority in our life, this gives us our J. Next as we live in the attitude of serving others we have our O; this means serving our family members beginning at home, followed closely by our brothers and sisters in the church and then our neighbors. And ending with yourself, in praying to the Lord, and in the study of the scriptures gives us our Y. When we keep this pattern we notice that we spell the word J.O.Y. and we live and grow in the fruit of joy. But when we fail to follow the pattern; lets say we put Yourself first, Others second and Jesus last, we end up with the spelling Y.O.J. I think that you get the picture. Hence without J.O.Y. we fail to experience of the Spirit the fruit of joy in our lives. This is the only way to be able to truly live and grow in the fruit of joy.

Now let’s not make the mistake of confusing happiness for joy. I can assure you that it’s very easy to do. The confusion lies in the fact that the world puts its focus on happiness rather than joy. We see this reflected in the opening declaration of independence where it reads that we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights which include the right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” You see the founding fathers of this nation understood that joy is internal and happiness is external and that there are many things or circumstances in life that can cause us to experience happiness, but these things and circumstances are only temporal and fade away over time. As citizens of God’s kingdom He gives us joy, but as citizens of the United States we can pursue what is best for our family, hence happiness.

Joy, the true fruit of joy has as its source the unchangeable, immutable, eternal God that is in you and does not depend on things or circumstances. Happiness depends upon what happens to you, and so if the circumstances are right, then you can be happy, and with the loss in the circumstances comes a loss of happiness.

The Bible mentions “joy” or “rejoicing” no less then 385 times. But it only mentions “happiness” 28 times. The fruit of joy like all of the fruit of the Spirit comes from the inside. It too has its source that which is eternal and unchangeable. The fruit of joy brings all that live in the fruit of the Spirit to say with the apostle Paul in Phil. 4:11 “I have learned, in whatsoever state I am, therewith to be content.” And bear in mind that Paul was writing these words while he was in his bonds as a prisoner (Phil. 1:7, 13-14, 17).

This tells us that as we live in the fruit of the Spirit our joy remains even in the times of hardship, trouble and sorrow. While others who fail to live in the fruit of joy experience the same hardships, troubles and sorrows become soured on life and they bring forth expressions of being downcast grumbling and a snarling demeanor. They’re grumpy, they’re the gripers, and they’re always the ones who are very negative about virtually everything that happens in life, complaining almost all the time. As a result, they’re the ones that you really don’t want to be around.

Let me share my definition of “joy.” “Joy is the evidence of the presence of God in your life. If you are living in the fruit of the Spirit, then the Holy Spirit and Jesus Christ is manifested in you. If you are filled with the Spirit of God, then the joy of fruit of the Spirit will be obvious in your life.

The third fruit is Peace – Rom. 5:1, 2, “Therefore being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ: By whom also we have access by faith into this grace wherein we stand, and rejoice in hope of the glory of God. And in Rom. 15:13 “Now the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, that ye may abound in hope, through the power of the Holy Ghost.”

This is a peace that is not merely the result of an external lull in the fighting due to an absence of war or hostilities which may at any given moment start up again. No, this peace is an internal peace that is found within the heart of the inner man of the spirit. It flows from God the Holy Spirit to the spirit of His people. This peace comes as a result of the sacrificial Lamb of God who blotted “out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross” (Col. 2:14). With His precious “blood He entered in once into the holy place, having obtained eternal redemption for us” (Heb. 9:12). The effect is peace with God forevermore! And the knowledge of this truth through the fruit of peace is quietness and tranquility of mind and soul even when all other things around us seem to be falling apart.

Living and growing in the fruit of peace is the only way that it is possible to “as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men” as Paul admonished the church at Rome, and that includes your brothers and sisters in the church, and even those who are in your own house. As we are living and growing means that we are actively walking in the Spirit of God being led by Him to seek after the things which encourage and promote peace and edification among the brethren.
The fruit of the Spirit that is peace is so very important to us because no matter how carefully we work to plan out our lives we find that our plans quickly become undone falling sometimes into disarray, which without the fruit of peace sends us into despair, doubt and confusion. I mean let’s face it shall we? Life in the world at its best is unfair. And it is the unfairness that causes us to fall into distress and depression and the loss of our daily experience of peace. The truth is that all of us really do want to believe that we are in control of our own events and circumstances, but the truth is that more often than not it’s these vey same events and circumstances that end up controlling us. We find that all of our carefully laid out plans usually don’t turn out exactly as we planned, and its easy to see how these changing events and circumstances bring stress into our lives. So this is the reason that we spend so much our allotted time planning things out; we somehow believe that we might be able to avoid the stress of things that are beyond our control.

Perhaps you’ll agree with me when I say that real and lasting peace in life is rare indeed. And this is especially true when we consider peace between nations, families, individuals and this certainly applies to ourselves. And no matter how hard we try we find that people and events come in and invade our well planned strategies and seriously disrupt our desired order.
The peace, the fruit of peace that God gives us is in the person of the Son of God, the Lord Jesus Christ. In Philippians 4:7 we see that we do not have the power to ensure our peace but that the peace which God gives us “passeth all understanding,” and “shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.” The fruit of peace, like love and joy before it; according to scripture are the work of God's Holy Spirit in us.

The world around us cries out saying “Peace, peace; when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:14; 8:11). I recall a man who was the prime minister of England Neville Chamberlain in 1938 met with Adolf Hitler to sign a peace treaty with him. He addressed the nations and made this statement “I believe it is peace for our time.” This treaty opened to door for Germany to invade Poland and bring the world into the Second World War. In the world, apart from the blessings of God, without the fruit of peace we can be certain according to 1 Thess. 5:3 that “when they shall say, Peace and safety; then sudden destruction cometh upon them, as travail upon a woman with child; and they shall not escape.”

Our peace, the fruit of peace is not dependant upon the works of the flesh; it comes to us from and is the direct result of the inner working of the Holy Spirit. And living and growing in the fruit of peace is found in our submission to Jesus as the way of peace. And it grows stronger in us as we are walking and talking to Him in prayer and in worship, coming to know intimately of His faithful, loving wisdom and power to complete His glorious purpose in our lives. Producing in us a “peace of God,” knowing that everything is under His perfect control.

The fourth fruit is Longsuffering (patience)– In Col. 1:11 we are “Strengthened with all might, according to his glorious power, unto all patience and longsuffering with joyfulness.” And in Ephesians 4:2 we are to be “With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love.”

Like all the fruit of the Spirit it comes from the sovereign grace and mercy of God the Holy Spirit. It is given to all whom are given to the Son before the foundation of the world. But living and growing in that fruit of longsuffering means that those who have it actively labour with long endurance and patience for those who have offended them. These endure through life in an uncomplaining manner despite their pain and unhappiness, despite the evil, or hardship that may fall to their lot.

The fruit of longsuffering is a virtue that relates to our character and is reflected in our thoughts and actions toward our fellow brothers and sisters in our attitudes during suffering and trials.

We all know people who are easily irritated. They tend to “blow up” in red-faced fury, letting everyone around know that they have “had it!” Paul says in 1 Thess. 5:15, “See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men.” The obvious meaning of Paul's advice is that we should not take vengeance. The fruit of longsuffering or patience means rather than striking out against those who have offended us we instead be willing to give the offender something that might defuse the immediate situation in order that we might strive for reconciliation. The fruit of longsuffering brings us to the understanding that vengeance belongs to God and He will certainly repay (Rom. 12:19). And that we may with confidence safely and patiently commit our circumstance to God's judgment for the best possible solution.

James 1:2-3 says “My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing.”

Notice please that patience is not passive. It works! The fruit of longsuffering works by producing or in preserving itself in the character of the one who is living and growing in its fruit, and it works well because it comes from God the Holy Spirit and is put into practice by those who live in its fruit.

In Col. 3:12, 13 Paul writes saying “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering; Forbearing one another, and forgiving one another, if any man have a quarrel against any: even as Christ forgave you, so also do ye.”

To “put on” literally means to dress. It here refers to assuming the manner, character, disposition or perspective of another. With this image in mind we must “put on” Christ. This means that we must conduct ourselves as closely to His way as we can. In Phil 2:5-8 we find that we are to “Let this mind be in” us, “which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross.”

If we are to reap the full blessing of the fruit of longsuffering we must set our minds and hearts (not the carnal mind or the heart of the flesh,) to seek the way of the one who is longsuffering toward us as we read in 2 Peter 3:9 and who is “longsuffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.” And in 1 Timothy 1:16 Paul shows us the pattern in Jesus who shows forth longsuffering “to them which should hereafter believe on him to life everlasting.”

The fruit of longsuffering prepares our heart for the kingdom church and enables us to glorify Him in and through our suffering and hardships. The fruit of longsuffering is a vital part of the process that God works in us “both to will and to do of his good pleasure” (Phil. 2:13) and over time producing in us His image which is “Christ in you the hope of glory” (Col 1:27) so that we might “be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (James 1:4).

The fifth fruit is Gentleness (kindness)- In 2 Corinthians 6:6-7 we read that we ought to live “By pureness, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Ghost, by love unfeigned, By the word of truth, by the power of God, by the armour of righteousness on the right hand and on the left.”

The fruit of gentleness flows from the fruit of the Holy Spirit and is having a quality of being gentle or tender, considerate in disposition, mild in mood, soft, and well-managed, not given to sudden or rash or angry behavior, taking care not to harm others.

Certainly in the biblical sense the fruit of gentleness is not weakness, nor is it self-debasing or a belittling of oneself. Here again it is understood that the fruit of gentleness comes solely at the will of the Holy Spirit to the child of God. When we say gentleness we mean that it is a character trait of showing calmness, personal care, tenderness and the Love of Christ in meeting the needs of others around them. But living and growing in the fruit of gentleness is much, much more than mere personality; but is who we are in the work of the Sprit within us. The fruit of gentleness makes it possible for us to resist the will and lust of the flesh, to instead display the tender mercy of God as did king David in 2 Sam 9:3 to Mephibosheth the son of Jonathan and the grandson of Saul who sought to murder him, saying to his servant Ziba “Is there not yet any of the house of Saul, that I may show the kindness of God unto him?” And as we live and grow in the fruit of gentleness we understand He is able to take care of our needs. This understanding of this truth in turn enables us to trust in His sovereignty, and His doctrine and control will move us from the hurriedness and cruelty of life that goes with it to take the time to grow in our relationships with one another because we are at peace with God.

Without the blessing of the fruit of gentleness we are unsuited to the task of dealing in a good nurturing and caring way for anyone, let alone to be able to help them grow. But as we live and grow in the blessing of the fruit of gentleness we are able to remain calm and to resist the escalating problems which threaten to push our buttons or to rush forward to push other people’s buttons.

The fruit of gentleness lends itself to encouragement, friendship and fellowship. Living and growing in gentleness attracts others to us who know that we will give them a gentle and listening ear.

But when we are full of the pride of self-worship we are not able to be gentle with others; we’re unable to be a friend; all that we do is hurt them and to push them away.

Jesus is our example of gentleness. He was fully God and fully man. And as He was fully God He certainly does not have to be gentle, and yet He takes the time necessary to gently nurture us even when we make mistakes, falter and fail.

The sixth fruit is Goodness – In Ephesians 5:9 “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” And in 2 Thessalonians 1:11, “Wherefore also we pray always for you, that our God would count you worthy of this calling, and fulfil all the good pleasure of his goodness, and the work of faith with power.”

Goodness is defined as being the state or quality of being good, especially morally good or beneficial. The fruit of goodness is moral “goodness” which is found within the character of God’s children, and is seen as being upright, virtuous, benevolent and generous.

The fruit of goodness is not that which can be seen with the natural eye. But it is known only when someone is seeking the good of others ahead of themselves. However living and growing in the fruit of goodness in not simply just a matter of doing good things or being taught to do good things. But the teaching of the goodness of the Spirit feeds the doing of good works. And the doing of good works feeds the being. And the being enables us to grasp the teaching, which in turn feeds into more doing in a continuous cycle. The fruit of the Spirit which is goodness is reflected in the attitude of a child of God, and is manifested as it flows forth from the Holy Spirit and outward from the soul of the inner man as service to Jesus in His church kingdom and His people.

The root of all goodness is God. The problem that we face comes when we pause to consider what is good. For most people we can easily say “If God is good then He’ll do good things for us.” And while this is true the goodness of God is not found in the getting of good things, or because we get things our way. Like when we get rid of our suffering by a miraculous healing and quickly forget that these things are sent to us as a blessing. But when we are living and growing in the fruit of goodness these blessings serve to remind us that we are to humble ourselves in knowing that God is always there for us even when times and circumstances are especially difficult.

The truth is that the fruit of the goodness of God is defined by His love. God's goodness is goodness, and in the goodness of His light our expectations must change. The fruit of goodness, God’s goodness, has its way of setting things right. And when we see other people exercising goodness we are reminded of how little goodness there is in us, which tends to rupture our self-image giving us a true and accurate image of who we are apart from the goodness of God.

And in this condition we, like Paul, in Romans 7:18, 19 know that in our flesh “dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with” us “but how to perform that which is good” we “find not. For the good that” we “would” we “do not: but the evil which” we “would not, that” we “do.” We learn that when we “would do good, evil is present with” us (Rom. 7:21). And while we are actually doing good, we know that it is not our goodness, but the fruit of goodness that is in us.

The scriptures tell us, and our experience confirms it to be true that as long as we live in the world we will have a constant struggle between the spirit and the flesh. But as we live and grow in the fruit of goodness which the Holy Spirit gives we are able to overcome our nature to do evil.

And in that we struggle with the nature of the flesh, God has given us a wonderful gift called confession. We read about it in 1 John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” Confessing our sins to God brings about the experience of forgiveness and restoration of fellowship with Him and brings us to a proper self-image. It is only through the fruit of goodness that we can do good, and the knowledge that we are not good, replaces our evil doing with His goodness!
Paul says it this way in Rom. 12:21 “Be not overcome of evil, but overcome evil with good.” Its starts with God and His goodness, and then as His people live in the fruit of goodness which grows little by little, one act of goodness at a time.

Elder Thomas McDonald            Click for PART 2