An Exploration of Galatians: Fruit of the Spirit Part 1
Galatians 5:22-23 - Fruit is from the Spirit; Deeds of the Flesh quench the Spirit virtues
”But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.“
Galatians 5:22-23 NASB1995
Now we reach the most famous verses in Galatians. In my years of casual Bible-in-one-year readings, my eyes usually glazed over at the passages we have now studied in depth in the previous chapters and through the “deeds of the flesh” in chapter 5, reserving my interest for the “fruits of the Spirit”. Already, from my studies, there is a correction I must make to the misnomer that I have in quotes in the last sentence. I have always remembered these virtues as “fruits”, but the word Paul uses is definitely singular. Let’s do a word study on fruit: Fruit comes from the Greek word καρπός or karpos with the following Biblical usages:
the fruit of the trees, vines, of the fields
the fruit of one's loins, i.e. his progeny, his posterity
that which originates or comes from something, an effect, result
work, act, deed
advantage, profit, utility
praises, which are presented to God as a thank offering
to gather fruit (i.e. a reaped harvest) into life eternal (as into a granary), is used in fig. discourse of those who by their labours have fitted souls to obtain eternal life
The word karpos is used many times, with the various meanings, throughout the New Testament. In this case, Paul is using it to describe an effect or result of the work of the Holy Spirit.
So I have probably done a word study on Spirit, but let’s do one again. Spirit comes from the Greek word πνεῦμα or pneuma and it has an extensive list of Biblical usages:
the third person of the triune God, the Holy Spirit, coequal, coeternal with the Father and the Son
sometimes referred to in a way which emphasises his personality and character (the "Holy" Spirit)
sometimes referred to in a way which emphasises his work and power (the Spirit of "Truth")
never referred to as a depersonalised force
the spirit, i.e. the vital principal by which the body is animated
the rational spirit, the power by which the human being feels, thinks, decides
a spirit, i.e. a simple essence, devoid of all or at least all grosser matter, and possessed of the power of knowing, desiring, deciding, and acting
a life giving spirit
a human soul that has left the body
a spirit higher than man but lower than God, i.e. an angel
used of demons, or evil spirits, who were conceived as inhabiting the bodies of men
the spiritual nature of Christ, higher than the highest angels and equal to God, the divine nature of Christ
the disposition or influence which fills and governs the soul of any one
the efficient source of any power, affection, emotion, desire, etc.
a movement of air (a gentle blast)
of the wind, hence the wind itself
breath of nostrils or mouth
In this case, Paul is obviously referring to the third person of the Triune God, the Holy Spirit, that instills this fruit in a person. In a recent devotional, I used some commentary from Gotquestions.org to answer the question of how you can know you are filled with the Holy Spirit, so that may be useful to go back and read.
One of the ways to answer that question about the Spirit is to know if you have the fruit of the Spirit governing your life. The fruit mentioned by Paul has nine virtues. The fruit can be compared to grapes, as grapes are used in bunches, not usually brought forward as one tiny grape by itself (unless it’s a fancy garnish by some celebrity chef). I like this commentary in Enduring Word about the Fruit:
But the fruit of the Spirit: The works of the flesh seem overwhelming – both in us and around us. God is good enough and big enough to change everything with the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit can always conquer the works of the flesh.
Significantly, it is the fruit of the Spirit set across from the works of the flesh. Works are works, and fruit is fruit. Fruit has several important characteristics.
Fruit isn’t achieved by working, but is birthed by abiding.
Fruit is fragile.
Fruit reproduces itself.
Fruit is attractive.
Fruit of the Spirit: Paul used the plural in describing life after the flesh (works of the flesh), but he uses the singular (fruit, not fruits, of the Spirit). In the big picture, the Spirit has one work to do in all of us. These aren’t the gifts of the Spirit, which are distributed on an individual basis by the will of the Spirit; this is something for every Christian.
“It may be significant that the word fruit is singular; Paul is not speaking of a series of fruits that would be shared around, so that one believer has one, another another. Rather he is referring to a cluster, such that all the qualities are to be manifested in each believer.” (Leon Morris)
In looking at the deeds of the flesh, we sinners often pick and choose our transgressions. One day, we drink too much. The next day, we watch sexually explicit material on television. The third day, we lie to the boss. On the fourth day, we have a road rage with a total stranger, manifested by horn honking and middle fingers. We may do several transgressions at once, but since sins are almost innumerable, we are probably limited only by time, resources and our imaginations on how many deeds we perform.
In contrast, the cluster of fruit from the Spirit manifests itself all at once in the believer. We don’t choose to love one day, have peace a day later, and exhibit self-control only on the seventh day of the week. If the fruit is truly in us, we exhibit all of the attributes all at once and at all times. The deeds of the flesh certainly quench the Spirit. I really liked this commentary from Precept Austin quoting S. Lewis Johnson, who was a professor at the Dallas Theological Seminary:
The evidence of the leading of the Spirit lies in a cluster of nine virtues that make up "the fruit of the Spirit." This fruit is the product of the life of the Spirit in the believer. It is characterized by several interesting features.
First of all, in the fruit of the Spirit there is unity. We notice that the word, "fruit," is in the singular number. There is only one fruit of the Spirit, but it contains nine virtues. If one of the virtues is missing, then we do not have the fruit of the Spirit. The Spirit's product is like a watermelon with nine flavors! Many commentators have suggested that the nine virtues illustrate the full-orbed, symmetrical character of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is His life that the Spirit produces in the believer.
Second, the fruit of the Spirit possesses a notable' harmony, the first triad of virtues being inward in nature, the second, outward, and the third upward.
Third, there is a necessity that believers have the fruit of the Spirit. The lack of the virtues indicates sin against the Holy Spirit who is engaged in producing the virtues in the lives of the saints.
Finally, in the concluding words of Galatians 5:23 there is an important point made by Paul. The Law of Moses finds no flaw in the fruit of the Spirit. The flesh may imitate, or counterfeit, certain of the virtues, but it can never produce them. The Spirit alone can do that, and the result satisfies all the demands of the moral law in the believer's life. It is sometimes forgotten that life by the Spirit is not a lower standard than life by the moral law, or the Ten Commandments. It is, if anything a higher standard. Arthur Way has caught that in his rendering of Galatians 5:18 "But if you definitely surrender yourselves to the Spirit's guidance, you are then not under the law, but ON A HIGHER PLANE."
I especially like the idea from this commentary we are emulating Jesus manifesting these virtues. I also like the idea that the first three (love, joy peace) are inward, the second three (patience, kindness, goodness) are outward to others, and the third three are upward to God (faithfulness, gentleness, self-control). In looking at a few other commentators in Precept Austin, some of them identify the first three as between us and God and the last three as internal. The point, however you want to bucket these precepts, is that the Fruit is ABOVE the law and is a higher standard than the law. The fruit, in other words, is more multi-faceted than just a monotonous bunch of grapes - I like this representation better.
The believer can do a self-inventory of the Fruit. I KNOW that I am deficient in some of these virtues, so I am indeed quenching the Spirit. I believe my quenching comes from deep-seated anger and impatience, worst-casing every problem that comes along instead of trusting God and His peace, and having a genuine distrust of other people and a tendency to make snap judgments about them. It also comes from lingering doubts in my faith, due to my skeptical/reasoning/science brain that has been my burden since childhood. I am cold-hearted and self-centered. I am easily distracted by the wonders and worries of this world. These are things that are in my daily prayers of repentance.
Perhaps by digging into each of these virtues in-depth, I can learn to let go of old attitudes, habits, and distractions from the enemy and allow the Spirit to guide me. My next devotional examines the first fruit: LOVE.
Heaven on Wheels Daily Prayer:
Dear Lord - As I seek to learn about the Fruit of the Spirit, help me to stop quenching these virtues with deeds of the flesh and distractions from the enemy. In Jesus Name: Amen.
Scripture quotations taken from the (NASB®) New American Standard Bible®, Copyright © 1960, 1971, 1977, 1995 by The Lockman Foundation. Used by permission. All rights reserved. lockman.org.
The Blue Letter Bible was accessed on 1/7/2024 to review the lexicon for Fruit and Spirit.
Commentary from Enduring Word by David Guzik is used with written permission.
The personal testimony of Bruce Hurt, creator of Precept Austin, can be found Here.