“Fruit is always the miraculous, the created; it is never the result of willing, but always a growth. The fruit of the Spirit is a gift of God, and only He can produce it, they who bear it know as little about it as the tree knows of its fruit. They know only the power of Him on whom their life depends” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer- The Cost of Discipleship)
Holy Spirit is given to a believer as a Guru, a teacher, a guide and a mentor to change His worldly life to bring it in conformity with the heavenly life of God- into the image of Christ. Apostle Paul while describing Christian life to the Galatians compares the two lives- the life of the world producing its own fruits of a sinful nature and the life of God in the Holy Spirit producing the fruits of righteousness of God (Galatians 5:19-23). And he then differentiates the two as “Those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires” exhorting the believers to walk in the Spirit (verses 24-25). The two types of life in the individual reflect their fruit in life and from this one is known who is he serving- God or mammon. A believer fights a daily battle within for the body craves for its satiation through sinful things “For the good that I will to do, I do not do; but the evil I will not to do, that I practice” (Romans 7:19). Trapped in this battlefield a Christian is helped in his weaknesses by the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:26) who encourages, leads and empowers us to bear His fruit in our life which on our own we are unable to do.
Which fruit is important? – Though we see the list of the fruits having nine fruits- love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self control (Galatians 5:22), the Catholic Church has added three more to the list as generosity, modesty and chastity. Though the list has nine attributes but in actual fact as per the Greek word ‘karpos’ it is a singular item and not many, thus implying that the nine characteristics are essentially one in nature and are the ‘qualities/virtues of heart’ to be developed into good habits. This fruit bearing is part of the transformation process of a believer and has two participants- God and the individual believer and both have a definitive role. God has played His part by giving us the Holy Spirit and we have our part charted out before us to “walk in the Spirit” at His urging. The power to walk on the water was available to all the twelve disciples in the boat but only Peter stepped out and used it. In a similar way God has blessed us with the inherent power through the gifts of the Holy Spirit but we have to make them operable and we cannot be selective in this to take one and leave the other- it is a package, a single item.
The spiritual fruits –What is love? – “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God and God in him” (1 John 4:16) and Apostle Paul uses the Greek word in the list as “agape” which is love by choice and is of unconditional love from God towards us as compared to ‘philos’ the love that we have for each other. God’s love is poured out into His creation that He could love us despite our sinful nature. Love of God fills us through His Holy Spirit that we may willfully express this for others even while loving our enemies like Lord Jesus did- even on the cross. In fact love is the basic ingredient in each fruit of the Spirit. Paul further elucidates this as “Love is patient and is kind, love does not envy, love does not parade itself, is not proud. Love is not rude, is not self-seeking, is not provoked, it thinks no evil nor delights in inequity but rejoices in the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4-8). Apostle Paul declares the importance of love as compared to all other gifts of the Spirit that if one does not have love, he is nothing (1 Corinthians 13:2).
The spiritual fruits –What is joy? – The Greek ‘chara’ derived from ‘charis’ meaning grace is used for joy thus having deep link to God and His love to have exchanged our sins with His righteousness through His Son (Romans 5:11). It is much deeper, unwavering, long lasting and is from God as compared to happiness which is worldly and momentary. Joy is of awareness about the sovereignty and love of God and His presence with us always and in every situation. King David reflects this joy in Psalm 23 and other Psalms rejoicing for Divine protection and care while “casting all cares upon Him for He cares for you” (1 Peter 5:7). Once we have no fears, no worries and are filled with Divine love we can “Rejoice in the Lord always” (Philippians 4:4) and this joy being rooted in God can only come and be experienced through His Spirit.
Rejoicing in God does not mean that believers will not suffer tribulation, trials, sadness and hurt. Rather the Lord Jesus declares that “you will be hated by all men for My name’s sake” (Matthew 10:22). But our joy rests on the ‘crown’ reserved for us in heaven and the assurance of His love in this life on earth.
The spiritual fruits –What is peace? – Greek word ‘eirene’ is used to represent peace and translates into wholeness, completeness or tranquility that is not affected by any outward circumstance or symptom. Hebrew word ‘shalom’ represents the same meaning in the Old Testament and implies an inner tranquility based on a close and loving relationship with God. It is this association that assures of God’s hand on us even while in the midst of greatest hardships. The disciples lacked this in the boat and woke up the Lord (Mark 4:35-41) but Paul and Silas were “praying and singing hymns to God” in the inner prison with ‘feet in stocks’ after having suffered “many stripes” on their backs (Acts 16:23-25). Peace through the Holy Spirit is a blissful state of fearing nothing in the assurance that God is in control and His will is supreme.
Lord Jesus’ first words to the disciples after His resurrection were ‘Peace be with you!” (John 20:19) and our Prince of Peace blessed us “Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you” (John 14:27). His peace means absolute faith in the Father even on the cross and the assurance “after you have suffered a while” He will ‘perfect, establish, strengthen and settle you’ (1 Peter 5:10). This peace is not lack of turbulence but presence of God with us.
The spiritual fruits –What is patience? – If God did not have patience nothing would survive. The two Greek words used for patience in Old Testament are ‘hupomone’ and ‘makrothumia’ where the latter means patience without reaction to others and is used for someone who does not take revenge for a wrong despite being able to do so. It comprises of two words ‘makros’ meaning long and ‘thumos’ meaning anger and implies self restraint when faced with grave provocation and is associated with God for not reacting in retaliation to punish the sinners. On the one hand it is opposite of anger as an act of mercy while on the other it is the opponent of despondency for not surrendering under extreme trial or tribulation in hope of relief. The two components of the other word ‘hupo’ meaning long and ‘mone’ being to remain and in respect to God these two words are used for His forbearance, long suffering and the capacity and willingness to bear all wrongs by His creation patiently For He is “compassionate, gracious, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness, forgiving wickedness rebellion and sin” (Exodus 34:6).
Patience definitely does not mean being complacent, defeatist, coward or despondent in any way but is a trait of capacity of strength to bear up despite grave provocation. This is developed under the guidance of the Holy Spirit during a long period of humble submission.
The spiritual fruits –What is kindness? – The Greek word “chrestotes” is translated as goodness in action, sweetness of disposition, kindness, affability, gentleness in dealings with others even for those who gravely provoke you through their persistent offensive acts. Under the control of the Holy Spirit this character trait creates a controlled and mellow countenance removing immediate abrasive responses. It makes one adaptable to the needs to others rather than expecting all others to change to suit our own requirements of worldly, social or spiritual needs. It is reflected in acts of compassion, sympathy, love, gentleness and consideration for others weaknesses. Lord Jesus displayed great kindness towards sinful mankind by “emptying Himself to become man to show “kindness and love of God toward man” (Titus 3:4).
Apostle Paul urges all disciples “with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2) conduct your inter-personal relationships acting for good of others irrespective of their faith. Although there exists a relationship of subject and object but the act of kindness is in essence carried out without any coercion but out of freewill and nothing is expected in return. In the parable of the “good Samaritan” our Lord illustrates this trait where the priest or the Levite could meet the required demands of God’s covenant but failed in the test of compassion. God loves us unconditionally and expects the same from us towards others as per the demands of the second great commandment.
Kindness is to show love and compassion without belittling the recipient and God desires all ‘His children’ to display this towards others.
The spiritual fruits –What is goodness? – “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness and truth” (Ephesians 5:9) is how Apostle Paul describes this spiritual gift. The Greek word ‘agathosune’ translates into two words in the English language as kindness and goodness while the word used for this by Appostle Paul is ‘agathosune’ translated as goodness for the benefit of others and relates directly to morality and is coupled with knowledge. It is holiness in action and is always beneficial in every circumstance and not for the sake of being virtuous. It is carried out in loving wisdom in a certain situation with tenderness of heart without being mean or offensive.
Relationship of goodness with knowledge – The right application of this trait has been illustrated by Apostle Paul to the Romans as “full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish each other” (Romans 15:14). It is in combination of these two traits that one gets into the right disposition for correct and righteous instruction in and for motivation to a life of love. The two fruits must be in tandem for one without the other would either restrict or lead into a wrong direction. All gifts are to reflect God’s love and the fruits also show the same image in one’s life. Thus without love goodness is vanity and under the control of the Holy Spirit it produces the right benefit to both the subject and the object. Without His hand neither can the effort be made nor will it elicit the right response.
The spiritual fruits –What is faithfulness? – This leads us to acts of commitment to a cause or person with a definite resolve not to abandon in difficult times or circumstances. The Epistle to the Hebrews lists out the “Faith Heroes’ of the Old Testament in chapter 11but faithfulness is not only about faith though the Greek word ‘pistis’ has been used. This word derives from another word ‘peitho’ meaning to persuade or be persuaded and this character trait also comes in us under the direct urging of the Holy Spirit.
Faithfulness is defined as “being loyal while adhering to the truth and tenets in every situation” and is accepting to obey exactly what is asked. It is to do over and over again what is desired without giving up as suiting the circumstances even when no one is looking without expecting a reward. In today’s world of ‘self promotion and opportunism’ faithfulness is viewed more as a weakness rather than a trait. But when we are faithful to God and to one another He is faithful to reward us and this trait is only possible through the direct influence of the Holy Spirit. He moulds us into a life of faithfulness.
The spiritual fruits –What is gentleness? – The common perception of gentleness is weakness and cowardice whereas the Greek word used is ‘prautes’ which implies conduct of a person in authority to act otherwise. Aristotle defined praustes as “the ability to bear reproaches and slights with moderation and not to embark on revenge quickly and not to be easily provoked to anger but to be free from bitterness and contentiousness having tranquility and stability in the spirit (On Virtues and Vices). Our Lord was gentle but expressed anger at the ‘right time, for the right cause and at the right place’ while in “the temple of God and drove out all those who bought and sold in the temple and overturned the tables of the moneychangers and the seats of those who sold doves” (Matthew 21:12).
It is ironic that Lord Jesus reacted as such in the temple but suffered silently all the injustices meted out to Him by the Jewish elders while He had the power and authority to ask for and receive “more than twelve legions of angels” to counter those who came to arrest Him in the Gethsemane Park (Matthew 26:53). His gentleness sought pardon from God the Father for the Jewish elders not as a sign of weakness but of exemplary strength and Spirit control.
The spiritual fruits –What is self control? – The Greek word ‘egkrateia/enkrateia’ means ‘dominion within’ or self control- proceeding out from within oneself but not by oneself. It means the power mastery over one’s thoughts and deeds as self governance since ‘kratia’ means governance and democratia or democracy is a derivative of the same. This is development of a self governor to temper all acts in conformity with the laid down and expected standards of God. Like all other fruits this is only possible with filling of the Holy Spirit and not through personal effort. Enkrateia is the opposite of ‘akrasia’ meaning lacking control over oneself and enkrateia is a positive option with positive outcomes of the action. This is not a specific positive trait only but essentially the foundation of all fruits of the Spirit.
Holy Spirits ‘convicts us of sin’ and this is not a negative role of criticism but a reminder at every stage of commitment of sin- in thought or lust of the mind, to commission of the act and for repentance afterwards to not repeat the same. Self control in case of addiction of any kind is not possible without the power of God operating through the Holy Spirit.
Can we have these fruits/ results in our life on our own? – Since these are the fruits of the Spirit it is not possible to operate fully in these on our own without the gift of the Spirit. “Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above coming down from the Father of lights” (James 1:17) and this would definitely include the fruit bearing life of a believer. Our Lord also first stressed that “On My own I can do nothing” and then emphasized “I am the vine, you are the branches; he that abides in Me and I in him bears much fruit, for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). The more we fellowship with God through prayer and worship the more is His hand working in our lives to fill us with His power to transform us. The Holy Spirit, His gifts and our fruit bearing through good works are all for the “praise of our Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16).
“It is of no use for any of you to try to be soul winners if you are not bearing fruit in your own lives. How can you serve the Lord with your lips if you do not serve Him with your lives? How can you preach His Gospel with your tongues when with hands, feet and heart you are preaching the devil’s gospel and setting up an antichrist by your practical unholiness? (Charles Spurgeon).
Our deeds are the Holy Bible operating in us that people read before hearing our message!