The fruit of the Holy Spirit is a spiritual gift given by God to people who have repented of their sins and confess Jesus as their savior (Acts 2:38). After accepting Jesus as their savior, God’s Spirit starts working in them to change their thoughts and actions. The fruit is always working in believers until they die to help them act more like Jesus.
The Spirit consists of nine characteristics known as “fruit.” The characteristics of the fruit are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Without the help from the fruit, believers are unable to be obedient to God’s commands and will continue living like they used to (Philippians 2:13). The things they used to do is what Paul describes in Galatians 5:19-21:
“The wrong things the sinful self does are clear: being sexually unfaithful, not being pure, taking part in sexual sins, worshiping gods, doing witchcraft, hating, making trouble, being jealous, being angry, being selfish, making people angry with each other, causing divisions among people, feeling envy, being drunk, having wild and wasteful parties, and doing other things like these.”
Paul makes it clear that those who continue to do these things will not inherit God’s kingdom (Galatians 5:21). The fruit prevents people from doing the things they used to do. It is important for believers to understand how the fruit of the Spirit works in their lives.
The first fruit is love. Love is the first most important commandment God gives in the Bible. It is important because God first showed love to people. He did it by sending His son Jesus to die on the cross for all who believe, so they do not have to suffer eternal punishment but can spend eternity with Him in heaven (John 3:16). This kind of love is not a warm emotional feeling we “feel” for others, but an action of love we “do” for others.
The fruit also helps believers to love those who are impossible to love. In Matthew 5:43-45, Jesus says, “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemies.’ But I say to you, love your enemies. Pray for those who hurt you. If you do this, you will be true children of your Father in heaven.” The fruit makes it possible for believers to love others who have deeply hurt them.
The second characteristic of the fruit is joy. The fruit of joy helps Christians feel joy in any circumstance. We will all go through hard times because the world is full of sinful, non-perfect people. We can feel joyful during trials because the fruit reminds believers Jesus is with them (John 16:33). Jesus provides joy for Christians in time of need. God also uses trials to produce other fruit of the Spirit in believers like peace and patience (James 1:2-4).
The third fruit of the Spirit is peace. It is difficult for many to feel peace in the midst of troubles. Unfortunately, believers tend to turn to worldly things to find peace like food, sex, or shopping. Believers can only find true peace only from God. He wants people to turn to Him for peace (Isaiah 26:3). For those who still struggle to feel peace, Paul reminds believers in Philippians 4:6-7 of God’s promises:
“Do not worry about anything, but pray and ask God for everything you need, always giving thanks. And God’s peace, which is so great we cannot understand it, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.”
Patience is the fourth fruit of the Spirit. Having patience is hard when living in a fast-paced world because people want things now. God is unlike the world and is very patient (2 Peter 3:9). God wants His people to act differently than the world. The fruit produces patience in the hearts and lives of God’s people, so they are able to wait longer for things. Believers now have the ability to wait patiently in line at the drive-thru, the return of Jesus or money from the IRS to pay a late mortgage payment.
The fifth fruit of the Spirit is kindness. Being kind to people is not always easy because we have to interact with others on a daily basis who are hard to get along with. God is different than people and is very kind even to those who hate Him (Matthew 5:45). He wants His people to be like Him. Kindness given from the fruit is opposite of selfishness. God’s people are required to represent Him by showing kindness to everyone regardless of receiving thanks or honor (2 Corinthians 6:6). The fruit makes it possible for Christians to do just that.
Another fruit of the Spirit is goodness. Goodness and kindness go hand-in-hand. God shows His goodness by being kind to people. Believers can never be as good as God but can reflect His goodness. According to Matthew 5:16, God’s people can reflect His goodness by being the light in the world of darkness, hate and evil. Being the light involves still being nice or praying for those who have wronged them. Jesus was the perfect example of God’s goodness. In Luke 23:34, Jesus prayed to God to forgive those who were prosecuting Him.
Faithfulness is another fruit of the Spirit. Faithfulness involves trusting God even when times are good or bad. It is easy to trust God when things are good. Having faith and believing God is there during times of trouble is not so easy. But God is very faithful. We are reminded of His faithfulness in Deuteronomy 7:9:
“So know that the Lord your God is God, the faithful God. He will keep his agreement of love for a thousand lifetimes for people who love him and obey his commands.”
In return, believers should be faithful to God and to others. This means believers need to be reliable and trustworthy in what they do. According to Luke 16:10-12, “Whoever can be trusted with a little can also be trusted with a lot, and whoever is dishonest with a little is dishonest with a lot. If Christian’s cannot be trusted with worldly riches, then who will trust them with true riches? And if they cannot be trusted with things that belong to someone else, who will give them things of their own?”
Gentleness is the eighth fruit produced in believers. As believers, being gentle requires them to be submissive. It is not easy to be submissive because it makes people feel weak and helpless. The Bible tells women to submit to their husbands and husbands to submit to God (Ephesians 5:22-33). Christians should also show gentleness by being slow to anger and control their tempers. Jesus said in Matthew 11:29 believers can learn from him because he is gentle and humble in spirit and can find rest for their lives.
The last fruit of the Spirit is self-control. People living in the world who do not have the fruit of the Spirit think it’s “okay” to do what they want to do like watch porn, have sex before marriage or get drunk. But the fruit helps Christians say “no” to what their sinful selves want to do (1 Corinthians 6:12). The fruit also allows them to listen and be obedient to God and live the way that pleases Him rather than pleasing themselves. Having self-control is also important because God hates sin. Paul reminds believers that those who continue doing sinful things will not inherit God’s kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9-10), which means they will not be able to be with God in heaven after they die.