Rooted in Christ

A Garden of Grace

Those who have union with Christ will exhibit the fullness of His character.

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love...” (Gal. 5:22)

God wants fruitfulness of His people. We find examples of fruit throughout the Bible in the lives of God’s people and described in poetic and wisdom literature. These characteristics of godliness are in particularly vibrant display in the New Testament, where the fruits are not only exhibited they are explained in their beauty and function. The fruit of new life in Christ displays God’s handiwork of grace but also how that fruit works to promote unity in relationships (Eph. 4:1-3; 1 Pet. 3:8-12). 

In Paul’s letter to the Philippians he prays for the production of fruit that displays its divine glory: “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God” (Phil. 1:9–11). Peter speaks of godliness and virtue as fruits of grace as well as qualities that keep us from being “ineffective or unfruitful” (2 Pet. 1:3-11). 

One place that we find a concentration of the fruit of Christian character that grows from union with Jesus Christ is in Paul’s letter to the Galatians. It is labeled the “fruit of the Spirit.” Not that it is a garden that belongs to the Spirit that we visit and admire, like we would a neighbor’s flower patch. Rather, it is plantings of grace worked in us by the Spirit through our union with Christ. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22–23). 

Why does Paul represent the fruit in the way he does? We would expect “fruits” of the Spirit or fruits “are” since multiple fruits are listed. Some make the case that fruit is singular in that it refers to love. The fruit of the Spirit is love, like a single rose whose petals include peace and patience and the rest. Support for that view is found in Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient, kind, peaceful, and humble. 

It may be, however, that Paul is speaking of the singularity of abiding in Christ and so taking on His character. Those who have union with Christ will exhibit the fullness of His character as the perfect Man. Jesus is our example for all the fruit of the Spirit listed as well of those listed elsewhere, such as righteousness and humility. 

So when Paul says the fruit of the Spirit is, he is saying that the believer should exhibit all that is of Christ. We cannot justify impatience to ourselves. We cannot settle for seven of the nine character traits listed. Unlike with the gifts of the Spirit where not everyone has every gift, all of the fruit of the Spirit must be evidenced and pursued by every believer. 

In addition, it is the fruit of the Spirit. That means we cannot look to our natural temperaments and abilities and think we have that trait covered. We must rely on Christ. If we live by the Spirit, we must walk by the Spirit. Our love, patience, and the rest must conform to Christ and take on biblical definition. An aspect of our study of the fruit of the Spirit will involve contrasting worldly concepts with biblical concepts.

Digging Deeper

  1. Where do we find the fruit God desires of us?
  2. Why does Paul say fruit of the Spirit rather than fruits?     

Father, by the Holy Spirit fill me with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of Your name. 

For study of the fruit of the Spirit through abiding in Christ see A Vine-Ripened Life (Stanley D. Gale, Reformation Heritage Books) 

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Scripture quotations marked NKJV are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version, copyright ©1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc.  Used by permission.  All rights reserved. Those marked ESV are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version, copyright ©2001 by Crossway Bibles, a division of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved. 

Why does Paul represent the fruit in the way he does? We would expect “fruits” of the Spirit or fruits “are” since multiple fruits are listed. Some make the case that fruit is singular in that it refers to love. The fruit of the Spirit is love, like a single rose whose petals include peace and patience and the rest. Support for that view is found in Paul’s description of love in 1 Corinthians 13. Love is patient, kind, peaceful, and humble.

 

It may be, however, that Paul is speaking of the singularity of abiding in Christ and so taking on His character. Those who have union with Christ will exhibit the fullness of His character as the perfect Man. Jesus is our example for all the fruit of the Spirit listed as well of those listed elsewhere, such as righteousness and humility.

 

So when Paul says the fruit of the Spirit is, he is saying that the believer should exhibit all that is of Christ. We cannot justify impatience to ourselves. We cannot settle for seven of the nine character traits listed. Unlike with the gifts of the Spirit where not everyone has every gift, all of the fruit of the Spirit must be evidenced and pursued by every believer.

 

In addition, it is the fruit of the Spirit. That means we cannot look to our natural temperaments and abilities and think we have that trait covered. We must rely on Christ. If we live by the Spirit, we must walk by the Spirit. Our love, patience, and the rest must conform to Christ and take on biblical definition. An aspect of our study of the fruit of the Spirit will involve contrasting worldly concepts with biblical concepts.

Stan Gale

Stanley D. Gale (MDiv Westminster, DMin Covenant) has pastored churches in Maryland and Pennsylvania for over 30 years. He is the author of several books, including A Vine-Ripened Life: Spiritual Fruitfulness through Abiding in Christ and The Christian’s Creed: Embracing the Apostolic Faith. He has been married to his wife, Linda, since 1975. They have four children and nine grandchildren. He lives in West Chester, Pa.
Books by Stan Gale