The Fruits of the Spirit

When we start out on our Christian journey, life as we knew it takes on a whole new perspective. We become driven by a power that wasn’t there before and we see meaning to creation we hadn’t recognised before. We become aware of a connection on a spiritual level to a higher being Who, up until then, we probably subconsciously had relegated to the same category as Santa Claus and the tooth fairy. Suddenly, we have access to a mentor, advisor, counsellor and source of love of infinite proportions.  Suddenly we become conscious this isn’t a dream.  And this isn’t a product of our over-active imagination. To say the least, it can be overwhelming.  But this is only the first step.  We still have so much to learn, so many weaknesses to overcome, so much new stuff to become familiar with, so much growing to do.  There is a whole new language to get used to. Terminology in the Christian arena can be confusing jargon for the uninitiated.  But it is all worth it.  

We have opened a treasure chest full of goodies that can only be used effectively if applied according to His will.

It is no exaggeration to say that the potential is there to transform lives, families, neighbourhoods, cities and governments.  So how come there is so little to show for it?  Why do we still get sick, have relationships break down, and suffer untold hardships? Where is this overcoming power the scriptures have promised? And how on earth do we work out what is His will and why, when we were so sure we finally got it right, does the whole business fall apart and disintegrate?

The truth is that we are in a battle against principalities and powers on a spiritual plane that are totally intent on subverting any advance in God’s Kingdom.  It is true that Satan and his cohorts were defeated by Jesus on the cross, but as creatures of limited intelligence, it hasn’t yet sunk in and he and his buddies think they still have a chance of winning! And so we battle on, and will continue to do so until shortly before Jesus returns to bring the culmination of all things.  It is important that we recognise the battle is mainly on a spiritual plane, with effects and results spilling over into the material world. We are not used to operating in the spiritual plane, in fact it is downright alien to us, so we constantly revert to the familiar surroundings of logical reasoning, practical solutions, money, influence, worldly wisdom and legislation.

On the other hand, God did not expect us to win the battle on our own, or in our own strength.  First Jesus triumphed over the prince of this earth.  Then He promised us a source of overcoming power:


“Nevertheless I tell you the truth; It is expedient for you that I go away: for if I do not go away, the Comforter will not come unto you; but if I go, I will send Him to you.” (John 16:7)

This Comforter is the Holy Spirit, who indwells all genuine believers. He is there to unite, comfort, encourage and empower us.  He will not force Himself on any of us. But He will produce fruits in those areas of our lives we submit to Him.  The ultimate aim is to have every area in submission to His will.

The Holy Spirit first came to the Church at Pentecost (Acts 2:1-4).  The initial arrival was accompanied by some spectacular supernatural manifestations. He transformed timid fishermen into fearless apostles of the faith. Thousands were converted. Miraculous healings were taking place. The Holy Spirit was sent to convict us of our sin and comfort us, but also to empower us with gifts andtransform us with fruits.


The gifts of the Spirit are just that: free gifts from God, intended to edify the Body of Christ here on earth (for an in-depth appreciation of the gifts, see 1 Corinthians 12-14).  To turn around and sell these gifts to the Body is an outrage.

But the fruits of the Spirit are something totally different.  Whilst the Gifts are there to edify in a corporate sense, the Fruits are there for personal reasons. You may or may not have noticed that the fruit of the Spirit is not lots of converts. The real fruits of the Spirit are all character-changing outcomes. They say a leopard can't change its spots. The only One who can change those spots is the Holy Spirit.


“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).

In 1 Corinthians 13, Paul outlines the qualities that are the hallmarks of agape love:

“Love is patient (patience), kind (kindness), not jealous (peace), not bragging (kindness, self-control), not arrogant (faithfulness), not acting unbecomingly (self-control), not self-seeking (love), not easily provoked (self-control, gentleness), forgiving (love), not rejoicing in unrighteousness (goodness), rejoicing in Truth (goodness), bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, and never fails(faithfulness).”

You can see why the Bible declares "God is love" (1 John 4:8). Genuine agape love can only be sourced in the Holy Spirit. And if we have that love, all the joy, peace, patience, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control will arrive hand in hand.

We are searching for Truth.  We are looking forward to bearing these fruits in our lives. We want to be Jesus' perfect bride. We want the world to know that we are His disciples by our love for each other.  All the wonderful qualities described above are waiting to be assimilated into our character.  But we scratch our heads, wondering how on earth to make it happen.  What are we doing wrong?


In John 17, Jesus submitted His final requests to the Father, confirming His understanding of the Father’s will and the reason He was going through with the horrible death sentence He knew was in store for Him.  His expectations of the people for whom He was laying down His life, were very high by earthly standards.  His prayer focused on an unsurpassed unity and intimacy, based on agape love:


“Neither do I pray for these alone, but for them also who shall believe on Me through their word; That they may all be one; as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that You have sent Me. And the glory which You gave Me I have given them; that they may be one, even as we are one: I in them, and You in me, that they may be made perfect in one; and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them, as You have loved Me.

Father, I will that they also, whom You have given Me, be with Me where I am; that they may behold My glory, which You have given Me: for You loved Me before the foundation of the world. O righteous Father, the world has not known You: but I have known You, and these have known that You have sent Me.  And I have declared unto them Your name, and will declare it: that the love with which You have loved Me may be in them, and I in them.” (John 17:20-26)

This is the ultimate aim of our Christian journey: to reach a point of surrender where His will and life may flourish in us.  Our own human spirit can never bear fruits of these proportions; at the very best they will be a poor imitation of the real thing, an actor’s impression of what God is like. 

Only the Holy Spirit can bring about something as magnificent as what Jesus described above: Us gloriously made One, so that the world will know Jesus is for real.  From what I can tell, it is absolutely His intention for this phenomena to come to fruition before His return, for two reasons: 

1) Jesus is coming back for a perfect bride, and 
2) There is little point in showing this oneness to the world after His return.

So if we really, truly, are intent on being genuine followers of Jesus, we need to examine His words for clues on how to get there. For an in-depth analysis of His way of thinking, read my essay "The Mind of Christ".  Meanwhile, our search leads us to His own unequivocal declaration as to ‘how’:

“I am the Way, the Truth and the Life. No one comes to the Father, but through Me” (John 14:6)


“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me.” (Luke 9:23)
“And whoever does not carry his own cross and come after Me cannot be My disciple.” (Luke 14:27)


When I think about it, nearly every essay I write comes to roughly the same conclusion.  I get there via a different starting point, but the destination is one and the same place.  For us to achieve the state of existence describe by Jesus in John 17, we have to take up our cross.  Basically, it means giving up living for ourselves. We don’t like to hear this.  We go through the same emotional struggle as Jesus did, just before He went ahead with it. And in the end, we decide it is too high a price to pay. We would rather have all the benefits of a relationship with Jesus, without doing what it takes to become the bride He wants.


All the intricacies of His eternal purpose were worked out well and truly before the foundations of the earth were laid.  God created us because He wanted His love returned to Him. He designed an incredible way of making that love beautiful and meaningful, by obliging the diametrically opposed forces of good and evil to choose which they prefer. He Himself paid the ultimate price to enable the choice for good to be implemented.  And then He created the most mind-blowing dynamics of all, whereby His own Spirit would be the means and energy causing the love to flow.

His own Spirit is the only source of the kind of perfect love He is looking for. That love has fruits which our limited capacity for affection can only dream about. And in the ultimate consummation of the loving relationship, it requires us to pay a similar price to the one He paid.  It leads us invariably and inexorably to one and only one conclusion:

If we want to be genuine Christians, we have to lay down our lives.


The fruits of the Spirit can be evident in our lives, in the Church and in the world.  An astounding love can flow from our corporate being and it can convince the world out there that Jesus is alive and well in us.

It requires each and everyone of the followers of Jesus to take up their individual cross. 

It is the method God designed to let His creation know about His love. It is the reason and purpose which Jesus took onto the cross with Him. And it is the means by which He rose again.  God’s love is busting to be shown to the world. We, as Christians, are the only thing holding it back.