Paul has been dealing with the sins of the flesh, “For the flesh lusts against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; and these are contrary to one another, so that you do not do the things that you wish” (verse 17). But seems to be hardly necessary to point out these sins, since they are “evident” (verse 19). They are in plain view and obvious to everyone.
Now he contrasts the negative sins of the flesh with the positive “fruit of the Spirit.” It is one thing to overcome the flesh, but quite another to produce a positive life filled with good qualities, as explained by the “fruit of the Spirit.”
Verse 22a: “But the fruit of the Spirit…”
The basic Greek word for fruit is karpos, used literally of fruit, offspring, and figuratively of the consequence of physical, mental, or spiritual action.
Fruit denotes life. Dead trees do not produce fruit. Fruit is always in the realm of death. The best a person can do without being indwelt by the Spirit is to operate within the realm of death, all of their fruit only results in decay and death (dead works). You can make paintings of fruit, or make fruit out of wax, wood, glass or pottery, but it’s all fake! The Queen Mary is anchored in Long Beach Harbor. It has all of the appearance of a sea-going vessel, but it’s massive engines are only fake mock-ups, and the sailors on board are actors. It has all the characteristics of a real ship, but it is inoperative, a fake! The “fruit of the Spirit” is an indication that a believer has life, and “life more abundantly” (John 10:10).
Fruit requires water. Many years ago we planted some fruit trees on our property, then we left California, turning our home over to renters who did not water the trees, now they’re gone. The same is true of our Christian experience. “Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor stands in the path of sinners, nor sits in the seat of the scornful; but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and in His law he meditates day and night. He shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth its fruit in its season, whose leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.” (Psalm 1:1-3).
Fruit implies pruning. Jesus said, “I am the True Vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit…I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit” (John 15:1,2,5).
A Tree Is Known by Its Fruit. An apple tree’s nature is to produce apples. It is not apple tree because it produces apples, it produces apples because it is an apple tree! That’s its nature! By the logic, a person is not a sinner because he sins, he sins because he is a sinner, that’s his nature. Jesus said, “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks” (Luke 6:43-45 ).
Every true believer will bring forth fruit. Jesus said, “And the seed that fell on good soil represents those who hear and accept God’s word and produce a harvest of thirty, sixty, or even a hundred times as much as had been planted!” (Mark 4:18). So the minimum is 30-fold! Let’s identify them in 3 words: 1) “shirkers,” those who just bring enough to say they are believers; “jerkers,” those who accidentally produce a just a little; and “workers,” those to whom God will someday say, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21).
Verse 22b: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love.”
New Testament words for “love.”
Agape’ means unconditional love. The love of God for man and of man for God. Eros is passionate love, with sensual desire and longing. But it does not describe sexual love only, it actually describes all emotional love; the feeling of love. Philos is brotherly love, a general type of love, used for love between family, between friends. Storge’ means natural affection, cherishing one's parents, children, wives and husbands, a loving affection.
In our text Paul uses agape, unconditional love.
Notice he does not say, “the fruits of the Spirit.” The “love” fruit is singular. If you have “love” you will manifest all of these Christian characteristics. So “love” is manifested in “joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (verse 22,23). Since “God is love” (1 John 4:8), and He lives in every believer, so all of these characteristics are present in every true believer.
Now I know what you’re thinking! I’ve been a Christian long enough to know that there are many in the church who lack in many of these Christian character traits. Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’” (Matthew7:21-23).
Verses 22b-23a: “…love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.
“Joy.” The Greek word for “joy” is chara, a Greek noun which describes a feeling of inner gladness, delight or rejoicing. Joy is a feeling of inner gladness, delight or rejoicing.
“The word “joy” is defined as, “the emotion evoked by well-being, success, or good fortune or by the prospect of possessing what one desires…the expression or exhibition of such emotion…a state of happiness.” –Dictionary
Alfred Plummer, commenting on 1 John 1:1-4, writes that “joy” is “that serene happiness, which is the result of conscious union with God and good men, of conscious possession of eternal life…and which raises us above pain and sorrow and remorse.”
The goal of every Christian should not be happiness because the Bible never promises happiness to the believer. In fact any definition of joy is not in a dictionary, it is only found in the Bible. Happiness is a condition that is effected by circumstances, happiness is temporary and is based upon happenings, joy is from the Lord and you can still experience joy during trials, suffering, and testing. Joy is permanent but happiness is fleeting.
The Christian life is to be a life of joy. It is amazing the effort that people try just to find a little joy in life. But the Bible says, “You will show me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore” (Psalm 16:11).
Joy is founded on faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, “…whom having not seen you love. Though now you do not see Him, yet believing, you rejoice with joy inexpressible and full of glory,” (1 Peter 1:8). It was He who came into this world with the words, “I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people” (Luke 2:10) and Whose last prayer was for His followers to have His joy made full in themselves, “These things I have spoken to you, that My joy may remain in you, and that your joy may be full” (John 15:11). Joy from beginning to the end and then joy without end as we rejoice in heaven, “Let us be glad and rejoice, and let us give honor to him. For the time has come for the wedding feast of the Lamb, and his bride has prepared herself” (Revelation 19:7).
•Nehemiah 8:10, “…the joy of the Lord is your strength.”
•Romans 14:17, “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness and peace and joy in the Holy Spirit.”
•Romans 15:13, “Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing…”
•Philippians 3:1, “Finally, my brethren, rejoice in the Lord.”
•Philippians 4:4, “Rejoice in the Lord always. Again I will say, rejoice!”
•1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice evermore.”
“Joy” is love’s effect!
“Peace” in Greek is eirene, which means to join or bind together that which has been broken, divided or separated! It is the root of our English word “serene.” Our common English expression “having it all together” says that everything is in place and as it ought to be, a good description of Biblical peace. It is godly contentment in spite of our circumstances.
“A state (not an attitude but a condition of one’s heart) of stillness and serenity, of freedom from disquieting, agitating, anxious thoughts and a condition of harmony in relationships.” –Dictionary
Alexander Maclaren adds that this “peace comes not from the absence of trouble, but from the presence of Christ.”
•John 14:27, “Peace I leave with you, My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”
•John 16:33, “These things I have spoken to you, so that in Me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world.”
•2 Corinthians 13:11, “Finally, brethren, farewell. Become complete. Be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace will be with you.”
•Philippians 4:6,7, “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God; and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”
•2 Thessalonians 3:16 NASB, “Now may the Lord of peace Himself continually grant you peace in every circumstance. The Lord be with you all!”
•Hebrews 13:20,21, “Now may the God of peace who brought up our Lord Jesus from the dead, that great Shepherd of the sheep, through the blood of the everlasting covenant, make you complete in every good work to do His will, working in you[a] what is well pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be glory forever and ever. Amen.”
“Peace” is love’s serenity!
“Longsuffering,” The word “longsuffering” in Greek is makrothumia, two Greek words, makros which means, long, distant, far off, large and thumos meaning temper, passion, emotion so “long” and “temper”; literally, “long-tempered.”
“Longsuffering is bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like.”–Dictionary
Longsuffering is the capacity to be wronged and not seek revenge. Longsuffering is a non-violent, non-vindictive, non-retaliatory spirit It literally means, I can take anything you can dish out, no matter what you do to me, I can take it. It is found in those who are “walking in the Spirit,” demonstrating the “fruit of the Spirit.”
•1 Corinthians 13:4, "Love suffers long.”
•Ephesians 4:2 KJV, “Walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love” (Ephesians 4:2 KJV).
•Colossians 1:11, “…strengthened with all might, according to His glorious power, for all patience and longsuffering with joy.”
•Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering…”
•2 Timothy 3:10, “But thou hast fully known my doctrine, manner of life, purpose, faith, longsuffering, charity, patience…”
“Longsuffering” is love’s patience!
“Kindness.” In Greek is charis, meaning grace, favor, benevolent, tender mercy, gentle, warm-heartedness and caring affection. This is called “gentleness” in the King James Version.
When the Holy Spirit produces love in the believer, he sees things that need to be done and in doing them he ministers to someone in need. Every action, every word will have the flavor of grace in it.
•1 Corinthians 13:4, “Love suffers long and is kind.”
•2 Corinthians 6:4-6, “But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings; by purity, by knowledge, by longsuffering, by kindness, by the Holy Spirit, by sincere love…”
•Colossians 3:12, “Therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, put on tender mercies, kindness, humility, meekness, longsuffering; bearing with one another, and forgiving one another.”
“Kindness” is love’s activity!
“Goodness,” in Greek is agathosune, it is defined as uprightness of heart and life, moral excellence and virtue. It literally means doing right! Goodness is virtue and holiness in action, it is zealous activity in doing good, even aggressive! It is the state or quality of being good. It is a moral characteristic of a Spirit-filled person. Goodness is not a quality we can manufacture on our own. James 1:17 says, "Every good thing given and every perfect gift is from above…”
•Psalm 23:6, “Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life; And I will dwell in the house of the Lord
•Micah 6:8 NLT, “O people, the Lord has told you what is good and this is what he requires of you: to do what is right, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.”
•Matthew 12:35, “A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth evil things.”
•Romans 8:28, “And we know that all things work together for good to those who love God, to those who are the called according to His purpose.”
•Romans 12:9, “Let love be without hypocrisy. Abhor what is evil. Cling to what is good.”
•Galatians 6:10. “Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith.”
•Romans 15:14, “Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.”
“Goodness” is love’s habit!
“Faithfulness,” in Greek is pistis. It can mean both “faith” and “faithfulness,” it also can mean belief, trust, confidence and fidelity. William Barclay writes, "This word (pistis) is common in secular Greek for trustworthiness. It is the characteristic of the man who is reliable.”
“Pistis as used in Scripture usually refers to one's belief or faith in God, in His Son, in His Gospel by which one is saved through grace. In the present context pistis takes on a different meaning, instead referring to that virtue which makes a person one on whom others can rely (dependability).” –preceptaustin
“Fidelity; this word (pistis) is common in secular Greek for trustworthiness. It is the characteristic of the man who is reliable.” Barclay
“Reliability, keeping good faith with others, so that they know that your word is as good as your bond.” –Spurgeon
•Proverbs 12:22, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord, but those who deal faithfully are His delight.”
•Proverbs 28:20 ESV, “A faithful man will abound with blessings, but whoever hastens to be rich will not go unpunished.”
•Luke 12:42-44 ESV, “And the Lord said, ‘Who then is the faithful and wise manager, whom his master will set over his household, to give them their portion of food at the proper time? Blessed is that servant whom his master will find so doing when he comes. Truly, I say to you, he will set him over all his possessions.’”
•1 Corinthians 4:2, “Moreover it is required in stewards that one be found faithful.”
“Faithfulness” is love’s reliability!
“Gentleness,” also translated “meekness.” in Greek is prautes, which describes those who are of a quiet, gentle spirit, in opposition to the proud and contemptuous Scribes and Pharisees and their followers. Meekness is not weakness, it is power under control, not the killing of the lion within us, but the taming of the lion. “He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city” (Proverbs 16:32). In contrast, the individual who is not gentle is likened to “a city that is broken into and without walls” (Proverbs 25:28). It is the spirit that would rather be hurt by others than hurt others.
“Sensitivity of disposition and kindness of behavior, founded on strength and prompted by love…Paul treats his people gently, ‘like a mother caring for her little children’ (1 Thessalonians 2:7). He comes to them not with a whip [but] in love and with a gentle spirit’ (1 Corinthians 4:21).” –Bible dictionary
“Meekness” is a humble attitude that expresses itself in the patient endurance of offenses. ‘Gentleness’ is a virtual synonym. It implies leniency and long-suffering.” –MacArthur
“Prautes "describes the man whose temper is always under complete control. He knows when to be angry and when not to be angry. He patiently bears wrongs done to himself but is ever chivalrously ready to spring to the help of others who are wronged.” –Barclay
•Ephesians 4:1,2 NLT, “Therefore I, a prisoner for serving the Lord, beg you to lead a life worthy of your calling, for you have been called by God. Always be humble and gentle.”
•Ephesians 4:2, “with all lowliness and gentleness, with longsuffering, bearing with one another in love.
•Colossians 3:12, “Since God chose you to be the holy people he loves, you must clothe yourselves with tenderhearted mercy, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience.”
•Titus 3:2 ESV, “To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.”
•James 3:17 NLT, “But the wisdom from above is first of all pure. It is also peace loving, gentle at all times, and willing to yield to others. It is full of mercy and the fruit of good deeds. It shows no favoritism and is always sincere.”
“Gentleness” is love’s sensitivity!
“Self-control,” in Greek is enkrateia meaning literally “a holding oneself in or the ability to take a grip of oneself. This meaning reminds one of our modern slang expression ‘Get a grip!’ Egkrateia refers to the restraining of passions and appetites that originate from the Old Self.”
To be self-controlled is to not live in bondage to the desires, passions and appetites of the flesh. The physical human body is a good servant, but it is a miserable master! “Self-control” describes the personal rule or mastery over the flesh that would be impossible without the Holy Spirit’s control.
•Proverbs 25:28 “Like a city whose walls are broken through is a person who lacks self-control.”
•Proverbs 16:32, “Better a patient person than a warrior, one with self-control than one who takes a city.”
•1 Corinthians 9:27 ESV, “I discipline my body and keep it under control, lest after preaching to others I myself should be disqualified.
•Titus 1:8, “…but hospitable, a lover of what is good, sober-minded, just, holy, self-controlled…”
•Titus 2:2 ESV, “Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness.”
•2 Peter 1:5-7, “But also for this very reason, giving all diligence, add to your faith virtue, to virtue knowledge, to knowledge self-control, to self-control perseverance, to perseverance godliness, to godliness brotherly kindness, and to brotherly kindness love.”
“Self-control” is love’s discipline!
Allow me to synopsize these last verses. “And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another” (Verse 24-26).
If we were really honest, we would have to admit that living the Christian life is a dilemma to many believers. Many try too hard to live the Christian life, and many others do not try at all. Ministers have the habit telling people to do what they themselves find difficult or impossible. Much of the time It really looks hopeless, doesn't it? And most of the time we feel hopeless. But listen…It is hopeless. In our flesh we cannot live a victorious Christian life. “If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Verse 25).
The same Holy Spirit power is ours! The same power that led the children of Israel by pillar of fire and smoke; the same power that filled the Tabernacle and Temple; the same power that sat in tongues of fire on the disciples of Pentecost; and the same power that is still available to every believer today!
“And do not be drunk with wine, in which is dissipation; but be filled with the Spirit…” (Ephesians 5:18)
Unless otherwise noted, the New King James Version of the Bible was used. Also The New Living Translation (NLT); The New American Standard Bible (NASB); The Message (MSG); The New Century Version (NCV); The Amplified Bible (AMP); The King James Version (KJV), The New Life Version (NLV); English Standard Version (ESV); J.B. Phillips New Testament; Easy to Read Version (ERV); Common English bible (CEB); NET Bible (NET) and The Living Bible (TLB). Contemporary English Version (CEV).