Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control; against such things there is no law.”
My roommate and I decorated our college dormitory hallway with pictures of fruit using these familiar verses as a theme to welcome freshman girls to their new home. Imagine grapes to represent love, apples for joy, bananas for peace, and so forth. It was a nice theme, but the fruit of the Spirit is so much more than pretty pictures of grapes, apples, and bananas taped to dorm room doors. It’s the fruit of a Spirit-filled life hidden with God in Christ.
Do you read all three Persons of the Trinity in that sentence? Because I’m not a scholar, I tread carefully, but what I see in Galatians 5:22-23 is simply glorious to behold.
It’s good to want more love, joy, peace, and all the rest of the fruits of the Spirit. It’s really good in fact. But if we focus on the fruit, we focus on the wrong thing. We won’t grow patient by trying to be more patient. As I wrote in “The Fruit of the Spirit Is, Part One,” these aren’t our fruits; they’re the Spirit’s. We can’t create or will them into existence.
It isn’t wrong to ask God to make us more loving or joyful, gentle or self-controlled, but from the context of these verses, I wonder if it might be even better to pray that we see and know God more. Why? This is the fruit of the Spirit, and as we consider each fruit individually, we find it connected in some significant way to God.
For example, how do we know what love is? John tells us. “By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us” (1 John 3:126). God shows us what love is in the person of Jesus.
Joy? We were made to find our greatest, deepest joy in God himself. As the Psalms proclaim, “in your presence there is fullness of joy;” and “Then I will go the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy” (Ps. 16:11 and 43:4a).
Jesus, our “Prince of Peace,” also said, “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you” (Isaiah 9:6 and John 14:27). Jesus is our source of peace.
The Lord also shows great patience with us. “The Lord is not slow to fulfill his promise as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing that any should perish, but that all should reach repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).
The Most High is “kind to the ungrateful,” most clearly demonstrating his loving kindness in our salvation through Jesus (Luke 6:35 and Titus 3:5).
God alone is good, as Jesus affirmed saying, “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10:18).
Repeatedly, the Bible affirms God’s faithfulness. On the very last pages of Revelation, a prophetic close to Scripture that’s full of hope in God’s future faithfulness, we see one sitting on a horse called “Faithful and True,” and this one has a name written on his thigh, “King of kings and Lord of lords” (Revelation 19:11 and 16).
Our Good Shepherd is also a gentle shepherd, one who “gently leads those that are with young” (Isaiah 40:11). Jesus too says “learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Isaiah 40 and Matthew 11:29).
Yes, Jesus showed tremendous self-control in resisting temptation and fully obeying his Father while walking on earth; however, we not only have Jesus’ example of self-control, but his miracles demonstrated his complete control over wine, bread, wind, and death itself. As a walking and breathing member of the God-head, Jesus showed us that God is in complete control and sovereign over all. As the disciples marveled, “Who then is this, that he commands even winds and water, and they obey him?” (Luke 8:25).
Behold, this is our God. God shows us what love is. He is the source of our joy. He is our peace and gives us peace. He is patient, kind, good, faithful, gentle, and in complete control. It’s the Spirit of this triune God that dwells within us. And not overnight, not in a few days, but after the rain, sun, and seasons; pruning and weeding; and sprouting, spreading, and blossoming, his Spirit bears likeness to his own attributes through fruit in our lives.
The more we walk by his Spirit, the more we abide in him, the more God-oriented our lives are, the more we taste and see that God is good—and loving and joyful and all the rest—the more this fruit will be evident in our own lives. We will become less, and he will become more. The flesh will lose more often, and the Spirit will win more frequently. This is why I suggest we pray to know God. Inevitably, the fruit of his Spirit will grow from a closer intimacy with him.
God is glorified when we desire him, the Giver, and not just his gifts. But when we seek him, we get the fruit too. It’s a win-win.
When my husband put these verses to song for our family several years ago, we always punctuated the last clause. We sang it in a rising crescendo until we shouted the last three words:
There are no restraints on the fruit of the Spirit in the life of a believer. We want all of it. Not just love; give us peace and goodness too. This isn’t a basket full of fruit of different shapes and sizes and we pick the piece that looks like what we need for the moment. No, this is a tantalizing fruit salad, joy and patience and self-control and all the rest combined into one.
We want more fruit, but by that we really mean that we want more of God. We want more of God for ourselves, our children, our neighbors across the street, our churches, and even for the nations.