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.
“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).