Galatians 5:19-21. Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
Galatians 5:22-23. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
Over the last few verses Paul has been contrasting flesh and Spirit. In verse 19 he started a list of the works of the flesh (yikes). There’s both immoral and moralistic sins listed. The law can stir up both kinds. You probably recognize a couple of them from your own life.
Sign of Life
In verse 22 he moves to a list of the fruit (singular). The Spirit, or life of Christ, in us produces fruit (not works), and just one fruit (not many). When the life of Christ is in you it is the natural result that his character will flow out of you. Paul calls this character of Christ the “fruit of the Spirit.” Christ in us produces this fruit from our faith. Do you remember John 15? As we abide in Christ we bear much fruit.
Why fruit? Because fruit grows naturally, not mechanically. The Christian life is not one of striving to produce the fruit of the Spirit. And no amount of resolution or commitment can make it grow. It’s the Spirit, not you. It is the overflow of faith. Faith in our union with Christ and the love and acceptance it brings to our lives. The fruit is about believing more, not doing more.
Let’s pause here for a very important spiritual truth: You can’t do more to make the fruit of the Spirit grow, but you can prevent it’s growth. You can resist grace and grieve the Spirit. Paul has been calling this “flesh” or “law keeping.” Ultimately, however, Christ’s resurrection power prevail in the life of the believer. God wins
Why does Paul say fruit singular? Because all nine character traits listed are actually the outpouring of love. You can’t have any of the other 8 traits without having the first one- love. And you can’t have love without first believing that you are loved- Spirit. Do you see why these are not law? And not works? If you are working for love then you will never be free to love. No real love, no joy. No joy, no peace. No peace, no patience (you get the idea).
“Fruit” also points to two other important truths. 1) We grow gradually. It takes time. Spiritual growth is never over night. Like my garden in my backyard it’s slow, hard, and often frustrating. You can’t see fruit growing on a tree. But when you come back a few weeks or months later you see the growth. Do you respond with more gentleness than you did two years ago? Are you more patient? More peaceful? 2) We grow (full stop). Seeds grow, it’s what they do. The Spirit grows us, it’s what he does. Christ is growing in your life Christian. It is inevitable. Nothing can stop it. Not even you.
“To live is Christ” is to grow. To change. To be transformed. And the growth will look like Christ. He is both the source and goal of our faith. He is the seed and the apple. He is the beginning and the end. His life turns our lives into his life.
Do you see the fruit of Christ’s life in your life (thinking, choices, feelings)? Are you striving for more fruit, or are you letting them grow naturally from your faith? Have you had anyone tell you lately that they can see you growing in Christ? Are you preventing the growth of Christ’s fruit in any way?