22 But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things! (Galatians 5:22-23, NLT)
We often talk about how the Holy Spirit works in our lives, and when we do it is natural to reflect on the “fruit” He produces in us. After listing a list of adverse ways of being that don’t line up with what God has for us, Galatians 5:22-23 contains Paul’s inspired list of the Spirit’s fruit.
In his commentary on this passage, Timothy George celebrates the wonder of Paul’s list of spiritual fruit:
“[T]he character traits contained in the catalog of grace appear in beautiful harmony, balanced and symmetrical, corresponding to the purposeful design and equilibrium of a life filled with the Spirit and lived out in the beauty of holiness.” – Timothy George, Galatians, 399.
And indeed this list is worth more than memorizing, it’s worth meditating on and committing to live out!
Notice that the word “fruit” is singular, which is a good English translation of the Greek. This implies a strong correlation between the nine distinct nouns listed in the passage. The singular “fruit” indicates that spiritual life is a unity and that all of these qualities are found whenever one is led by the Spirit. Like a cluster of grapes, there is a unity to how each grape grows from the same vine.
The “fruit of the Spirit” is just that, it is a result of the Holy Spirit’s production, not our own.
Stated another way: we cannot produce love, joy, peace, and the rest of the fruit in our lives. No matter how much effort and determination we put forth, it is something that can only be grown by the power of the Spirit and His residence in the soil of our soul.
Our role is to prepare the soil of our soul through the spiritual disciplines, something we deeply value as a church. When we create a rhythmic habit of abiding with God, we are more likely to have the fruit only He can produce displayed in our lives.
You might be thinking, “I have read my Bible every day this week, and I feel next to nothing! What am I doing wrong?” Possibly nothing! Part of being disciplined is knowing that the most rewarding part of a practice does not always occur immediately, but we stay consistent anyways. We may not always feel an overwhelming peace, or receive a specific word from God, or experience what we perceive to be an “Instagram-worthy” morning devotional. And that is okay! Fruit takes time.
The reason why it is so relevant to call things like love, joy, peace, etc. as “fruit of the Spirit” is that fruit is the result of many months, and sometimes years, of trees being rooted, fed, and growing before they ever yield its first fruit.
In other words, consistency is key if we want to experience the fruit of the Spirit. And who doesn’t want to experience the nine qualities listed in Galatatians 5:22-23? But sadly, many of us do not discipline ourselves to stay close, abide, and walk with God.
But don’t let the discouragement have the final word! Following the lead of the Holy Spirit is something we learn. It takes practice to develop the discipline. That is why Paul says phrases like “keep in step with the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25).
We can compare it to a waltz where the Holy Spirit is leading and we have to follow His lead for the dance to work. Thus, it takes our effort, but not our initiative, but our response to His movement and impression upon us.
And, kind of like learning to dance the waltz, it gets easier in time. Rhythm doesn’t come with one practice, but with consistency. And like dancing the waltz, keeping step with the Holy Spirit make our lives beautiful and we can enjoy the dance as we follow His lead. Sin’s entangling power can’t hold us down while we are waltzing with the Spirit. And the natural by-product of this dance is nothing short of nine beautiful qualities of being that we long for.
So, you want more of the Spirit’s fruit in your life? Then let’s learn to dance with Him. He is always wanting to lead us into more “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” Let’s waltz our way toward more spiritual fruit!