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The Fruit of the Spirit

If we are controlled by the Holy Spirit, we bear "fruit to God"; but if we are controlled by the sinful nature, we bear "fruit for death". [1] The fruit produced by the Spirit are "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control." The fruit produced by the sinful nature are such things as "sexual immorality ... idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition." Because the Spirit and the sinful nature are in conflict with each other, believers should crucify the latter and live by the Spirit. Then they should keep in step with the Spirit, so that He can produce His fruit in their lives. [2]

1. Love ('agapē')

In classical Greek 'phileo', meaning "an inner inclination to persons or things," is the word most commonly used for love. 'Agapao' is used for "love out of an intelligent estimate of the object of love." However, the distinction is often very subtle. [3]

In the LXX or Septuagint (early Greek translation of the Hebrew Scriptures) 'agapao' is used more frequently than 'phileo.' But both words in classical usage are rather inadequate to describe the nature of God's love. The New Testament has chosen to use 'agapao' and to infuse it with unique meaning.

God is love and "This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down His life for us." [4] "God demonstrate(d) His own love for us" by the fact that Christ died for us "when we were God's enemies." [5] God's love is therefore characterised by self-sacrifice for the benefit of the one loved. [6] This self-sacrificial love is produced in the heart of the yielded believer by the Holy Spirit. [7]


2. Joy ('chara')

In the Old Testament joy is often expressed by the believing community gathered to worship and praise God. Joy was associated with God's blessings, [8] saving acts, [9] promises, [10] future deliverance, [11] etc., so that joy was essentially a religious experience.

The LXX used three Greek words to translate the many Hebrew words for joy. Of these, 'chara' is used most often in the New Testament of joy that has a spiritual basis. Jesus promised believers His joy if they obey His commandments and remain in His love. [12] This joy is produced in the believer by the Holy Spirit [13] as he puts his trust in God, [14] and is independent of circumstances or even trials and persecution. [15]

3. Peace ('eirēnē')

'Shalom,' the Hebrew word for peace, meaning "wholeness, unity and harmony," [16] is most often used in the Old Testament to express the fulfillment experienced by human beings in the presence of God. Peace is dependent upon a right relationship with God, [17] so that "there is no peace ... for the wicked." [18] The prophets foretold the coming of the Prince of Peace, [19] when God would make "a covenant of peace" with His people [20] so that "the fruit of righteousness will be peace." [21]

The New Testament use of 'eirēnē' reflects the Old Testament use of 'shalom,' so that peace is something rooted in one's relationship with God. Trust in God results in both joy and peace. The verb form of 'eirēnē' means "to bind together," so that Jesus, through the blood of His cross, has bound together that which was separated by human sin. Therefore this peace can be defined as "tranquility of mind based on the consciousness of a right relationship to God." [22]


4. Patience (makrothumia)

The word 'macrothumia' consists of 'makros' (long) and 'thumos' (temper), so that it literally means "to be long-tempered," and "is usually rendered 'long suffering' rather than 'patience.'" [23}

Long suffering means to have self-restraint when faced with provocation: not to hastily retaliate or promptly punish; to be merciful and slow to anger. It is used of God, [24] and we are commanded to follow the example of Jesus in His long suffering. [25] Patience does not surrender to circumstances or capitulate under trial; it is associated with hope and is the opposite of despondency. It is used of man and not of God. [26]

Long suffering/patience is a way of life rather than a trait. We must keep on loving and/or forgiving despite provocation. [27]

5. Kindness (chrēstōtēs)

Our whole nature should be kind, so that all that is harsh will be mellowed. It is closely related to goodness, not as a quality but goodness in action. It should express itself in grace, tenderness and compassion.

The Scriptures refer to "the riches" of God's kindness, which "leads ... towards repentance," [28] and "the incomparable riches of His grace, expressed in His kindness to us in Christ Jesus." [29] As God saved us because of His "kindness and love," [30] we are exhorted to "clothe (our)selves with ... kindness" in our relationships with others. [31]

6. Goodness (agathōsunē)

This Greek word signifies goodness as a "quality of moral worth." [32] The Greek scholar Trench regards 'chrēstōtēs'  as describing "the kindlier aspects of goodness," whereas 'agathōsunē' includes also "the sterner qualities by which doing good to others is not necessarily by gentle means," e.g. Christ cleansing the temple. [33]

To refer to something as "good" involves an evaluation. Because the Bible states that only God is good, [34] only He can evaluate that which is good. Therefore we are "able to affirm with confidence" that something is good "only because God has shared His evaluation of the good in His Word." [35]

7. Faithfulness (pistis)

Although 'pistis' is usually translated as 'faith,' i.e. "conviction of the truth," it has the secondary meaning of "fidelity, faithfulness, i.e. the character of one who can be relied on." [36] Therefore 'faithfulness' here is the correct translation.

Faith is that initial act of entrusting ourselves to God, which results in a transformation of our life and character. Only the Holy Spirit working in the life of the yielded Christian can produce faithfulness of character as a fruit of the Spirit.

8. Gentleness (praütēs)

Some Greek scholars insist that 'praütēs' cannot be translated by a single English word. 'Gentleness' refers to actions rather than a temper of spirit as 'praütēs' does. 'Meekness' and 'mildness' both suggest weakness, whereas 'praütēs' does nothing of the kind.

'Praütēs' does not concern outward behaviour; it is an inward grace produced by the Spirit in the soul. It is first of all expressed in our attitude toward God: we accept His dealings with us as good and therefore we submit to Him without disputing or resisting. We also maintain this temper of spirit towards people, in that we accept the insults and injuries which they may inflict as permitted by God for our good in that we'll be purified and blessed.

"When they hurled their insults at Him, He did not retaliate; when He suffered He made no threats." [37] "Consider it pure joy, my brothers, whenever you face trials of many kinds ..." [38]

9. Self-control (enkrateia)

'Enkrateia' means "possessing power, strong, having mastery or possession of, continent, self-controlled ... The word thus refers to the mastery of one's own desires and impulses" without specifying any particular desire. [39] The right use of the various powers bestowed by God upon man demands the controlling power of the will under the operation of the Spirit of God. The two other occurrences of the word in the New Testament suggest that 'enkrateia' is necessary for practising righteousness, [40] and for applying knowledge, when it is followed by perseverance as a virtue. [41]


Of the nine aspects of the fruit of the Spirit, only joy and peace are not mentioned as a part of love as defined by Paul: "Love is patient ... kind ... not proud ... not rude ... not self-seeking ... not easily angered ... it always trusts ... always perseveres ..." [42] Although self-control is also not specifically mentioned, it could be implied by perseverance, as self-control develops into perseverance. [43] Because joy and peace both result from trust in God (as mentioned), they cannot be omitted either.

The astounding conclusion to be drawn from all this is that, although love is listed as only the first part of the fruit of the Spirit, the others all seem to be included in it. But perhaps it is not so astounding, as Jesus told us that "all the Law and the Prophets hang on" the commandment to love, [44] so that "love is the fulfillment of the law." [45]


1.  Romans 7:4-6
2.  Galatians 5:17-25
3.  Vincent, p.166-167
4.  1 John 3:16
5.  Romans 5: 8,10
6.  John 3:16
7.  Romans 5:5; Galatians 5:22
8.  Deuteronomy 16:15
9.  1 Chronicles 16
10. Psalm 119:162
11. Psalm 33:16f
12. John 15:10-11
13. 1 Thessalonians 1:6
14. Romans 15:13
15. Acts 13:50-52; James 1:2
16. Richards, p.479
17. Psalm 119:165
18. Isaiah 57:21
19. Isaiah 9:6
20. Ezekiel 34:24-25
21. Isaiah 32:16
22. Wuest, p.160
23. Vine, p.694
24. Exodus 34:6; Romans 2:4; 1 Peter 3:20
25. 1 Peter 2:23
26. 1 Thessalonians 1:3
27. Matthew 18
28. Romans 2:4
29. Ephesians 2:7
30. Titus 3:4
31. Colossians 3:12
32. Wuest, p.160
33. As quoted by Vine, p.505
34. Matthew 19:17
35. Richards, p.316
36. Thayer, p.512
37. 1 Peter 2:23
38. James 1:2
39. Wuest, p.160
40. Acts 24:25
41. 2 Peter 1:6
42. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7
43. 2 Peter 1:6
44. Matthew 22:40
45. Romans 13:10


1. Henry, M. Commentary on the whole Bible, Massachusetts, U.S.A.: Hendrickson Publishers, 1991.
2. Richards, L.C. Expository Dictionary of Bible Words, Michigan, U.S.A.: Regency Reference library, 1985.
3. Thayer, J.H. Greek-English Lexicon of the NT, Tennessee, U.S.A.:Broadman Press, 1977.
4. Thompson, F.C. Chain-Reference Bible (N.I.V.), Michigan, U.S.A.: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1983.
5. Unger, M.F. The Hodder Bible Handbook, London, England: Hodder and Stoughton, 1984.
6. Vincent, M.C. Word Studies of the NT (Vol IV), Massachusetts, U.S.A.: Hendrickson Publishers, ?
7. Vine, W.E. Expository Dictionary of NT Words, Massachusetts, U.S.A.: Hendrickson Publishers, ?
8. Wuest, K.S. Galatians in the Greek NT, Michigan, U.S.A.: Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1972.


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Posted in: Bible by on April 1, 2012 @ 6:16 pm

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