Colossians 1:9-10 (NKJV)
9 For this reason we also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding;
10 that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God;
Galatians 5:19-24 (NKJV)
19 Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness,
20 idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies,
21 envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law.
24 And those who are Christ’s have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
Romans 6:22 (NKJV)
22 But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves of God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.
The Nine Graces
The fruit of the spirit has been described as the nine graces of Christian character. Though there are nine of them, they are always spoken of singularly. The nine form a singular indivisible fruit, with each attribute complimenting the others.
And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity.Colossians 3:14 NIV
When describing love to the Colossian church, Paul explained the unity of the fruit of the spirit by saying that patience, meekness, kindness, and self-control are all manifested in true love. True love has patience. True love is never proud or boastful. True love has a cause to rejoice. True love is ever faithful. Paul described love as the bond that binds all the other virtues together. (Col 3:14)
Jesus said “No greater love hath a man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13) The greatest form of love is self-sacrificial and demonstrates itself in the life of a Christian through a concern for others. Love for others will lead us to pray for them, show kindness and generosity, and encourage and uplift our neighbors.
Love for our elderly family may cause us to sacrifice some of our time to visit and help them. Love for our children can cause us to sacrifice some of our own wants and desires to ensure their needs are met. Love for our spouse can lead to us to sacrifice in compromise. Love for our friends and neighbors can lead us to visit them when they are sick, offer encouragement when they are down, or provide help to them in time of need.
These are just a few ways that the love grows and shows in our Christian lives. If we ever desire more example of perfect love, we need only look to Christ.
Jesus said “I am meek and lowly.” (Matthew 11:29) He demonstrated perfect meekness and humbleness in his life. He did not conduct himself in a proud of boastful manner. He was easy to be around. He was not demanding.
Jesus gave a powerful example to his disciples to illustrate humility. He told his disciples to always assume there is someone else who is greater than them and never try to take the best portion for themselves. (Luke 14:7-11) He taught his disciples to be willing to humble themselves to serve others, and he gave a personal example by taking the role of a servant and washing their feet after their Passover meal. (John 13:4)
Humility and meekness will demonstrate itself in our lives when we bear the fruit of the spirit. Like Jesus, we will not be too proud to help others, we will not seek the best portion for ourselves, and we will not think more highly of ourselves that we have right to. Most importantly, our meekness will give us a unique ability to recognize God and his greatness. (Matthew 5:8)
Self-control and Temperance
Self-control, or temperance, is another important aspect of the fruit of the spirit. When we are lost without Christ, we are slaves to sin. When sin is our master, we cannot help but to serve our carnal or lustful appetites. A slave cannot resist his master. But when Christ frees us from sin he gives us the ability to say no to our old master.
Self-control, and resisting the temptations of sin are never something we can manage purely by acts of our self-will. The bibles tells us about “the sin that so easily besets us.” (Hebrew 12:1) We each have particular weaknesses that we can easily fall into. For some it is gossiping, for others it is addictions, for others it can be jealousy or pride. Although we can and should expend great effort to combat those things in our lives, when they are patterns have that become ingrained in our life, only the work of the Holy Spirit can truly change our nature to remove their hold on us.
As the love of God grows in our hearts towards God and our neighbor, we will find that love to be a great bastion of strength and self-control.
The peace that God places in our life is truly a special aspect of the fruit of the spirit. At the most important level, it is a peace between us and God. It is a deep abiding knowledge that our soul has been saved. Peace is restful and restorative. It is a reservoir of comfort for the faithful. Peace is the result of our deep trust for God and his control over our lives and our destiny.
True peace can only come to us through a God given revelation and knowledge deep in our soul. Jesus is himself our peace, (Ephesians 2:14) and the peace he gives is unlike any kind of peace we can find outside of him. The peace of God is something that can only be found in a deep and abiding relationship with Jesus Christ. (John 14:27)
Patience and Longsuffering
Peace and self-control are both intimately connected to patience, sometimes called longsuffering. Our deep trust of God and the knowledge of our ultimate destiny in eternity with Him forms a worldview that is unique to Christians. In light of eternity, whatever situations we may face today can seem trivial.
The Bible explains God’s patience towards sinners, telling us he is “slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.” (Exodus 34:6) When we develop a godly patience in our lives, we will likewise be patience and slow to anger towards sinful and inconsiderate people.
God’s grace towards us is a great demonstration of his patience. He patiently works with us, helping us to grow. He looks into the future and sees us a finished work. Likewise, when we deal with our neighbors, we will realize God is still working on them too and we show them grace.
Faithfulness is another important part of the fruit of the spirit. God is faithful. He is reliable, truthful, and trustworthy. As we are molded into the image of Jesus Christ, these same attributes will become increasingly present in our own lives.
Faithfulness is especially demonstrated in our relationships one with another. It is what will cause us to keep our word, to speak the truth to our neighbors, and be dependable to those who count on us. Without faithfulness we can never have an honest relationship with others.
Most importantly, faithfulness will also show up in the way we trust in God and his word. The bible compares the relationship between Jesus Christ and the church to a marriage, and calls the church the Bride of Christ. Faithfulness is one of the most important features of a healthy marriage. When we are faithful to Christ, we will respect him, and always be willing to receive his divine counsel and leadership.
Gentleness, Goodness, and Kindness
Jesus Christ, who the image of the invisible God, perfectly demonstrated godly gentleness, goodness, and kindness. (1 Col 1:15) Although Jesus boldly spoke the truth to his critics, like the Pharisees, he gently cares for his people.
Gentleness describes a way of doing things. It is not harsh, rigid, or demanding. It indicates a sensitivity towards other people’s circumstances, and a desire to do no harm. There is a gentle way to rock a baby, there is a gentle way to speak to others, there is a gentle way to handle giving bad news. Gentleness does not mean we withhold the truth, but it means we will speak the truth in love. (Ephesians 4:15)
Goodness and kindness are closely related. They will lead us to be respectful of others, and to seek to build up, encourage, and help those around us. True goodness and kindness are more than just our appearance. It is something which flows from a genuine heart that has been transformed by the power of God.
Joy is a great place to end our lesson. The joy of the Lord will lead to rejoicing in our life. Joy is an expression of thankfulness and gratitude because God has saved us. Because of what Christ has done, you and I will experience eternal joy rather than eternal judgement. (Isaiah 61:7) That expectation of eternal blessings is an important source of our joy.
It is possible to confuse joy with happiness. Happiness describes an emotion, and the joy of the Lord can lead to great feelings of happiness. But there are times when we will also feel the joy of the Lord while also experience great sorrow. Like the old song, Whispering Hope, there is joy when our loved one pass away knowing they are in a better place, yet at the same time there is also deep sorrow. Like our savior on the cross, joy does not mean the absence of sorrow, but often times joy means we can see the silver lining in the midst of adversity.
Whispering hope, oh how welcome thy voice, Making my heart in its sorrow rejoiceby Septimus Winner, 1868
The Root of Holiness
A life full of the fruit of the spirit is a beautiful thing. It is a true reflection of Jesus Christ and a glory to God. The growth of spiritual fruit in our life should be one of our highest pursuits as disciples of Jesus Christ.
The Bible teaches us the fruit of the spirit is the root of true holiness. Paul told the Colossian church to cloth themselves in the fruit of the spirit. (Col 3:12) To the Roman church he explained that the fruit of the spirit is what leads to our holiness. (Romans 6:22) To the Ephesian church Paul said that the transition of our mind from the carnal to the godly will bring true holiness. (Ephesians 6:17-32, Romans 12:1-3)
When the fruit of the spirit is growing in our life, our nature and character will become increasingly Christ-like. Our hearts and minds develop love, peace, joy, humbleness, patience, self-control, gentleness, faithfulness, and kindness. When those things abound in our life, they can’t help but become outwardly noticeable through the life we live. It will lead us to a live a life of true holiness. When these things abound in our life, we are truly living to the glory of God. (John 15:8) When the fruit of the spirit abounds in our lives, it serves as an important witness to us that we are assured an entrance to the Heavenly Kingdom. (2 Peter 5-11)
Weakness: A Prayer of the Puritans
Help my infirmities;
When I am pressed down with a load of sorrow,
perplexed and knowing not what to do,
slandered and persecuted,
Make to feel the weight of the cross,
Help me, I pray thee.
If thou seest in me
any wrong thing encouraged,
any evil desire cherished,
any delight that is not thy delight,
any habit that grieves thee,
any nest of sin in my heart,
then grant me the kiss of thy forgiveness,
and teach my feet to walk in the way of thy commandments.
Deliver me from carking care,
and make me a happy holy person.
Help me to walk the separated life with firm and brave step
and to wrestle successfully against weakness.
Teach me to laud, adore, and magnify thee with the music of heaven,
and make me a perfume of praiseful gratitude to thee.
I do not crouch at thy feet as a slave before a tyrant,
but exult before thee as a son with a father.
Give me power to live as thy child in all my actions
and to exercise sonship by conquering self.
Preserve me from intoxication that comes of prosperity
Sober me when I am glad with a joy that comes not from thee.
Lead me safely on to the eternal kingdom,
Not asking whether the road be rough or smooth.
I request only to see the face of him I love,
to be content with bread to eat,
with raiment to put on,
if I can be brought to thy house in peace.
Let it be,
In Jesus Name
The Valley of Vision: A collection of Puritan Prayers Edited by Arthur Bennet, 1975
- What is the difference between the natural love, natural peace, and natural self-control many people exercise and the love, peace and self-control that comes from the fruit of the spirit?
- What are some ways you can show godly patience towards others?
- Does the fruit of the spirit grow gradually or rapidly? Can you share an example?
- Is it true to say that fruitfulness is not a measure of our salvation, but a measure of the strength of our relationship with Christ?
- Read Romans 12. Can you identify all nine fruit of the spirit in that chapter?
- In what ways do the fruit of the spirit lead to holiness?