- Lesson 13 in the BaptistWay Press Connect360 unit “Living in the Spirit” focuses on Galatians 5:22-25.
In Galatians 5:18-21, the Apostle Paul delineates the fruit or characteristics of a life that is rooted in man’s fallen, sinful nature. A self-driven life is destructive. In Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus said you can recognize a good tree or a bad tree by its fruit. What comes out of us is what already fills up our life. What our life taps into for the values and energy to live will either be our selfish flesh, or God’s Holy Spirit. Our selfish nature produces every kind of evil (see list in 5:18-21).
However, Paul encourages us to declare our self-driven life to be crucified and dead, and therefore to root our lives in God and his Spirit (Galatians 2:20). When we do this, God’s Spirit will fill us with the fruit of his Spirit. Have you noticed that the deeds of the flesh are many, hence the plural “the acts of the sinful nature are obvious…” (5:19). But the “fruit” of the Spirit is singular; it’s not “the fruits are,” but “the fruit is.”
Singular or plural?
Why do you think that the word “fruit” is singular in 5:22, especially when there are nine distinct virtues, or traits, listed that are associated with that one “fruit”? There are various theories as to why it is the “fruit of the Spirit,” instead of the fruits of the Spirit. Sometimes “fruit” is used as a genre of food (meat or cheese, for example). Often, we use it as a collective noun, saying there is a lot of fruit growing in our yard. Is that lots of fruit on one tree, or lots of different varieties of fruit in the yard?
I think that the point of using “fruit” singular, is to place emphasis on the fruit of one God, one Spirit living within you. The emphasis is more on the fact that the Spirit produces fruit; there is only one source of that fruit. If the text said: “Now the fruits of the Spirit are…” we would find ourselves examining the fruit products, instead of focusing upon the producer of the products. There is one Holy Spirit who comes to live within us when we believe. The fruit cannot exist apart from the producer of that fruit. Since only God’s Holy Spirit can come live inside of us, only he can help us put to death our old sinful nature, only he can transform our lives, and only he can produce characteristics that find their roots in God.
The singular fruit helps us stay focused on the giver of God’s virtuous fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. The singular form “fruit” stresses that God’s Spirit brings all of these into us as a unity, as a whole group of fruit. All of this fruit should be seen in our lives, because it is the by-product of God’s presence in our lives.
Spiritual fruit differs from spiritual gifts. Different spiritual gifts are given to different people by God. But the Spirit, and the accompanying fruit of the Spirit, is given to all believers. You don’t get little fruit packages, with one labeled “love,” and another labeled “goodness.” You get God himself, coming to live within you (John 14:20, 23; 15:4-5). It is the life-giving force of God’s Spirit living inside you that produces godly virtues within and through you. When God comes to live within you through the Holy Spirit, the person and values of God come to live within you, therefore you have all the fruit. These nine characteristics are virtues that originate in God, so he produces the fruit in you, and others see his character and values being manifested in and through you.
Compiled by Stan Granberry, marketing coordinator for BaptistWay Press.
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