The phrase "fruit of the Spirit" comes from Galatians 5:22-23, which says, "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control." One of reasons why Jesus gave us the Holy Spirit is to help us learn how to be more godly (John 16:12-15). The Holy Spirit will convict us of our sin (John 16:8) and guide us in choosing well when faced with temptations, thus producing godly characteristics within us (Ephesians 3:16; John 16:13).
But why "fruit"? Why not something else? Well, the Bible uses a lot of agricultural metaphors because they were easily understood by the highly agricultural culture of the time. The "fruit of the Spirit" refers to the "results" we should see in our lives after receiving the Holy Spirit and "tending" to our hearts over time (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:13-14).
The "fruit" metaphor helps us see our faith as a tree with branches that may or may not produce fruit, depending on how well we take care of the tree itself. If we give the tree nourishment (God's Word), then it will grow bigger. If we clear away weeds and insects (sinful tendencies), then we keep the tree healthy. If we consult a professional gardener (God), then we'll ensure we're on the right track. See how that works?
If you are a Christian, and you aren't exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit in your life, at best, you will experience stagnation—no growth. (See James 2:14-26.) At worst, the result of "bad fruit" is death (Romans 6:20-23; Proverbs 14:12). You may have noticed that Galatians 5:22 starts out with the word "but." So what does the Apostle Paul tell us is the opposite of these spiritual fruits? Let's take a look at the verses just before the fruits list:
"The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God." —Galatians 5:19-21
Yikes. Harsh words. Paul liked to tell it like it is. But at least he makes it very clear what we should NOT be doing as Christ-followers. Galatians 5:19-21 is a laundry list of things that someone who does not have the Holy Spirit's influence would have little problem with.
Our sinfulness produces rotted, poisoned fruit that reflects our sinful nature and hurts us in the end. On the other hand, the Holy Spirit produces beautiful, nourishing fruit that reflects God's nature and will ultimately benefit our lives.
The life of the Christian is a constant battle between our sinful nature and our new nature in Christ (2 Corinthians 5:17). Unfortunately, just because we've accepted Christ, that doesn't mean we're automatically immune to sinful temptations (Romans 7:14-25). In fact, sometimes, it may feel like we're trapped in a desire to reach for the sinful thing rather than the godly thing. But that doesn't always have to be the case!
The choice is 100% YOURS. You are no longer a slave to your sinful nature (Romans 6:18). You get to CHOOSE love over hate, patience over hostile frustration, faithfulness over disloyalty. True, we sometimes decide we aren't strong enough to conquer our sinful desires, but that's the beauty of having the Holy Spirit—He gives us POWER to fight (2 Corinthians 5:17; Philippians 4:13). All we must do to tap into that power is practice obedience to God's Word and His direction.
Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control—that's a lot to work on! No one is going to be able to produce godly fruit all the time. Failure is a part of the learning process. Sometimes our fruit will thrive, but sometimes it won't. Sometimes it'll show up but then shrivel up and die. Sometimes it won't show up at all. This is going to be true of ALL CHRISTIANS at some point—not just you.
One of our 412teens writers, Rhonda, wrote a wonderful metaphor to help illustrate the "growth" of our spiritual fruit:
"If I plant an apple seed in some soil, but then never do anything else with it, I would be pretty silly to expect to see an apple. Planting the seed is an important first step, but in order to grow the seed needs to be cultivated—placed in the Son (see what I did there?), watered, fertilized, pruned, and nurtured to grow into a beautiful apple tree that will bloom with plentiful and healthy fruit. We are the same way. The day we accept Jesus as our Savior, the Holy Spirit is planted in our spirit—but that is just the beginning of our journey. We must then take steps to nurture our relationship with Jesus so that we begin to grow—and grow to look more like Him in His manner, attitude, and actions. That's what it means to produce spiritual fruit."
Though we may struggle and fail, we will sometimes conquer too! We ought to daily strive for, work for, and yearn for the fruits of the Spirit. We must allow the Holy Spirit into our hearts to work within us and learn to practice obedience to His guidance. No, we won't always win the fight, but we should always put forth our best efforts—even if it's hard to do. Yes, it's likely going to be really, really hard at first, but the results will be worth it! Over time, you will become more loving, joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, good, faithful, and gentle, and you will have control over your words and actions.
ALSO SEE: "What does it mean if I don't show the fruits of the Spirit in my life?" (blog post)
The phrase "fruit of the Spirit" comes from Galatians 5:22-23. These fruits are love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. These fruits are the "results" we should see in our lives after receiving the Holy Spirit and "tending" to our hearts (Romans 8:9; 1 Corinthians 12:13; Ephesians 1:13-14). The Holy Spirit helps us develop godly characteristics (Ephesians 3:16; John 16:13). The "fruits" metaphor helps us see our faith as a tree with branches that may or may not produce fruit, depending on how well we take care of the tree itself.
Cat is the web producer and editor of 412teens.org. She loves audiobooks, feeding the people she cares about, and using Christmas lights to illuminate a room. When Catiana is not writing, cooking, or drawing, she enjoys spending time with her two kids, five socially-awkward cats, and her amazing friend-amily.