But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in
our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
There is no law against these things!
- Paul of Tarsus
When we think about spiritual fruit, particularly the "Fruit of the Spirit", we tend to think of DOING, spiritual fruit has become synonymous with some action or activity. Often, we look for these outward actions as evidence that they have genuinely repented of their sinful ways. In fact, when we do not see these things in the life of a believer, we tend to push them to WORK HARDER, to try harder or to DO MORE to produce the fruit that proves the genuineness of their faith. But is this really a correct understanding of what fruit is and what it means to bear fruit - well, lets look at the context of the above quote from the Apostle Paul.
The letter to the church at Galatia has of late become one of my favorite New testament books. In this letter, Paul is defending the true Gospel message against a group who is trying to convince the Galatian believers that they need to keep at least part of the Old Testament Law in addition to placing faith in Jesus for salvation. The Apostle's emphatic response against this ideology in chapter 3 goes so far as to question whether the Galatians have been drugged (pharmacia) and that was why they were buying into this foolishness.
Chapter 5, however, is probably my favorite part of the entire book. "Christ has truly set us free, now make sure that you stay free, and do not get entangled once again in the slavery to the law." Sounds pretty convincing, and again Paul says "For if you are trying to make yourselves right with God by keeping the law, you have been cut off from Christ! You have fallen away from God’s grace." From these verses, we can definitely say that the "Fruit" that Paul references later in this same chapter is not the outward works of keeping this list of rules and regulations known as the Law.
But Paul does not just leave it there, " So I say, let the Holy Spirit guide your lives. Then you won’t be doing what your sinful nature craves. The sinful nature wants to do evil, which is just the opposite of what the Spirit wants. And the Spirit gives us desires that are the opposite of what the sinful nature desires. These two forces are constantly fighting each other, so you are not free to carry out your good intentions. But when you are directed by the Spirit, you are not under obligation to the law of Moses." Paul contrasts the two spirits within us as believers, and describes them as warring against each other. But the most striking things here is the way he describes one of those spirits as our sinful nature.
After explaining the contrast and the battle, Paul goes on to describe the results of each spirit and contrast them with each other. And as I looked at this, I noticed something, we don't have to WORK HARD to produce the fruit of the sinful nature. In fact, it is as Paul describes it our nature, the default setting as it were, and to produce the works of the flesh, we need only to yield ourselves to the way we naturally do things, and our nature will produce its fruit. In the same way, Paul does not command the believers here to WORK or TRY harder to produce the fruit of Righteousness, in fact, if you notice how Paul talks about this fruit, he actually says that it is the Holy Spirit that produces this fruit, not us working for it. In the same way that yielding to the natural spirit leads to fruit of unrighteousness, simply yielding to the leading of the Holy Spirit in our lives will result in the production of the fruit of righteousness.
Paul once again reinforces this idea in the closing verses of this chapter "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives." Notice the language here, Paul is talking like these things are already true of the believer, because they are. Those who belong to Christ HAVE nailed the passions and desires of the sinful nature to the cross, Paul does not tell them to do it, its already done. Since we ARE made alive by the Spirit, the are already made alive, nothing more to do, its already done. The only thing left for the believer to DO is to give up control to the Holy Spirit, and "follow His leading in every part of our lives". And just as when we live out our sin nature, we bear sin-fruit without even trying, when we yield to the Holy Spirits leading in our lives, the Holy Spirit produces life-fruit through us without our having to try harder.
This post is part of the April Synchroblog "Bearing Fruit" A discussion of what "fruit" is, how we bear it, and what it looks like in the lives of believers. Please check out what these other authors have to say on this topic as well.
- Jeremy Myers – Good Fruits Are Not The Good Works We Perform
- Mark Votava – The Fruit of Non Violent Communication
- Carol Kuniholm – Fruit That Will Last
- Clara Ogwuazor Mbamalu – The Importance of Success By Bearing Fruit
- Glenn Hager – Juicy Fruit
- Done With Religion – Can We Produce The Fruit of the Spirit?
- Pastor FedEx – How Do We Bear Fruit?
- K.W. Leslie – New Fruit!
- Leah Sophia – Stewardship Trilogy