The fruit of the Spirit - we as New Testament, New Covenant believers are too familiar with this phrase. We've lost its meaning as we've glossed over it in scripture, heard it countless times from the pulpit, probably even colored little apples and grapes in sunday school as children. Jesus stated that by a tree's fruit you would know the tree. The Word later states that by a person's fruit you would know them. The same applies to us. By the fruit of our lives, the outward evidence of God's inner working, people will identify us as the people of God, the light of the world, the holy people of a holy Lord. Do you stand out as such in your day to day? My answer is all too often not as much as I should.
This fruit of the Spirit is more than unintended and accidental good behavior if we follow after God. It is a harvest of holiness that each of us should be sowing, guarding, working to bring forth in our lives. In the greek we gain further insight into each of these words and they shed tremendous light into what the first century believers were hearing in their own vernacular when Paul listed the following fruit/evidence of the Spirit:
Love: first and foremost - it is the essential nature of God. It means to welcome, be fond of, have affection for and can only be know by the actions it prompts. Another concept of this word "agape" is "a love feast" and the sense of inviting others to a feast of charity. To walk in this kind of love is not to show love only towards those one has affinity towards, but to open up the "feast" to everyone who crosses your path. It actually seeks out the opportunities to do good to others that arise in life. Paul, in Corinthians states that without this kind of love, everything else is for naught and we become noisy instruments (clanging cymbals). As our pastor recently put it, "it is the curtain rod upon which everything else hangs".
Peace: a state of tranquility, harmony, enabling a state of security and prosperity - friendliness, freedom from molestation, wholeness, quietness. Being so assured of one's salvation and what we've been called to that we fear nothing from God and are content in him for whatever our walk on this plane brings us.
Longsuffering: always associated with staying constant under trials, patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, slowness in averaging wrongs.
Kindness: Goodness in action in tenderness and compassion as opposed to indignation against sin. The root word "chrestos" means "fit for use or able to be used". Also meaning good, virtuous, mild, and pleasant. Only in kindness will we be fit for use in God's hands.
Goodness: uprightness of heart, life, morally honourable and pleasing to God and therefore beneficial. This greek word and it's root, "agathos" differ from kindness in that kindness is the gentle gracious aspect of goodness. The latter also includes the notion of doing good to others, but is not always by gentle means. Christ driving the money lenders out of the temple is an example. Goodness includes gracious tenderness but is not limited to it.
Faithfulness: the character of one who can be relied upon. This is tied to the concept of assurance, a guarantee, a pledge. To be confident in, to trust. Obedience is the action resulting from this trust and is the outwart expression that evidences the invisible inward faith.
Gentleness: a meek disposition, mild, soothing. In the Old Testament, the meek are those who wholly rely on God rather than their own strength to defend against injustice. It is the opposite of self assertiveness and self interest. It stems from trust in God's total control of a situation. This can only come from the Holy Spirit and not from human will.
Self Control: one who masters his desires and passions rather than letting them master him. From the greek "kratos" meaning "strength". Controlling the power of the will under the operation of the Spirit of God. Also from the greek word "egkrates" meaning "having power over, mastering, controlling, restraining, strong, robust".
Against the above fruit of the Spirit there is no Law. This statement continues a line of truth earlier stated that this salvation, this pursuit of God, this new and holy life, this indwelling of his Spirit is incomparibly superior to the Law by itself. The Law was given to restrain the evil tendencies of man, but they were ever present. When the fruit of the Spirit is in place these inborn tendencies have no place and the Law has no claim or judgment against the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit surplants these tendencies in the believer's life who is actively taking up their cross, crucifying their flesh (again see earlier posts for "staking down the flesh") and following Jesus. In this there is complete and total freedom. In this a slave is made a king!