The Fruit of the Spirit - Part 1 - The Character Developed in the Believer
Fred Whitelock, Warrington, England [SEE PROFILE BELOW]
Fruit – that which is produced externally from a life source within a plant or being. So too with the believer, having been sealed and indwelt by the Spirit of God, should be giving evidence of spiritual fruit. It is not something that springs out of our old nature, amended, educated or refined. It is not something that we create in ourselves by our own will or effort however hard we try. It is that which is wrought in us by divine power and energy, as we allow the Spirit of God to work in our lives.
There should be a marked difference in each of our lives, as time progresses, since we first came to know the Lord Jesus Christ as our Saviour and Lord. There should be no standing still in our development in the things of God, ‘desiring the sincere milk of the word that we might grow thereby’, 1 Pet. 2. 2. As Paul says, ‘That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive’, Eph. 4. 14. It was the Lord’s desire, and proof of our attachment to Him, that we give evidence of fruit bearing, John 15. Yet, so often, we are occupied with outward formalities rather than that which is an inwrought grace within the heart of each one of us giving evidence that we are His by faith.
In noting these aspects of the fruit primarily from both Galatians and Ephesians, it can be seen that they divide into three triplets. (See table below).
In its context, Galatians chapter 5 is dealing with believers putting themselves under the yoke of the law, when they should have been resting in the work of Christ for righteousness. As J. N. Darby remarks, ‘The Holy Ghost dwells in him (the believer). Faith rests in this righteousness, even as God rests in it, and this faith is sustained by the Holy Ghost, who turns the heart that is established in that righteousness towards the glory that is its recompense – a recompense which Christ enjoys already, so that we know what that righteousness deserves. Christ is in the glory due to righteousness, to the work which He accomplished’.
|Galatians 5. 22-23||Ephesians 5. 9|
|Love, joy and peace||Godward||Goodness|
|Long-suffering, gentleness and goodness||Man-ward||Righteousness|
|Faith, meekness and temperance (self-control)||Self-ward||Truth|
Each of the inwrought graces as here identified is developed by allowing the Spirit of God and the word of God to have their effect upon our lives. It is first and foremost that we are to give evidence of our salvation: ’For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure’, Phil. 2. 13. It is our Father’s desire that we would be more conformed to the image of His dear Son, Rom. 8. 29. Therefore, it is important that we, in our daily walk with the Lord, distinguish between that which is the work of God, giving evidence of the ‘fruit of the Spirit’ in our lives, in contrast to those of the ‘works of the flesh’.
Fruit is grown as the branch is attached to the tree, and, in this respect, it is that which the Saviour referred to in John chapter 15, the branch abiding in the vine in order that the fruit will bring delight to the Father. Christlikeness is that which is to be produced in the life of the believer.
As was intimated above, the first group of these is: Godward.
Let us clearly observe the order of these to see that which comes first in all of them, namely love!
The word for love here, in the Greek (agape), signifies divine love, unselfish in character and purpose, and this is central to God, John 3. 16, our Lord Jesus Christ, Gal. 2. 20; Eph. 5. 25, and the Spirit of God, Rom. 15. 30. Love is a fulfilling of the divine law and is central to the divine purpose, for without it God would not have spared His own Son, nor would the Son of God have left heaven to die on the cross, nor would the Spirit of God come down to indwell each born-again child of God. It is not until man is born again by the Spirit of God that love opens his eyes to see the loveliness of Christ, 2 Cor. 4. 6, the wonder of His grace, righteousness, and fullness.
This fruit, however, is primarily love for God and the things of God; the Lord Himself said, ‘If ye love me, keep my commandments’, John 14. 15. Therefore, this love is to evidence itself in our lives, as stated previously, firstly towards God, His word, His will and His work. However, this also should be evidenced towards our fellow believers, Eph. 1. 15, and to all with whom we come into contact.
There is much in 1 Corinthians chapter 13 that is instructive to us with respect to love. If, in my heart, I do not exercise love, then, as verses 1-3 show, ‘I have nothing to promote’, v. 1, ‘I am nothing’, v. 2, and ‘all that I do avails to nothing’, v. 3. How we all need to read and re-read all of chapter 13 and to remind ourselves of the wonder of God’s love for each one of us, and how we need to develop this divine impartation in each of our lives! As Romans chapter 12 verse 9 says, ‘Let love be without dissimulation [hypocrisy]. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good’.
There should be a love for our fellow men, even those who are perhaps our enemies, that by this love and our lives lived in the light of it, we might prayerfully see them won for Christ. This, of course, precludes the world, its attractions, its fashions and its ways. No believer should have a love for the things which are contrary to the new life and nature which are divine in origin.1 It should be borne in mind, that it is the world and its system that the child of God has been saved from, ‘if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new’, 2 Cor. 5. 17. Furthermore, Romans chapter 6 reminds us that God has finished with the old man – the old nature – and, as far as God is concerned, it is dead and we ourselves are to reckon it dead too. For this reason, too, Romans chapter 12 verse 2 reminds us, ‘be not conformed to this world’ – don’t mould yourself to this world – ‘but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind’.
The second of these fruits is joy and, again, there is much for our souls to enjoy. The word in this verse means cheerfulness, with calm delight, and gladness. If love is the outworking of an inwrought grace, an appreciation of that into which we as believers have been brought, then surely we should have joy in our approach to our Heavenly Father. The Father finds delight in those who approach Him in adoration of His person, all that He is as our Father. We can remind our hearts of how much the Father delighted in His only begotten. Think of the Son as He could say, ‘I do always those things that please Him’, John 8. 29, yet in that garden, in view of all that He, the Son, was about to suffer, that endearment was expressed in His prayer to His Father, ‘Abba, Father, all things are possible unto thee’, Mark 14. 36. How much more, then, we who have been brought into such high and holy privileges, are to approach with an expression of joy, finding it a delight to come to Him knowing that we too are accepted.2
Having peace with God
Oh how precious it is to be reconciled to God by the death of His Son. Peace is something the world is striving for, yet cannot find because they are looking in the wrong place. Real peace is that tranquillity of heart and mind, knowing that there is nothing between me and God in spite of past transgressions. It is that which is the result of our repentance and faith in our Lord Jesus Christ and resting in the assurance that ‘being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ’, Rom. 5. 1. The believer draws near into the very presence of God, knowing that the Lord Jesus has ‘made peace through the blood of His cross’, Col. 1. 20 and we can draw near, ‘in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled from an evil conscience, and our bodies washed with pure water’, Heb. 10. 22.
Peace with men
Unfortunately, we live in a world where sin abounds on every hand, and the child of God has to strive against the wiles of the devil seeking to reach out to others that they may be won for Christ. Sadly, we find that it is not always possible to avoid confrontation with some, and we are exhorted with the best of our effort, to control our emotions in order that, ‘As much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men’, Rom. 12. 18. It is in this respect that the Apostle reminds us of the supreme example in our Lord Jesus, ‘Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously’, 1 Peter 2. 23. In such circumstances it is wise to leave the matter with the Lord and commit the same in prayer that they might be saved, remembering the exhortation of the Lord Himself who said, ‘Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you’, Matt. 5. 44.
Peace among ourselves
There is another matter which is of great import relative to the matter of peace, and that is that we are as believers to be at peace among ourselves, 1 Thess. 5. 12-13. How sad it is that believers cannot maintain this very important request! How unfortunate it is when the world observes such behaviour that the testimony is marred and the devil rejoices. How much more grievous it must be to the Lord as He sees such behaviour amongst His saints. As Paul says, ‘I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, with all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace’, Eph. 4. 1-3.
1 John 15. 19; 1 John 2. 15.
2 Rom. 8. 15; Gal. 4. 6.
AUTHOR PROFILE: Fred, along with his wife Betty, is in happy fellowship with the assembly at Hope Hall Gospel Hall, Warrington, England. He serves the Lord as an overseer in the same assembly as well as also giving ministry and taking gospel meetings locally.