The Fruit of the Spirit: Introduction


Today I want to introduce a new series of articles on the fruit of the Spirit. 

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, [23] gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law" (Galatians 5:22-23).

These nine character traits summarize Christian values, feelings, ethics, and behavior for all of life. In future articles, we'll take them one by one. I want to make sure, though, that our study and pursuit of the fruit of the Spirit occurs within a biblical context and with a devotional spirit. This introduction will discuss Christian living in general, sanctification in particular, and the context of the fruit of the Spirit passage in Galatians 5.

Christian Living

We should be zealous to understand biblical Christian living. We should be zealous to avoid subjective, superficial, contrived, or man made counterfeits. We should wholeheartedly devote ourselves to pursuing and progressing in Christian living. As Peter wrote:

"But grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. To him be the glory both now and to the day of eternity. Amen" (2 Peter 3:18; see 1 Thessalonians 4:9-10).

Go for the real thing of authentic spirituality rather than a man made alternative. That means spirituality from the heart, according to God's Word, in fellowship with God's church, born of God's Spirit, focused on God's glory, and sourced in, sustained by, and centered in God's glorious Son, Jesus Christ, who died in our place to bring us to God (1 Peter 3:18). I plead with you to yearn for authentic growth rather than the apathy and stagnation that is all so common and all too easy.

Remember that you glorify God to the maximum when you humbly and desperately go to Jesus for grace and when, as a recipient of His grace, you strive in the Spirit to live according to the knowledge of Him (Hebrews 4:16; Colossians 2:3). 

To live for God's glory, and to trust and worship Jesus as Savior and Lord are the same reality, namely, Spirit-born, Spirit-led, humble, glad, and obedient Christian living.

Our striving to live for God's glory rather than worldly riches, pleasures, trinkets, or treasures boils down to two lifelong spiritual endeavors: sanctification and discipleship

Discipleship is learning to live for Christ and honor Him in all spheres of life, i.e., home and family, habits and hobbies, work or school, business and culture, the local church, the nation and world, any other endeavor (Matthew 16:24-26; Colossians 3:17; 1 Corinthians 10:31; 1 Peter 4:11). 

Sanctification is God's work within us to cultivate holiness and kill sin, thereby making us more and more like Christ as the months and years go by (Romans 6:15-23; 1 Thessalonians 4:1-8; Ephesians 5:1; 1 Corinthians 11:1).

Kill sin? Yes! Jesus is working to diminish the power of sin over us, the allurement of sin to us, and the love for sin that lingers within us, fighting, scraping, clawing, and raging against God's work within us. (1 Peter 2:11; Romans 8:5-13). My life would be nothing but an ever-growing snowball of corruption without the saving and sanctifying grace of Jesus within. What is my point? The point is that this work of Jesus within us is the fountain spring of both sanctification and discipleship. Inner holiness comes from Jesus by the working of the Spirit. Practical obedience comes from Him also.

"For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. [10] Oh, continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart" (Psalm 36:9-10)!

We are called to obey Christ. We are set apart for Spirit-born obedience to God (1 Peter 1:1-2). Though it may be an oversimplification, we can view sanctification as Spirit-led inner obedience, and discipleship as Spirit-led outward obedience. Either way, sanctification and discipleship are the circulatory system of biblical obedience, the heart, the blood, and the veins of living for God rather than ourselves (Matthew 6:33; 16:24).


As those spiritually united to Christ by faith in Him, believers have been sanctified and are being sanctified by the work of the Holy Spirit within us. We are gradually, painfully, joyfully, and mercifully being conformed to the likeness of Christ as beloved children of God (Ephesians 5:1). I hope that we are also being patient, resting in Christ and trusting in God's timing rather than their own (James 5:11). 

Sanctification is a blessing, not a curse. It brings joy, not gloom. We are to be thankful, not bitter or discontented people. God has been good to us. He has showered us with many blessings (Ephesians 1:3). "I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me" (Psalm 13:6)

Make no mistake, God has commanded His children to live holy lives and to flee from the corruption, rebellion, selfishness, materialism, and man made religion of the world (1 Peter 1:14-19; 2 Timothy 2:22). And let us praise the Lord, for that which He commands with authority He also provides with tender mercy and supernatural power, "for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure" (Philippians 2:13; see 2 Corinthians 3:18). 

This series on the fruit of the Spirit will ask, "What exactly is God working in me?" "What character, what feelings, what ethics are being cultivated by God within me?" In other words, what does holiness look like? What does Christlikeness look like in our hearts and minds?

The Context of the Fruit of the Spirit, Galatians 5:16-26

One way the Bible answers these questions is by teaching us, "the fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22). After this introduction article, we will go fruit by fruit (found in vv. 22-23) to gain a stronger grasp and deeper appreciation for the various aspects of what God is working within us to conform us to the likeness of Christ. To do that properly, however, we need to see the context of the passage. This can be done rather briefly.

1. The Spirit vs. the Flesh

First, the fruit of the Spirit are set in contrast with, "the desires of flesh" (vv. 16f) and, "the works of the flesh" (v. 19, cf. v. 24). We cannot pursue the fruit of God's Spirit apart from fleeing the desires and the works of the flesh. These are the two wings of soaring in the grace of God, the two legs of walking in obedience to God's will (see 1 Peter 2:11; Romans 8:5-8; 13:14). 

The Spirit refers to the Holy Spirit of God that was given to us by Jesus when we were born again. Indeed, Jesus giving us the Spirit is the reason we are born again by grace through faith (Acts 2:33; John 3:3-8; Romans 5:5; Galatians 4:6; Titus 3:5-6). 

The flesh refers to our unredeemed humanity that still exist because we live in these corrupt mortal bodies. Even though we are born again and are filled with the Holy Spirit, we still have sin living within us and we still possess sinful flesh. The desires of the flesh are contrary to the desires of the Spirit. The Spirit is working to diminish the power of the sinful flesh. We will not be without the sinful flesh until our bodies die and our souls depart from them. 

We cannot understand the fruit of the Spirit apart from their mortal enemy, the desires and works of the flesh. The flesh is hostile toward God and hates godliness, the Spirit is hostile toward sin and hates wickedness. There is a war within the believers, an ethical, spiritual battle for dominion in your heart and mind. 

2. Under Grace, not Law 

Second, we can only walk in the Spirit because we "are not under the law" (v. 18; see 5:1-15). The point is emphatically not labeled, "Grace vs. Law," because God's grace and God's law are not enemies like the Spirit and the flesh are enemies. They are friends that work together to bring us into communion with God through Christ. The law shows us our need for salvation that we might turn to Christ, and God's grace is found in the gospel, which shows us Christ and His saving work on our behalf. 

We are, however, just as emphatically, not under law but under grace. This is the very thing that enables us to walk in the Spirit as those united to the risen Lord by faith (see Romans 6:14-15). If we were under law, we would be on the hook for earning God's favor on the basis of our obedience, and we would still be on the hook to pay the just penalty for our lawbreaking and rebellion against God.

But since you are under grace, Christ's obedience is counted as yours. And Christ received the penalty of your lawbreaking on the cross (1 Peter 2:24). You have been redeemed from the ruling power of sin. Sin is not your master because you are under grace and covenantally bound to Christ. His victory is your victory. 

3. The Centrality of Union with Christ

Third, the fruit of the Spirit exists in our lives only because we belong to Christ, and in belonging to Christ we have been made new by the power of God. Verse 24 says, "And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." 

"Those who belong to Christ Jesus," refers to our spiritual communion with Christ in heaven. "But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him" (1 Corinthians 6:17; Romans 6:5-7). We are "in Christ" (Ephesians 1:3; Romans 3:24; 8:9-11). 

"Have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires," does not mean that we no longer possess sinful flesh. If that were the case, the passage would make sense, for then there would be no struggle between the flesh and Spirit. It means the flesh, along with its passions and desires, are no longer the ruling spiritual power over us. It means that sin is not our master. It means we are no longer slaves to sin who can do nothing but continually fall prey to the carnal passions and desires of the proud, selfish, God-denying flesh of our fallen humanity. 

  • Christians have been created anew by the power of God for genuine obedience.
"... to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, [23] and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, [24] and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness." (Ephesians 4:22-24)

  • Christians have died to their old, sin-enslaved, sin-loving selves and are enabled to live for God by the life of Christ within them.
"For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. [20] I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me." (Galatians 2:19-20)

What's the point? The point is that WHEN we were joined to Christ, our old master (the sinful flesh) was executed so that we might serve a new master (the exalted Christ) (n.b., Ephesians 2:1-10; Colossians 1:13-14; cf. Ephesians 6:12).

4. The Commandment 

Fourth, we are commanded to, "walk by the Spirit" (v. 16). Notice in this verse that walking in the Spirit is the path to victory over the flesh, not vice versa. The blessing of the Spirit within us precedes any repentance from any sin as well as any overcoming of any temptation. "Walk by the Spirit," is not an option, but a command from Christ to His covenant people. 

Only by humble evangelical obedience to this command will the child of God be able, by God's grace, to, "not gratify the desires of the flesh" (v. 16), be "led by the Spirit" (v. 18), "live by the Spirit," and, "keep in step with the Spirit" (v. 25), and, "not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another" (v. 26). 

Clearly, if we do not know how to walk by the Spirit, if we do not know how to obey that command according to God's Word, we are doomed. Beloved, walking by the Spirit is not a suggestion. It is not something for a small group of elite Christians. It is not something you might get into down the road once you mature in the faith. Never! "Walk by the Spirit," is Christ's command for all believers.

by: Matt Fortunato