10. The Fruit of the Spirit
A plant can’t produce fruit on its own. Plants need proper soil, moisture, and sunlight to mature to the point of producing fruit. If those elements are present, the plant will naturally produce fruit. Yet the fact that the fruit is born naturally doesn’t diminish the reality that work has to happen in the plant for the fruit to be produced. The work of that plant is consistent with the nature of the plant, so it’s natural, but it’s still work.
As we saw in session 9, we have a responsibility to actively depend on Christ. In this session, we will observe what happens when we inwardly depend on the Spirit.
- Individual Aim: To consider how you have seen the fruit of the Spirit in the lives of other group members.
- Group Aim: To identify the fruit of the Spirit in each other’s lives, examining the obstacles to fruitfulness and the ways group members might overcome them.
Read Session 10: The Fruit of the Spirit.
Complete the Life Change: The Fruit of the Spirit exercise beginning on page 101.
Just as we had to have an active faith in receiving Christ, we pursue holiness in Christ actively. Our faith in Christ for salvation was active in the sense that we had to respond, even though it was not active in the sense of any of our good works winning us merit for salvation.
In His conversation with Nicodemus, Jesus said rebirth requires believing in Him (see John 3:16-18). Salvation is not granted in the context of passivity. Though the power for salvation is not our own, we are responsible to act. The action that ought to follow salvation is a movement of the heart toward dependence on God, or what is called “walking in the Spirit.” James tells us that walking in faith results in good works, the outward expression of dependence on God’s power (see James 2:14-26). God wants us to produce outward good deeds “so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God” (John 3:21).
Scripture is filled with images taken from the world of horticulture. For example, the Old Testament repeatedly uses the images of an olive tree and a vineyard to refer to Israel (see Psalm 52:8; Isaiah 3:14; Jeremiah 11:16; Ezekiel 19:10-12). Christ refers to Himself as “the vine” and His followers as “branches,” promising that those who abide in Him will “bear much fruit” (John 15:5). And Paul talked about the kind of fruit that would characterize those who “walk in the Spirit” when he identified the “fruit of the Spirit” as “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23).
About this ninefold fruit, Philip Kenneson writes,
These metaphors and images underscore the importance in the Christian life of both work and grace. All farmers know that there is always more work to be done than there is time to do it; nevertheless, these same farmers also understand that much of what happens to the crops is beyond their control. There is much for the farmer to do, but the farmer cannot make the seed sprout, the sun shine or the rain fall. In fact, it is only because the farmer trusts that these good gifts will continue to be given that the challenging and risk-filled enterprise of farming is undertaken at all. Grace and effort, gift and work: these must be held together. Unfortunately, Christians often either pit these against each other or emphasize one to the exclusion of the other. The wisdom of the farmer reminds us that both are required, in full measure, in order to grow anything worth harvesting. The same holds for the life of the Spirit. There is always plenty of work to be done, but no one who undertakes that work should do so without realizing that growth in the Spirit is first of all the gift of God.
We must keep this understanding in mind as we explore the Spirit’s fruit. Only the Spirit can enable us to bear fruit, but our contribution to cultivating the fruit is essential too.
Growing fruit takes time, and the fruit of the Spirit grows particularly slowly. Sometimes the growth is imperceptible, but the Spirit’s presence in our lives guarantees that growth will occur. Our commitment to growth wanes easily when we grow tired of waiting, but we must not become discouraged. Rather, we must continue to do our part by laying aside our preoccupation with ourselves and focusing on others—both God and our neighbors. As we learn to do this, we will see fruit grow that only the Spirit of God working within us can produce.
Read Session 11: Growing in Integrity.