What is the “Fruit of the Spirit” in the Bible?
The fruit of the Spirit includes nine attributes of a godly life that the Holy Spirit works to develop in the lives of those who have accepted Jesus Christ as Savior.
The nine attributes are:
Where is the Fruit of the Spirit Mentioned in the Bible?
In the New Testament book of Galatians, the fruit of the Spirit is presented by the Apostle Paul.
Galatians is a letter that Paul wrote to early Christian congregations in the province of Galatia, located in modern-day Turkey, about A.D. 47.
The Apostle Paul wrote several letters to new congregations in the ancient world, such as the Ephesians, Thessalonians, Colossians and Corinthians. These letters are included in the New Testament of the Bible.
The most strongly worded of his letters in the New Testament was the one to the Galatians. It was a response to the influence of Jewish convert teachers who insisted that in addition to faith in Christ, non-Jewish believers in Galatia (gentiles) must also follow the Jewish law to receive salvation.
Paul was distraught by this influence, which he saw as undermining the very foundation of salvation — that it is God’s gift to anyone who believes in Jesus Christ.
Paul’s writing about the fruit of the Spirit is found in Galatians 5: 22-23. In the New International Version of the Bible, these verses read:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
Galatians 5:22-23, NIV
Why Does the Apostle Paul Write About the Fruit of the Spirit?
Paul presents the nine attributes of a godly life, a life led by the Holy Spirit, as a contrast to the attributes of an ungodly life. He refers to the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit as “acts of the flesh” (Galatians 5:19), or “works of the flesh” as the King James Version of the Bible (KJV) describes them.
An ungodly life is one controlled by the sinful nature that every human is born with. Paul describes it as follows:
The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like.
Galatians 5:19-21, NIV
Paul’s purpose in writing Galatians 5 is to encourage his readers that those who “belong to Christ” (verse 24) are no longer slaves to their sin nature.
That’s because when a person accepts Christ as Savior, they receive the power of the Holy Spirit to overcome their sin nature and develop the character of Christ. And the character of Christ is marked by the fruit of his Spirit.
Why is the Fruit of the Spirit Also Called Fruits of the Spirit?
Some people refer to the nine Christlike attributes in Galatians 5 in plural form: “fruits” of the Spirit.
It is true that each attribute is distinct, but the Scripture refers to them as a united, singular “fruit.”
These nine attributes come together in a Christian’s life to reflect a complete picture of the character of Christ.
What is the Meaning of Each Attribute of the Fruit of the Holy Spirit?
It is no coincidence that Paul puts “love” first in the fruit of the Spirit. The Greek word for love in this instance is agape. It is the highest form of the different kinds of love expressed by distinct Greek words, including eros (romantic love), philia (friendship love) and storge (familial love).
Agape is the kind of love God has for his creation. It is pure, selfless and self-sacrificing. It seeks the best for others — even enemies — at all times, at all costs. A beautiful description of agape love is found in the Bible verses of 1 Corinthians 13, a well-known passage of Scripture.
God showed his agape love for us in sacrificing his only Son to save us from our sinful nature.
But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.
Romans 5:8, NIV
The joy Paul refers to in Galatians 5 is much deeper than a sense of happiness or gladness from life’s circumstances. It is a profound delight and rejoicing that comes from knowing and serving God.
The Bible describes the importance of this divine joy to the Christian’s life:
Peace is an unshakeable inner calm that can be a rare quality in turbulent times.
Christians can call on God’s Holy Spirit to impart a sense of peace when things seem to be spinning out of control.
And the peace that comes from the Spirit is not just a small comfort. Paul describes it as beyond human understanding in one of Scripture’s most reassuring passages:
Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
Philippians 4:6-7, NIV
Also called longsuffering, forbearance has the common synonym “patience.”
Patience can be in short supply in a fast-paced world where everyone wants what they want, when they want it.
But the Holy Spirit has a never-ending supply of patience and longsuffering to flood the Christian’s heart at those times when it is needed most.
Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.
Ephesians 4:2, NIV
This fruit of the Spirit is a natural result of love.
When God’s Spirit begins to develop love in the Christian’s heart, treating others with kindness, compassion and forgiveness follows.
In fact, once the foundational fruit of love is flowing through one’s life, not only kindness but also gentleness, forbearance, goodness and other attributes listed in Galatians 5 will naturally follow.
Be kind and compassionate to one another, forgiving each other, just as in Christ God forgave you.
Ephesians 4:32, NIV
This fruit of the Spirit is an attribute of action. It means living one’s life with good morals and motives as well as doing good things for others.
Producing the fruit of goodness is a true mark of godliness. It also has an attractive power and draws people to Jesus through the Christian’s actions.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
Galatians 6:10, NIV
Trustworthy, loyal, constant, dependable. The Christian who produces the fruit of faithfulness is all these.
This is an especially important attribute to God. No matter what life brings, he expects his followers to be unwavering in their faithfulness to him as well as to the people in their lives.
Blessed is the one who perseveres under trial because, having stood the test, that person will receive the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love him.
James 1:12, NIV
The way a Christian engages with others is what the fruit of gentleness is all about.
The ability to discern when to use a gentle word or touch is a valuable gift of the Spirit. Especially in tense moments, when unkind words or manners are the typical first response, the Christian who responds with gentleness and meekness is a true reflection of Jesus and the kingdom of God.
A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 15:1, NIV
Paul concludes his list of fruit of the Spirit with self-control.
Because of the human sin nature, everyone’s personality has negative impulses and qualities. Overcoming them can be a constant tug of war.
But Christians have the power of God’s Holy Spirit in their lives to help them identify and overcome areas of weakness.
For the grace of God has appeared that offers salvation to all people. It teaches us to say “No” to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age.
Titus 2:11-12, NIV
How Do You Develop the Fruit of the Spirit?
It is important to note that Paul doesn’t write that the nine attributes of Christ’s character are “the fruit of your own efforts.”
These nine attributes are “the fruit of the Spirit.”
It is the Spirit alone through God’s grace who accomplishes this task.
The moment a person accepts Christ as Savior, the Holy Spirit takes up permanent residence in that person’s life. And it is the Spirit’s power that transforms and molds the person into Christ’s likeness.
What does that mean? How, exactly, does the Holy Spirit do this miraculous work in a person’s life?
It doesn’t just “happen.” The believer in Christ has an important role to play in this transformation. In Galatians 5:25, Paul reveals the secret to making sure the Holy Spirit can cultivate the fruit of Christ’s character in one’s life.
It is this: “Keep in step with the Spirit.”
Keeping in step means trusting and following the Spirit’s lead. To discover the Spirit’s leading, the Christian must draw close to God.
How? By spending time in God’s presence and being immersed in prayer and his Word.
How Long Does It Take to Develop the Fruit of the Spirit?
Developing the fruit of the Spirit is a lifelong pursuit and process. There are times when every Christian falls out of step with the Spirit.
But the Spirit is faithful and merciful. He lovingly guides his followers back into step.
And with each step taken, the Christian, through God’s grace and the Holy Spirit’s power, changes, grows and produces more of the fruit that reflects Christ!
How Do You Apply the Fruit of the Spirit to Your Life?
The fruit of the Spirit is not meant to be kept. It is meant to be shared!
An important way that the Holy Spirit develops the attributes of Christ in the Christian’s life is by leading them to take action on behalf of others.
Around the world, millions of people have responded to the Holy Spirit’s call to action by reaching out to children in poverty. As sponsors with Compassion, they are demonstrating the fruit of the Spirit in a powerful way with children who truly need it the most.
- A sponsor’s kindness and goodness, demonstrated through financial support, provides for a child’s basic needs, including nutrition, education, medical attention and spiritual nurture.
- A sponsor’s faithfulness, demonstrated by consistent prayers, releases the Holy Spirit’s power to work in their child’s life.
- A sponsor’s love and joy, shared through correspondence, brings a sense of value to their child, as well as hope for a brighter future.
And as a sponsor shares the fruit of the Spirit with their child, those amazing aspects of Christ’s character increase in the sponsor’s own life!
Share the Fruit of the Spirit in Your Life With a Child in Need.
Child sponsorship through Compassion International is one of the easiest — and most powerful — ways to express and cultivate the fruit of the Spirit in your life. It is also one of the most successful and cost-efficient ways to meet the needs of impoverished people.
In fact, economists have recognized child sponsorship as the most effective long-term development intervention for helping those in poverty.
When you sign up for sponsorship, you will be connected to a specific child who will:
- Know your name.
- Write to you.
- Cherish the thought that you care about them.
Your child will come under the care of a local church that will make sure they receive the medical care, education assistance, nutritious food and other life basics needed to grow and thrive — all in the context of a safe, nurturing environment.
Most importantly, your child will have the opportunity to hear about God’s love for them and his great gift of salvation through Jesus Christ.
A child is waiting for you. Please demonstrate the presence of Christ and the fruit of his Holy Spirit in your life by reaching out through sponsorship today.