None of the characteristics of the Fruit of the Spirit happen in the world around us regularly. We would be more surprised to see any of these nine virtues are characteristics of the Spirit in our world.
Even if we do find them in the world, they are only used for selfish gain. But the fruit of the Spirit is not to make us a better person so we can show off our superiority to others. His fruit in us makes us holy, conforming to Christ’s image. It shows the world the difference Jesus makes in us. It gives us access to the presence of God to dwell with him forever.
In the last several posts I have described the Fruit of the Spirit, the resulting work he does in our character and lives. I want to conclude this list with the last three, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
Paul completes the list by talking about how they apply to the law of the land. He has really nailed down the character of Christ in these nine choices for explaining the Fruit of the Spirit. These characteristics of the Spirit’s work in us deal with inner character transformation. But people observe these characteristics in us as we act. They deal with our interactions with others.
The seventh characteristic of the Fruit of the Spirit is faithfulness. But the word in the original language is just the word for faith. Just about everyone understands this to be a characteristic instead of the ability to have faith.
Faithfulness is the characteristic of being believable. When we speak about something, people should not think it is far-fetched. Some people will think this no matter what we say. But most people should understand that what we’re saying is believable and accurate to reality.
Faithfulness means that we are dependable and reliable people. Others can count on us when we give our word or say we will do something. We don’t want to be the kind of people that others can never take at their word.
We must be trustworthy people on every account. Faithfulness doesn’t come naturally to us. That’s why the Holy Spirit is working this quality in each of his people.
As with all of the characteristics of the Spirit’s fruit, Jesus is our example. He is always faithful. All of his promises come true. We can trust his word and we see his works. He has never led us astray.
In relationships, we must be loyal friends, loyal family members, and loyal saints. We must stand for those in our relationships, defending them and telling the truth at all times. We keep our commitments to everyone.
We must be faithful to the gospel, God’s people, and God. When we speak about Jesus, we must be faithful in our witness, consistent. This is the only way lifestyle evangelism works. People will only listen to our witness if they see holy lives.
The last way we can think about being faithful is being a good and faithful steward of all that God entrusts to us. He must be able to put things in our hands to manage. Other people must be able to trust us as faithful managers.
Joseph was a great steward of all that was put before him whether he was in prison or the second in command of all of Egypt. The Holy Spirit is working faithfulness in each of us. It’s going to take time and we will improve in increments. But he never gives up on us.
Gentleness is hard to describe. This is a lot like meekness. It is a quiet strength. It’s power under control. It’s a person that can’t be provoked easily. Meekness is a synonym for gentleness.
The gentle person has a mild manner. Gentle people show consideration for others first, put others before themselves and think of others before themselves. They don’t have selfish ambition. They are considerate.
Already you can see that the Spirit must give us this quality. So many people like myself one to rise up in anger, especially when offended. And yet the Holy Spirit wants to guide us into the quality that uses that anger at the right time for the right reason.
Gentleness is often seen as a strength by Christians but not by the world. It’s patients and humility together. In fact, humility can be one of the hallmarks of the gentle person. Gentleness is the preferred quality when we deal with conflict, a fallen brother who needs to be restored, and proclaiming the gospel in word and deed, to name a few approaches.
The gentle person is generous in giving themselves and their resources to others. He or she is a selfless person. This is a person who doesn’t demand their own rights and don’t think of themselves as superior to others.
They don’t assert themselves or their own agendas. This doesn’t mean that gentle people don’t have an agenda or any power. It’s that they yield them to others first. There’s always a time to address one’s own agenda, especially if it is a kingdom agenda.
A gentle person is always teachable, ready to learn, and open to correction. This is why we need the Spirit to cultivate it in us. Putting others first and being able to deal with conflict without becoming part of it is a special quality of the Spirit and takes his strength to instill in us.
Some people can be self-controlled with their own willpower for a time. Willpower sometimes helps us to attain self-control. But when we do it without the Spirit’s help, it doesn’t last and is often for selfish reasons.
One of the most holy things the Spirit can help us with his mastery over temptation, our impulses, fleshly desires, and sin. Just because we are new creatures in Christ doesn’t mean we don’t still have to keep the flesh under control.
Temptations weigh on former desires we must keep in check. Self-control helps us to do that. It helps us to live in the world but not be like the world. With self-control, we don’t yield to temptation.
Jesus is our example. He was tempted by the devil three times in the wilderness and yet did not yield to him at all. Self-control gives us complete control through the Spirit’s power.
The Bible often contrasts it with self-indulgence in sexual matters, drunkenness, and the like. But self-control is much wider than these issues. Self-control Christians control everything about their behavior, thoughts, and speech.
We can’t keep our desires and passions under control without the Spirit dwelling in us. We need his power every day to deny the flesh and our own desires. The Bible calls us to take up our cross daily. Self-control helps us to do it.
We might momentarily fall to our temptations. But the power of the Spirit lives in us. We can be restored in Christ and walk with him again. We must avail ourselves of the Spirit’s power as he teaches us to have self-control.
One of the best ways to understand self-control is through discipline. Like athletes, we deny certain things as we run the race Christ marked out for us. Discipline keeps us from worldly passions and allows us to stay on the right path with Christ.
No Law against Them
Paul ends the list by saying that there is no law against these nine qualities. Some people believe Paul targeted the fruit toward the Galatians. But if they’re in the Bible, they give us a starting point to understand the Spirit’s work in us.
He is cultivating more than just these nine characteristics of his fruit. This doesn’t have to be an exhaustive list. The Holy Spirit works in us whatever we need to conform to Christ’s image. But this is a great template for him to start from.
Paul says this as an understatement. It calls to mind what he said earlier in the passage about the works of the flesh, that they disqualify us from inheriting God’s kingdom. Laws are made for the works of the flesh, but the fruit of the Spirit works for everyone, not against us.
No one will charge you if you demonstrate the characteristics of the Spirit’s fruit rather than the 19 works of the flesh. The character of the Spirit isn’t against any law a nation creates. But it does work against our natural tendencies. This is why the Holy Spirit is changing us to be like Christ.
We have talked about the Fruit of the Spirit, the resulting work of the Spirit in our character and lives. We can see how the Holy Spirit is changing us to be like Christ, to conform to his image (Romans 8:29).
But the Holy Spirit doesn’t just wave a wand and make us the holy people of God. It takes our obedience to listen to the Spirit, knowing which part of the Fruit he wishes to address and work on next.
We work with the Holy Spirit through obedience. He changes us little by little as we walk the path of righteousness with Jesus. Leave a comment and tell me if this short study on the Fruit of the Spirit has helped you.