The Fruits of the Spirit – An Overview


What are the fruits of the Spirit?

What are the fruits of the Spirit? And, why did Paul encourage the Christians of Galatia to “walk in the Spirit?” (Gal 5, 25)

In this episode, we provide a brief overview of the fruits of the Spirit mentioned by Paul in the Epistle to the Galatians 5, 22-23.

The Context of the Fruits of the Spirit

We not only identify what the fruits of the Spirit were, but we also discuss why exactly Paul included a discussion of these fruits. We note that Paul discussed the fruits of the Spirit in light of his longer conversation about the relationship between Christians and the Mosaic law.

Paul’s discussion about the fruits of the Spirit was nested in a historic controversy among Jewish and Gentile Christians over the proper Christian disposition toward the Mosaic law. Instead of using the Mosaic law as a primary reference for their moral conduct, Paul maintains, Christians should use the Spirit as the compass for their moral life. Rather than relying on a written law as the primary compass of a moral life, Paul’s maintained that none other than God the Holy Spirit establishes for believers in Jesus their spiritual direction.

The Problem with the Fruits of the Spirit

This proposal was innovative in that it did not involve the Mosaic law as the primary point of reference for moral behavior. But this new proposal also created a problem: How does one know if one is actually living one’s life according to the dictates of the Holy Spirit? A person could justify all sorts of activities, one could object, according to the supposed dictates of the Holy Spirit. Since the Holy Spirit is not bodily present, one could theoretically attribute all sorts of activities to the promptings of the Spirit. This created a true conundrum.

Anticipating this objection, Paul not only explicitly rejected the notion that a Christian can with impunity use their freedom for lawlessness (Gal 5, 13) but he also succinctly identified the characteristics of the Holy Spirit’s operation in a human’s life (Gal 5, 22-23). The Spirit, Paul argues, does indeed provide parameters for a person’s moral life. The question was how does the Spirit do so.

We devote a good portion of this episode to discussing the hallmark of the fruits of the Spirit, namely, love. Paul deliberately began his list of the fruits of the Spirit with this key virtue, knowing that all the others depended in one way or another on love. In the end, Paul identified love as the quick litmus test of the Spirit’s work in the lives of Christians.

Join us this week as we provide an initial overview of the fruits of the Spirit and spiritual life.