We note in Gal. 5:22 the absence of an “s” after “fruit.” Paul did not say, “the fruits of the Spirit are…” but, “the fruit of the Spirit is…” The use of the singular rather than the plural suggests an aggregate or total package. It’s like a recipe where all of the ingredients combine to produce something really good. This indicates that we cannot pick and choose, but must take the list as a whole. The fact that each one of these elements is a matter of degree, implies that we should be growing and maturing in every one of them, not in just one or a few. Let’s take a brief look at each one and see if we can’t better grasp the whole picture.
1. Love. The original word here is agape. It indicates affection, benevolence or charity, and always has a self-sacrificing aspect. If I truly “love” someone, seek their welfare, their happiness. A good passage to consult for a fuller understanding of love is 1 Cor. 13. In its nature, we see that love encompasses some of the other items in this list, such as kindness and patience (1 Cor. 13:4). Love is absolutely commanded of the Christian, and it is the very essence of God, (1 Jn. 4:7-8). Jesus summed up the entire old law with the command to love God and love others, (Mt. 22:34-40). Some people are harder to love than others, but the very first item in this list describes a quality others should clearly see in our lives – that we have a real affection for people, and do our best to help others.
2. Joy. The original word here is chara. It indicates cheerfulness, a calm delight, and carries an abiding aspect. It is deep-seated, constant, not fleeting or ephemeral. A good passage to consult for a fuller understanding of joy is the book of Philippians, the “book of joy.” Christians “rejoice in the Lord,” (Phil. 3:1; 4:4, 10) because he is with us in every stage of life, and because he makes this life worth living.
3. Peace. The Greek word, eirene means quietness, rest, and (by implication) prosperity. It is similar to the Hebrew shalom, which is often used as a greeting to impart goodwill, peace and tranquility. Jesus promised to give peace to his disciples: “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you: not as the world giveth, give I unto you. Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be fearful,” (Jn. 14:27). This gift is stated as a matter of fact, as a part of the Christian experience. It is an experience the world will never know.
4. Longsuffering/Patience. One of the most important traits for the Christian to develop in their own life is patience, because Christianity can be difficult, trying and demanding. From makrothumia, the word means longsuffering, endurance, forbearance, patience, or fortitude. It suggests sticking with the task, and refusing to lose interest. Longsuffering is one of the characteristics of God himself, (1 Pet. 3:20).
5. Kindness/Gentleness. From chrestotes, the original word means goodness, kindness, gentleness, moral excellence (in character or demeanor). It is similar in meaning to the next word…
6. Goodness. The word translates agathosoonay, from agates, meaning good or well, and suggests virtue or beneficence. Christians are good people.
7. Faithfulness/Faith. One of the richest concepts in the Bible, the original word, pistes, suggests persuasion, credence, moral conviction, reliance, constancy, assurance, belief, faith or fidelity. Christians are people of faith, for without faith we cannot please God, (Heb. 11:6). We grow and advance into deeper faith as we live for Christ, taking in and applying the word of God, (Rom. 10:17).
8. Meekness. One of the most misunderstood words in the Bible, the idea of praotes is humility, not weakness, uncertainty or timidity. A good definition of this word is strength under control, because it carries the idea of power put to a constructive use. The word sounds like “weakness,” but the meaning is totally different, and a meek person cannot be weak. 9. Self-Control/Temperance. Sometimes translated “continence,” the word egkrateia suggests a person not governed by addictions, lusts, evil influences and the like, but one who is firmly enslaved to God alone. This is the “crowning” characteristic of the Spirit-led person—the child of God exhibiting clearly the fruit of the Spirit!
-by Robert C. Veil, Jr.