Exploring Hope: ‘Fruit of the Spirit’

At the church I pastor in Garnet Valley, we preached through books of the Bible section by section (you can hear sermon audio on our website). Currently, we’re at the end of the apostle Paul's letter to the Galatians. It's a fascinating work that was written only 15 years after the events of Christ's life, death, and resurrection. Today, I have the privilege of teaching on Galatians chapter 5, which contains one of the most famous passages in the book called the "fruit of the spirit." It answers this important question: What is the role of good deeds in the Christian life?

Most religions see good deeds as a means to an end. In other words, you do good things in order to achieve some spiritual goal, whether that's enlightenment, salvation, heaven, or moving up the levels of reincarnation. So good deeds are like a root which bears the fruit of salvation. By contrast, Christianity flips this paradigm on its head. It teaches that good deeds are like fruit flowing from the true root: a relationship with God through Jesus Christ.

The Bible teaches that no one can be accepted as righteous in God’s sight through good deeds or being a “good person” (Romans 3:20) because no one lives up to God’s perfect standard revealed in his Word (Romans 3:10-19). Instead, we are only counted righteous when we admit that we aren’t good enough and trust in Jesus Christ alone (Romans 3:21-30). As we do this, we are counted as righteous through his perfect life and sacrificial death as a substitute in our place.

Of course, some people assume that this means that Christians can live any way they want. After all, we aren't saved by what we do so why not live it up in the world? Well once again, this is where the image of plants is very helpful. In Galatians chapter 5, the apostle Paul says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things, there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires”  (Galatians 5:22-24, NASB).

Paul is saying that if someone belongs to Christ, this is the kind of life that will flow out; this is the fruit that will appear on the branches. Notice that Paul doesn't call “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” the root to the fruit of salvation. Rather, the one “who belongs to Christ Jesus” bears this fruit.

So what practical difference does this make for your life? Well, stop trying to tape the fruit of “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control” onto your life. If you tape fruit on a tree, it may look good for a while, but it will eventually begin to rot because it's not connected to the root. But instead, learn what it means to belong to Jesus. People who repent and put their faith in Jesus Christ belong to Jesus, having been foreknown before the foundation of the world.

Then don't run out and live your life however you want. If you belong to Jesus, expect fruit to come. You may live in seasons of drought and fruitlessness, but God is slowly bringing the sap of good deeds from the root of Christ into the branch of the Spirit in order to bear fruit through us to His glory. This fruit is “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

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About Will Stern

Originally from Colorado, Will Stern is the pastor of Hope Presbyterian Church in Garnet Valley. He majored in violin performance for his undergrad and taught violin for a number of years before being called into ministry. He studied theology at Duke University and Westminster Theological Seminary.

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