Fruit of the Spirit

Since ‘fruit’ (καρπὸς) in Galataians 5:22 is singular then does that mean that we must exhibit all or nothing in terms of love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness and temperance?  If so then do you know anyone who bears this fruit?  I can think of very few people…



15 thoughts on “Fruit of the Spirit

  1. I have found J. Louis Martyn helpful on this question in his Anchor Yale Bible commentary. He rightly notes that the characteristics of the fruit are largely communal in nature. Paul has transformed traditional lists of vices and virtues to not simply be a catalogue of virtues for the individual, but rather “communal evidence of the Spirit’s own activity. Thus, none of the things in either list is an autonomous act of a human being that could be correctly called that individual’s vice or virtue. On the contrary, Paul lists actions that are without exception effected by the two warring powers, the Flesh and the Spirit. And all of the actions are communal in nature.” (See 532-3).

  2. It’s an ideal to be aimed for, not necessarily achieved, as seen subsequently:

    Gal 5:25-26 NET. If we live by the Spirit, let us also behave in accordance with the Spirit. (26) Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, being jealous of one another.

    A similar passage is

    Php 2:12-15 NET. So then, my dear friends, just as you have always obeyed, not only in my presence but even more in my absence, continue working out your salvation with awe and reverence, (13) for the one bringing forth in you both the desire and the effort — for the sake of his good pleasure — is God. (14) Do everything without grumbling or arguing, (15) so that you may be blameless and pure, children of God without blemish though you live in a crooked and perverse society, in which you shine as lights in the world

    That pesky Bible keeps mixing divine sovereignty with human responsibility. Of such are doctrinal disputes almost eternally with us.

  3. The real question is did Paul even possess all the fruit? Reading through Galatians and 1 & 2 Corithians I do not get the impression that Paul was all that patient, meek or gentle :)

    Patrick’s interpretation is interesting though, not just about individualism but the fruit of the Spirit being more communal. It reminds me about when Paul says the body is the temple of the Spirit he seems to be talking about the collective church body.

  4. “It reminds me about when Paul says the body is the temple of the Spirit he seems to be talking about the collective church body.”–Mike Koke

    The body is the sum of it’s parts if traits are to be seen corporately….then they must also be see individually at least in part…

    When a child is growing, they reach a point where they are exhibiting both childish and more mature character traits…Then they enter the tumultuous phase of teendom…which gives way hopefully to maturity…

    As Christians we WILL all be affected by the Living Word of God and His Holy Spirit…Not seeing the fruit? How long do you have to wait? Thankfully God’s timing and ours are not on the same scale.

  5. I don’t buy this explanation, but I have heard one person suggest that the fruit of the Spirit is love, then the rest stand in apposition to it. I have not looked into this, but that would suggest that love is defined by the rest of the list.

    Has anyone else heard this or seen it read that way?

  6. I tend to think they are opposite the vices listed in 19-21. Against one set there is the law – agaisnt the other there is no such law.

  7. Chuck: Would that we could all just be Arminians, because of course Arminians have no problem reconciling the two. ;-) But my question is this, even if a goal to reach for and not one to be attained, are they all linked so that it’s all or nothing? I wonder if Paul saw them in such a way.

    Mike: I don’t know if he possessed it all or not, but then again I don’t know how much it matters. I knew an overweight nutritionist who gave great instruction on how to eat properly even though she didn’t follow her own advice.

    And I seem to recall my pastor teaching a couple of years back about the body as temple in 1Cor. 3 being the church as a whole and not our individual physical bodies. It made sense back then and it makes sense now although I’ve not examined it in any detail.

    Nancy: I don’t know what the timing is exactly, but I’m wondering more about seeing all the items listed as ‘fruit’ together. I can think of maybe 3 (and I’m being generous to one of them) individuals that display it all. That’s why I find the interpretation Pat offered intriguing; it seems to account for seeing it a lot more if we can look to a broader example.

    Brian LePort: I’ve not heard that explanation before and I don’t think I’d ever think to read it that way. It’s an interesting interpretation though. I immediately though to compare it to Paul’s description of love in 1Cor. 13 but the only real parallel I see is with longsuffering.

    Brian: I agree, but do you think it’s all or nothing?

  8. Bryan: I haven’t checked any commentaries or books yet. It was a random thought that popped into my head and I wanted to get other people’s opinions first.

  9. I am not sure if they are all or nothing – are the gifts of the Spirit all or nothing? To me it seems the Fruit of the Spirit are reflective of the Christian’s character in relation to a life lived, led by the Spirit and filled with the Spirit. And in keeping with the idea that salvation is progressive, we grow in the fruit of the Spirit over time (we being both the individual and the community of faith).

    So, again, they are in connection to the work of the Spirit in the life of God’s people.

  10. Brian: Yeah, but the gifts aren’t described as the ‘gift’ (singular) of the Spirit. That’s my question. Since Paul uses the singular ‘fruit’ then it everything he mentions inextricably linked so that it’s all or nothing in terms of having it. The community interpretation offered above seems to solve the problem but I’ll have to look into it further.

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