Galatians 5: 22-23 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.” This well-known passage commonly inspires us to set a goal of pursuing these individual qualities, and these are wonderful goals to have.
However, what many fail to realize is that these various qualities are not meant to be pursued individually. Instead, we should understand them as a whole. In the same way that fig tree produces figs rather than olives and a grapevine produces grapes rather than figs (James 3:1-12) the Spirit produces just one kind of fruit. The Spirit of God produces a godly spirit.
These qualities then are descriptors of that fruit. You might describe an apple as red, crisp, and sweet. Here, Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit as something that is beautiful, wonderful and desirable. These qualities, and others like them (against such things there is no law — no bad consequences!) are part of the Christian life. They describe the qualities of a life that has been transformed by the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
A few verses earlier, Paul also describes “the works of the flesh” and says they too are self-evident “sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies.” And like the fruit of the Spirit, this by no means is a complete list of descriptors of the works of the flesh for Paul says “and things like these.” These qualities of the flesh describe a life that is corrupt with the spirit of the world.
In verse 17, Paul reminds us that these two very different types of fruit should not be growing in the same orchard. He says, “For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other” (see James 3 again). This is the very struggle that the Apostle Paul himself was dealing with in Romans, chapter 7. In verses 21-24 he says, “So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand. For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being, but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?” Thankfully, his answer is our answer: “Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!” As Paul said in Galatians 5:16, “walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh.”
Joel Shelton, Commerce church of Christ, Commerce, TX