Fruit of the Spirit, part 1: Fruits versus gifts

Dec 20, 2012

In the last weblog, I concluded my series on sonship. There is much more that could be said about sonship, but I am going to leave it at that for the present because the reader now has a sufficient understanding so that when I use the term “sonship” or “sons of God” he will have a competent familiarity with what is meant.

Among the several topics related to sonship, which I did not discuss much at all, was the concept of firstfruits. Today I am commencing an intermittent series on the fruit of the Spirit, and within this series, the reader can look for the discussion of firstfruits integrated into the discussion of fruit in general.

The fruits of the Spirit (more or less of them) are mentioned in a number of places in the New Testament, but the most complete list is in Galatians. I will list them here, but we will not get into detail on these individual fruits until we have first spoken of fruit in general and laid some other preliminary groundwork.

Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

I do not profess or claim to be an expert on any of these fruits. By that I mean that I am not a paragon of these virtues. I am not the quintessential example of these fruits. I am not the epitome of meekness and humility and patience, for example. But I am striving towards that goal. I am a work-in-progress just as every Christian believer is.

When we talk about the fruits of the Spirit, we are talking about the development of Christian character, which means we are growing into spiritual maturity. It consists of the gradual putting on of the mind of Christ, or Christ being formed in us. It is the pursuit and practice of holiness and godliness.

All of this is part of the path or process of sanctification. In the symbolism of the tabernacle in the wilderness, the development of the fruits of the Spirit in our character is the process of progressing through the Holy Place and preparing to enter the Holy of Holies. Our sanctification process is the period in our life after we have “accepted Christ,” “got saved,” become “born again” (a misnomer which we shall not take time to explain here), and other terms. It is an event, a point in time where we surrender our will to His.

Theologically, it is our justification. We are imputed the righteousness of Christ. The remainder of our life is our sanctification phase. No one enters permanently into the Holy of Holies until their resurrection into incorruptible immortality. And it is there in the Most Holy Place (aka Holy of Holies), where a spiritual marriage will occur. Out of that marriage of Christ’s Holy Spirit and your perfected soul will be birthed a new you with the divine nature fully manifested in you as a son of God.

Let us begin by drawing a distinction between the fruits of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit. Let us refresh our memories on Paul’s list of the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12.

1 Corinthians 12: 4 Now there are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit.

5 And there are differences of administrations, but the same Lord.

6 And there are diversities of operations, but it is the same God which worketh all in all.

7 But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to every man to profit withal.

8 For to one is given by the Spirit the word of wisdom; to another the word of knowledge by the same Spirit;

9 To another faith by the same Spirit; to another the gifts of healing by the same Spirit;

10 To another the working of miracles; to another prophecy; to another discerning of spirits; to another divers kinds of tongues; to another the interpretation of tongues:

11 But all these worketh that one and the selfsame Spirit, dividing to every man severally as he will.

12 For as the body is one, and hath many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ.

As Christians, we all have ministries of one sort or another. Just because you are not doing full time ministry work as a profession does not mean you do not have a ministry. As different parts of the body of Christ, we all can minister to others in diverse ways. Many years ago I heard a teacher give this distinction, and I thought it was worth repeating. He said:

A person’s ministry is what God does through a person.

A person’s maturity is what God does to a person.

A person can be used mightily of God in a great evangelistic and TV ministry and “save” lots of people, or have a great healing ministry, or a preaching and teaching ministry, etc. And yet years later that person can stumble and fall and people will say, “What happened? I thought he was such a great man. He had a tremendous ministry; how could he/she do such a thing?”

Does this mean that all the great work done through that ministry is invalid and of no account? No, it just means that while God did great things through that person’s ministry, God did not actually do much to that person for his own maturity. And now here is where this ties in with the gifts of the Spirit versus the fruits of the Spirit.

The gifts of the Spirit are what God does through a person to minister to others. The fruits of the Spirit are what God does to a person for his own
maturity. The gifts of the Spirit do not necessarily do a thing to effect maturity in a person’s character. In fact, many of the gifts can be a hindrance, an impediment, an obstacle to overcome in the path to maturity.

Take for example, a person who has a great healing ministry. People say he or she has “the gift of healing.” I am not sure that it is totally correct to state it that way. If John Smith has the gift of healing, does that mean that John Smith has been given a gift to heal people? NO! Who is doing the healing? God does the healing. So John Smith does not have the gift of healing anyone.

And, generally speaking, does John Smith receive the healing? No, he is simply the conduit, the channel, the instrument through which the gift of healing is imparted to others. The one who is healed receives the gift of healing. Do you see the point?

I read recently about a man with a healing ministry whose wife was beset with all sorts of physical problems but God has not healed her over the course of many, many years. Do you suppose God has a good purpose in that couples’ tribulation? It may be the means God uses to bring a level of maturity to the husband and the wife.

But just because God performs many bona fide healings through a given person does not necessarily mean that the person with the healing ministry is a great spiritual giant. It says nothing about his spiritual maturity.

One can easily see that a person who has a great ministry, whether of healing or preaching or evangelizing or teaching or whatever, one can see that that old demon of carnal pride can conceivably be a great temptation and an obstacle to spiritual maturity. So the gifts of the Spirit are for others’ benefit; they do not necessarily and automatically engender spiritual growth in the one with the ministry of the gifts.

But… the fruits of the Spirit are what God does to a person for his own
maturity, …which will of course in time ultimately bless and minister to others as well. It is part of one’s calling to possess gifts with which we can bless others, but I don’t think that God looks upon it as being selfish if we desire the fruits of the Spirit for our own spiritual growth as well, do you?

So let us proceed to examine the Scriptures to see how we can develop in our character (i.e., in our soul) the virtues of humility, love, joy, peace, gentleness, kindness, etc. (To be continued.)

Category: Teaching