Nine virtues make up the fruit of the Spirit revealed in Galatians 5:22-23.
Most translations of v. 22 open with the words, “But the fruit of the Spirit is…” This leaves it to the interpreter to decide how the fruit is “of the Spirit.”
The New Living translation (as it typically does) offers more interpretation by rendering the beginning of v. 22, “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives…”
Are the nine virtues produced by the Spirit? The one balancing consideration is the fact that each virtue also appears in the New Testament as a command (or with imperatival force). Are we commanded to love? To rejoice? To peace? etc… Yes. And this reminds us that we are not passive recipients of God’s work in our lives. The fruit produced by the Spirit is also required by the commands of Scripture.
Yet, if there is a priority of order, it seems best to recognize our dependence on the Holy Spirit for living the virtues attributed to the Spirit. The person who is walking by the Spirit, yielding to the Spirit, sowing to the spirit, will bear the fruit of the Spirit. You cannot do this in your own strength!
We cannot produce a life that pleases God apart from God’s work in and through us (Philippians 2:12-13; Colossians 1:29). This is partly why the apostle wrote, “I pray that out of his glorious riches he may strengthen you with power through his Spirit in your inner being” (Ephesians 3:16).
It might help after considering a brief explanation of each virtue in the fruit (singular) of the Spirit to apply it as a covenant of shared life or community.
Brief explanation of the fruit
- Love: self-sacrificial devotion to the good of others
- Joy: deep gladness; hope-filled satisfaction in God’s goodness and love
- Peace: calm tranquility; a conciliatory disposition
- Patience: steadfast endurance in difficulty or provocation
- Kindness: sympathetic consideration and loving action for others
- Goodness: generosity that overflows from kindness.
- Faithfulness: true and reliable; dependability
- Gentleness: humble and self-deferential
- Self-control: keeping oneself in check; self-disciplined
Covenant of community for those who walk by the Spirit
We agree that in dependence on the Holy Spirit, our words, attitudes and actions toward one another will be expressed lovingly, joyfully, peacefully, patiently, kindly, generously, faithfully, gently and with self-control.
Restoration to glory
II Corinthians 3:17-18 – “For the Lord is the Spirit, and wherever the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. So all of us who have had that veil removed can see and reflect the glory of the Lord. And the Lord—who is the Spirit—makes us more and more like him as we are changed into his glorious image.”
The fruit of the Spirit is glory restored because each virtue is an attribute of God.
“I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know … his incomparably great power for us who believe. That power is the same as the mighty strength he exerted when he raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is invoked, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:18-21).