Galatians 5:22, 24
But the Fruit of the Spirit
In contrast to the works of the flesh, Paul now lists the fruit of the Spirit. These are virtues that Christians should be cultivating on a daily and yearly basis as they grow in the grace of our Lord. When we are born of the flesh, we have a sinful nature out of which we act. When we are reborn of the Spirit, we are given a new nature out of which we act. So as with the rotten fruit of our natural sinful nature, these fruits should be a “natural” production as they derive from that new nature, which are then cultivated through behavior. For the Christian, new nature and nurture go together; similarly for the unbeliever, old nature and degeneration go together as well. And so the fruits of the Spirit are precisely that—fruits—born of saving faith.
It is only natural that “love” would be the first fruit Paul mentions, for upon saving faith it is poured out into the hearts of believers (Romans 5:5). The New Testament defines love according to our Lord’s work on the cross, for no greater love has a man than this (John 15:13). And those who love the Lord keep his commandments (John 14:15). Thus, love is not so much a feeling (though that is not excluded) but an action rooted in service to God and neighbor. “Joy” is love’s expression. Love rejoices “in hope of the glory of God” (Romans 5:2), and in the knowledge of being known by God and resting in his daily presence. “Peace” is love’s result in our reconciliation with God made possible by grace through justifying faith in Christ Jesus (Romans 5:1). Peace manifests itself in a life that is the polar opposite of the works of the flesh such as rivalries, dissensions, and divisions. Peacemakers seek to unite, but even then under the banner of the cross and the truth of the gospel (Bruce, NIGTC, 251-53).
These first three—love, joy, and peace—form the founding triad of the spiritual fruits, which are all grounded in the first—love. But love itself is grounded in saving faith as we are birthed anew of the Spirit that we may produce these fruits. None of these fruits are man’s production; they elude the best of men. But through the indwelling Spirit, even we can produce them. This is how we “crucify the flesh with its passions and desires,” by focusing not on sin, or works of the flesh, but by setting our minds on those things which are above (Colossians 3:1-4). So let love, joy, and peace be close to us, and let us make them our constant companions. For in doing so, we prove that we are not like those of the world tossed about by every favorable or unfavorable wind, but people founded on the Rock who continue to produce fruit unto eternal life.