But the Fruit of the Spirit, Continued
Reading this list of the fruits of the Spirit convicts me almost as much as the previous list of the works of the flesh as I see how little these fruits are produced in me. And yet we should not use them as a checklist. No doubt, some Christians excel in gentleness while others in self-control, and some strive harder with patience while others with being gentle. Still, every believer must work to exhibit each of them as best he or she can even while we still carry about us this stinking sinful nature, and taking comfort that “whenever our heart condemns us, God is greater than our heart, and He knows everything” (1 John 3:20).
Continuing with the fruits of the Holy Spirit, “patience” is listed fourth, though after the first three, I cannot say that they are listed in any particular order. Oftentimes in Scripture, patience is called “long-suffering,” a term which is much more descriptive. F. F. Bruce writes that the Greek word includes the quality of being “long-tempered.” In short, biblical patience includes the qualities of steadfastness and staying-power. “Kindness,” like love, is a fruit that is expressed outwardly towards others. It is an expression of love towards all mankind, but especially towards repentant sinners, desiring above all to see the one lost sheep of the hundred return home. “Goodness,” Bruce writes, is akin to generosity as the cognate of the Greek word used here is also used in Jesus’ parable in which the landowner responds to the envious worker, “Is your eye evil because I am good?” (Matthew 20:15). “Faithfulness” is not in this place speaking of that saving faith which is the gift of the Holy Spirit whereby the person is enabled to believe in Christ and be saved. Paul is speaking here of that faith which enables believers to remain steadfast and dependable, stewards of the gifts God has given them to accomplish whatever tasks He has assigned them. As such, it is the working out of our faith that is highlighted, as we abide steadfast in the faith. “Gentleness” has nothing to do with being weak but is characterized by mildness. It is capable of righteous indignation as we see in Christ when he cleansed the Temple or in Moses when he descended the mountain to find the Israelites dancing around a golden calf. But one who is gentle (meek) does not lose his head in a heat of passion or in “fits of rage.” He is especially gentle towards repentant sinners and quick to forgive. “Self-control” is the opposite of self-indulgence in which the passions control one’s life, be they eating, drinking, or illicit sexual activity. We should not forget the need to control the tongue as well. Remember, these fruits do not save one; they are the natural fruits of one who is saved (Bruce, NIGTC, 253-55).