2017-07-07

An In-Depth Look at the Fruit of the Spirit - The 9 Nine Habits of Attractive Believers

Four key areas are discussed. What is the fruit of the Spirit? How to grow the fruit? How some believers behave at times worse than non-believers? How does it compare with the virtues of the Chinese philosophies? The answers help us to effective believers.
I. What is the fruit of the Spirit?

A fruit is an outcome.You can see, touch and taste a fruit. It is a brand that characterizes. A brand is not what the seller claims but is what customers say about the product over a long time of use. A fruit is then a habit. As Stephen Covey wrote the best-seller "The Seven Habits of Effective People", the fruit of the spirit can be rephrased as, "The 9 Attractive Habits of Spirit-filled Believers".  The fruit is the characters or virtues of believers. They can be compared against the virtues of other religions and philosophies as well. 

Multi-faceted Fruit
All the nine attributes to be described are of the same fruit. Consider the king of the fruits, durian. It has many very distinctive attributes such as the pungent smell, the thorny and hard outer crust, the smooth, creamy, sweet and bitter taste of the flesh of the seeds. They tell quickly it is a durian. Some, what characteristics, what smell and taste, do believers have that we can tell them apart at a distance or in a close range?

The Nine Attributes of the Fruit of the Spirit
Because the nine attributes such as love, joy, peace etc are commonly used terms, we are tempted to use our own understanding of the terms to explain them. Because they came from the same fruit, we will find many similar characteristics among the nine. For example, kindness and goodness sound like the same. Self-control and patience are needed in the handling of anger. In explaining the nine attributes, I will still to the following guides:
  • to highlight the differences and not to confuse with their similarity. Paul wouldn't have given us the list of nine if they are all similar. He gave us to show us nine different aspects of the same fruit. So we must be very discerning.
  • to let the Bible interpret the Bible. Every term should be explained within its context and if not, the other part of the Bible where the same term is used.
  • what a term 'is' and what a term 'is not' helps us understand the term better. For example, a four legs furniture could be a table or a chair. We can tell table a furniture with four legs to put things on and not for sitting upon. 
We are blessed that the fruit listed in Gal 5:22-23 has a set negative attributes listed earlier in Gal 5:19-21. Then there is a corresponding list of meanings in 1 Cor 13:4-8 when Paul explained what love is in details. We can use two lists, and references to verses in other parts of the Bible, to define the clearer meaning of the various attributes. Below is mind-map to make for clarity.

The Fruit of the Spirit Defined in Context



The Catholic 12 Fruits of the Spirit
The Catholic has a list of 12 instead of the 9. I think that is because some of the attributes are contained in the other and but they feel it is important enough to separate them out. I will try to put refer back to the 9-item list earlier.

1) Charity. - 1 love
2) Joy. - 2 joy
3) Peace. - 3 peace
4) Patience. - 4 patience
5) Benignity. - 5 kindness
6) Goodness. - 6 goodness
7) Longanimity. - an attribute that is in 4 Patience.
8) Mildness. - 8 gentleness
9) Faith. - 7 faithfulness
10) Modesty. - an attribute that that is related to 8 Gentleness/Meekness
11) Continency.- 9 self-control
12) Chastity.- related to 7 faithfulness to one spouse.

A Shorter List Please - Only 3

Eph 5:9 Fruit Of The Spirit Is In All
  1. Goodness
    Exo 33:19 And He said, “I will make all My goodness pass before thee, and I will proclaim the name of the Lord before thee, and will be gracious to whom I will be gracious, and will show mercy on whom I will show mercy.” Hence, Goodness includes Grace and Mercy
  2. Righteousness
    This is hidden in kindness and also the goodness of the Fruit of the Spirit. Kindness and goodness have an implied standards of what is right or wrong.
  3. Truth
    This is in the joy attribute of the fruit of the Spirt where it rejoices in the truth.
II. How to grow the fruit?

The answer is given by Jesus in John 15:1-2. However, most of the Bible translations got it wrong by translation the Greek airo G142 as take-away or cut-off. But looking up the Thayer's Concordance, we get the following definition:

Thayer Definition:
1) to raise up, elevate, lift up
2) to take upon one’s self and carry what has been raised up, to bear
3) to bear away what has been raised, carry off

Note that of the 3 meanings, the first two are about raise-up and bearing it and only the third is about removal. The context of the passage will show us which is the right definition to use. So far, the Companion Bible Revised, 1909 by E.W. Bullinger got it right. It is quoted below:

I Am the True Vine Joh 15
  1. I Am the real vine, and My Father is the husbandman.
    (Jesus is the vine and the believers are the branches)
  2. a. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He raiseth [from groveling on the ground] and
    (Note that this non-fruit-bearing branch in already in Jesus. Verse 4-6 tells us that only those not abiding Jesus can bear fruit and those that abide not will be cast out. So this in Jesus branch should not be cast out but be cared for and raised up. There were external conditions that cause it not to bear fruit.)

    b. every branch that beareth fruit, He cleanseth it, in order that it may bear more fruit.
    (This branch got it right but has the potential to have more fruits. He is wasting energy on non-strategic things and hence those activities should be trimmed off and the energy channeled to growing fruit. In business, we call this Lean Manufacturing)
  3. Already ye are clean on account of the word which I have spoken unto you.
    (How do we get cleaned? By His Words)
  4. Abide in Me, I also abide in you, for As the branch is not able to bear fruit of itself, if not it abide in the vine; even so neither can ye, if not ye abide in Me.
    (Abide in Jesus to bear fruit)
  5. I Am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for apart from Me ye can do nothing.
  6. If a man abides not in Me, he was cast forth as the branch, and was withered; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
  7. If ye abide in Me, and My sayings abide in you, ask what ye desire, and it shall come to pass to you.
    (You get what God says – our will get changed by His words so that we ask and receive according to God’s heart and will)
There are other growth models. Peter gave us an 8-stage model in 2Pet 1:5-7. John gave us the children- young man - father 3-stage model in 1 John 2. In Roman 5, Paul gave us another one. I compiled a unified growth model here.

III Understand why believers at times behave worse than non-believers

The Parable of the Sower gives us the reasons - stolen, pressured, lured away and only the fourth one remains to produce fruits. If we follow the vine-model above, then the lag of fruit is could be due to the first 3 reasons of the sower parable. They are not to be cast out but rather be cared for, taught and corrected that they grow. Fruit takes some time. going through different stages, to grow. So those in the early stages of growth may show no signs of a fruit. Maybe just some small flower buds for others to see.

IV How Does it Compares with Chinese Virtues?

Confucius School has a popular list of 5 and a more complete list of 10.
1. 仁、love, charity.
2. 义、righteousness
3. 礼、proper conduct, good manners
4. 智、wisdom
5. 信、integrity, trustworthiness
6. 忠、faithfulness
7. 孝、filial piety - Elders loves younger, younger respect elders.
8. 节、self-control
9. 勇、boldness, decisiveness
10. 和. Harmony and Peace.

Lao Zi teaches 3 Treasures.
The three are love, thriftiness and not to fight for first. See Three Treasures for Your Greatness - DaoDeJing 67

You can see that the Chinese virtues lists match well with the Fruit of the Spirit list and expand our mind to learn of more virtues that complement our understanding.

The Purpose of Our Salvation is to Bear Fruit!

We are saved to bear fruit: salvation is the beginning & fruit is the destination

(Rom 7:4) Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God.

(Phil 1:11) filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

(Col 1:10) so as to walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.

(Heb 12:11) For the moment all discipline(the way and the process to bear fruit) seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Prayer for All Believers:
May we all abide in Christ, in his Word, and in Communion with Him through the Holy Spirit and be filled with the Spirit in all that we do as we grow the fruit of the Spirit to be effective and attractive ambassadors of Him.

Lim Liat (c) 7-7-17

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