“But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please. But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law. Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.” (Galatians 5:16-25)
“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples. Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full” (John 15:1-11)
When I think about the fruit of the Spirit I immediately think about John 15 where Jesus talkes about being the true vine and God being the vinedresser, and that we have to remain in Jesus in order to bear much fruit and prove to be His disciples. If Jesus is the vine then we are the branches, and as the branches draw their life from the vine, so we draw our life directly from Jesus. Jesus will release His life (His character, His nature, His love) into us through the Holy Spirit. The fruit is nurtured and cultivated by God, as Paul says in 1 Corinthians 3:7, “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth”
The fruit of the (Holy) Spirit is the work which His presence within us accomplishes. They are not individual fruits from which we pick and choose, but it is one nine-fold fruit that characterizes all who truly walk in the Holy Spirit. Paul is very careful to use the plural in describing the life after the flesh, but using the singular for the fruit. You could say that the Spirit has one work to do in us all. These are not the gifts of the Spirit, which are distributed on an individual basis by the will of the Spirit. The fruit of the Spirit is something for every Christian.
You could say that the fruit of the Spirit is love, and that Paul has been kind enough to detail eight expressions of love for us. This is reflected in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8a, where Paul talkes about the excellence of love: “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails“. You could match the different expressions of love listed in the fruit of the Spirit against the excellence of love.
“Fruit of the Spirit” versus “The Excellence of Love”
Joy: “love rejoices with the truth”
Peace: “love is not provoked”
Patience: “love is patient”
Kindness: “love is kind”
Goodness: “love does not take into account a wrong suffered”
Faithfulness: “love never fails”
Gentleness: “love does not brag and is not arrogant”
Self-control: “love does not act unbecomingly”
In closing, Dallas Willard writes in his book “The Great Omission” the following about the fruit of the Spirit with regards to Christian spiritual formation (the forming or maturing of the Spirit within us): “The fruit of the spirit is simply the inner character of Jesus Himself that is brought about in us through the process of Christian spiritual formation. It is the outcome of spiritual formation. It is “Christ formed in us.” It is called fruit because, like the fruit of trees or vines, it is an outgrowth of what we have become, not the result of a special effort to bear fruit. And we have become “fruitful” in this way because we have received the presence of Christ’s Spirit through the process of spiritual formation, and now that Spirit, interacting with us, fills us with love, joy, peace, … Clearly, as the fruit of the Spirit increases within us it becomes a dynamic element in its own right, in the ongoing process of spiritual formation. To be possessed of love, joy, peace … is to have rich resources for sustaining and enhancing a faith-full life and for growth in all dimensions of inward and outward grace. The fruit of the Spirit and spiritual formation become mutually supportive as spiritual formation progresses in the individual.”