Last Saturday our Basics of the Christian Faith class focused on the Fruit of the Spirit and the Gifts of the Spirit. This was a helpful and enlightening study of two important topics. Sadly there is a temptation to ignore or downplay one or the other. But as we read in the New Testament, it is clear that both are part of the Christian life, and both are, no, must be, related.
Fruit of the Spirit:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; (Gal. 5:22-23 NAS)
Paul offers the fruit of the Spirit as a contrast to the “deeds of the flesh” (Gal. 5:19-21). Note, first, that the “deeds of the flesh” refer to outward, sinful actions such as “drunkenness and carousing.” But even more, Paul identifies conduct in relationship to others including trying to manipulate and control others (“outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying”).
Thus, we might be tempted to think in terms of “the big sins,” and if we can avoid them, then we do not have a problem with “deeds of the flesh.” And yet, Paul wants Christians to see that the “squabbles” of ordinary life are just as destructive to our life in Christ. They indicate that we are following the flesh rather than the Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit focus on character issues, and specifically the character of Christ. Earlier in the letter Paul wrote:
Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God. (Gal. 4:7)
My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you (Gal. 4:19)
In other words, the work of the Spirit in the life of the Christian is to form Christ in us. Each of the nine fruit of the Spirit are part and parcel of what it means to be Christian. We cannot pick and choose one or two and say, “that’s my fruit.” No, when you confess Christ, then the fruit of the Spirit (all nine) is ours, by faith in Christ.
Gifts of the Spirit
The gifts of the Spirit are mentioned specifically in three texts, Romans 12:4–8; 1 Corinthians 12 and 14; and 1 Peter 4:10–11. For the purposes of this discussion, I am not including Ephesians 4:11–16 (for a variety of reasons), and I am focusing 1 Corinthians 12. The starting point for the gifts of the Spirit has to be seen in terms of what Paul writes about confession of the faith:
Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. (1 Cor. 12:3)
Our starting point: We live in a jaded world in which we can “say anything we want!” But what Paul notes here is that in the first century for someone in a Roman city, to proclaim “Jesus is Lord” is to ask for a death sentence, for only Caesar was lord (κυριος kurios). Thus, the work of the Spirit begins with that confession. All else must be seen in light of that.
Paul then highlights the continuing work of the Spirit in the life of the believer:
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. (1 Cor. 12:4–6)
Diversity in gifts is not a sign of disorder; rather misuse of the gifts is (1 Cor. 14). And then Paul directs our attention in four ways, away from ourselves to the Holy Spirit:
But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Cor. 12:7)
But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. (1 Cor. 12:11)
1) Each Christian has at least one spiritual gift. 2) The Spirit distributes the gifts (not the person demanding, expecting, but receiving). 3) The Spirit does this for the “common good.” 4) The Spirit distributes “as He wills.”
How well do we do in these four areas? Do we deny having a gift (#1)? Do we demand a specific gift (#2)? Do we focus on “our needs” or on the needs of the community (#3)? Do we ignore the work of the Spirit even in the area of gifts (#4)?
Fruit Related to Gifts
So how do the Fruit and Gifts relate? Based on Paul assertions in both Galatians and 1 Corinthians 13 (entire chapter is focused on fruit of the Spirit), we can conclude that the fruit control the use of the gifts. That is, to paraphrase 1 Cor. 13:1–4, “If I have the highest regarded gift, but do not exercise the fruit (i.e. love), I am useless, and it does not profit the body of Christ.” In other words, the character of Christ being formed in us motivates and guides us in our relationships with others. If we exalt the gifts above the fruit, then people become objects to help me achieve my goals. This contradicts the entire sense of what it means to be “in Christ” and “Christ in me.”
Even more, when “my gift” is center, then I belittle the Holy Spirit by usurping the Spirit’s desire to build up the body of Christ. The Spirit’s role is to point to Christ, who is not divided, who demonstrated the perfection of the fruit in all His earthly ministry.
The beauty of this proper relationship between fruit and gifts of the Spirit relationship becomes evident when someone in humility (meekness) seeks the greater good of the Body of Christ. When a person teaches for the benefit of others. When she exhibits kindness when none is expected as she exercises her spiritual gift(s). When he demonstrates gentleness when using his spiritual gift(s). Joy can permeate relationships, not the happy, clappy joy (although that may happen on occasion), but the deep joy that the Spirit is indeed working in our midst, bring glory to Jesus Christ, and growing each person to the maturity of the faith in Christ.
As we move forward in our walk of faith, I as pastor, will encourage your exploration of spiritual gifts. But even more, I will encourage your growth in faith through the Word and the Lord’s Supper, so that Christ be formed in you, and the fruit of the Spirit will characterize your walk of faith.