LCN Article


Fruits of the Spirit

May / June 2014

Dexter B. Wakefield

With a certain air of superiority, the Pentecostal believer asked, “Well, does your church have signs of the Spirit?” He was referring to the phenomena that he often saw demonstrated at his worship services, which he attributed to the presence of the Holy Spirit of God acting on a particular individual. That might include (according to Pentecostal  ministers) glossolalia (speaking unintelligibly), being “slain by the spirit” (falling down unconscious, sometimes for hours), growling or barking, hopping, quaking, shaking, rolling, spinning, laughing, crying, appearing to give birth or appearing drunk. And that is a partial list. Are these activities evidence of God’s Spirit dwelling in a person? Even Pentecostal ministers admit that such phenomena can be caused by demonic possession, but they believe that they can distinguish the unclean spirits from the Holy Spirit.grain

 God’s word teaches us that those in His Church are to demonstrate fruits of the Spirit. These fruits are evidence in our lives that God’s Holy Spirit produces as it transforms us inwardly, and such fruits are an important sign that Christians have the Spirit of God dwelling in them. Someone may demonstrate the strange phenomena listed above without ever showing the fruits that God wants to build in His begotten children. As we enter the Pentecost season, it is a good time to think about the fruits of God’s Holy Spirit in our lives.

It Happened on Pentecost

On the biblical Holy Day of Pentecost in 31 AD, God founded His Church and gave extraordinary evidence of what He was doing. “When the Day of Pentecost had fully come, they were all with one accordin one place. And suddenly there came a sound from heaven, as of a rushing mighty wind, and it filled the whole house where they were sitting. Then there appeared to them divided tongues, as of fire, and one sat upon each of them.And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak with other tongues, as the Spirit gave them utterance” (Acts 2:1–4). They were filled with the power of God, not with a person. The Holy Spirit—the power of God—had come upon them.

It was clear to those who witnessed these events that the people upon whom the Holy Spirit of God came in such a dramatic manner were speaking in other languages that could be understood by those who were native to those languages. Christ had commanded His disciples to “Go thereforeand make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19–20). It was necessary for the disciples to have this spiritual gift of languages—“tongues”—to allow the Gospel of the Kingdom of God to be spread around the world.

The disciples upon whom the Holy Spirit came were not speaking gibberish that no one could understand. No one fell down unconscious or made animal sounds. Rather, they spoke of God’s wonderful works. “And there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men, from every nation under heaven. And when this sound occurred, the multitude came together, and were confused, because everyone heard them speak in his own language. Then they were all amazed and marveled, saying to one another, ‘Look, are not all these who speak Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each in our own language in which we were born? Parthians and Medes and Elamites, those dwelling in Mesopotamia, Judea and Cappadocia, Pontus and Asia, Phrygia and Pamphylia, Egypt and the parts of Libya adjoining Cyrene, visitors from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabs—we hear them speaking in our own tongues the wonderful works of God.’ So they were all amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, ‘Whatever could this mean?’” (Acts 2:5–12).

What it meant was that God had founded His Church. Those firstfruits that were begotten by the Holy Spirit of God on that Feast of Firstfruits—as the Holy Day of Pentecost is also called—would begin the “little flock” that would be despised and persecuted by the world.

Mind and Power of the Father

How can we describe this Spirit? There is much that can be said, and the Bible gives us a good description. The Holy Spirit of God is described in His word as the power of the Most High God, who is the Father. “And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name Jesus.He will be great, and will be called the Son of the Highest… The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:31–35).

The Father is the Highest, and Christ is subordinate to Him. Jesus said, “My Father is greater than I” (John 14:28) and “My Father, who has given them to Me, is greater than all” (John 10:29).light beams

Joseph, who was to become Mary’s husband, was told that Jesus would be conceived by the Holy Spirit. “But while he thought about these things, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take to you Mary your wife, for that which is conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit’” (Matthew 1:20).

Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit. If the Holy Spirit were a person, Jesus would be the Son of the Holy Spirit, not the Father. Jesus is the Son of the Father. The Holy Spirit is the power by which the Father conceived Jesus, and one of the things we say about the Holy Spirit is that it is the power of God.

God’s word also describes the Holy Spirit as the mind of God. “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5).A good general statement is that the Holy Spirit is the mind and power of God.

The Holy Spirit proceeds from the Father. “But when the Helper comes, whom I shall send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who [which] proceeds from the Father, He will testify of Me” (John 15:26). That power has been given to Jesus Christ. “And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, ‘All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth’” (Matthew 28:18, KJV).

The Holy Spirit is in the Son, and Christ uses its power. “God, who at various times and in various ways spoke in time past to the fathers by the prophets, has in these last days spoken to us by His Son, whom He has appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the worlds; who being the brightness of His glory and the express image of His person, and upholding all things by the word of His power…” (Hebrews 1:1–3).

The Spirit proceeds from the Father, and it is in the Son—who directs its power to uphold all things. And God gives it to His begotten children. It begets us, identifies us, constitutes a promise (a down payment) and it works in us.

The Holy Spirit Identifies God’s Children

“But you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you. Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he is not His… For as many as are led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God… The Spirit… bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if indeed we suffer with Him, that we may also be glorified together” (Romans 8:9, 14, 16–17). God’s Spirit leads us to have fruits of the Spirit.

God’s Holy Spirit is also a kind of down payment—an earnest deposit—for our transformation to come. “Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God, who also has sealed us and given us the Spirit in our hearts as a guarantee” (2 Corinthians 1:21–22). Indeed, our future birth into the God Family “seals” us for that great destiny. And that Work of preaching the gospel of the Kingdom of God and begetting children of God by the Holy Spirit has not stopped in our day; rather, Christ continues His work through His body, the Church of God. Christ revealed in the book of Revelation, “Do not harm the earth, the sea, or the trees till we have sealed the servants of our God on their foreheads” (Revelation 7:3). Here is a direct statement that the Work goes on into the final days of this age. Never let anyone tell you that the Work is finished!

A Transforming Spirit!

The Holy Spirit of God—His mind and His power—is a transforming Spirit! The Apostle Paul told the Church in Philippi, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2:5). This is so important, because when this Spirit dwells in us, it can transform our thinking and wills to be like God’s—if we will submit ourselves to Him. Paul instructed the Church in Rome, “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:1–2).

A person’s will is the power to choose. And each of us—prior to conversion—chose in accordance with our carnal natures and the ways of the world that we live in. But, at some point, God grants us repentance, and we must choose to obey God. Obedience to God means subordinating our human wills to God’s perfect righteous will.

For instance, when a little girl is told to clean up her room—and she does not want to—it is necessary for her to subordinate her will to her mother’s instruction in order to obey. She wants to do something else, but she does what her mother wants instead. But when she becomes an adult, she likely keeps her home just as neat as her mother did—because she chooses to have a neat, clean place in which to live. It is now her will to keep a clean home, because her will in the matter has changed.

Similarly, when people first become convinced that they should be keeping all ten of God’s commandments—including the one about the Sabbath—it may be a difficult choice at first to repent, obey God and keep the Sabbath holy. As a person comes to Christ, there may be a lot of contrary pressure from family, friends or employers. However, after baptism, receiving God’s Holy Spirit and for some time keeping the Sabbath holy, the attitude of the Church member changes: “This has been a long week. I can’t wait for the Sabbath to begin!” We now look forward to, and delight in, the holiness and sanctity of God’s Sabbath, and we see it as a great blessing. It is very much in our wills to keep it holy.

Similarly, God’s Spirit leads us through our trials and choices. Initially, we are just being obedient to God in keeping His commandments. But by constantly leading us to choose as He does, God’s Spirit transforms our wills to become like His. That process is called conversion. We want to choose as God does—or at least we do to the extent that we are converted and transformed inwardly. And we are to yield to God’s will, as His Spirit leads us to obey, to love God and to want to be like Him. Our righteous choices reveal themselves as fruits in our lives—fruits of God’s Holy Spirit that is working in us.

Some of the Fruits

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering [patient endurance], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22–23). A whole sermon could be given about each of these spiritual attributes that the Apostle Paul mentions to the churches in Galatia. God is love, and His mind is joyful, peaceful, patient, kind, desirous to do good things and always faithful. Do we show these characteristics—these fruits—in our daily actions? Are we like our heavenly Father and Elder Brother in these things?

God’s Spirit illuminates the right path for us.For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord” (Ephesians 5:8–10). Doing God’s will—willingly and from the heart—is always acceptable to Him.

God’s Spirit is essential to our calling and conversion. Jesus promised His disciples that the Holy Spirit would work first with us to open our minds to His truth—and then in us to change us. Prior to His disciples’ conversion at Pentecost, Jesus told them, “If you love Me, keepMy commandments. And I will pray the Father, and He will give you another Helper, that He may abide with you forever—referring to the the Holy Spirit, which “dwells with you and will be in you” (John 14:15–17).

God Grants Repentance

Repentance is something that God grants us; “…And they glorified God, saying, ‘Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life’” (Acts 11:18). Sadly, not everyone chooses to accept what God grants. However, when they do, it is made clear by fruits. Early in our conversion, God’s Spirit works with us and leads us to true repentance—which brings changes in how we live.“Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3:8).

True repentance changes what we are going to do in the future, but it cannot change the sins we have already committed. Only Christ’s sacrifice makes possible the removal of the guilt of our past sins, and Scripture explains what we must do to have that guilt removed. The Apostle Peter was asked, “‘Men and brethren, what shall we do?’ Then Peter said to them, ‘Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit’” (Acts 2:37–38). After repentance and baptism for the remission of sins, we receive the Holy Spirit by the laying on of hands. “Therefore I remind you to stir up the gift of God which is in you through the laying on of my hands” (2 Timothy 1:6).

After the laying on of hands, the Holy Spirit dwells in us. “That good thing which was committed to you, keep by the Holy Spirit who [which] dwells in us” (2 Timothy 1:14). This Spirit and its fruits are the evidence that Christ lives in us and that we are living our lives in Him. “Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit... He has given us” (1 John 3:24).

This transformative Spirit changes how we think and how we see the world around us. “The Spirit of the Lord shall rest upon Him, the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, the Spirit of counsel and might, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord” (Isaiah 11:2). How often have those who are being called into God’s Church said, “I understand the Bible for the first time!” But they soon find that others do not seem to be able to understand it as they do. God’s Holy Spirit first works with us and then in us, and it works this miracle of spiritual understanding and knowledge in all those He calls and converts. This is a miracle in the lives of all of God’s people.crowd of young people at evangelical gathering

The fruit of God’s Spirit in a true Christian is not found in babbling, barking or falling down unconscious. Rather, it produces a sound mind. “For God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7). God’s Spirit instills a special kind of wisdom and thinking. “But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace” (James 3:17–18). Even in trying, difficult times, stirring up God’s Spirit produces the fruit of a peaceful mind.

The Apostle Paul gave the Church great encouragement, for times of trial, through God’s Spirit. “Therefore we do not lose heart. Even though our outward man is perishing, yet the inward man is being renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, is working for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory…” (2 Corinthians 4:16–17).

Special Gifts

To serve the needs of the Church, God—through His Spirit—gives different members different gifts. “There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all: for to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, to another the word of knowledge through the same Spirit, to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healings by the same Spirit, to another the working of miracles, to another prophecy, to another discerning of spirits, to another different kinds of tongues, to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:4–11).

Notice that each of these gifts is a practical tool for serving the needs of God’s Church and His Work. The much-misunderstood gift of “tongues” is not a matter of one person babbling and barking, while another “interprets” the noise. Rather, as happened on the first Day of Pentecost after Christ’s resurrection, the Spirit gave Christ’s followers the ability to speak and understand multiple languages they had not humanly learned. Similarly, the gift of “prophecy” is primarily the gift of inspired speech, and can be exercised in a strong sermon that covers no “new ground” but simply explains with clarity and power the meaning of Bible prophecy and end-time events. “Prophets” in the sense of Elijah are rare, and when we encounter a man who declares himself a prophet we had better be sure of his fruits before we listen to him. Most self-proclaimed “prophets” are deceived, or are cunning deceivers—or both—and those who have God’s Spirit have the ability, and the responsibility, to discern their fruits and their genuineness.

The Spirit of Revelation and of Prophecy

The Apostle Paul urged all of God’s people to use His Spirit for spiritual vision and the revealing of things that others cannot see. “‘Eye has not seen, nor ear heard, nor have entered into the heart of man the things which God has prepared for those who love Him.’ But God hasrevealedthem to us through His Spirit. For the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. For what man knows the things of a man except the spirit of the man which is in him? Even so no one knows the things of God except the Spirit of God” (1 Corinthians 2:9–11). The carnal man only understands the things of this world, but the Spirit reveals things that are otherwise invisible.

The Spirit that God gives is very different from that which is naturally in a man—and it produces very different fruits. “Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit... from God, that we might know the things that have been freely given to us by God. These things we also speak, not in words which man’s wisdom teaches but which the Holy Spirit teaches, comparing spiritual things with spiritual. But the natural man does not receive the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; nor can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned. But he who is spiritual judges all things, yet he himself is rightly judged by no one. For ‘who has known the mind of the Lord that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:12–16).

God’s Spirit dwells in Christ’s “little flock,” and transforms God’s begotten children inwardly. This transformation is evidenced by fruits of the Spirit. The Church is only a little flock, because God is not calling the rest of the world now—but He will in the future. A small harvest occurs in the spring before the great harvest in the fall. The Feast of Firstfruits—Pentecost—points us to the time when God will pour out “a pure river of water of life” for the whole world (Revelation. 22:1, 17).