In this free Bible teaching resource Derek can enable you to explore in depth the nine forms of spiritual fruit as outlined by Paul in Galatians 5:22–23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (KJV). The seventh form of fruit listed here is faith. Different versions offer a variety of translations, such as “faithfulness,” “fidelity,” or “trustfulness.” However, the Greek noun Paul uses is pistis. This is the basic word for faith throughout the New Testament.
One way to bring the difference into focus is to picture a Christmas tree and an apple tree. A Christmas tree bears gifts; an apple tree bears fruit. A gift is both attached to a Christmas tree and removed from it by a single, brief act. There is no direct connection between the tree and the gift: one may be a garment, the other a fir tree. The gift tells us nothing about the nature of the tree from which it is taken.
On the other hand, there is a direct connection between an apple and the tree that bears it. The nature of the tree determines the nature of the fruit—both its kind and its quality. An apple tree can never bear an orange. A healthy tree will never bear unhealthy fruit (see Matthew 7:17–20). The fruit on the apple tree is not produced by a single act, but is the result of a steady, continuing process of growth and development. To produce the best fruit, the tree must be carefully cultivated. This requires time, skill and labour.
Let us apply this simple analogy to the spiritual realm. A spiritual gift is both imparted and received by a single transaction. It tells us nothing about the nature of the person who exercises it. On the other hand, spiritual fruit expresses the nature of the life from which it proceeds; it comes as the result of a process of growth. To attain the best fruit, a life must be carefully cultivated — with time, skill and labour.
We may express the difference in another way by saying that gifts express ability, fruit expresses character.
Which is more important? In the long run, undoubtedly, character is more important than ability. The exercise of gifts is temporary. As Paul explains in 1 Corinthians 13:8–13, there will come a time when gifts will no longer be needed. But character is permanent. The character we develop in this life will determine what we will be throughout eternity. One day we will leave our gifts behind; our character will remain forever.
However, we do not need to choose one at the expense of another. Gifts do not exclude fruit; fruit does not exclude gifts. Rather, they are intended to complement each other. Gifts should provide practical expressions for character, just as they did perfectly in the person of Jesus Himself.
His loving, gracious character was expressed by the fullest possible exercise of spiritual gifts. Only through the gifts could He meet the needs of the people to whom He had come to minister, fully expressing to them the nature of His heavenly Father whom He had come to represent (see John 14:9–11).
We should seek to follow Christ’s pattern. The more we develop the attributes that characterised Jesus— love, concern, and compassion—the more we will need the same gifts He exercised in order to give practical expression to these attributes. The more fully we are equipped with these gifts, the greater will be our ability to glorify God our Father, just as Jesus did.
Fruit, then, expresses character. When all nine forms of spiritual fruit are present and fully developed, they represent the totality of Christian character, each form of fruit satisfying a specific need and each complementing the rest. Within this totality, the fruit of faith may be viewed from two aspects that correspond to two different but related uses of the Greek word pistis.
The first is trust; the second is trustworthiness.
Click here to read the rest (pdf download)
To give towards making this teaching more widely available and to get a copy of Faith to Live By, click here. Offer valid until 31 August 2008.