It’s a made-to-order object lesson–the fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5–and it even comes with its own ice breaker (Fruit Basket Upset). It’s also a worthy subject to consider as we move toward the start of another school year (yes, the back-to-school displays are going up as we speak). It’s likely you’ve taught on Galatians 5:22-25 many times and perhaps the “fruit of the Spirit” has become a little too familiar, or even cliché-like. Maybe these five points will help you freshen up your take on this key concept, not only for your personal walk but in teaching it to your teens.
It may sound nit-picky, but it’s a worthy distinction. The precise phrase in Galatians 5:22 is “fruit” of the Spirit, not “fruits” of the Spirit. In fact, even connecting a singular, collective word like “fruit” with a list of multiple qualities makes that singular “fruit” even more prominent. We can’t choose which “fruit” we want in our lives. The collective of the fruit of the Spirit is evidence of walking with the Spirit.
- Intentional Analogy
Using the analogy of fruit to describe life in the Spirit was a very intentional choice by the apostle Paul. Readers would have been familiar with Old Testament analogies of full vineyards and trees planted near streams that produce great fruit (Isa. 5:2-4; Hos. 14:6; Ps 1:3; Jer. 17:7-8). These analogies, along with Galatians 5, express a gradual and careful cultivation that produces lasting fruit. This is a helpful nuance of the analogy. It may reduce the guilt and frustration in students when they don’t become a peaceful, joyous person upon immediate acceptance of the gospel. But by consistently walking in the Spirit, the fruit of the Spirit will become evident.
- “Of the Spirit”
The fruit of the Spirit is just that: “of the Spirit.” We can’t discipline our way into exhibiting the fruit of the Spirit. It is a spiritual transaction facilitated by the Spirit. It takes prayer and a surrendering of our lives to the control of the Spirit, and not to the flesh. The result of a life lived in step with the Spirit is a life characterized by the fruit of the Spirit. It’s tempting to use the nine qualities of the fruit as an external list of virtues to strive for. This misses the point of the Spirit.
- Key Theological Principle
Every one of the virtues of the fruit of the Spirit can be found in Jesus’ teaching and throughout other New Testament books. Each quality of fruit is a gateway into a rich exploration of the gospel message. To understand the fruit of the Spirit is to understand the gospel itself. For example, understanding peace as a key quality of the Spirit-led life gives you a glimpse into the hostilities that were reconciled through the peace of the gospel.
- Reflecting God’s Traits:
Walking by the Spirit is an intentional decision on our part and is held in direct contrast with gratifying the works of the flesh. To desire the fruit of the Spirit is to desire the traits of God. Keyword: desire. This is something we need to want in our lives and are willing to take the necessary steps (Gal. 5:25) to experience it.
Now, refresh yourself on the icebreaker “Fruit Basket Upset” and then help you students experience the fruit of the Spirit in ways that will bring, well…lasting fruit.