The Fruit Of The Spirit Is Gentleness


Before one can understand ‘the fruit of the Spirit,’ one must understand the context of Galatians 5 where ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ is revealed. In this chapter, Paul exhorts Christians not to allow their liberty to degenerate into a ‘yoke of bondage.’

Some individuals in the Galatian church had ‘fallen from grace’ because they sought to be ‘justified by the law.’ The Judaizing teachers were binding the old law upon the church and, by such, had hindered some in obeying the truth, Galatians 5:7. These false teachers of Judaism were troubling the church, Galatians 5:12.

However, as Christians, we have been called to liberty, liberty from the old law, from sin, and from the bondage of sin. Thus, Paul exhorts, ‘do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh,’ Galatians 5:13.

One reason we ought not to use our liberty as a license to sin is because ‘we walk in the Spirit,’ Galatians 5:16. To ‘walk in the Spirit’ means to walk according to the Spirit’s teaching through His sword ‘which is the word of God,’ Ephesians 6:17.

This is the same as being ‘led by the Spirit,’ Galatians 5:18, and it is the opposite of walking after the flesh. The Spirit and the flesh are at odds, Galatians 5:17. They are in constant conflict. They are opposed to one another.

To further illustrate this conflict, Paul contrasts ‘the works of the flesh,’ Galatians 5:19-21 with ‘the fruit of the Spirit,’ Galatians 5:22-23. In verse 16 of Galatians 5, Paul commands, ‘Walk in the Spirit.’ Let’s be sure, that there are certain results of walking in the Spirit. There is the benefit of not fulfilling the lust of the flesh, Galatians 5:16.

The same thought is declared by David in Psalm 119:11, ‘I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.’

When we engraft God’s Word upon our hearts, it will protect us against the fiery darts of Satan. Jesus knew this lesson when He was tempted by the devil, Matthew 4. Jesus guarded Himself against each temptation by the Word of God. He answered the tempter’s temptation with ‘it is written,’ Matthew 4:4 / Matthew 4:7 / Matthew 4:10

Also, if we ‘walk in the Spirit’, we are ‘not under the law,’ Galatians 5:18. ‘The law’ in this verse is the Mosaic Law. Earlier in this chapter, we are told Christ becomes of no effect unto those who justify themselves by ‘the law,’ Galatians 5:4. To return to the Mosaic law is to abandon the law of Christ and to fall from grace. Some believe this means we are not under any law.

However, we are under ‘the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus’ which frees us from ‘the law of sin and death,’ Romans 8:2. We are to ‘fulfil the law of Christ’ by bearing one another’s burdens, Galatians 6:2. And, we are to look into ‘the perfect law of liberty.’ James 1:25.

Also, consider this, since ‘sin is the transgression of the law,’ 1 John 3:4 to say we aren’t under law is to say we haven’t nor cannot sin. Clearly, we are under law, the law of Christ, but we are not under ‘the law’, the Law of Moses. Further, ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ results from walking in the Spirit.

Again, when we engraft God’s Word upon our hearts, ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ will be seen within us. The qualities of ‘love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance’ will characterise us. The Spirit will produce these qualities within us by the Word He has inspired.

‘The fruit of the Spirit’ is the produce of the Spirit

In other words, it is the product that is produced by the Spirit’s influence. ‘The fruit of the Spirit’ isn’t a Christian nor the fruit of a Christian which some have mistakenly taught. In fact, the fruit of a Christian is more than just a Christian.

It is true that in the natural world, mankind, animals, and plants produce after their kind. Christians should also produce after their kind, and in this sense, the fruit of a Christian is another Christian.

However, Christians produce other fruit besides Christians. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught, ‘Thus, by their fruit, you will recognize them.’ Matthew 7:20

Within the context, Jesus is speaking concerning false teachers who come ‘in sheep’s clothing’ but inwardly are ‘ravening wolves,’ Matthew 7:15.

To illustrate how we can know a false teacher, He taught a good tree produces good fruit, whereas an evil tree produces evil fruit.

Is the only fruit of a false teacher, other false teachers? Of course not! False teachers cause division, false hope, and disillusionment to only name a few. So, it is with Christians. Christians should evangelise, but there are other fruits which they should bear, and one such fruit is the fruit of the Spirit.

Since the fruit of the Spirit is the produce of the Spirit, then how does the Spirit produce the qualities of ‘love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance’ in Christians today? The Spirit influences Christians today through the Spirit-inspired Word.

Peter wrote, ‘For prophecy never had its origin in the human will, but prophets, though human, spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit.’ 2 Peter 1:21

It is this Word that will make us ‘wise for salvation,’ 2 Timothy 3:15 and ‘it is the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes,’ Romans 1:16. It provides us with ‘everything we need for a godly life,’ 2 Peter 1:3.

Thus, nothing else is needed for it is all-sufficient and will produce the right fruit.

In the parable of the sower, Jesus taught that a sower sowed seed by the wayside, upon a rock, among thorns, and on good ground, Luke 8:5-8. Later, Jesus told us what the seed represents. He said, ‘The seed is the word of God,’ Luke 8:11

So, the Word was sown in the hearts of men, but sadly the hearts of some men were like the soil of the wayside, the rock, and the thorny ground.

Thankfully, when the Word of God is sown in other men whose hearts are like the soil of the good ground, it ‘brings forth fruit with patience,’ that is with constant perseverance, Luke 8:15.

What is the fruit of the Spirit?

It is what the Word provides and produces in the good soil of a person’s heart.

Contrasted to the Spirit produced fruit, ‘the works of the flesh’ are ‘the unfruitful works of darkness,’ Ephesians 5:9+11. In other words, ‘the works of the flesh’ don’t yield a valuable or desirable fruit. The works of the flesh are the evil fruit of the evil tree. They bring forth no blessings and no real benefits.

Please take careful note that unlike the plural ‘acts of the flesh,’ ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ is singular. ‘Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance’ aren’t separate fruits but are characteristics or attributes of the singular ‘fruit of the Spirit.’

Besides these nine characteristics, Paul adds ‘all goodness and righteousness and truth’ in Ephesians 5:9. Thus, giving us a total of eleven attributes of the fruit of the Spirit all of which are virtues of the highest moral and spiritual qualities.

These qualities or characteristics will be manifested in the lives of those ‘who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit’, Romans 8:1 / Romans 8:4 / Galatians 5:16

Like the ‘graces’ of 2 Peter 1, if ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ ‘be in you, and abound, they will keep you from being ineffective and unproductive in your knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.’ 2 Peter 1:8

In contrast, if they aren’t manifested in our lives, then we aren’t being ‘led of (or ‘by’) the Spirit,’ Galatians 5:18 / Romans 8:14. And again, like the ‘graces’ of 2 Peter 1:5-7, if they are lacking, then we are ‘near-sighted and blind, forgetting that they have been cleansed from their past sins. 2 Peter 1:9. Thus, the proof of the tree is in the fruit.

Jesus said, ‘the tree is known by his fruit’, Matthew 12:33. And, ‘Thus, by their fruit, you will recognize them.’ Matthew 7:20. So, let us determine to always ‘walk after the Spirit’ by following His Word in order that we may manifest these marvellous traits, the fruit of the Spirit.


The fruit of the Spirit has many attributes. Just as an orange has attributes like round, orange, and sweet, the fruit of the Spirit has the attributes of ‘love, joy, peace’. By inspiration of the Holy Spirit, Paul gave the fifth attribute of the fruit of the Spirit, ‘gentleness’.

The word ‘gentleness’ comes from the Greek word ‘chrestotes’ and means goodness of the heart or kindness. It is normally associated with moral goodness. It carries with it the idea of a ‘kindly disposition’ and is more often translated as ‘goodness’ and ‘kindness’ in the King James Version. Thus, this attribute is always sweet, kind, and full of graciousness.

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said, ‘Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect.’ Matthew 5:48. As Christians, we are to imitate God, the Father. Thus, Jesus’ statement is brought home in the application when we consider God’s goodness.

Paul wrote, ‘Or do you show contempt for the riches of his kindness, forbearance and patience, not realizing that God’s kindness is intended to lead you to repentance?’ Romans 2:4

The word ‘goodness’ is the same as ‘gentleness’ in the original language. God is rich in goodness! ‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights.’ James 1:17 and ‘in him we live, and move, and have our being.’ Acts 17:28

God is so good to us that ‘while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us’. Romans 5:8. If we have the mindset to imitate God and live godly, then we will also be rich in goodness, gentleness.

Please notice the application Paul makes in Romans 2:2-4. God’s goodness ought to lead us to repentance! Generally, when tragedy hits, we turn to God, or, in the least, it causes us to think about our soul’s destiny. It is an illness, an accident, or a death of a loved one that causes us to consider more seriously our eternal fate.

But God’s goodness ought to do the same. His kindness is shown by His supply of our daily welfare, His spiritual provisions given to us through His Word, and His generous care as He watches over the affairs of this world, these things ought to impel us to live as God would have us to live.

One aspect of the goodness of God emphasised in Scripture is the goodness God has shown toward us through Jesus Christ. In Ephesians 2:7, Paul wrote, ‘That in the ages to come he might show the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus.’

It’s through the kindness that God has shown to us through Jesus, the Christ that we will be able to praise God throughout eternity.

Again, the word ‘kindness’ in this text is the same as in Galatians 5:22. Paul also makes this thought clear in Titus 3:4. After reminding us what we were, he wrote, ‘But after that, the kindness and love of God our Saviour toward man appeared.’

Here’s the point

God showed His kindness and love toward mankind in the sending of His Son, Jesus Christ, to this world of woe and in the sacrifice and death of His Son for our sins.

Notice, also, that God’s goodness and severity are contrasted. Again, to the Christians in Rome, Paul wrote, ‘consider therefore the kindness and sternness of God: sternness to those who fell, but kindness to you, provided that you continue in his kindness. Otherwise, you also will be cut off.’ Romans 11:22

The severity of God fell upon the unbelieving Jews while the goodness of God was shown toward the Gentiles because of their faith. The conditional nature of salvation is under consideration. As long as the Gentiles continued in faithfulness, they would see the goodness of God, but if they became unfaithful like the Jews, they would be cut off.

The same could be said of us. Jesus ‘became the source of eternal salvation for all who obey him.’ Hebrew 5:9.

Our salvation is contingent upon our obedience to Jesus. As long as we obey, we have salvation, but when we quit obeying, we no longer have salvation.

Sadly, this was the state of affairs in Galatia. Rather than living for Jesus, some Galatian Christians turned back to the old law, and Paul assessed they were ‘fallen from grace’, Galatians 5:4

Let us determine not to follow their example but be as John exhorted, ‘faithful unto death’ so that we may receive ‘a crown of life’. Revelation 2:10

Another application of this verse that needs to be made concerns the way we look at God. Our view of God must be a balance between His goodness and His severity. To consider one more than the other or one above the other leaves us with a perverted view of the Almighty.

If we only believe in the goodness of God, we are led to conclude that God will overlook all our faults no matter if we have made any attempt to change or live as He instructs.

On the other hand, if we can only see the severity of God, then we are led to believe that God is some destructive Creator who has created us to be condemned. Both goodness and severity are characteristics of God.

We can see the goodness of God in all that He has done for us, but we ought also to understand that those who will not obey God will see His severity.

Justice, equity, and righteousness demand such. It’s not fair, it’s not just, and it’s not righteous to reward both the obedient and the disobedient with the eternal glories of heaven. Because of God’s goodness and severity, ‘they that have done good,’ will be raised ‘unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done evil, unto the resurrection of damnation.’ John 5:29

Not only is ‘gentleness’ a characteristic of God, Jesus’ life was characterised by it. Certainly, we hear the kind and gentle voice of Jesus when he said, ‘Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy and my burden is light’. Matthew 11:28-30

And we can see the goodness of the Lord as He received sinners, Luke 7:37-50 / John 8:1-11. Because of Christ’s example of gentleness, Paul writing to the Christians in Corinth wrote, ‘Such people should realise that what we are in our letters when we are absent, we will be in our actions when we are present.’ 2 Corinthians 10:1

Paul recognised the example of Jesus. So even though he was accused of being bold while not in their presence, he wrote with all gentleness, the gentleness of Christ. What a tremendous example for us! Even in the face of opposition, Paul acted with gentleness just as the Lord had done.

There are many facets of life in which we need to show gentleness, goodness, and kindness. The tongue is one such area. As we go into the world to evangelise, we need to show kindness. Paul wrote, ‘Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.’ Colossians 4:6

Wise Solomon of old wrote, ‘Pleasant words are as a honeycomb, sweet to the soul, and health to the bones’. Proverbs 16:24

Not only should we show kindness in our words, but we also ought to show it in our actions. The Samaritan is a marvellous example, Luke 10:30-37. Jesus testified that he was a neighbour to the man that fell among the thieves, and then He made this application, ‘Go, and do likewise.’

Also, what was the difference between the sheep and goats of Matthew 25:31-46? The sheep did acts of kindness! They clothed the naked, visited the sick, and fed the hungry while the goats did nothing. Let us, therefore, be kind one to another. Ephesians 4:32.

Each morning as we get up from bed, one of the first things we do is put on our clothes. Just as we put on clothes, Paul exhorts us to put on some attributes and virtues. Among them is kindness. To the Christians in Colossae, he wrote, ‘Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.’ Colossians 3:12-13

The fruit of the Spirit is made up of qualities to which all men should aspire. They are qualities that need no law, need no regulation, and need no restraint. They are godly qualities that issue from the foundational principle of love for God and for His creation. If these qualities are applied properly to our lives, they will build a good relationship with God, family, and with friends.

Every godly person of the past was characterised by them, and every godly person in future will be characterised by them. Let us, therefore, strive in earnestness to possess the fruit of the Spirit which is ‘Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, righteousness, and truth’.