The Fruit Of The Spirit Is Long-Suffering


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.


A fourth characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit is longsuffering. Some have defined the term as ‘long on suffering.’ Certainly, this is an easy way to remember the basic concept. A couple of synonyms of ‘longsuffering’ are forbearance and patience.

W.E. Vine wrote, ‘Longsuffering is that quality of self-restraint in the face of provocation which does not hastily retaliate or promptly punish; it is the opposite of anger and is associated with mercy.’ Further, the concept carries with it the idea of the ‘patient enduring of evil’ and the ‘slowness of avenging injuries’.

As Vine pointed out, longsuffering is the opposite of anger. Remember in context Paul is contrasting ‘the fruit of the Spirit’ with ‘the works of the flesh.’ This contrast is readily seen in longsuffering. Antonyms of longsuffering are ‘hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, and strife’ all ‘works of the flesh’. Galatians 5:19-21.

‘Hatred’ is enmity, while ‘discord’ is strife and contention. ‘Jealousy’ is indignation, and ‘fits of rage’ is fierceness or outbursts of anger. All are in contrast to and opposite of longsuffering. In other words, and in application, a person doesn’t portray longsuffering while holding a grudge, being contentious, or exploding in anger.

Longsuffering is an attribute of God. David, the Psalmist wrote, ‘But you, Lord, are a compassionate and gracious God, slow to anger, abounding in love and faithfulness.’ Psalm 86:15

We can all be thankful that because of God’s compassion and graciousness, He is forbearing and patient with us. While we deserve death because of our sin and rebellion, He is longsuffering.

Peter wrote, ‘The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is longsuffering towards, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance’. 2 Peter 3:9

God isn’t indifferent about His promise of the second coming and judgment. The reason for His apparent delay is His longsuffering. God isn’t willing that any should be lost.

He desires ‘all men to be saved, and to come unto the knowledge of the truth.’ 1 Timothy 2:4

He gives mankind opportunity and time in order for all men to come to Him in repentance. Knowing the hard-heartedness of man, it is little wonder that Peter later wrote, ‘the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation’. 2 Peter 3:15

Noah serves as an example of the longsuffering of the Lord. Peter wrote, ‘to those who were disobedient long ago when God waited patiently in the days of Noah while the ark was being built. In it, only a few people, eight in all, were saved through water.’ 1 Peter 3:20

Just as God is longsuffering with us, He was longsuffering with Noah’s contemporaries and gave them the opportunity to repent. Sadly, they didn’t, and when judgment came, only eight souls were saved! What a sad commentary on that generation.

Could this be said of our generation?

One day, God will send forth His Son and ‘Do not be amazed at this, for a time is coming when all who are in their graves will hear his voice and come out—those who have done what is good will rise to live, and those who have done what is evil will rise to be condemned.’ John 5:28-29

God is longsuffering towards us, but His longsuffering and patience will come to an end, and judgment day will be upon us. When that great and notable day comes, where will you spend eternity? Today is the day to prepare! So, be prepared. Judgment day is coming!

In the parable of the unjust judge, Jesus taught among other principles the longsuffering of God, Luke 18:1-8. In this parable, a wicked judge eventually grants the petition of a widow who continually petitioned him.

But in contrast, Jesus says God is not like that, God grants petitions but you don’t have to badger God over and over again with your petitions. If the unjust judge will grant the petition of a persistent widow, how much more will God, the righteous Judge, grant to His own faithful servants who don’t have to continually ask Him for something?

Concerning longsuffering, Jesus said, ‘And will not God bring about justice for his chosen ones, who cry out to him day and night? Will he keep putting them off?’ Luke 18:7

The word translated ‘bear long’ is the same original word and is usually translated as ‘longsuffering’. We, like the persistent widow, continually make requests of God but oftentimes, we make requests over and over and over again but this isn’t necessary.

Many times, it’s not because we don’t believe God will grant our prayers, but because of our own weaknesses and needs, we badger God continually. In spite of such weaknesses, in spite of our failings, in spite of our lack of faith, God is longsuffering with us and grants our continual petitions.

In the midst of exposing the sin and hypocrisy of the Jews, Paul gives a ray of hope. He 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

Throughout their history, the Jews saw and experienced the goodness of God, but they continually rejected Him. Nonetheless, God was forbearing and longsuffering with them desiring their repentance.

Like so many people, they were anxious to receive God’s goodness, but they refused to be led down the road of repentance. All men have seen the riches of God’s goodness.

‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.’ James 1:17

Those good and perfect gifts should lead all men to repentance, but sadly too many are like the Jews of old and reject the riches of God’s goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering. Since longsuffering is an attribute of God, then we also know that Christ is longsuffering. In 1 Timothy 1:16, Paul wrote, ‘But for that very reason I was shown mercy so that in me, the worst of sinners, Christ Jesus might display his immense patience as an example for those who would believe in him and receive eternal life.’

When Paul was persecuting the church, when Paul was victimising Christians, when Paul was rejecting the truth, Jesus was provoked, but He restrained Himself showing longsuffering towards Paul. The same could be said of us! Romans 5:8 / 1 John 3:4, while we knew to do good but didn’t, James 4:17, while we violated our own consciences, Romans 14:23, while we lived in unrighteousness, 1 John 5:17, Christ was longsuffering towards us.

We deserved death, separation from God, but instead ‘Christ died for us.’ 1 John 3:1. Since God and Christ are longsuffering, it is only natural that their servants be longsuffering. To the church at Ephesus, Paul wrote, ‘As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.’ Ephesians 4:1-2

The quality of longsuffering has its foundation in love.

Paul further wrote, ‘Love is patient.’ 1 Corinthians 13:4. In other words, love is longsuffering. It keeps on suffering long. It keeps on being long-enduring. It keeps on exercising patience, forbearance, and perseverance. 1 John 4:11.

If God so loved us that He is longsuffering with us, we ought also to love one another in the same way and be longsuffering with one another.

With this application, consider Colossians 3:12-13 ‘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.’

God and Jesus are our examples of longsuffering. The Holy Spirit tells us through the Word He inspired us to be longsuffering. Let us, therefore, put on longsuffering. Let us be longsuffering towards one another and the world. Let us have this, another characteristic of the fruit of the Spirit.

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 friends.

Every godly person of the past was characterised by them, and every godly person in the 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’.