The Fruit Of The Spirit Is Love


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 is the product that the Spirit produces by or through the Word that the Spirit has given us. This singular ‘fruit’ is contrasted with the multiple facets of ‘the works of the flesh.’

Furthermore, it is characterised by, ‘love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance’. Galatians 5:22-23

These aren’t separate fruits but are characteristics of the one ‘fruit of the Spirit.’ A person may speak about a juicy red apple. We recognize juicy and red are characteristics of this apple. These characteristics describe this fruit. Thus, the same is true with ‘the fruit of the Spirit’, and the first descriptive characteristic which Paul ascribes to this marvellous fruit is ‘love.’

As Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit, he begins with the most prevalent characteristic. It stands loftily above the others. Love stands in the heights because it directly stems from God. John wrote, ‘And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in them.’ 1 John 4:16

Furthermore, love stands exalted because all the other traits of this beautiful fruit stem from this first attribute, ‘love’. In Koine Greek of the first century, there were four different words for ‘love’. The word used in Galatians 5:22 is ‘agape.’ This love is a sacrificial love that seeks the highest good for its object. It is more than just mere emotions and affections for it is projected from the intellect.

While mere emotions and affections are extinguished because of hatred, sin, and wickedness, this love is willing to give of itself. ‘But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.’ Romans 5:8.

Thus, it is a love not simply of words and tongue, but of deeds and truth, 1 John 3:18. The best definition of this word is found in 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 which says, ‘Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonour others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.’

When asked ‘which is the great commandment in the law?’ Jesus said, ‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbour as yourself.’ Matthew 22:36-39

From this, we learn there are ‘three proper recipients of love’.

1. We are to love ‘God’. 1 John 4:19.

Earlier in the same chapter, John explained how God manifested His love toward us. John wrote, ‘God sent his only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through him.’ 1 John 4:9

Certainly, this isn’t the only way God demonstrates His love. He has given us life, breath, and our very beings. We are because of Him, Mark 12:29-30.

In this context, the heart is the centre of our emotions. Love is an emotion and our love for God should reflect our deepest emotions. The soul is a person’s spiritual nature, his inner being, his self. Our love for God should stem from our innermost being. The mind is the centre of our intellect. Though love is an emotion, it is more than just an emotion. Our love toward God is actions based upon our knowledge of God and His will.

Finally, strength is a person’s physical being. Our bodies are used in our various expressions of love, and in expressing our love to God, we use ‘the fruit of our lips’ to offer the sacrifice of praise, Hebrews 13:15, our holy hands are lifted up in prayer, 1 Timothy 2:8, and our feet takes us into all the world to preach the Gospel, Matthew 28:18-19 / Romans 10:15. All in all, Jesus commands all mankind to love God with our entire being.

2. We are to love our ‘neighbour’.

One of the most obvious questions that arise is ‘Who is my neighbour?’ To answer this question, Jesus told the story of the Samaritan, which incidentally Jesus or the Bible never calls ‘good’, who helped a man who fell into the hands of thieves and was left half dead, Luke 10:29-37. While lying there, a priest and a Levite saw him but passed him by on the other side.

Thankfully, a benevolent Samaritan saw him, helped him, and provided for him. To answer the question, Jesus asked a very pointed question in Luke 10:36, ‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbour to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’

And the answer was in Luke 10:37 ‘The one who had mercy on him.’ In the end, we learn that a neighbour was one who showed mercy. In application, Jesus said, ‘Go, and do likewise.’

Thus, a neighbour would include our enemies, Matthew 5:44, our fellow man, Ephesians 5:12, and our brethren, 1 John 4:20.

In fact, love should be a distinctive mark of God’s people. Jesus taught, ‘By this everyone will know that you are my disciples if you love one another.’ John 13:35

This is a serious matter! John in his epistle wrote, ‘Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love.’ 1 John 4:8

In context, John is writing about our love one for another and makes this application, ‘Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another’. 1 John 4:11

3. Finally, we are to ‘love ourselves’.

Though some have placed too much emphasis here, the principle is still taught. Certainly, we must be on guard not to love ourselves more than we should and not to love ourselves above others, Philippians 2:3-4. Nevertheless, we cannot love our neighbour as ourselves without loving ourselves.

In Ephesians 5:29, Paul wrote, ‘After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church’.

A general principle is stated. Generally speaking, a person doesn’t hate his own body. Paul applies this general principle to marriage. Men ought to love their wives as their own bodies, Ephesians 5:28+33, and the man who neglects his wife neglects himself.

Instead of hating one’s own body, a person nourishes and cherishes it. The word ‘nourish’ means to nurture or bring it up. This is the same word translated as ‘nurture’ in Ephesians 6:4. The word ‘cherish’ means to warm or keep warm, to foster with tender care. Thus, we should love ourselves by nourishing and cherishing ourselves.

1. Love is the great ‘motivator’.

Because of God’s love, He sent His Son to this world to die for our sins. John wrote, ‘this is how God showed his love among us: He sent his one and only Son into the world that we might live through him. This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins.’ 1 John 4:9-10

His love should, first, motivate us to love Him, 1 John 4:19.

2. His love should motivate us to ‘obey Him’.

Jesus said, ‘If you love me, keep my commandments,’ John 14:15. Furthermore, Paul wrote that a working faith is to be motivated by love. Galatians 5:6.

In fact, anything that a person does, if it isn’t motivated by love, it is empty and profitless to oneself, 1 Corinthians 13:1-3.

The greatest expression of love is for ‘a man lay down his life for his friends,’ John 15:13. Surely, we all realise that Jesus was speaking about His own sacrifice for us. Now, listen to the application, ‘This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers and sisters.’ 1 John 3:16

‘He that hath ears to hear, let him hear’

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’.