There is a misconception that profound truth must be conveyed in profound ways. But it is possible, and adds to it’s profundity, when truth is conveyed simply. This is often the case with truth from the Word of God. Sadly, when truth is stated simply, it’s depth can be missed or left unexplored. Because it’s stated simply there’s an assumption of superficiality. Such is true of the fruit of the Spirit.
Galatians 5:22–23 (NAS): 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.
The simple truth is in the image it creates. The image of the Spirit’s luscious fruit of love, joy, peace and the like, exhibited in the lives of God’s people. The image is desirable and appealing, but the real power of the metaphor to convey the profound truth intended by the author may not be in the image it creates, but in it’s image by contrast.
Paul masterfully uses this expression in contrast to the deeds of the flesh. He does so to give us a hint at the depths of the truth of what God does in our lives. The flesh has deeds, but the Spirit bears fruit.
Paul is pushing hard to get the Galatians to abandon works for their perfection. He reaches deep for the appropriate metaphor and strikes gold with the Fruit of the Spirit. Because unlike the flesh, you don’t do fruit. They grow. And they grow, not out of your efforts, but out of the presence of the Spirit—The Holy Spirit. The best you can do is cultivate the conditions for growth, and even that’s stretching the metaphor.
Paul seems to be pushing them away from effort and back to the freedom and peace of faith in Jesus for their perfection. Faith in the work taking place in their lives to conform them to the image of God’s own Son.
The great promise in this passage is that if we walk by the Spirit, we will not carry out the desires of the flesh. Whatever walking by the Spirit is, it is in contrast to living under the law. In our present culture we certainly don’t live under the law, but we do live by biblical principles and values— which is the same horse of a different color. We are at work striving to produce fruit through the principles and values we live by, and are so proud of. But against the fruit of the Spirit there is no law. There’s no principles there to live by. No values to protect. Just growth.
The striving, as well intentioned as it may be, leads to boasting and biting and devouring one another just as it did in Galatia. It always does. We can have the same Jesus, but different biblical principles and different biblical values, and be cause we live by them, we can’t live together.
This striving and highly principled living is also not walking by the Spirit, or walking by faith—same horse, same color. The powerful question Paul asked the Galatians seems appropriate here. “Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” Can we really be perfected by our deeds? Aren’t the deeds of the flesh evident? Don’t you recognize the horse? And isn’t it also profoundly clear that you just can’t do fruit?