August 5, 2014 Broadcast

The Fruit of the Holy Spirit

A Message by R.C. Sproul

The Holy Spirit is receiving a lot of well-deserved attention in churches today, but not without controversy. Many want to focus on the sensational work of the Spirit, but neglect His more subtle activity in our lives. In this lesson, Dr. R.C. Sproul discusses the fruit of the Spirit and explains how we can either please or grieve Him.

From the series: Foundations: An Overview of Systematic Theology

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. devotional

    Walking by the Spirit

  2. devotional

    Producing Fruit

  3. devotional

    Bearing Spiritual Fruit

Walking by the Spirit

Christians have always faced the problems of legalism and antinomianism. Legalism tries to thwart sin and promote holiness through imposing a law code that adds to Scripture. Of course, Paul addresses legalism in Galatians due to the false teachers who wanted to circumcise Gentile believers even though God never says Gentile disciples of Christ must become Jews (proselytes, Gal. 5:2–6).

Those who embrace antinomianism misinterpret Christian liberty, seeking to eliminate standards entirely. Antinomians indulge their flesh, which refers to human nature in rebellion against the Lord (Rom. 8:8). Legalism is a common response to antinomianism, and Paul defines the true way not to indulge the flesh in today’s passage, answering the Galatian Judaizers who bolstered their appeal to the Law by saying that keeping it is the only way to avoid sin.

Most legalists try to be faithful to God’s call to be holy (Lev. 11:44), but their good intentions do not produce right results. For as Paul tells us, the only way to keep from gratifying the desires of the flesh is to “walk by the Spirit” (Gal. 5:16). The basic idea here is that the Christian life is one defined by the fruit of the Spirit, which fulfills the Law (v. 22). We are to be constantly dependent on the Spirit for living in a manner pleasing to God. Again, a life under the Law is not a life without any directives. Paul talks about the Spirit-led life and fulfilling the Law through love in the same context (vv. 13–15), indicating that to walk by the Spirit produces a manner of life characterized by love for God and neighbor, the two great commandments (Matt. 22:34–40).

Living in the Spirit is incompatible with living in the flesh — with being dominated by sin — since the flesh and the Spirit are at odds with one another (Gal. 5:17). It is not a life free from all sin, for we will fall into transgression on occasion until death (1 John 1:8–9). But it is a life in which evil does not reign because the Holy Spirit Himself compels us to follow God’s will (Jer. 31:31–34). We who walk by the Spirit uphold the Law, not in our own power but in putting to death any idea that we can keep our Creator’s law in our own strength and drawing upon the Spirit’s might to make us please the Lord (Eph. 5:18).  

Producing Fruit

One cannot be a Christian and have no fruit. Indeed, all Christians yield some measure of all the fruit of the Spirit. It is not that one receives the fruit of love and another the fruit of joy. All the fruit is to be manifest in all Christians.

The degree of the manifestation of the fruit of the Spirit may vary from Christian to Christian, and even episodically in the individual Christian’s life. The Holy Spirit produces the fruit. The fruit of the Spirit is part of the Spirit’s work of sanctification. Sanctification is not a monergistic work; it is synergistic: It involves and requires the cooperation of the believer. We are working out our salvation while at the same time God is working within us.

All of our labor in sanctification would yield no fruit if God were not working in us. Ultimately, it is His fruit in that He is the source of it and power for it. But the full measure of the fruit of the Spirit requires that we work. We are to work not casually or occasionally. Our labor is to be done in fear and trembling.

Bearing Spiritual Fruit

By grace, God offers the righteousness of Christ to all who put their trust in Him. For all who believe, all who have faith in Him, the merit of Christ is reckoned to their account. 

Does this exclude good works in the life of the believer? By no means. Our justification is always unto good works. Though no merit ever proceeds from our works, either those done before our conversion or those done afterward, good works are a necessary fruit of true faith. 

“Necessary fruit?” Yes, necessary. Good works are not necessary for us to earn our justification. They are never the ground of our justification. They are necessary in a more restricted sense. They are necessary corollaries to true faith. If a person claims to have faith yet brings forth no fruit of obedience whatsoever, it is proof positive that the claim to faith is a false claim. True faith inevitably and necessarily bears fruit. The absence of fruit indicates the absence of faith.

We are not justified by the fruit of our faith. We are justified by the fruit of Christ’s merit. We receive His merit only by faith, but it is only by true faith that we receive His merit. And all true faith yields true fruit. 

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