Fruit of the Spirit: Ephesians 5:9

‘For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.’

Ah yes, the fruit of the Spirit! The wonderful fruit of the Spirit!

Do you know why the fruit of the Spirit is so wonderful? One reason is that it is the amazing work that God is performing in you. The Spirit of Jesus Christ, who lives in your heart, produces fruit. And the fruits that He produces in you are the spiritual qualities that characterize the sons and daughters of God. Galatians 5:22, 23 says, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” Amazing, that these marvellous spiritual gifts are given to you!

Another reason the fruit of the Spirit is so wonderful is that it demonstrates the sovereignty of God in salvation. Where do true love, true joy, true peace, and all of the rest come from? They certainly do not come naturally to a person. Nor is it possible for anyone to produce these things on his own. Rather, they must come from God. They are, after all, the fruits of the Spirit. They are of Him, they come from Him, because God is sovereign in salvation.

Wonderful, isn’t it? The fruit of the Spirit! Let us take a closer look at this fruit of the Spirit by asking three questions. What is the fruit of the Spirit? How is the fruit of the Spirit displayed? And what is our calling with regard to the fruit of the Spirit?

What is the fruit of the spirit?

In the first place, it is the fruit of the Spirit. The One who produces this fruit in us is none other than God Himself. This brings up one of the most amazing aspects of our salvation: God lives in us! That is such an amazing truth because of who God is. He is the infinite God, who cannot be contained even by the heaven of heavens (I Kings 8:27). And yet, this infinite God lives and dwells in the finite hearts of His chosen people. Not only is He infinite, but God is eternally blessed (Romans 9:5). He does not need us for anything: not for His own joy, not for His own blessing, not for companionship, not for anything. And yet this perfectly self- sufficient God makes us His sons and daughters and comes to live in us. Not just with us, but in us!

But then, why does Ephesians 5:9 focus on the Spirit? The Spirit receives the emphasis because God makes His dwelling in us by His Spirit. The Spirit is the Third Person of the Trinity, who was given to Jesus Christ at His ascension, and was poured out by Jesus upon His church at Pentecost. By His Spirit, God dwells in the hearts of all of His people. As Romans 8:15 says, “For ye have not received the spirit of bondage again to fear; but ye have received the Spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba, Father.”

As He dwells in our hearts, the Spirit works. His work is to make us new creatures in Christ. He does that by uniting us to Christ so that there is a real, spiritual connection between Jesus in heaven and us on earth. So close is that union that we are one plant with Christ. He is the vine, we are the branches (John 15:1-5). The Spirit also takes out our old, dead heart of stone that hates God, and replaces it with a new, soft, living heart of flesh that loves God (Ezekiel 36:26). And the Spirit applies to us all of the blessings of righteousness and holiness that Christ earned for us by His death and resurrection. As the Form for the Administration of Baptism puts it, the Holy Spirit applies “unto us that which we have in Christ, namely, the washing away of our sins and the daily renewing of our lives . . . .”

The result of all of this work of the Spirit is fruit. The fruit of the Spirit! Think of a citrus tree. When that tree grows from a living root, it will produce good fruit. That is exactly how it is with us. The Spirit unites us to the living Root, Jesus Christ, and the result is good fruit. And abundant fruit! Galatians 5:22, 23 list love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance as the fruit of the Spirit.

Before we go on, we ought to note that the doctrine of God’s sovereignty in salvation is clearly taught in this verse. The fruit is fruit of the Spirit. That word of means that the fruit comes from Him and is performed by Him. This is so striking, because all of these fruits are works that we are active in performing. We love, we rejoice, we are gentle, we believe, and so forth. God works in such a way that we perform these works. And yet, even though we are active, they remain the fruits of the Spirit. Our activity is due to and directed by the sovereign power of the Holy Spirit. Many today teach that man has something to contribute to his salvation. But the truth is that even the fruits in which we are active are fruits of the Spirit.

How is the fruit of the spirit displayed?

The next thing for us to consider is the demonstration of the fruit of the Spirit. How is the fruit of the Spirit displayed? Or, to put it a different way, What does the fruit of the Spirit look like? This is an important question, because the work that the Holy Spirit performs is invisible and internal. With our physical eyes, we cannot see the new life that the Spirit puts in our hearts. Nevertheless, that invisible, internal work of the Spirit always has external, visible effects. In this respect, the work of the Holy Spirit is like the wind. We cannot see the wind, but we can see the effects of the wind. When the wind blows, the trees bend and the leaves rustle. For exactly this reason, one of the signs on the day of Pentecost was the sound of a mighty, rushing wind (Acts 2:2). And so we want to know, What are the visible effects of the Spirit’s invisible work? What does the fruit of the Spirit look like?

Here is the answer, from Ephesians 5:9: “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” When people see you live a life of real goodness, real righteousness, and real truth, then they know the Spirit is working in you. That goodness, righteousness, and truth are a visible demonstration and display of the Spirit’s internal and invisible work.

This explains the meaning of the little word in. That word is unexpected, and not so easy to explain at first. Perhaps we even read right over that little word, so that we thought the verse said, “For the fruit of the Spirit is all goodness, righteousness, and truth.” But in reality, God says, “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.” That word in simply points out the way in which the fruit of the Spirit is made visible to the sight of others. We may read the verse this way: “For the fruit of the Spirit is displayed in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.” Or, “For the fruit of the Spirit is seen, demonstrated, made visible, made evident in all goodness, righteousness, and truth.” We use the word this way, too. When a man speaks lovingly of his wife, we might say, “His affection is in his voice.” We mean, “His affection is displayed in and evident in his voice.” So also the fruit of the Spirit is plainly seen in a life of goodness, righteousness, and truth.

This understanding helps us identify exactly what goodness, righteousness, and truth are. The Bible sometimes uses these words with a little different emphasis. For example, sometimes the word righteousness refers to our legal, judicial state before God the Judge (Philippians 3:9). Other times, the word righteousness refers to a life of good works (Acts 10:35). Which is meant here in Ephesians 5:9? Remember that the text is referring to the demonstration of the Spirit’s work. Therefore, it must be referring to the holy life of good works that we live, since those good works are visible displays of the Spirit’s invisible work.

With that in mind, we can briefly examine each of these three graces. Goodness is the moral excellence that makes God’s people stand out from all that is base and evil. To be good is to delight in all light and virtue. Paul made mention of that in the preceding verse when he wrote, “Walk as children of the light.” The man who is good is not concerned only with himself, either. A good man is determined to do good to his neighbour. Sometimes that might be through showering him with kindness. Other times it may be through a rebuke to warn him from the evil way. But always it is motivated by love for God and the neighbour.

Righteousness here refers to the performance of all good works that are in harmony with God’s perfect law. It is the righteousness, or uprightness, that characterized Job. “There was a man in the land of Uz, whose name was Job; and that man was perfect and upright, and one that feared God, and eschewed evil” (Job 1:1). God’s law is the law of love. The first commandment is, Love the Lord thy God! The second commandment is, Love thy neighbour as thyself! The entire law is a law of love. Therefore, righteousness is especially the works of love for God and the neighbour. It is especially here that we must remember that we are not talking about righteousness in the sense of our legal standing before God. Our legal righteousness refers to our justification before God. That justification is not based on any work of ours at all, but only on the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ. But that legal righteousness results in our desire to do works in harmony with God’s law as a means of expressing our thanksgiving to Him. It is those works that are in view here, for it is those works that demonstrate to others the fruit of the Spirit within. However, our life of righteousness is never the basis of our justification, never a cooperation with Christ; but only ever the fruit of Christ’s work for us.

Truth is a life of honesty and integrity that abhors hypocrisy and lying. The man who is truthful is a man of his word. People can trust him and be confident that he means what he says. The truthful man also has a high regard for the Truth, the revelation of God in His Scriptures. His faith and his life are based on that Word, and he endeavours to conduct himself according to it. His honesty is seen not only in the true words that he speaks, but in a life that is regulated in all things by the truth of the Word.

Thus, the fruit of the Spirit is revealed in all goodness and righteousness and truth.

What is our calling with regard to the fruit of the spirit?

All of this brings us to the point that Paul is making in this verse. His main point to the Ephesian Christians, and to us, is the command he had given immediately before: “For ye were sometimes darkness, but now are ye light in the Lord: walk as children of light” (Ephesians 5:8). The Ephesians had undergone a radical and fundamental change. They used to be darkness. Not just in darkness, but they used to be darkness itself. That is, they were utterly without the Light of the world, Jesus Christ. They were utterly without the life and salvation that He alone can bring. After their fundamental change, which was their conversion, the Ephesians were now light. Not just in the light, but they were light itself. That is, the Light of the world, Jesus Christ, dwelt in them and shone through them. Remember how Jesus had said, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12), and therefore, “Ye are the light of the world” (Matthew 5:14). Because the Ephesians were now light, they were to walk as children of light.

It is at this point that Paul introduces the idea of the fruit of the Spirit with the word for. “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” The point is that their holy life of light would be a demonstration of their radical change. Their life of goodness, righteousness, and truth would be a proof that they were now light in the Lord, because the fruit of the Spirit was made manifest in this kind of life. The truth of the fruit of the Spirit would serve as an incentive to the Ephesians to live in harmony with their new identity as the children of God.

The same word comes to us now today. You have been changed! You were darkness, but you now are light by the grace of God. Walk as children of light, for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, and righteousness, and truth.

Ah yes, the fruit of the Spirit! The wonderful fruit of the Spirit!

Written by: Pastor Andy Lanning | Issue 9

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