The Fruitage of the Spirit
“The fruitage of the spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faith, mildness, self-control.”—Gal. 5:22, 23, NW.
1. Why do men’s efforts toward self-development often go astray, and what scripture throws light on this?
FROM time immemorial man has been keenly interested in self-development in every aspect of his make-up, physically, mentally and morally. Due to imperfection his endeavors in this direction have often lacked balance, coupled with the tendency to go to extremes. There are men, for instance, who take great pride in their muscular development, or in performing physical feats that win admiration and applause. What is not realized, however, is that this is frequently at the expense of good health later on in life, and often means the neglect of the finer, though intangible, things pertaining to the mind and heart. As the apostle says. “For bodily training is beneficial for a little, but godly devotion is beneficial for all things, as it holds promise of the life now and that which is to come.”—1 Tim. 4:8, NW.
2. (a) How has religion in general fostered the idea of self-development? (b) What did Paul say regarding this in relation to Judaism?
2 This lack of balance and tendency to go to extremes have also been manifest when men have sought to develop and improve themselves mentally and morally, often taking great pride in their achievements, whether real or imagined. Frequently this has been done under the influence and direction of one of the many religions forming part of the present system of things, claiming that the one strictly adhering to the prescribed course will procure for himself certain merit and benefits, affecting both his present and future life. Neither have the religions that have professed to acknowledge the one true God escaped this snare. How did Paul come to write about “the fruitage of the spirit” in contrast with “the works of the flesh,” in his letter to the Galatians? Did it not come about over this very question, raised by some who still clung to the system of Judaism, claiming that righteousness could be gained in the flesh by “works of law,” and that “according to Jewish practice”? Paul knew only too well what he was up against, for, as he says of his former course of conduct: “I was making greater progress in Judaism than many of my own age in my race.” So, in exasperation, he writes: “Are you so senseless? After starting in spirit are you now being completed in flesh?”—Gal. 5:19, 22; 2:14, 16; 1:14; 3:3, NW.
3. In what respects is there a similarity between Christendom and Judaism on this question?
3 Ideas and claims very similar to those put forward by the supporters of Judaism are also to be found among the many sects of Christendom. It is generally held as a basic belief that Christians are under the law of the Ten Commandments, including the sabbath law, and that a standing of righteousness can be gained by a strict outward observance of the requirements detailed therein. Again, as in the system of Judaism, a multitude of man-made traditions has been added, such as self-imposed penances, fasts, self-denial, a monastic and austere form of life, all of which are supposed to contribute to one’s personal holiness and thus provide the necessary disciplinary training and qualification for future life with Christ in heavenly glory. Why, some have even gone to the extreme of claiming that they have been able to attain to absolute holiness, sinlessness, while still in the flesh. How foolish! Especially so in view of the apostle’s warning right on this point, when he says: “Those very things are, indeed, possessed of an appearance of wisdom in a self-imposed form of worship and mock humility, a severe treatment of the body, but they are of no value in combating the satisfying of the flesh.”—Col. 2:23, NW.
4. What do Christendom’s teachers fail to understand and appreciate?
4 Christendom’s religious teachers in general fail to understand the Scriptural teaching that Christians “are not under law but under undeserved kindness,” and that they are declared righteous or justified in connection with the new covenant through its Mediator Christ Jesus. Hence those teachers also fail to appreciate that the power for righteousness under the new covenant is not the abolished Ten Commandments, but is God’s spirit, which transforms Christians to a godly likeness, and, as Paul says: “If you are being led by spirit, you are not under law.”—Rom. 6:15; Gal. 5:18, NW. See also Ephesians 2:15; 2 Corinthians 3:5-18, NW.
5. (a) Why has the revealment of truth and the cleansing away of error been a gradual work? (b) How is this seen relative to the fruitage of the spirit?
5 No wonder, then, that in the early years of our present-day movement, prior to 1914, and for some little time thereafter, those who then responded to the message of truth and forsook the false religion of modern-day Babylon, as commanded at Revelation 18:4, continued to be influenced to some extent by the teaching that they formerly accepted as being true. We must always remember that the revealment of truth and the consequent cleansing away of all Babylonish defilement, both in doctrine and practice, have been gradual work. (Prov. 4:18; Isa. 52:11) In those former years the subject of the development of the “fruits and graces of the spirit,” as it was generally called, was given much attention. With Galatians 5:22, 23 as a basis, it was a favorite theme chosen for many talks, often in the form of a symposium. Invariably, however, the line taken was to show how each individual must cultivate within himself along the lines of “character development” the various qualities detailed by the apostle. In fact, some then in the truth laid so much stress on the paramount importance of developing these things, and went to such extremes about it, that it resulted in their paying far too much attention to themselves. Every little experience or circumstance was viewed as playing some part in the testing and development of character. In many instances it led to these ones’ becoming self-centered and egotistical, in a humble sort of way of course. In other words, we might say that they became overripe and fell off the tree.
6. What is important for us to realize, and what particular danger is to be avoided?
6 Does this mean we are poking fun at the subject? That would be quite improper, for it occupies a very definite place in God’s Word. No, though we might show the ludicrous side of those who take themselves too seriously, the important thing we want to emphasize is the need to get the right viewpoint of ourselves in relation to this question of bearing fruit. As far as the danger of becoming egotistical is concerned, the immediate context at Galatians, chapter 5, shows this to be our biggest internal enemy. Says Paul: “If we are living by spirit, let us go on walking orderly also by spirit. Let us not become egotistical, stirring up competition with one another, envying one another.”—Gal. 5:25, 26, NW.
7. (a) How should we view ourselves? (b) How does Isaiah describe our present prosperity?
7 How, then, are we going to be helped in getting the right viewpoint of ourselves in order to avoid this danger? We need to view ourselves in the way that Jehovah views us. And how is that? In this day he sees us and deals with us primarily as a gathered people, gathered to his theocratic organization, Zion. Many prophecies speak of this gathered people, and in one place Isaiah connects it with God’s spirit and the resultant fruitage. After telling of a time of barrenness and unfruitful conditions, Isaiah then says that these conditions would obtain until the restoration of the theocratic organization, in these words: “Until the Spirit be poured upon us from on high, and the wilderness become a fruitful field, and the fruitful field be esteemed as a forest. Then justice shall dwell in the wilderness; and righteousness shall abide in the fruitful field. And the work of righteousness shall be peace; and the effect of righteousness, quietness and confidence for ever. And my people shall abide in a peaceable habitation, and in safe dwellings, and in quiet resting-places.” (Isa. 32:15-18, AS) What an attractive picture of blessings and increase! What luscious fruitage!
DIFFERENT KINDS OF FRUITAGE
8. Is all fruit the same, literally and figuratively? Yet what idea holds good to all such Scriptural references?
8 But perhaps at this point someone will ask whether the fruitage mentioned in the foregoing prophecy is the same as that described by Paul at Galatians 5:22, 23. And what about the fruitage of the vine in the well-known illustration at John, chapter 15, when Jesus said: “My Father is glorified in this, that you keep bearing much fruit”? (John 15:8, NW) Did Jesus mean keep bearing much love, and much joy, and so on? Is all fruit the same fruit? The answer, of course, is no. The word fruit, or fruitage, occurs many times in Scripture, referring to quite a number of different things, both good and evil. But all the references have this in common, that fruitage always conveys the idea of something produced, the natural and logical outcome, or outgrowth, or produce, resulting from certain causes or course of action.
9, 10. How can Kingdom fruitage be viewed from different angles, and with what Scriptural support?
9 In view of the fact that we are living in the day when God’s kingdom has been established in the heavens and a Kingdom organization has been built up on earth, into which God’s people have been gathered, therefore all the fruitage that we produce, by the help of God’s spirit as his servants, can properly be called Kingdom fruitage. But even this good fruitage can be looked at from different angles. As Jesus showed in one of his parables, the seed that the great Sower broadcasts is the Word of truth, the Kingdom message. Said Jesus: “As for that on the right soil, these are the ones that, after hearing the word with a right and good heart, retain it and bear fruit with endurance.” (Luke 8:15, NW) So, then, since each variety of seed produces its own kind, and since we ourselves came to a knowledge of the truth through someone else’s preaching of the Kingdom message, then it follows that the fruitage that we must produce is that of bearing witness to yet others of that same message and thus help to multiply the Kingdom interests. That is one angle, and that is the main one governing the use of the illustration of fruit bearing in the references quoted from Isaiah, chapter 32, and John, chapter 15.
10 But that is not the only angle. The apostle, in writing to those who have been enlightened by the Word of truth, says: “Go on walking as children of light, for the fruitage of the light consists of every kind of goodness and righteousness and truth.” (Eph. 5:8, 9, NW) One kind is that which should be manifest in our daily lives, in “every kind of goodness.” The other kind is that which should be manifest in connection with the proclamation of the truth, in “every kind” of field service. Actually, both kinds go hand in hand and are inseparable, as we shall see. But in this present study we are paying particular attention to the kind that concerns our daily life and personality, our disposition. And do not let us forget to take these things to ourselves in a practical way, being “doers of the word, and not hearers only.”—Jas. 1:22, NW.
LOVE—THE PRIMARY FRUITAGE OF THE SPIRIT
11. What is the primary fruitage of the spirit, and what question arises concerning this?
11 In the list of nine things making up the fruitage of the spirit, as mentioned at Galatians 5:22, 23, the first and foremost is love, and rightly so too. Now, let us put the question to ourselves in a personal and practical way. What does it mean, as far as I am concerned, when it says that “the fruitage of the spirit is love”? Does it mean that I must put myself through a mental exercise and say to myself first thing every morning, ‘I must try to be more loving. I determine I will be more loving’? Well, if we went about it that way, pursuing a course of self-development, then whatever we might manage to develop in that direction would really be the fruitage of our own spirit, would it not? But it is God’s spirit that the apostle is referring to, not our own. How, then, does it work out?
12. In what way do the Scriptures show that God’s love affects us and operates within us?
12 First, when we begin to learn of the truth, it is God’s great love that appeals to us, his kindness and goodness. As we learn more of the truth, so we learn to appreciate more God’s unselfish love until we come to the point where we respond to his invitation: “My son, give me thy heart.” (Prov. 23:26, AS) That means that in the spirit of devotion we dedicate ourselves to Jehovah to do his will, and thus we become true Christians. Obviously that is not because of love that we have developed of our own initiative. Rather, as Paul says, it is “because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the holy spirit.”—Rom. 5:5, NW.
13. How does this love affect our relationship with our brothers?
13 At the same time we realize that we have been brought into association with others who have come through exactly the same course and taken the same steps. These are therefore fellow Christians with us and, in this day, all are members together of the New World society. Our relationship with these brothers and sisters of ours naturally and logically follows, just as fruit is a natural produce, and not forced or manufactured. In support of this John writes: “The love is in this respect, not that we have [first] loved God, but that he loved us and sent forth his Son as a propitiatory sacrifice for our sins. . . . [and] if this is how God loved us, then we are ourselves under obligation to love one another” in the same warm, kind, unselfish way. (1 John 4:10, 11, NW) Of course, we should love one another. When we become real Christians, with the love of God filling our hearts and the knowledge of the truth and the Kingdom hope filling our minds, why, inevitably that should change and transform our whole life and disposition.
14. Do the Scriptures stress personal responsibility as to the spirit’s fruitage?
14 Does anyone reading this gain the impression that bearing the fruitage of the spirit is a very simple and easy matter? Oh no, it is not. While this fruitage is not a matter of self-cultivation, it does not mean for a moment that all we have to do is to sit back and leave ourselves in God’s hands, inert and acquiescent. As we said earlier, let us get the proper view of ourselves and the part we have to play. In the illustration of the vine Jesus said: “My Father is the cultivator.” (John 15:1, NW) Yes, Jehovah is the great Fruitgrower of all Kingdom fruitage, and all the credit goes to him. Under his direction, however, we do some cultivating work, as Paul shows, in the way of planting and watering and weeding, but never forget it is “God who makes it grow.” All the same, as the apostle continues, though individually we are nothing in ourselves, “let each one keep watching” how he is carrying out his responsibilities, for “each one’s work will become manifest, for the day [this day of judgment] will show it up.”—1 Cor. 3:6, 7, 10, 13, NW.
15. What is our individual responsibility, and how is it best met?
15 What exactly is our part, then, toward the cultivation of the fruitage of the spirit as far as love is concerned? That question is not difficult to answer. As we come to appreciate more and more what true love is, as seen in Jehovah, the very fountain of love, and as we come ever closer into union with him, then we have a deep and burning desire to express that same quality. Love is like that. It wants to express itself, it wants to be active. It is unselfish, so that we desire to see others enjoying and sharing in the same things that mean so much to us. And now we ask, How better can love come to its full fruitage than by sharing as fully and closely as possible with that body of devoted people which Jehovah has gathered into a New World society? And how better can we obey the injunction to “become imitators of God, as beloved children, and go on walking in love” than by attending and actively sharing in all the meetings of our local congregation and in the various features of direct field service? By following this course, what endless and excellent opportunities we have of exercising unselfish and godlike love and kindness and goodness! Why, there is no limit, for, as Paul said, “against such things there is no law” to say, ‘You shall go no farther in this direction.’—Eph. 5:1, 2; Gal. 5:23, NW.
16. What are our obligations as members of the New World society?
16 Mark you, this is very different from just going to meetings to get a blessing by sitting there silently week after week and merely absorbing all the goodness, or engaging in the service work as a matter of routine out of a sense of duty. Agreed, fruit trees absorb all the goodness they can from the sun and the air and the soil. But why? So that they can bear fruitage for the benefit and refreshment of others. And that applies to the fruitage of our daily lives and disposition, as well as to the fruitage of Kingdom-preaching. Our personality should be enjoyed and appreciated by our fellow Christians and by decent-minded people of the world, too, on account of such fine qualities. Is your personality enjoyed on that account?
17. What is meant by “living by spirit” and “walking orderly also by spirit”?
17 In support of the idea that the best way of producing the fruitage of the spirit is by sharing as fully as possible with God’s gathered people, let us look again at the expression already quoted: “If we are living by spirit, let us go on walking orderly also by spirit.” (Gal. 5:25, NW) There we have the secret of our part in the cultivation and bearing of this desirable fruit. The apostle says nothing about a course of self-training by a process of mental exercise. No. It is a matter of “living by spirit” and “walking orderly also by spirit.” That means to see ourselves as a gathered people, gathered to Zion, where Jehovah has poured out his spirit upon his servant class and where he has put his word into our mouths and is our Teacher, teaching us, not individually, but as a people, how to live by spirit, his spirit. Then, with our feet started in the right way, it is a matter of making steady, orderly progress under theocratic direction and, have no fear, the fruitage of the spirit will be produced to Jehovah’s praise and the blessing of others and to our own salvation to life in the new world.—Isa. 54:13; 59:21.
18. In what practical ways does the organization help us in this matter?
18 On the practical side, Jehovah’s organization provides many aids in walking orderly and making good progress. Through The Watchtower and Informant, also the meetings where the truths and counsel contained therein are discussed, we are continually being helped, both by encouragement and correction, to see clearly and maintain the right course of conduct and service. In these evil and critical times we often meet problems that make us wonder just what attitude we should adopt and what course we should take. In this respect, too, we get real benefit from sticking close to the organization, for through it are provided in this day, as in the apostle’s day, mature and dependable servants, whose conduct and disposition set a good example and who are there for the very purpose of helping us, even though their counsel may not always be what we expected or hoped for. As Paul wrote to the Philippians: “To what extent we have made progress, let us go on walking orderly in this same routine. Unitedly become imitators of me, brothers, and keep your eye on those who are walking in a way that accords with the example you have in us.”—Phil. 3:16, 17, NW.
19. Is a change in personality possible and necessary on becoming a Christian?
19 In concluding this part of our discussion, we want to say a further word about the change of disposition and personality that has already been mentioned. This is something on which every one of us should be quite clear. Not one of us can afford to say: ‘Oh well, I do not think there was anything very much wrong about my conduct or personality before I came into the truth. I do not see any great need to make any particular change. After all, we have to be natural, do we not?’ All right, let it be admitted that your daily life was just as good and your personality just as charming as they must have been in the case of that well-bred, rich young ruler whom Jesus loved, and who sincerely kept all the commandments from his youth up, and who wanted to know what was lacking. Do you remember what was lacking? Why, he lacked the very essence of the spirit’s fruitage, unselfish love. (Mark 10:17-22) Come, now! Let us be honest with ourselves and humble before Jehovah. Every one of us should put himself alongside his brothers at Ephesus to whom Paul wrote: “Put away the old personality [the old egotistical self] which conforms to your former course of conduct and which is being corrupted according to his deceptive desires; but . . . be made new in the force actuating your mind, and . . . put on the new personality which was created [not self-developed] according to God’s will in true righteousness and loving-kindness.”—Eph. 4:22-24, NW.