What Are the Fruit of the Spirit?

Chris Martin
header for What Are the Fruit of the Spirit?

People are not saved because they stack up enough good works for God to love them and save them. People are saved when they trust that the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ is enough to pay for their sins and redeem them into a right relationship with God. You become a Christian when you believe that, not when you become “good enough” in God’s eyes. We can never become good enough for God to save us.

At the root of a Christian’s identity is faith in the finished work of Jesus. But, when one has true faith in the finished work of Jesus, that root will bear fruit in the form of various “good works” that the apostle Paul calls “the fruit of the spirit” in his letter to the Christians in Galatia.

What Are the Fruit of the Spirit?

Paul writes to the Galatian church in Galatians 5:22–23:

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.


Jessica Thompson, who will be our guide through much of our brief exploration of the fruit of the Spirit, writes of love in her book How God Loves Us:

God’s love is an action-filled love. He takes care of your needs. He gave His very Son, His beloved Son, because of the depth of His love for us. His love isn’t empty sentimentality. His love moves Him toward us.

The Lord’s love is steadfast. It doesn’t vacillate. His love isn’t hot one day and cool the next. His love stays the same. God’s love is always pursuing. He chooses to define His love this way because we doubt that He could continue to love us after what we have done, what we have thought, what we have looked at, what we have said. His love is able to look our unloveliness straight in the face and never even consider wavering in His devotion to us. He cannot waver; that is not who He is.

Today remember God’s love for you. Think about His love in the terms He uses to describe it. Consider His tenderness toward you. Let that tender affection move you to love Him in return and to love others.[1]

Indeed, God’s love is steady and sure. It is sacrificial and focused on the good of others. When we bear the fruit of love, our love reflects the perfect love of God.


Everyone loves a joyful person. Joy can be hard to come by, though, especially for some. Jessica Thompson writes of joy:

Ours is a joyful God, and He wants to make us a joyful people. God isn’t interested in a people who pretend everything is okay when it really isn’t. He wants a people who look at their circumstances and reach deep into the heart of joy that their God has in redeeming them. He wants their joy to come from being a forgiven people, a forgiven people who want to invite others into the party: “Go home and prepare a feast, holiday food and drink; and share it with those who don’t have anything.” God’s joy is contagious, and that makes our joy contagious and generous, ready to share. The really great news is that even on the days when you don’t feel joyful or you don’t want to share your feast, God is still rejoicing over you and forgiving you and loving you. Rejoice![2]

Amen. God cares about our joy. He wants us to be joyful even as He doesn’t want us to be fake. When we have been changed by the Holy Spirit, we will exhibit some joy, even though we will of course endure sadness.


By the grace of God we can experience a kind of peace that surpasses all understanding (Phil. 4:7). In a world that feels constantly turned upside down by ever-present tumult, peace is a hot commodity.

Jessica Thompson writes:

Our eternal peace only comes at Christ’s expense, and He willingly gave His all so we can experience this peace. Our sin earned war with God; Christ’s death earned peace with God. Christ’s death not only gives us peace with God, but it gives us peace with others and with ourselves. We no longer must fight to justify ourselves to others or to ourselves. The cross has said it all, and the resurrection proves that our great King has welcomed us into His family.[3]

Indeed, in Christ alone we find our peace. We will not find it in our own strength. The Christian who experiences the peace found in Christ will overflow with peace in his or her own life.

To be faithful is to be consistent, to be trustworthy.


Depending on your personality and even your stage of life, having patience can be a real struggle. Parents of young children especially struggle with this as they attempt to appropriately field their children’s questions without dismissing them. But we have no excuse to not exhibit patience when we consider God’s patience with us. Jessica Thompson writes:

As you go about your day today and you determine who in your world deserves your patience and who doesn’t, remember God’s patience with you. Remember how every one of your failures is a new way for Him to show His patience with you. Remember that His love for you is overflowing and that His patience with you doesn’t have a limit. If God’s patience had limits, you and I would already have exceeded those limits. He delights in showing His patience with you.[4]

Of course we will never be perfect at patience. We are promised no such perfection. But when we remember the role of patience in the root of our faith, in the gospel, it makes it a little bit easier to bear the fruit of patience.


Kindness is underrated today. It almost feels trendy to be mean. It’s as if the humility that comes in the wake of kindness is being mistaken for weakness, and it can be taboo to be weak. But kindness is a hallmark of the life of the transformed Christian. Jessica Thompson writes:

God demonstrates His kindness in the way He watches over us. He knows the number of hairs on our heads. He is sympathetic toward us in our weakness. He promises to wash our scarlet sins white as snow. He promises never to leave us or forsake us. His love for us is unfailing, never-ending.

Let God’s kindness toward you evoke a stream of praise from your heart. Dwell on His kindness to you in His creation, in sending His Son, in imparting the Holy Spirit. His kind heart is always and ever for you.[5]

A follower of Jesus who is being shaped by the Holy Spirit should bear fruit of kindness to reflect the kindness of God seen from creation through salvation to the ends of the earth.


“What is good?” It’s a question could be answered a dozen different ways by a dozen different people. For Christians, goodness is defined by the God who created everything, even the concept of goodness and morality. Jessica Thompson writes about the goodness of God:

God is only ever good.

This doesn’t mean that nothing bad happens. Bad things happen all the time—with the whole year of 2020 as an excellent example. But bad things don’t happen because God is bad; bad things happen because sin has broken everything. Sin has broken our relationship with God, our relationship with ourselves, our relationship with the world, and our relationship with each other. The only thing that can redeem or repair our brokenness is the goodness of God. His steadfast love endures forever.

In the middle of a bad day, or bad week, or bad year, or bad decade, remember our God. He is good. We experience that only in part now because of all the badness around us and in us, but one day we will experience His goodness fully and wholly, with everything we are. Until that day, we can work to bring God’s kingdom here on earth by displaying God’s goodness as much as we can and reveling in the fact that His goodness toward us will never end.[6]

When our lives are defined by the gospel, when we build our lives on the foundation of faith in the finished work of Jesus, we grow in goodness. We do not achieve some mythical state of perfection—never—but we do image God’s goodness in a way we were unable to before we had faith.


So much brokenness is a result of a lack of faithfulness. To be faithful is to be consistent, to be trustworthy. Our God is the epitome of faithfulness, as Jessica Thompson writes in How He Loves Us:

God is utterly dependable. There is not one single second of one single day when He forgets to guard us or to strengthen us or to keep us. His heart remains always dedicated to His children. His heart is unendingly faithful toward you and me, even on the days where we are utterly unfaithful to Him. His love for us and His heart for us will never allow Him to be anything but faithful from now until eternity.[7]

Indeed, the faithfulness of God ought to ooze out of the Christian who is bearing the fruit of salvation.


It is easy to think of God as harsh or angry, especially if you read some portions of Scripture that depict how God deals with sin and rebellion. Even God’s beautiful strength can sometimes feel intimidating and contradictory to the concept of gentleness and grace. But we can trust our God is perfectly strong and gentle. Jessica Thompson writes:

God’s gentleness makes us great. The way He loves us, the way He honors us, the way He protects us, the way He shields us, reveals His heart. His character is what makes us great. This is why we look at who He is. This is one of the benefits of studying and reveling in how gentle God is. The more we see that He is gentle, the more we long to be close to Him and become like Him. If we think of God as One who is harsh we will want to avoid Him, but if we see Him as the gentle, kind Father that He is we will run to Him.[8]

The gentleness of God is such a tremendous grace to the Christian. When we remind ourselves of the gentleness of God it leads us to reflect His gentleness to a hurting world. As brokenness pervades and perverts everything, it feels like we are increasingly harsh with one another. A Christian bearing the fruit of gentleness could be one of the strongest proclamations of the gospel love of Jesus in our communities today.


It is a shame how much we have a disdain for discipline. We love freedom and liberty so much, especially in Western cultures like the United States of America, that we forget the virtue of restraint and discipline, often demonstrated in self-control.

We exercise self-control not just to restrain ourselves from temptation to sin and rebel against the God of our salvation, but also to restrain ourselves from enjoying so much freedom that we forget we were ultimately made for so much more than what we are permitted to do as followers of Christ.

The Christian who has been transformed by the Holy Spirit demonstrates self-control as a fruit of their salvation.

A Final Word on Fruit and Imperfection

Even as we Christians have faith in the finished work of Jesus and hope to see the fruit of the Spirit come forth in our new lives in Christ, we must remember that we cannot image Christ perfectly. Jessica Thompson explains:

I am certain that Christ followers continually fail to live up to this list—and will continue to fail fulfilling this list (Rom. 3:23). Because while the Spirit is absolutely at work in us (Rom. 8:11), the flesh is warring against that work (Matt. 26:41). The astounding proclamation of the gospel is that even though we do continue to fail, we are counted as righteous before a holy God because of the work that Jesus Christ did for us (Rom. 4:25). He is the perfect one who completely embodied all these attributes every single second of every single day of His life (1 Peter 2:22). If you believe, you are completely forgiven (1 John 1:9) and now are hidden in Christ’s record so when God looks at you, He sees the perfection of His Son (Rom. 3:23–24).[9]

Indeed, even as we hope to bear the fruit of the Spirit, we must be reminded that our ultimate hope is in the finished work of Christ. Our fruit is simply evidence of that finished work transforming our lives.

[1] Jessica Thompson, How He Loves Us, page 16-17.

[2] Thompson, 39.

[3] Thompson, 65.

[4] Thompson, 87.

[5] Thompson, 108.

[6] Thompson, 127.

[7] Thompson, 157.

[8] Thompson, 174-175.

[9] Thompson, 10.

For Further Reading:

How God Loves Us

by Jessica Thompson

The fruit of the Spirit isn’t just something we display. It’s the way God loves us! Every Christian cherishes the famous passage in...

book cover for How God Loves Us