Do you ever find yourself getting confused between the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit? “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23), while the gifts of the Spirit are things like “a message of wisdom … a message of knowledge … faith … gifts of healing … miraculous powers … prophecy … distinguishing between spirits … speaking in different kinds of tongues” (1 Corinthians 12:8-10) and “serving … teaching … to encourage … giving … to lead … to show mercy” (Romans 12:7-8; see also 1 Peter 4:11). So what’s the issue? All these things come from the Spirit. Does it matter what we call them?
The difference is this. We can expect every Christian to show all the fruit of the Spirit as the Spirit grows it in them. Notice that it is “it” and not “them” – “fruit” in the singular, one fruit with many segments. (This is hidden in the English translation where “fruit” is both the singular and the plural). So it is not open to me to be, say, loving and kind, but not peaceful and self-controlled. Gifts, however, are different. We are not to expect every Christian to have every gift of the Spirit.
So we must never substitute gifts for fruit. What do I mean by that? It is not good enough to be gifted and yet fail to show the fruit of the Spirit. If we had to choose between having the fruit of the Spirit or the gifts of the Spirit, surely we should choose fruit every time. Wonderfully, the Spirit works both in God’s people, and he does both for the good of all his people together.
Yours warmly, in Christ,
Chris Hobbs (Senior Minister)
6 October 2019