What Is the Fruit of the Holy Spirit in the Bible?
When we cultivate our relationship with Jesus, the Holy Spirit gives us traits that help us in our day-to-day activities and interactions. These are the fruit of the Spirit.
Think of them this way: Where do apples, blueberries, peaches—or name your favorite fruit—come from?
These delicious fruits grow through different processes, but their origin boils down to one thing: a seed. If that seed is nurtured and cultivated, it will blossom into a tree, bush, or vine and produce the fruit we love—the kind that sends sweet juice dripping down our faces.
The fruits of the Spirit mature from small beginnings too. And the goal is for them to drip from our lives with the flavor of Jesus’ character.
To see how this works practically, let’s get an in-depth look at:
- What the fruits of the Spirit are
- What each fruit means
- Why the fruit of the Spirit is important
- How to develop the fruit of the Spirit in your life
Let’s begin with a definition.
What are the fruits of the Spirit?
The fruits of the Spirit are a metaphor for the results of our relationship with Jesus Christ. Just as fruit results from a growing season, Christians cultivate the following Christ-like traits as we grow with Jesus: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
We can find this list in the New Testament book of Galatians, written by the apostle Paul.
When you hear the concept of the fruit of the Spirit, you might think of a basket of grapes, apples, and bananas.
But Paul wasn’t talking about literal fruit. He was using it as a parallel. The Holy Spirit gives us desirable (sweet) traits that show others we are followers of Christ—just like fruit helps you identify a tree or bush.
Paul contrasts these fruits of the Spirit with the works of the flesh—sinful actions that Jesus would never do or agree with:
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:19–21, NKJV).
These actions are like suckers on a fruit tree, sapping energy that would otherwise help the fruit grow. And in the end, these actions are destructive.
If we allow Him, God wants to replace the works of the flesh with the fruit of the Spirit in our lives.
Now, for some more details about the fruit.
What each fruit means
As we saw earlier, Paul talks about nine fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22–23:
We’ll cover each one.
Love is paramount to the Christian experience. God is love (1 John 4:8), and He gives us the ability to love others.
But with so many different types of love and ways to show love, what kind of love is this?
Paul defines this love in the famous “love chapter,” 1 Corinthians 13. Here’s how He describes it:
“Love suffers long [is patient] and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. Love never fails” (1 Corinthians 13:4–8, NKJV).
God showed us this kind of selfless love by sending His Son Jesus as a Savior—to die on the cross so that we wouldn’t have to bear the consequences of sin and evil (John 3:16).
This love is not only an attribute; it’s an action. And when this fruit of the Spirit is in our lives, we’ll reveal it by our acts of love. Others will see we are followers of Christ.
Joy is the expression of happiness and gladness that comes from our relationship with Jesus. It doesn’t change with circumstances, which is why Paul calls us to “rejoice in the Lord, always” (Philippians 4:4, NKJV).
By spending time with Him and obeying His Word, we find a lasting happiness that carries us through difficult times. James 1:2 invites us to have this joy even when we fall into trials.
Why? Because, as Nehemiah 8:10 reminds us, “the joy of the Lord is your strength” (NKJV).
God gives us joy, and that joy, in turn, gives us strength.
Amid the upheaval and uncertainties of this world, peace can be hard to find. But God wants to give us peace as we look beyond the craziness of life and focus on Him and His purpose (Romans 8:6).
Paul told the Colossians to “let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts” (Colossians 3:15, NKJV).
Yes, we may still feel worried at times about day-to-day things, but we can have a deeper, underlying sense of calm because we know God is in control.
Commonly called patience, this trait is another hard one to cultivate in today’s world of same-day delivery and instant meals. Patience is the ability to wait longer than you originally planned for something. It’s the ability to help someone learn without getting upset that they aren’t grasping it so quickly. It’s the ability to try again if you fail the first time.
It’s also the ability to trust that God has everything under control, even when a situation doesn’t seem to be turning out the way you hoped or wanted. We often want “microwavable” results when God sees that our situation may need to simmer on the stove for a while.
David, the great Psalmist, wrote these words about patience under wrongdoing:
“Rest in the Lord, and wait patiently for Him; do not fret because of him who prospers in his way, because of the man who brings wicked schemes to pass. Cease from anger, and forsake wrath; do not fret—it only causes harm” (Psalm 37:7–8, NKJV).
God’s thoughts and plans are sometimes so different from our own (Isaiah 55:8–9). We can’t see behind the scenes as He does, so we don’t know what’s best for us. That’s why He calls us to patiently rest in Him—for the big things and the little everyday things.
Kindness is the core of the Golden Rule: Do unto others as you would have them do unto you (Matthew 7:12).
When Jesus was on earth, He exhibited kindness to all the people He met. He was friendly, generous, and concerned for others’ well-being.
As Christians, we follow Ephesians 4:32, which tells us to “be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God in Christ forgave you” (NKJV).
As we allow the Holy Spirit to grow this fruit in us, we’ll be able to show others we care about them and let Jesus’ love shine through us.
Translated from the Greek word agathosune, goodness is both a condition of the heart and an action. Goodness shows that we are selfless and don’t think just of ourselves.
When we help a young mother with her groceries or fold the laundry for our spouse, that is goodness. Thoughtful acts like this are setting an example, revealing the same goodness Christ had during His ministry.
When we’re good to others, we show wisdom, too. James 3:13 says,
“Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom” (NKJV).
Faithfulness is a core tenet of the Christian life. The original Greek word is pistis, which means “conviction of the truth.”1 It’s choosing to believe that God will do what He said.
The Bible describes faith as “the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” (Hebrews 11:1, NKJV).
As Christians, we believe in God. Yet we can’t see Him.
That’s where faith comes in.
We believe He is there, watching over us, even though we can’t look Him in the eye, hear His voice, or embrace Him. Every aspect of our relationship with Him, both big and small, is shaped by faith (2 Corinthians 5:7).
Also called meekness, gentleness involves approaching people with sensitivity and tenderness. It softens bad news and soothes the sick or hurting. It even deflects anger:
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1, NKJV).
When you’re gentle, people take note. Through this way of treating others, we are acting as Jesus would. During His ministry, He understood when a situation called for gentleness and sensitivity. He was even gentle towards those who mistreated Him.
He instructs us to adopt the same spirit,
“Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls” (Matthew 11:29, NKJV).
Called “temperance” in the King James Version, self-control is the ability to manage our emotions and choose not to give in to desires or temptations.
And sometimes, it might feel like temptations are bombarding us from all directions. We might be tempted to yell at someone bothering us, eat that last donut when we’ve had our fill, or overreact when something happens that we don’t like.
The Bible describes why self-control is so important. Proverbs 16:32 says,
“He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit than he who takes a city” (NKJV).
Ruling your spirit means deciding not to do what you are tempted to.
Later on in Proverbs, we read of those who don’t have self-control:
“Whoever has no rule over his own spirit is like a city broken down, without walls” (Proverbs 25:28, NKJV).
In those days, a city without walls was vulnerable to enemy attacks.
If we don’t have our own walls of self-control, we likewise will be vulnerable. Whatever the situation, the Holy Spirit wants to help us control our thoughts and follow God’s will rather than our own.
Now that we have dissected each fruit of the spirit, you might wonder why they’re emphasized so much. Let’s take a look.
Why the fruit of the Spirit is important
The fruit of the Spirit is God’s promise that we can have freedom from the power of sin. We don’t have to live chained to every selfish whim and desire because He’s given us the way to victory through the Holy Spirit.
Let’s look at how the context of the book of Galatians shows us this.
Paul wrote to the Galatians, who wrongly believed that Christians had to follow Jewish laws to be saved. He wanted to bring them back to the truth:
Christ was the only one who could save them.
The fifth chapter in Galatians digs deep into this theme. Through Christ’s love, we can have freedom from sin—the works of the flesh we talked about earlier. Even though we will still be tempted to sin, Christ has given us a way to choose victory.
When we accept Him and allow Him to change us, the Holy Spirit gives us the fruit of the Spirit to cultivate in our lives—like little seedlings that begin poking their green heads in the soil. Over time, as we choose God’s help and His ways, the little character traits start to grow, revealing that God dwells within us.
These characteristics in our lives become the evidence that we follow Christ and have allowed Him to change us (Matthew 7:15–20).
And they also become a witness of who Christ is, allowing us to impact people around us day by day.
How to develop the fruit of the Spirit in your life
The fruit of the Spirit is a natural result of choosing a relationship with Jesus each day. Without Him, it’s impossible to have those characteristics. John 15:4–5 reminds us:
“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, I in him, bears much fruit; for apart from Me you can do nothing” (NKJV).
But how do you “abide”? Or cultivate a relationship with Jesus?
First, it starts with realizing we are sinners and that nothing we do can change the selfish mess we’re in. Only Jesus can forgive and empower us to live new lives (Ephesians 2:8–9).
We can accept His amazing forgiveness, gift of salvation, and power—it might be something as simple as a prayer, inviting Him to take control of your life. And so begins a relationship with Him.
Relationships take time and intentionality. But as you find ways to grow your relationship with Him, He will grow the fruit of the Spirit in your life.
Some ways to get to know Him include reading the Bible, talking to Him regularly, and doing what He loves.
Reading the Bible is so incredibly important to building your relationship with Jesus because it’s His Word—it’s all about who He is and what He wants for us (John 1:1; 2 Timothy 3:16–17).
Communication is vital to any good relationship. Even though we can’t see God, we can talk to Him (through prayer), and He will listen. It doesn’t matter where you pray. Think of Him as a friend and talk to Him like that.
Grow your relationship with Jesus further by doing the things He would do if He were on this earth—serving others. Jesus was always helping people while on earth, and as we help others, we connect with His heart and begin cultivating the same traits in our own lives.
And keep in mind—at times, you may see the ideal and feel like it’s unattainable. But rather than being discouraged, let your lack drive you back to Jesus. Tell Him how you’re struggling and seek to know Him more.
After all, these traits don’t happen by sheer grit and determination—they grow as we allow Jesus to change us through the Holy Spirit.
Here are some changes you may notice.
As we choose to develop the fruit of the Spirit, peace can replace constant worry.
Of course, you know how circumstances can flood you with negative thoughts. It might seem hard not to worry.
It doesn’t have to be that way, though!
If you’re fearful of something that may happen, choose instead to think about all the ways God has blessed you and helped you through past difficult times. Read some Bible verses that address worry, like Psalm 37:7–8. Ask God to place the fruit of the Spirit in you and then believe that He will, even when your emotions protest.
This is an example of faithfulness.
Faith in what Jesus says He will do paves the way for you to give your worries to Him. He replaces them with peace and joy.
Our emotions can easily get away from us when we’re worried. By learning to express them in healthy ways and choosing faith-filled thoughts, we are also displaying self-control.
Putting others above yourself
Jesus spent His whole life in selfless, poured-out service to others. As the Holy Spirit works in our lives, we can practice this lifestyle, cultivating kindness, goodness, love, and even joy.
It could be as simple as helping an elderly neighbor take their groceries into the house.
Or, you might scrub dishes at your local homeless shelter on your day off instead of doing something you wanted to do.
It could even be something small like letting your spouse or child finish off the last of your favorite chocolate brownies at supper instead of eating it yourself.
Putting others above yourself involves considering their wants or needs and realizing they’re more important than your own.
It’s not because you see it as some kind of exchange—that “I’ll do this, if you do that.” Rather, you help them because you care about them.
It’s a mindset. The more we intentionally help others, the more it will become part of who we are.
Watching what you say
Do you remember a time when someone you love said something that hurt you?
Yeah, that criticism. Or, that put-down.
Unfortunately, negative words often leave deeper imprints on our hearts and minds than positive ones. They’re like scars that never quite go away.
That’s why what we say is so crucial. Choosing words wisely and focusing on uplifting others gives an opportunity for God to reveal the fruit of the Spirit through us.
A coworker might snap at you, but you can take a deep breath and simply say, “Thank you for telling me” or “Thanks; I’ll work on it” instead of snapping back.
If you’re waiting for someone who’s running late because they procrastinated, don’t greet them with an annoyed remark. Say something pleasant instead (and perhaps find an appropriate time to address your concern). This shows patience and gentleness.
And take the time to listen and understand before criticizing and correcting. The situation may not be what you assumed.
These are just a few ways to demonstrate the fruit of the Spirit through your communication. Paul advises us in Ephesians 4:29,
“Let no corrupt word proceed out of your mouth, but what is good for necessary edification, that it may impart grace to the hearer” (NKJV).
All about the connection
Bringing the fruit of the Spirit into our lives—even into the trivial, everyday things—can seem hard. At times, it’ll cut sharply across what we want.
But here’s the thing—it often feels hard because we’re gritting our teeth to make it happen.
What if we instead focused on nurturing our relationship with Jesus and turning to Him when we’re struggling to know how to deal with a situation?
As we pivot to Jesus, it helps build a habit and develop the fruits of the Spirit in our lives so that they become second nature. Our hearts will respond to what He wants for us.
And though we may sometimes lose our footing and fall on our faces, Jesus is always there to help us if we ask Him. He doesn’t give up on us. After all, what He most wants is a connection with us.
The fruit of the Spirit is just the natural byproduct.
Ready to go deeper in your relationship with Jesus?
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