The Fruit of the Spirit -- A Must or an Option?

Richard O'Ffill,
Pastor and Revivalist
Author, Lord Keep Your Mansions--Just Save My Children and Lord Save My Family Before It’s Too Late


It was Sabbath morning and I was a visitor. The Sabbath School teacher was talking about the Holy Spirit. She said, "Let’s pray that the Holy Spirit will be poured out."

I raised my hand. "It’s already being poured out," I offered; "let’s pray that we will receive It [meaning Him]!"

Having been a member of the church all of my life, I believe it is true to say that when we think of the Holy Spirit we do so from the following perspectives: 1) His first work, which Jesus said was to convict the world of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment (John 16:8); and 2) His final work, which is the latter rain that will precede the close of probation and prepare the people of God to pass through the time of trouble.

In recent years Christian churches everywhere, our church included, have emphasized another perspective to the Holy Spirit, and that is the gifts of the Spirit. Spiritual inventory tests are available which enable church members to identify their particular spiritual gifts. It is interesting to note, however, that apparently anyone can fill out the questionnaire and be apprised of their "gifts." Whether or not the person has been born again is not a prerequisite to taking the test.

What’s in a name? Think back with me about what it meant through the years to be a Seventh-day Adventist. Generally we were thought of as a people who didn’t smoke, drink, wear jewelry, go to movies or dance, and who kept Saturday as the Sabbath. Keeping the Sabbath meant we didn’t listen to the radio, watch television, read newspapers, go to work, or buy or sell.

Although the first work of the Gospel in the life is cleansing from sin, this work is only the preparation for the primary purpose, which is the infilling of the Holy Spirit in the life.

Being an Adventist was a lifestyle. When we were children, Dad wouldn’t let us read the comics; we couldn’t listen to jazz or murder programs on the radio. We were serious about health. Coffee, tea, and Coke were not allowed. We didn’t use mustard, vinegar, or black pepper. Of course, we ate no meat.

I had the good fortune of attending church school, academy, and college. In those days a student could be expelled or suspended for going to movies, holding hands with a girl, not honoring the dress codes, and, of course, for smoking or drinking.

In other words, if you asked me then what it was like to be a Seventh-day Adventist, I could have given you a long list of what we didn’t do, because that was pretty much the way we saw it.

I can see now how a negative approach to the Christian life could make us vulnerable to worse things. Jesus warned: "When the unclean spirit is gone out of a man, he walketh through dry places, seeking rest, and findeth none. Then he saith, I will return into my house from whence I came out; and when he is come, he findeth it empty, swept, and garnished. Then goeth he, and taketh with himself seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and they enter in and dwell there: and the last state of that man is worse than the first" (Matthew 12:43-45).

Although the first work of the Gospel in the life is cleansing from sin, this work is only the preparation for the primary purpose, which is the infilling of the Holy Spirit in the life. "A new heart also will I give you, and a new spirit will I put within you [the new birth].…And I will put My Spirit within you…" (Ezekiel 36:26, 27).

The promise in these verses has two components. The first is to give us a new spirit; that is, our own spirit is renewed and quickened by the work of the Holy Spirit. When this has been done, the rest of the promise states, "I will put My Spirit within you" to dwell in that new spirit.

God created man’s heart for His dwelling. Where God is to dwell, He must have a habitation. With Adam He had to create a body before He could breathe the spirit of life into him. In Israel the tabernacle and the Temple had to be built and completed before God could come down and take possession. Likewise, a new heart is given and a new spirit put within us as the indispensable condition of God’s Own Spirit being given to dwell within us.

But God’s original purpose for man was frustrated. The purpose of the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus, remember, was to re-create a dwelling place of which it could be said, "The kingdom of God is within you" (Luke 17:21).

While Jesus walked this earth as a man, He was personally with His disciples. But it would not be until Pentecost that the promise of John 14:16, 17 would be fulfilled: "And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you forever; even the Spirit of truth; Whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth Him not, neither knoweth Him: but ye know Him; for He dwelleth with you, and shall be in you."

A wonderful and sobering thought is expressed in 1 Corinthians 6:19, 20: "What? Know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s."

While not smoking and drinking or going to movies and dancing, omitting mustard, vinegar, and black pepper in the diet, worshipping on the seventh day, and following a dress code are laudable, none of these things requires that a person be born again or, for that matter, even be a follower of Christ (the Hindus are traditionally vegans).

A true Christian is one whose heart is not only swept and clean but is filled in a wonderful and mysterious way with the Holy Spirit. If and when we are able to comprehend this truth, the effect on our personal lives, and subsequently on the life of the church, will be immediate.

As the Holy Spirit is welcomed and begins His work, the fruit will begin to manifest itself in the life, producing that which is in essence the very character of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.

We are well acquainted with the qualities of the fruit of the Spirit as enumerated in Galatians 5:22, 23: "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance: against such there is no law." This list, however, is not exhaustive. There are other qualities enumerated in 1 Timothy 6:11, Romans 5:3-5, 2 Timothy 3:10, and 2 Peter 1:5-7.

Jesus made it clear: Those who claim to be His followers but do not produce fruit will be plucked up and taken away (John 15:2). He also declared that, inasmuch as many will profess to be His followers (Matthew 7:21, 22), the deciding factor will not be what they profess to believe or even what they do, but rather the kind of people they are (Mathew 12:33).

On looking back at much of our emphasis as Seventh-day Adventists in days gone by, Jesus might say to us, "These things ought you to have done, but not left the other undone." In the past we were not wrong when we said we shouldn’t eat catfish, but we should have included Don’t be mean. We were not wrong in teaching what not to do on the Sabbath, but we should have included Be kind. In some ways our lifestyle did not require a change of heart, only a change of mind.

Rest assured, in spite of impressions we might have received from our charismatic friends, the indwelling of the Holy Spirit does not lessen the impact of the letter of the law in our lives, but it will assure that we have the spirit of the law. While people can keep the letter of the law without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit in their lives, those who have the true Spirit in their hearts will not only keep the letter of the law but the spirit of the law as well.

To some extent we may be reaping a backlash from a superficial gospel which appears to change the outside but leaves the heart vulnerable to being occupied by attitudes that, as in the case of the Pharisees, can make our message a heavy yoke and expose a certain hypocrisy.

Those who receive the seal of God will be those who have not only been swept and cleaned but who have been the dwelling place of the Holy Spirit and as a result have manifested His fruit in their lives. While we pray for the outpouring of the latter rain, we must be aware that this special gift will be given for a special purpose. And it will be given only to those whose lives are clearly recognized by their love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.

It was the eleven o’clock hour and I was seated on the platform. The special music was being sung, after which I would preach the sermon. As I looked over the congregation, it occurred to me that this church, any church, is the sum total of the families that comprise it. While we are praying that there will be revival and reformation in the church, we must realize that this will happen only when it happens in our families; and it will not happen in our families until it has happened in our own heart.

If there is something wrong in the church, it is because there is something wrong at home. If there is something wrong at home, it may be because many of us are concentrating on the sweeping, but seem to have forgotten that the plan of salvation is to restore the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

What will our lives be like, what will our homes be like, what will our church be like, when its members, filled with the indwelling Spirit of God, bring forth the fruit of the Spirit? The first component of the fruit of the Spirit is love.

Love. Often people will comment that all their pastor ever preaches about is love. Would that this were true! Unfortunately, what is being passed off as love these days is often far short of Biblical love. Rather, it is sentimental and indulgent.

What a change would be effected in the church if there were more preaching about true love that "suffereth long, and is kind;…envieth not;…vaunteth not itself, is not puffed up, doth not behave itself unseemly, seeketh not her own, is not easily provoked, thinketh no evil; rejoiceth not in iniquity, but rejoiceth in the truth; beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things, endureth all things" (1 Corinthians 13:4-7).

Joy. Someone has said that happiness is because of, but joy, as a component of the fruit of the Spirit, is in spite of. Contemporary culture is ever searching for happiness. The Spirit-filled life may not always have something to be happy about, but it is always joyful.

A person doesn’t need to be filled with the Spirit to be happy; but only God can give true joy, because joy is the result of hope. "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations: That the trial of your faith, being much more precious than of gold that perisheth, though it be tried with fire, might be found unto praise and honor and glory at the appearing of Jesus Christ: Whom having not seen, ye love; in Whom, though now ye see Him not, yet believing, ye rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory: Receiving the end of your faith, even the salvation of your souls" (1 Peter 1:6-9).

Again and again we are admonished to rejoice (Philippians 4:4; James 1:2, 3). Perhaps the greatest model for joy is Christ Himself. Of Him it is written, "Looking unto Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith; Who for the joy that was set before Him endured the cross, despising the shame, and is set down at the right hand of the throne of God" (Hebrews 12:2).

If there is something wrong in the church, it is because there is something wrong at home. If there is something wrong at home, it may be because many of us are concentrating on the sweeping, but seem to have forgotten that the plan of salvation is to restore the indwelling of the Holy Spirit.

Peace. Jesus said that in the world we would have tribulation (John 16:33). The peace, then, that comes as a fruit of the Spirit is not an absence of tribulation, but in spite of tribulation. An example of this kind of peace was that exhibited by our Lord as He slept during the storm on Galilee.

Two powerful texts that promise peace to the believer are: "Great peace have they which love thy Law: and nothing shall offend them" (Psalm 119:165), and "Thou wilt keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee: because he trusteth in Thee" (Isaiah 26:3).

As we begin to understand the various components that together make up the fruit of the Spirit, it becomes clear why they have been denominated as fruitand not as fruits of the Spirit. In a practical sense they are intertwined and cannot function without each other.

Longsuffering. Another word for longsuffering is patience. Patience is surrendering our strong desire to have control. That which frustrates us into impatience and the anger that often goes with it is our lack of control.

Perhaps you too have learned that it is not always wise to strike when the iron is hot, in spite of the old saying. Patience knows when the time is right and avoids taking action when the result, though having a short-term benefit, may work long-term harm.

Patience is a characteristic of God’s people in the last days. "Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).

Gentleness. There is much similarity in the concept of gentleness and that of kindness. Gentleness is not passive but active and practical. Those who are gentle express this quality by kind deeds. Kindness brings love out into the open. Someone has said that kindness is love expressing itself.

A person who claims to love his neighbor will, when possible, express his love in kind deeds. "But whoso hath this world’s good, and seeth his brother have need, and shutteth up his bowels of compassion from him, how dwelleth the love of God in him? My little children, let us not love in word, neither in tongue; but in deed and in truth" (1 John 3:17, 18).

In Ephesians 4:32 we are commanded to be kind to each other. Isn’t it curious that we tend to express kindness more often to people who are strangers to us than we do to the people we love and who love us?

Goodness. It is not necessary to expound on the meaning of goodness. What may be important, however, is to understand to whom we should be good. It is here where the difficulty arises.

A key text in this respect is the one found in Luke 6:27 which says, "Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you." These words of Jesus are not a suggestion but a command. If we were obeying Jesus in this respect, it would be very difficult to break up a home, and our troubles in the church would be greatly reduced.

True goodness can come only as a fruit of the Spirit because there is none righteous, no not one (Romans 3:12, 23).

Faith. This quality is best understood as fidelity and faithfulness. Faithfulness is commitment. Faithfulness means, "I said it, I’ll do it." It means that we will keep our word. Faithfulness means truthfulness.

Words matter. Our words and our actions must agree. Jesus may have been explaining the principle of faithfulness when He admonished, "Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ ‘No" (Matthew 5:37).

There are two important occasions in our lives that call for fidelity and faithfulness. One is when we go down into the waters of baptism proclaiming that we have died to our old lives and that from thenceforth we will be accountable to God and to His church to walk in newness of life.

The other occasion for fidelity is the marriage vow. Unfortunately, in our modern society a person is more likely to get a divorce than he is to renege on a mortgage.

Divorce and bankruptcy laws have made mockery of the Biblical principle of faithfulness. To profess one thing and do another is incompatible with the Spirit-filled life.

Words matter. Our words and our actions must agree. Jesus may have been explaining the principle of faithfulness when He admonished, "Let your ‘Yes’ be ‘Yes,’ and your ‘No’ ‘No.’"

Meekness. The present generation is not the first to be proud, but it may be the first actually to have institutionalized the concept. There are hundreds of Scriptural admonitions to meekness and humility. A well-known text is Philippians 2:3-8, "Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others. Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made Himself of no reputation, and took upon Him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, He humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross."

The concept of meekness is foreign to this last generation of whom it was written, "This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves" (2 Timothy 3:1, 2).

While there will be people saved who were not up-to-speed on the health message or who had doctrinal error here and there, Scripture is clear that among those who will not inherit the kingdom of Heaven will be the proud (Malachi 4:1). We need to remind ourselves often that "God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble" (James 4:6).

Self-Control. The last component of the Spirit-filled life as enumerated in Galatians 5 is self-control. This quality is not last because it is least, but it is last because it is self-control that enables the other qualities to function in the life. Self-control does not imply we are to control ourselves by our own strength (inasmuch as it is a fruit of the Spirit). But this quality does mean that we are responsible for what we do, and for which we will be held accountable in the Day of Judgment.

There is an oft-heard word that effectively negates the concept of self-control, and that word is dysfunction. Although without a doubt there is a legitimate clinical use of this term, dysfunction as understood by present society is held to mean that people are not responsible for what they are or what they do.

However, the reality of a final Judgment disagrees. No matter how dysfunctional the family or environment may be, when people are filled with the Spirit they effectively get to chose what they will be.



The fruit of the Spirit is not Heaven’s wish list for the believer. Rather, it is what is given to a person who abides in the Vine and will be the deciding factor for those who will finally be saved. Jesus gave perspective to the subject and wrapped it all up when He declared in John 15:1-6, "I am the True Vine, and My Father is the Husbandman. Every branch in Me that beareth not fruit He taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, He purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you. Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in Me. I am the Vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in Me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned."

There used to be a commercial for potato chips whose challenge was, "Bet you can’t eat just one." So it is with the fruit of the Spirit. A person can’t have just one. Perhaps we could think of the various components of the fruit of the Spirit as petals on a flower. Although the blooming of the flower is a process, the fact is that the petals unfold together.

We may not come to maturity in the fruit of the Spirit all at once, but the components must develop in tandem with each other. It is unlikely that a kind person will be impatient or proud.

When we see what God’s plan is for our lives, we may at first be thrilled and challenged but later feel overwhelmed. Not to worry. The promise is that He Who has begun this good work (fruit-bearing) in us will finish it (Philippians 1:6).