The Fruit of the Spirit and How to Experience It
Edward F. Lundwall, Jr.
The fruit of the Spirit has been much taught and preached about, but its nature and experience is little known and experienced. Much of the preaching has been accurate, but much is lacking. The word spirit has not been clearly identified. The word spirit has been referred to in many different ways. It has been used the Holy Spirit, the human spirit, and the spirit of a regenerated believer. It is used as the attitude of worship (John 4:24), in giving wisdom (Ex 28:3), to a part of a human being (1 Thess 5:23), to a demon (Lk 8:29); and for the third Person of the Trinity of God (Matt 28:19).
Then, there are the problems caused by translators either using the wrong English preposition with spirit, or supplying the English definite article when there is no definite article in the Greek New Testament text. When people try to discern from a translation and do not consult the original Greek text of the New Testament, they make false interpretations.
Perhaps the greatest problem with intellectual interpreters is the many places where the Greek word for spirit and soul seem to be used synonymously in various passages. The neglected element in this problem is that there is probably insufficient study of the context to discern the nature of the action. If the situation described can be analyzed to know if the action’s nature involved the function of the soul or the spirit. The use of either soul or spirit would give some indication what nature of the action is. There is, and should be, close interaction within each believer. For it is explicitedly stated that they are parts of out human nature (1 Thess 5:23). Further, in Hebrews 4:12 states there is a difference between the human soul and spirit. This verse states that the Word of God can distinguish between them.
"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."
The Bible speaks that God gives the spirit! In the creation of man. It comes by God breathing the breath of life into Adam and that the soul is the result of this act (Gen 2:7). When humans die "the spirit will return to God who gave it." (Eccl 12:7). In Jesus’ death He yielded His human spirit back to the Father (Lk 23:36).
The human spirit is a receptor of the Holy Spirit’s ministry in applying the Scripture (John 6:63) and giving the means of transforming the believer’s soul (Rom 8:1-9; 2 Cor 3:17, 18). In Luke 9:23,24, the necessity of soul transformation is difficult to see, because the word for soul is mistranslated. Soul is rendered "life," reflecting the translator’s overriding theological system. If the translators meant biological life, it seems that the believer must physically die to get resurrected life, but how then can that one be a disciple in this life? The Greek word for physical life is not used here.
At this point it is good to give the three functions of the believer’s spirit:
1. The human spirit is the individual’s means of communion with God (1 Cor 2:11-16; John 4:24).
2. The human spirit is the part of the individual’s being that the Holy Spirit convicts one of sin (John 16:8-11; Acts 5:1-11) and a sense of right and wrong. When the spirit receives instruction in righteousness, it acts as his conscience.
3. The human spirit receives intuition to discern God’s desires and will (Isa 30:20, 21; John 6:45; 1Thess 4:45; 1John 3:17).
The human spirit is essentially a receptor. While not regenerate, it can be a place where the evil influences can work (Eph 2:2, 3 ) as well as being wooed and convicted by the Holy Spirit (John 1:9; 16:8-11). As a receptor the spirit only dominates when man’s soul is submissive to it.
There is an intimate relationship between the spirit and the soul. As humans were created in the image of God, man is therefore a triunity (1 Thess 5:23). The body functions as a place of expression of the soul as influenced by his spirit. The body corresponds to the Lord Jesus as the living visible expression of the Father (John 14:9), it is a place of expression of the inward soul and spirit. The soul is the personhood of man and so reflects God the Father. Man’s spirit is the communicator, it receives and gives to the soul, so it corresponds to the Holy Spirit. Contrary to man, God is complete in Himself.
As the Father is the will of the Trinity of God so the soul of man makes the decisions of man. The natural, unregenerate soul is like a sponge, its character is whatever it soaks up. The soul functions by observation and intellect, it receives and becomes identified with what it soaks up. A worldly person is one who soaks up the philosophy and pattern of thinking that his society, the educational and political correct of the culture he lives in and identifies with. The soul’s capabilities are intellect, emotion, and volition.
What the soul learns and accepts will instruct the emotions how to feel. According to the priorities that it learns will give the human volition the determination to carry out. Out of the abundance of what the soul (often called the heart) accepts, the person will express (Luke 6:45). This is a basic reason that the Lord Jesus said that the natural soul had to be exchanged for one that He would give.
"He was saying to them all, ‘. . If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross daily and follow Me. "For whoever wishes to save his life (Greek - soul) will lose it, but whoever loses his life (Greek - soul) for My sake, he is the one who will save it.’"
"If anyone wishes to come after Me,"i.e. to become my disciple. Following to learn a new lifestyle is the most characteristic lifestyle of a disciple. Following is the means of changing life, because it involves leaving one’s past life with its relationship and culture to get what the teacher has. It is an exchange.
"‘whoever loses his life (Greek - soul) for My sake, he is the one who will save it.’" requires a death or abandonment of all that was a believer’s life expression for Jesus’ new revelations. Learning by following is a gradual dying to live. Soul exchange must happen because all human beings have the natural life of Adam so making themselves rebellious sinners. There is no one more self centered than a baby and an undisciplined child.
The natural man never out lives this rebellion of self to become a god (Gen 15:5). "For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit. 6 For the mind set on the flesh is death," (Rom 8:5, 6). Even as the believer seeks and begins to experience a new life by faith dependance upon the Lord, he still has the old life which stays in conflict with the new.
"For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please." (Gal 5:17, 18).
To begin following Jesus or receiving Him, begins with faith in who He is, that is, the Christ, the Savior of the Word (John 1:12, 49). As followers, i.e., they had "the right to become children of God," (John 1:12), but according to Luke 9:23-25, it was a process of conflict by exchanging their souls. As Paul said that he died daily, but by active faith he gained the new soul/life:
"I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me." (Gal 2:20). This is a continuation of a faith reckoning of union with Christ in His death regarding sin and a new life as resurrected with Him (Rom 6:11, 13).
All this is necessary to understand how to experience the fruit of the spirit. In the Epistle to the
Galatian Church, he was fighting a spiritual warfare concerning what was real spiritual life. Was it living under law by the power of the flesh or being free from the Jewish Law and living according the power of the regenerate life? The new life is faith depending on Christ and His promises through one’s renewed spirit.
When people are self reliant through keeping laws, they can only produce the works of the flesh received from Adam. The latter depends upon a sinful, self reliant nature that will inevitably fail of the righteousness required by God. However, when the renewed spirit of an individual functions by relying upon communion with God, the Holy Spirit, His activation of one’s conscience, and the teaching of intuition while in communion with God, results in the fruit of the spirit.
The Holy Spirit’s central ministry is to: ". . glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you." (John 16:14). When the believer understands a large measure of what one has is from union with Christ, there is: "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:" (1 Peter 1:8). This concept is especially revealed in places like Paul’s prayers in Ephesians 1-3
At this point, the fruit of the spirit will begin to be experienced! ". . the fruit of the Spirit is love, . ." (Gal 5:22). When the reconciling love of God is received it brings about not only a union between man and God, but a focused orientation of love.
When this occurs the Holy Spirit manifests the glorious benefits of forgiveness and deliverance from the fear of God’s wrath and eternal punishment! There gives a great emotional relief! When the believer experiences spiritual rebirth and its assurance, along with understanding the treasures of becoming God’s child, the heart is filled with loving appreciation. This first fruit of the spirit spills over to create the rest of the fruit of the spirit seen in Galatians 5:22, 23.
". . the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; . ."
For when the Holy Spirit manifests the fullness and richness of God’s love, the rejoicing of having received it will give the experience of joy! The more the believer contemplates the fruit of joy, a very great feeling fills one’s being of happiness, joy’s nature.
The joyous relief of being reconciled with God manifests the next aspect of the spirit’s fruit in the foundation of quiet peace. When the believer is filled with joy it gives peace. For the reality that there is nothing left between God and oneself gives an overflowing peace.
Peace becomes a part of the experience. When peace settles in, it will manifest patience with others and with difficult circumstances.
Then, the fruit of patience will be the manifestation of goodness. This aspect of ongoing goodness expresses itself in the successive aspects of faithfulness and gentleness and self-control. As the believer appreciates God’s love and its infinite greatness, the human spirit manifests the fullness of every aspect called the fruit of man’s spirit as it accepts the Holy Spirit’s teaching.
The vitality of experiencing the fruit of the spirit will be in proportion to how full a measure of love for the Lord is laid to heart in quiet contemplation of what believer one has in union with Him!
Some older believers, upon experiencing the fruit of the spirit, might even break out and sing the old doxology!
"Praise God from whom all blessing flow; praise Him all creatures here below; Praise him above, ye heavenly host; Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!"
Perhaps when Bernard of Clairvaux had a high point of experiencing God’s love, he was inspired to write the first verse of a hymn that has endured hundreds of years even into hymnals of a few years ago. The first verse began: "Jesus! the very thought of Thee With sweetness fills my breast: But sweeter far Thy face to see, And in Thy presence rest." Ending with the final verse: "But what to those who find? Ah! This Nor tongue not pen can show, The love of Jesus, what it is None but His loved ones know."