We love mystery. We love to plumb the depths of the “unknown” to make it known and to possess special knowledge. Our attraction and desire to uncover mystery and reveal the “hidden,” is expressed in the church world by believers who focus on things that appear to be mysterious regardless of their degree of importance. Our historic excitement over “The Gifts of the Spirit” is one case in point. I cannot deny the significance, nor do I intend to minimize the importance of the Gifts of the Spirit in the life of the church. It is, however, important to “right-size” the discussion about the Gifts of the Spirit in the church in relationship to the Fruit of the Spirit.
Simply put, the Gifts of the Spirit are given to help the church grow
“A spiritual gift is given to each of us as a means of helping the entire church.” (1Cor. 12:7).
God gives the gifts according to the needs of the church at a historical period in its growth and maturity. Not all gifts are needed at all times in the life of particular faith community. The Gift may be present and yet remain dormant until it needs to be activated in the church. The Gifts of the Spirit are essential to the life and growth of Christ’s Church locally and His Church at-large. Yet, there is a difference between the Gifts and the Fruit of the Spirit that must be clarified. The church will only prosper if it right-sizes its understanding of the Gifts and The Fruit.
The significant difference between the Gifts of the Spirit and the Fruit of the Spirit is found in this one truth: every disciple has at least one Gift, but not all gifts. Alternatively, every disciple is expected to develop all the nine Fruit of the Spirit. The Gifts of the Spirit are given by God as seeds planted in the fertile ground of the church to produce a harvest of Fruit in the followers of Jesus Christ. The Gifts are given, and the Fruit are grown. The gifts are evidence of God’s love for His church, and the Fruit are evidence of the growth in disciples who are the church.
Both the Fruit of the Spirit and the Gifts of the Spirit have their place in the church. Each must be taught, studied, and clearly understood by every disciple. Confusion or worse, division about either the gifts or the Fruit is a luxury that the church cannot afford. Listen to what God inspires the Apostle Paul to say in 1st Corinthians 12:29-31
“is everyone an apostle? Of course not. Is everyone a prophet? No. Are all teachers? Does everyone have the power to do miracles? Does everyone have the Gift of healing? Of course not. Does God give all of us the ability to speak in unknown languages? Can everyone interpret unknown languages? No! And in any event, you should desire the most helpful gifts.”
Therefore, it is clear, according to Scripture, that everyone has a minimum of one Gift and perhaps more. It is also clear that disciples do not possess the same Gift, but that God gives a diversity of gifts to His church. The Gifts of the Spirit are essential to the growth of the church, yet they remain a mystery to many of us and sadly a source of confusion, contention, and division within the body of Christ. The very thing God gives to unify, grow, and prosper the church, we have turned into a source of division and contention.
While we mature as Christ’s disciples, the Fruit of the Spirit grows within us. The Fruit are expressed in our daily actions and interactions with the people we encounter. The Fruit becomes evidence to those around us that we are maturing and growing in our faith walk with Christ and that we are empowered by the Holy Spirit’s guidance and leadership. Listen to what God writes through Paul to the Galatian church.
Galatians 5:22& 23:
22 But the Fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
Galatians 5:22 &23 teaches that when the Holy Spirit guides our lives, the Spirit then produces Fruit in us. Jesus Christ expects each disciple to develop the Fruit of the Spirit. The Growing Fruit are expected of every follower. The expectation identifies and confirms the difference between the Gifts and the Fruit of the Spirit. We ought to remember, the Gifts are given, and the Fruit are grown. As a follower of Jesus, you receive a minimum of one Gift. Yet each disciple is expected under the leadership of the Holy Spirit to develop all the Fruit.
Our lives as maturing disciples are measured by how much The Holy Spirit leads us. Equally important is how many Fruit are evident in our lives and relationships.