The Holy Spirit: Fruits vs. Gifts

The Holy Spirit bestows two things upon believers: fruits and gifts. This post will explore both of these.

In the contest over which is more important or desirable in the life of the believer, fruit wins hands down. According to Galatians 5, the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. If you want to know whether a Christian or preacher of the gospel is on the level, don’t look for the exercise of gifts, such as healing or tongues. These can be faked or worked by deceiving spirits. Instead, look for the fruits. This command comes from Jesus himself:

“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them [emphasis added]. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them” (Matthew 7:15-20).

I like how he says it twice. 🙂

The fruit of the Spirit defines the true Christian and delineates godliness from worldliness. You might be surprised to learn that the world has nine fruits of its own that should not have any place in the lives of believers. They are:

* Lust and pride – For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world. (1 John 2:16)

Division, envy and strife – You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere humans? (1 Corinthians 3:3)

Immorality and idolatry – For you have spent enough time in the past doing what pagans choose to do—living in debauchery, lust, drunkenness, orgies, carousing and detestable idolatry. (1 Peter 4:3)

Lack of compassion If you love those who love you, what reward will you get? Are not even the tax collectors doing that? And if you greet only your own people, what are you doing more than others? Do not even pagans do that? (Matthew 5:46-47)

Materialism – So do not worry, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’ For the pagans run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you need them. (Matthew 6:31-32)

The fruits of the world stand in direct contrast to the fruits of the Spirit. Lack of compassion vs. love. Strife vs. peace. Immorality vs. self control. Idolatry vs. faithfulness. Pride vs. humility. The King James Version of the Bible lists meekness (i.e., humility) as a fruit of the Spirit in place of kindness. Considering the Bible’s emphasis on humility among believers, I’d give more weight to that translation in this instance.

Believers will always struggle with their sinful natures (see Romans 7:21-23), just as I struggle with lust. But the fruit of the Spirit should be evident in their lives and mine. If anyone claims to be of God but exhibits the world’s fruits and defends their presence in his or her life, then the Spirit is not within that person. Period. A Christian must first have the character of Christ.

So what are the gifts of the Spirit? The gifts are what God grants believers when they become baptized in the Spirit. According to 1 Corinthians 12, the gifts are as follows: messages of wisdom, messages of knowledge, great faith, healing, miraculous powers, prophecy, discernment, speaking in tongues and interpretation of tongues.

Now here’s the kicker: believers will have one or some of these gifts, but few, if any, will have all of them. 1 Corinthians 12 says that the Spirit distributes the gifts to each believer, “just as he determines” (verse 11). In verse 30, Paul makes it clear that not all believers will possess all of the gifts.

Here’s where it gets tricky. Almost every time the Bible records someone receiving the Holy Spirit, tongues and prophecy follow. And then Paul says in 1 Corinthians 14, verse 5, “I would like every one of you to speak in tongues, but I’d rather have you prophesy.” He also gives a pretty significant teaching on the function of tongues and their place in orderly worship for something that, supposedly, only a portion of believers would exhibit. In Ephesians 6:18, he instructs believers to pray in the Spirit. So what gives? Are tongues for every believer or not?

Well, there are some theories on this. The first theory is, obviously, that speaking in tongues isn’t something that every believer does or should do–which I understand but don’t completely buy. The second is that there are two different kinds of tongues: the gift of speaking in various languages as mentioned in 1 Corinthians 12 (used for bringing messages to the congregation), and tongues as evidence of receiving the Holy Spirit. I tend to lean in that direction.

Of course, I don’t think tongues are the only evidence of baptism in the Spirit. Prophecy or the manifestation of another gift would also count. Furthermore, as a friend of mine pointed out, the Holy Spirit bestows a special boldness to share the gospel–also evidence.

However, according to scripture, personal tongues do appear to play significant roles within the lives of believers. First, they function as a sign to unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:22). Second, they “edify” the speaker, meaning to build up his or her faith (verse 4). They also allow a person to express to God the inexpressible or mysterious things of the heart (verse 2). Finally, they allow a person to pray directly to God and in accordance with God’s will (Romans 8:26-27). The Apostle Paul claimed in 1 Corinthians 14 to speak in tongues–more than any other believer, in fact!

So what’s the verdict on tongues? Well, let’s put it into perspective. Paul said believers should eagerly desire the greater gifts of the Spirit, then listed tongues as the least of the gifts in 1 Corinthians 12:28. And, as we’ve already seen, the gifts themselves are secondary to the fruits. Also, one’s salvation does not appear to depend upon baptism in the Holy Spirit. The Bible outlines the criteria for salvation in Romans 10:9 and elsewhere:

If you declare with your mouth, “Jesus is Lord,” and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.

That’s all any person needs to obtain eternal life. Of course, anyone who truly accepts Jesus as savior will seek to develop the fruit of the Spirit in his or her life.

When it comes to the issue of tongues, I think every person ought to work out what they believe–as long as it falls in line with scripture. I personally think the edification of one’s faith and the spiritual blessing that comes from praying in tongues is powerful, beneficial and available to every believer, but I respect those whose views on the subject differ slightly. There are some writers who claim that tongues ceased upon the death of the apostles, but that argument doesn’t hold up very well under scripture or logic. I will show you what I mean in an upcoming post.

In the meantime, what do you think about tongues?

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7 responses to “The Holy Spirit: Fruits vs. Gifts

  1. I already mentioned what I think on the other thread, but I will expound a little here. I can see the argument for “initial evidence”, the belief that tongues is evidence of the Baptism of the Holy Spirit. I don’t think that Scripture is very clear on this, though. The only indication of evidence of the Baptism that we see in Scripture is in Acts 1:8. Of the 5-6 times we see the Baptism of the HS in Acts, only 3 of those are explicitly evidenced by tongues. I think that leaves us some definite wiggle room in this doctrine. I am glad to see that you recognize that this is an issue non-essential to salvation.

    Personally, I know that I myself sought and sought after the Baptism, not understanding why God wouldn’t give me this gift. I had friends at my (very) Pentecostal Bible College who did the same. It was so discouraging, especially when my peers started to question if I had “secret sin”. One of the older women even implied that I and the others who just couldn’t speak in tongues didn’t “want it enough”. I felt like God asked me at that point, “Why do you keep seeking after something I’ve already given you?”. I know that is personal experience and is very subjective, so take it for what it’s worth.

    I completely agree with you on this issue of tongues being valid for today. I don’t see any Scriptural support whatsoever for the cessation of the gifts. I also believe that a believer who has been filled will display one or more of the gifts.

  2. You’re right, the scripture isn’t entirely clear on the “initial evidence” doctrine, and I tried to reflect that in my post. I also realize my experience colors my perspective a bit. I pray in tongues and find it beneficial, but I have heard stories of others who have prayed to receive the evidence of tongues and haven’t. I certainly don’t judge those believers or think of them as being any less spiritual or desirous of the Spirit. After all, the fruits are what really count!

    I think we have to be careful of not confusing tongues with the baptism of the Spirit (easy to do, I know, since that’s how we were raised). Tongues are just a gift, not the Spirit itself. I personally think charismatic churches fall into this doctrinal trap, and it has hurt many believers. I remember being told as a child that if I hadn’t spoken in tongues, then I hadn’t received the Holy Spirit. How discouraging…and wrong!

  3. I didn’t read your post as judgmental or anything like that. I think you worded it very well. I also agree about the fruits trumping the gifts. It’s what Paul was saying, the gifts aren’t much use without love.

    I was told time and time over again not to seek for tongues, but to seek for the baptism. That is very confusing when you wouldn’t know if you were baptized until you spoke in tongues! You’re right, so many fall in to that trap, because so many churches hyper-focus on that particular gift.

    I’m glad you’re addressing the Holy Spirit, though. My family has been attending Baptist churches for the past 10 years, give or take a few. It seems like they tend to run away from the topic, for fear of looking too Charismatic.

  4. Pingback: The Problem with Charismatic Churches | Revolutionary Faith

  5. I am not positive the place you’re getting your information, however great topic. I must spend some time studying more or figuring out more. Thank you for magnificent info I used to be on the lookout for this info for my mission.

  6. April, this is a clear and helpful post. I am now seeking the Lord about certain things and one of those is a claim that a gift of the spirit will be the ability to do a lot of ministry, planned and impromptu while managing your practical life which results in little rest and sleep. Another way it has been put in Charismatic circles is entering to a certain “physical realm”. I am seeking to find if that is a gift as a I see some achieve it but it is an area where I struggle, or if it might just be culture or it is error. If you have time or feel comfortable, I’d like for you to contact me through my contact page. If not in short I was wondering if there were any books that you have read about this. I will be meditating and re-reading the scriptures in this post that I know well but now I think God will use to do healing.