When it comes to discipleship, the Bible is exceedingly clear about two concepts that play a fundamental role in shaping the lives of believers: the fruit of the Spirit and the gifts of the Spirit.
The fruit of the Spirit, listed in Galatians 5:22-23, describes the character traits that are formed in the life of a believer through the work of the Holy Spirit. Love, joy, peace, patience… When we submit our lives to the influence of the Holy Spirit, we are shaped and molded to look more and more like Jesus every single day. This is the process of sanctification, in which we grow in holiness as a result of the Spirit’s work in our lives.
The gifts of the Spirit, as the name implies, are given as a result of the Holy Spirit’s grace in our lives. The three main passages which describe these spiritual grace gifts are Romans 12:6–8, 1 Corinthians 12:4–11, 1 Corinthians 12:28 – but there are certainly other references in the Bible in which people are empowered with gifts by the Holy Spirit for the building up of the Church.
Pretty cool, right? The Holy Spirit is actively working in the lives of Christians to sanctify us, and we get to partner with this process by forming spiritual habits like reading the Bible, spending time in prayer and solitude, fasting, and being in Christian community.
And the Holy Spirit is actively empowering us with gifts, and we get to be good stewards of these gifts by using them – with humility – for the sake of God’s kingdom.
This question gets thrown around a lot, but it isn’t altogether that helpful. When it comes to the life of a disciple and the mission of God in the world, both the fruit and the gifts are vital.
Interestingly, this is something the Church often has a difficult time balancing. There are countless churches that focus on holiness, purity, and the development of fruit but remain hush-hush about the gifts of the Spirit.
Conversely, there are churches that love talking about the power of the Holy Spirit but practice their spiritual gifts without the fruit. It’s no coincidence that Paul talks about the gifts of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 and follows with a passage on love in 1 Corinthians 13.
If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. And if I have prophetic powers, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing (1 Corinthians 13:1-2).
As disciples, it is so important that we value both the gifts of the Spirit and the fruit of the Spirit. Not just one or the other. Not just power. Not just purity. We need both!
I’ve heard different speakers quote a variation of this same idea:
And to round out the thought, here is my addition:
I know it may sound a little silly, but it’s an important point. I don’t want to be a believer that operates in power without purity. Then I’ll just be a noisy gong like Paul talks about in 1 Corinthians 13. Nor do I want to operate in purity without power. Then I’ll be at risk of “having the appearance of godliness, but denying its power” as warned against in 2 Timothy 3:5.
No. I want to grow as a disciple in all of the grace that God has for my life. The gifts and fruit. The power and the purity. I want to grow up and glow up into maturity in my faith. And I want to invite all of my friends out there to do the same.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ (Philippians 1:6).