By Elizabeth Prata
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23)
Warren Wiersbe notes the triple triad within the verse. The first three characteristics of the fruit are love, joy, and peace. Those reflect the Godward aspect of Christian life.
The next three are patience, kindness, goodness; characteristics reflecting the manward aspect of Christian life.
Faithfulness, gentleness, self-control are aspects reflecting the selfward part of the Christian life. Below, Wiersbe’s longer explanation:
When a person lives in the sphere of love, then he experiences joy—that inward peace and sufficiency that is not affected by outward circumstances. (A case in point is Paul’s experience recorded in Phil. 4:10–20.) This “holy optimism” keeps him going in spite of difficulties. Love and joy together produce peace, “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding” (Phil. 4:7). These first three qualities express the Godward aspect of the Christian life.
The next three express the manward aspect of the Christian life: long-suffering (courageous endurance without quitting), gentleness (kindness), and goodness (love in action). The Christian who is long-suffering will not avenge himself or wish difficulties on those who oppose him. He will be kind and gentle, even with the most offensive, and will sow goodness where others sow evil. Human nature can never do this on its own; only the Holy Spirit can.
The final three qualities are selfward: faith (faithfulness, dependability); meekness (the right use of power and authority, power under control); and temperance (self-control). Meekness is not weakness. Jesus said, “I am meek and lowly in heart” (Matt. 11:29), and Moses was “very meek” (Num. 12:3); yet no one could accuse either of them of being weak. The meek Christian does not throw his weight around or assert himself. Just as wisdom is the right use of knowledge, so meekness is the right use of authority and power. The Bible Exposition Commentary, Warren Wiersbe
The word gentleness as it is used in the verse means ‘derived from the root pra-, emphasizing the divine origin of meekness (“gentle strength”) which expresses power with reserve and gentleness.’
Gentleness, ladies, does not mean doormat, but restrained power combined with kindness, peace, and the other characteristics of the fruit. That’s why the fruit of the Spirit is one fruit displaying many aspects, not many fruits.
Wiersbe again with the reason the Spirit grows the fruit in us:
We must remember that this fruit is produced to be eaten, not to be admired and put on display. People around us are starving for love, joy, peace, and all the other graces of the Spirit. When they find them in our lives, they know that we have something they lack. We do not bear fruit for our own consumption; we bear fruit that others might be fed and helped, and that Christ might be glorified. The flesh may manufacture “results” that bring praise to us, but the flesh cannot bear fruit that brings glory to God. It takes patience, an atmosphere of the Spirit, walking in the light, the seed of the Word of God, and a sincere desire to honor Christ.