Galatians 5:22-23 are familiar to many of us as the “Fruit of the Spirit” passage. We rightly seek to exhibit the attributes listed there: love, joy, peace, patience, etc. In doing so, we can easily fall into the trap of “works righteousness.” We can think that we need to work hard to show forth the fruit listed so that God will like us better and so that others will know about Him. In other words, we can be tempted to think that our favor with God depends on how well we are showing love, joy, peace, patience, etc. AND we can falsely believe that salvation of others depends on how well we demonstrate each part of this fruit to our neighbors.
The Biblical reality of this passage is far different than our legalistic tendencies might lead us to believe. Who is at work in growing the fruit? From whom do these attributes come? Whose Spirit is it? Of course, the answer to all of these questions is God. It is His Spirit that is at work in us. He is the great Gardener, tilling the soil of our lives so that we would produce love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. You see, God delights in cultivating His own good gifts in us; His own good gifts between us and the cross of Christ in us.
Does that let us off the hook? Do we just sit back, relax, do our own thing and God will make this fruit happen in our lives? No. God is sovereign and we have responsibility. Paul is clear about how this wonderful fruit grows. As we keep in step with the Spirit, we will crucify the flesh with its passions and desires and then live by the Spirit of God. Paul continues by making it clear that life and fruit do not come from conceit and envy, but rather they come from the work of the Spirit. As we, believers in Christ, submit to the work of God in us, we will find both the discipline and desire to produce the Fruit of the Spirit.