Epistles of Thomas

January 25, 2010

There is only ONE Fruit of the Spirit

I mention this because all too often people refer to the “fruits of the spirit” or separate the various aspects of the Fruit of the Spirit. Let’s begin with Galatians 5:22f.

NIV “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

NASB “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.”

NLT “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.”

Obviously all three of these translations are clear in that the fruit is singular and encompasses seven different aspects of how we interact with our world. The Message translation is a mess and does seem to pluralise the fruit by referring to “gifts” being brought into our lives:

Message “But what happens when we live God’s way? He brings gifts into our lives, much the same way that fruit appears in an orchard—things like affection for others, exuberance about life, serenity. We develop a willingness to stick with things, a sense of compassion in the heart, and a conviction that a basic holiness permeates things and people. We find ourselves involved in loyal commitments, not needing to force our way in life, able to marshal and direct our energies wisely.”

Unfortunately, this misses the point that the Fruit of the Spirit are a package. You cannot have one fruit/gift and not the others. I was just reading a book by Mark Buchanan in which he falls into the trap of separating the gifts. He writes about someone’s rough day: “Inside, you feel the fruits of the Spirit, one by one, shrivel and drop off the branch, pushed out by their opposites: loathing, sourness, worry, impatience, rudeness, rotteness, faithlessness, gruffness, wildness.” Your God is Too Safe: Rediscovering the Wonder of a God You Can’t Control (Sisters: Multnomah, 2001). 99-100. Not only has Buchanan pluralised the Fruit but he fails to announce that the opposite of the Fruit of the Spirit is not those other concepts but is rather the desires of our sinful nature (5:19-21). There are not just nine fruits or nine opposites, but rather two ways of life which are contrasted in all areas as shown by how we live.

How many fruit of the Spirit are there? All together now — ONE!


  1. “Obviously all three of these translations are clear in that the fruit is singular and encompasses seven different aspects of how we interact with our world.”

    That’s not an accurate statement.

    Fruit is singular and plural, just like deer and sheep. And all three of those translations are English variations of the same translation. The original Greek refers to a harvest which would imply an abundance of fruit. Just saying. I still see what you’re saying though.

    Comment by Jennifer — February 19, 2010 @ 19:57 | Reply

    • In English fruit can be singular or plural but we also use fruits to talk about multiple types of fruit. The same is true for fish and fishes. Greek always indicates whether a noun is singular or plural. In Gal 5:22 “fruit” is singular. In other places it is used in the plural (e.g. Mt 7:16, 20). If you compare Mt 7:16, 20 in the NIV to other more “literal” translations (NASB; ESV; NRSV) you will see that the NIV translates the plural as a singular recognising that in English we can read a singular as a plural for words like fruit while the other translations keep it as “fruits.” Paul uses the singular in Eph 5:9, “fruit of light”; and Phil 1:11, “fruit of righteousness.”

      In Romans 1:13 he states that “…I planned many times to come to you…in order that I might reap some fruit among you, just as I have had among the other Gentiles.” This is singular but could arguable we seen as a plural which is why the NIV translates it as “harvest.” However, the point in Galatians as I mention in the original post is that the fruit of the Spirit is a singular encompassing nine aspects of how we live. If you have the fruit of the Spirit you cannot have joy but be lacking peace. You could say that you have “fish” and make it a plural but each fish by itself has scales and eyes and gills and a tail but they are all of that particular kind of fish. If you have several species of fish you might say that “seven fishes make their homes in this lake” in which case you would use the plural. Paul always had to chose between singular and plural and he chose the singular because “fruit” refers to one thing that all people possess thanks to the Spirit’s presence in our lives. Praise God! A “harvest” is fruit realised; in the barn, ready to eat. I hope this helps explain what I meant.

      Comment by Thomas — February 20, 2010 @ 14:04 | Reply

  2. here’s a good source, fyi


    Comment by Jennifer — February 19, 2010 @ 20:05 | Reply

    • I’m not sure how this adds to the discussion. I could only find reference to Gal 5:22 under an explanation of the nominative case: “Galatians 5:22 says: “But the fruit of the spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, …” As the subject of the sentence, the Greek word for “fruit” is in the nominative case. Likewise the words in the predicate part of the sentence, that are equated to “fruit” by the copulative verb “is”, are also in the nominative case in Greek.” Under number it states that “The Greek language always makes a distinction between singular and plural forms.” The word “fruit” is clearly singular in 5:22. I will address the other points under your other post.

      Comment by Thomas — February 20, 2010 @ 13:45 | Reply

  3. I’m not sure I see the benefit of hammering this particular point. It seems to me the fruit is like a bunch of grapes. The bunch come from the same plant, but consists of separate little balls of goodness. They coexist conceptually, and they can also be examined individually.

    Why did Paul bother listing various types of outcome of this fruit? He wanted to demonstrate in concrete terms the wonderful effects of God living in us. And there are many of these good outcomes; they are not limited to the nine specifically listed, although Paul uses umbrella terms and there is overlap. All are fruit of the Spirit. From the One God comes the many outcomes.

    Quibbling over the exact point at which the one source becomes the many outcomes seems overly pedantic about syntax at the expense of practical application. By all means, examine the Greek and use it to illumine our understanding, but don’t burden us with it if it makes no appreciable difference to our current application. Do I talk about my one bunch of grapes, or my many grapes – heaven help me if I get it wrong??? By no means!! Who cares?! Grapes are fantastic, and I’ve got a whole bunch, praise God! 🙂

    Comment by Tristan — August 13, 2010 @ 21:39 | Reply

    • It’s fine if you have the whole bunch but if you are treating them separately it can be a problem. In other words if you think of it as a list and score yourself at 5/9 or 7/9. Once you have the Spirit you have the Fruit (all of it). If you have all but patience and are wondering why God hasn’t given you that fruit you have a theological problem as well as a spiritual fruit problem. Paul is contrasting two ways of living and the results of those two ways. Practically speaking you need to embrace the Spirit rather than worrying about numbers of fruit. It’s really an all or nothing proposition. Do you choose Flesh or Spirit?

      Comment by Thomas — August 15, 2010 @ 23:55 | Reply

  4. This is awesome. I was thinking about this last night! Including how the opposite is the sinful nature. Well done for pointing this out as I also find many people fall into the trap of viewing a spirit-led life as being a walking, talking fruitbowl. When in fact the fruit of the Spirit “is” one outcome. You don´t get brownie points for having love alone. I am sure there are some murderers out there with love for their mum but I find myself set apart from them because I am full with the Spirit. You are full with the Spirit and led by him or you are not full and struggle with the sinful nature. Our aim should be to be continually filled to overflowing. There is only one outcome of that. This lacks detail and may or may not make any sense. lol
    Thanks Thomas =P

    Comment by Debbie — September 8, 2010 @ 16:56 | Reply

  5. can we separate the fruit of the holy spirit from each other

    Comment by taiwo ladipo — February 10, 2011 @ 11:43 | Reply

  6. Could it be that love is the actual fruit, and the other 8 flow from this singular fruit? That would certainly correspond well with Paul’s teaching in 1 Corinthians that the greatest of these is love.

    Comment by ovationeddie — June 29, 2014 @ 4:53 | Reply

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