August 2009 Issue
Holy Spirit ~ Fruit, Gifts, Sanctification
by Earl Waggoner
"You can have a personal relationship
with God." We like to pull this amazing declaration out of
our evangelism toolboxes, to focus on the fact that a relationship
with God is actually possible for human beings. This fact is at
the wondrous heart of biblical, evangelical Christianity.
However, another word from the above statement also deserves
our attention: personal. More than just a modifier of "relationship,"
"personal" points to the fact that God Himself must
be personal in order to relate to us. How does Almighty God pull
off being personal? According to theologian Millard Erickson,
"The Holy Spirit is the point at which the Trinity becomes
personal to the believer."1 The Spirit
is the actual presence of God, active and alive, within Christians.
Another theologian wrote, "Though we speak of the Spirit
as the third Person [of the Trinity], from the standpoint of experience
Spirit is first, because it is the Spirit that enables us to experience
God's ... drawing near."2 Think about
all these ideas regarding God the Holy Spirit: personal, active,
alive, experiential, and "drawing near." As the very
presence of God within us, the Holy Spirit does all sorts of things,
among them producing fruit, giving gifts, and making holy.
Personal Equipping: The
Fruit of the Spirit
One of the great, engaging ideas of New Testament Christianity
is that of the fruit of the Spirit. Galatians 5:22-23 provides
the definitive list: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness,
goodness, faith, gentleness, and self-control. While much
can be said about each of the nine elements, some fruitful ideas
can be gleaned from considering the list in its entirety.
First, this single bunch of fruit is more than a random cluster
of ethical goals. To be sure, love and peace and goodness are
desirable traits for just about any person, but the distinctive
quality about this cluster of Spirit-produced fruit is that it
is the character of Jesus Christ. The life He lived on earth can
be described precisely with these nine elements. Thus, fruit production
is the fulfillment of God's promise to conform Christians to the
image of His Son (Romans 8:29).
Second, even though the fruit is produced by the Holy Spirit,
the "ripening" requires our participation.
Note that the list of spiritual fruit follows close on the heels
of Paul's list of the "works of the flesh" (Galatians
5:19-21). Important to note about both lists is that they are
packed with activity. One does not drift into love or self-control
or, for that matter, moral impurity or envy (Galatians 5:17).
All the fruit on that spiritual cluster is done, proactively
and intentionally. Think about it: A perfectly ripened peach makes
a beautiful display, but ultimately it is meant to be eaten. Likewise,
spiritual fruit is not meant for display. God the Holy Spirit
produces the fruit, but Christians must act on it, use it, and
develop it. At work in the lives of believers, then, is a delicate
balance between the Spirit's fruit yield and the Christian's yielded
yet active life response.
Third, God the Holy Spirit produces the fruit by means of His
presence and work within individual believers. Jesus' great words
about living water point to this reality. "The one who
believes in Me ... will have streams of living water flow from
deep within him." He said this about the Spirit, whom those
who believed in Him were going to receive (John 7:38-39).
Just as water surges into the Colorado River, creating a deep
and powerful flow, even so the Spirit of God within each believer
creates the compelling inclination and capacity to live the fruit.
Again, notice that balance between the Spirit's work and our response.
He leads, but we must follow (Galatians 5:16, 18, 25).
Another thought about spiritual fruit is worth mentioning.
These nine elements multiple parts of a singular fruit,
like a cluster of grapes perfectly describe life in the
Spirit. W. T. Conner, long-time theologian at Southwestern Seminary,
phrased it perfectly in saying that the Spirit-filled life is
moral and ethical, not "an emotional orgy. ... Paul was no
wild enthusiast. His religion always had at its center the element
of rational and moral control. Christian character and conduct
were the fruit of the Spirit."3
One of the benefits of thinking about spiritual fruit is being
reminded of physical fruit. Enjoying colorful and tasty produce
is one of God's great blessings. Personally, though friends and
family tout the virtues of southern-grown peaches, I am proud
to get really messy with the juicy, sweet, Palisade Peach from
Colorado. It is a succulent, end-of-the-summer treat. Even as
that luscious fruit is craved by those who see it, may the world
around us see and crave the fruit ethical, moral, considerate
lives produced by God the Holy Spirit in us.
Personal Gifting: The Gifts
of the Holy Spirit
God the Holy Spirit is not only a fruit producer but a gift
giver, too. A spiritual gift is "a specific endowment of
spiritual ability for service."4
Note the specifics of this definition. First, "a specific
endowment" emphasizes giftedness; they are gifts, not rewards.
Second, "spiritual ability" highlights God the Holy
Spirit as the source of the gifts. Third, "ability for service"
focuses on the purpose of gifts. They are for service, not display.
This idea regarding service may be the most important one to
remember about spiritual giftedness. Four lists of gifts are provided
in the New Testament, all four being embedded in passages about
the body of Christ/the church (Romans 12:6-8; 1 Corinthians 12:8-11,
28-30; Ephesians 4:11). This context for mentioning spiritual
gifts points to their use by different body "parts"/individual
members for the greater good of the body. Spiritual gifts
are not trophies to be polished and set on the mantle. They are
given explicitly "to build up the body of Christ" (Ephesians
4:12). A good test to see if that is happening is to assess a
given gift's effectiveness in building up, not tearing down, the
body of Christ (see Ephesians 4:13).
An interesting reality about the four lists of gifts is that
they are all different. Lining up the gifts in four parallel columns
reveals these factoids: the gift of prophecy is the only one that
appears in all four lists; teaching shows up in three lists; those
appearing in two lists include service/helping, healing, miracles,
tongues, and apostle; and twelve separate gifts turn up singularly,
on only one of the lists. These facts seem to point to the reality
that there is no fixed, comprehensive list of gifts in Scripture.
Paul never even hints otherwise. If indeed a comprehensive list
does not exist in the Bible, then the possibilities exist that:
(1) there were more gifts at work in the first-century church
than Paul mentioned, and (2) there may be other gifts in operation
today than those mentioned in Scripture.5
The point of noting these possibilities goes right back to
the stated purpose of why gifts are given by the Holy Spirit:
to serve and strengthen the body of Christ. This purpose implies
that God the Holy Spirit can gift any believer to do anything
in order to accomplish His work in any given church body.
Consider these additional ideas about spiritual gifts.
Gifts are not to be confused with roles. For example,
though some believers have the gift of evangelist, every believer
is called to evangelize.
Gifts of the Spirit are not to be confused with the fruit
of the Spirit. All believers are given the entire fruit mix
(see above) while not all believers receive all the gifts
(1 Corinthians 12:8-11).
The relationship between spiritual gifts and talent is ambiguous.
Every human being has some range of talent, but only to believers
are spiritual gifts given. Furthermore, a Christian's talent may
or may not determine his or her giftedness.
Gifts are given according to the sovereignty of God.
Though Paul encouraged Christians to "desire the greater
gifts" (1 Corinthians 12:31), he had already noted that God
dispenses them according to His will and purposes (1 Corinthians
Did I mention that gifts were for service and not for display?
Personal Transforming: The
Work of the Holy Spirit
"Sanctification" is one of those three-dollar theology
terms which can either impress or intimidate when people hear
it the first time. The word refers to the process of making holy
(Latin: sanctus "holy" plus facere
"to make"). Sanctification is not some theoretical
category or concept. Rather, it is a rich biblical/theological
idea that encompasses the work done by both God and humans, shaping
the latter into the people of the former.
Sanctification moves beyond the two realities about God the
Spirit mentioned above. He produces fruit and gives gifts, and
yet there is much more to say about sanctification.
The Old Testament speaks of people, animals, places, and even
points in time being made holy or set apart (see, respectively,
Exodus 13:2; Deuteronomy 15:19; Exodus 3:5; Genesis 2:3). The
interesting idea about Old Testament holiness is that really it
had nothing to do with the moral qualities of that which was sanctified.
For example, the burning bush in which God appeared to Moses was
not some special, heavenly shrub growing in miracle dirt. What
made it holy was God declaring it holy. Nevertheless, when God
declared people holy, He demanded that they reflect that status
by obeying the requirements of His law (e.g., cleansing, setting
apart, sacrificing, dedicating).
That is the case in the New Testament, too. People and places
are declared to be holy or set apart (see, respectively, 1 Corinthians
6:11; Matthew 23:17). Even God Himself, of course, is declared
holy (Matthew 6:9). However, holiness takes a new turn in the
New Testament. It becomes grounded not just on God declaring a
group of people to be His own, as with Old Testament Israel, but
in God the Son's saving work. The acceptance of that work, by
everyone who calls upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13),
results in those individual humans attaining the status of holy
(see 1 Corinthians 6:11).
Just as important in the New Testament and also distinct
from the Old is the work of God the Holy Spirit in the
sanctifying/making holy project. The contours of this work are
seen primarily in what Jesus prayed and promised the night before
He died. In John 14-17, Jesus outlined the work of the Holy Spirit,
noting His full-service ministry to human beings, beginning with
conviction (16:8-11) and extending to recognizable, divine presence
with His disciples (14:16-18).
What is especially interesting in Jesus' words is the emphasis
He put on the teaching ministry of the Holy Spirit. According
to Him, God the Holy Spirit would bring to remembrance what Jesus
had taught His disciples (14:26 This becomes applicable
for disciples today via the Spirit bringing to remembrance what
Jesus has taught us through the Bible), bear witness of Jesus
(15:26), speak not independently but in concert with the other
members of the Trinity (16:13-15), and continue the teaching ministry
of Jesus (16:12-13a). Couple these facts with Jesus' prayer that
the Father would, Sanctify them [the disciples] by the
truth; your word is truth (17:17), and the idea emerges that
the Spirit's primary mode of sanctification is grounded in the
Bible. He makes applicable and brings to mind God's revealed,
written (and read!) Word, not only about Jesus, but also what
the Savior requires of and supplies to His children.
Important to remember is that the Spirit's teaching ministry
is more than just data exchange. There is a very real sense that
in bringing to the disciple's mind that information about Jesus,
the Spirit enables the person to live the Christian life (Ephesians
4:17-18,23; see also Romans 12:2). Paul made a great analogy to
salvation in describing the deep, thorough way in which God the
Holy Spirit works in the lives of believers. After beginning
[the saved life] with the Spirit, are you now going to be made
complete by the flesh? (Galatians 3:3) The Spirit enables
and empowers, and people respond in faith and obedience.6 Even as the Spirit effects salvation
spiritually, thoroughly, truly so He makes holy.
A personal relationship with Almighty God is possible! Accentuate
"personal," and the work of God the Holy Spirit begins
to come into sharp focus. He is the point of experiencing God,
not only via His 24/7 presence but also through His fruit-producing,
gift-giving, holy-making work in the lives of true believers.
To see the Holy Spirit's activity is to begin to appreciate Him
for being much more than "a shadowy, ghostly, poor relation
of the Trinity."7 Indeed, the Holy
Spirit is God enabling, inspiring, empowering, and filling Christians
to live the life God the Son died to provide.
1 Millard Erickson, Christian Theology,
2d ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 863.
2 Clark H. Pinnock, Flame of Love (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity
Press, 1996), 14.
3 Walter Thomas Conner, The Work of the Holy Spirit (Nashville:
Broadman Press, 1949), 119.
4 Kenneth Gangel, Unwrap Your Spiritual Gifts (Wheaton,
IL: Victor Books, 1983), 8ff.
5 This "open-ended" view of spiritual giftedness can
be seen also in Ken Hemphill, You are Gifted: Your Spiritual
Gifts and the Kingdom of God (Nashville, TN: B&H Publishing
Group, 2009), 60; James Leo Garrett, Systematic Theology: Biblical,
Historical, & Evangelical, vol. 2 (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm.
B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1995), 199; and Millard J. Erickson, Christian
Theology, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1998), 891.
6 James Tull described sanctification as "both a divine gift
and a human task." Quoted in James Leo Garrett, Systematic
Theology: Biblical, Historical, & Evangelical, vol. 2
(Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing, 1995), 368.
7 Pinnock, 10.
Earl Waggoner is a member of the Church
at Parker in Parker, Colorado, and is Associate Professor of Theology
and Church History at the Rocky Mountain Campus of Golden Gate
Baptist Theological Seminary in Denver, Colorado.
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