Issues & Answers: What Is the Difference Between the “Fruit of the Spirit” and the “Gifts of the Spirit?”

June 24, 2024
Alexander Kurian

The Bible speaks about both the “gifts” and “fruit” of the Holy Spirit. It is essential for believers to be aware of the differences between them.

Both the gifts and fruit of the Holy Spirit are manifestations or expressions of the Holy Spirit and come to us through Him. But they are in two different categories of blessing. Spiritual gifts are Spirit-worked abilities. They are a God-given ability for spiritual service, divine endowments so that by the Spirit’s empowerment believers can exercise a regular ministry in the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:1-11; Rom. 12:3-8). Every believer is spiritually gifted in at least one area of service (1 Cor. 12:6-7). The Holy Spirit sovereignly gives spiritual gifts to His people “to each one individually as He wills” (1 Cor. 12:11, NKJV). The purpose is for the edification of the body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:7).

The fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23) is a cluster of spiritual qualities of Christian character which the Holy Spirit produces in a believer as they live in the fullness of the Spirit, filled and controlled by Him. The experience of filling relates to Christian character (Eph. 5:18-21). The description of the fruit of the Spirit is a description of Christlikeness. “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Gal. 5:22-23a, NKJV). It is by walking in the Spirit (Gal. 5:16) and being led by the Spirit (Gal. 5:18) that the Holy Spirit produces the fruit of the Spirit in us.

That Spirit and flesh are in conflict is illustrated by contrasting the works of the flesh (Gal. 5:19-21) with the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). The works of the flesh refer to what one can do in their sinful nature. The fruit of the Spirit, on the other hand, is a natural product of the work of the Spirit. This fruit is produced when the believer has a dynamic, close fellowship with Christ.

The singular form of the word “fruit’ stresses that these qualities are a unity, like a bunch of grapes, instead of separate pieces of fruit.

We find a variety of the gifts of the Spirit, but only one cluster of the fruit of the Spirit. The gifts are given one by one to different believers, while the fruit should be found in all Christians. The gifts are God-given abilities, while the fruit is the nine virtues of Christlikeness produced by the Spirit. The gifts of the Spirit refer to believers’ spiritual capabilities in the service of the Lord; the fruit of the Spirit refers to believers’ spiritual character. The gifts are given instantly to every member of the body of Christ at the moment of salvation, whereas the fruit is developed gradually as believers abide in Christ and yield to the working of the Holy Spirit. Gifts are never a means of judging the quality of a person’s spiritual life. Conversely, the fruit displays the spiritual development and spiritual maturity of a person.

The gifts of the Spirit primarily involve our activity; what we do, while the fruit of the Spirit speaks to what we are. Gifts are related to our service, while fruit is related to our character. We may receive different spiritual gifts; however, we should each be known by the same multi-faceted fruit of the Spirit. Remember, gifts are given to us, fruit is developed in us. Gifts are given according to the sovereign will of God, while fruit is produced by the Spirit because of our submission to Him. The Lord Jesus reminds us that all will recognize us as His disciples not by our gifts, but by the fruit virtue of love (John 13:35).