FRUIT or GIFTS – Which is Best?

By Rob Cresswell

Which is best – the FRUIT of the Spirit or the GIFTS of the Spirit? What do you think? Typically the FRUIT of the Spirit is known as the nine ‘character’ attributes of love, joy, peace, patience etc found in Galatians 5:22-23 and the GIFTS of the Spirit are the nine ‘power’ manifestations of the Spirit – prophecy, words of knowledge, healing and so on, from 1 Corinthians 12:7-11.

Usually when people say ‘FRUIT of the Spirit’ they think of developing ‘godly character’ and when people say ‘GIFTS of the Spirit’ they mean ‘having one or more of the supernatural gifts’.

A simplistic definition of the FRUIT and GIFTS can be that:

the FRUIT of the Spirit is the result of God working IN us

and the GIFTS of the Spirit are evidence of God working THROUGH us.

The first is primarily about me and the second is primarily about others. So which is more important?

How about 1 Corinthians 13 which tells us we can be the greatest prophet or miracle worker but without love it counts for nothing? And also when all things are made perfect there will be no need for spiritual gifts like prophecy because we will know (and be known) perfectly – but LOVE will remain (Could that be saying FRUIT is best?).

But just a minute, in John 14 Jesus clearly teaches that signs and wonders will accompany all those that believe in Him and these will be to authenticate the gospel and bring the Father glory (which makes GIFTS pretty important too).

The Wrong Question

You may have guessed that I’m not a fan of this ‘which is best’ question between the GIFTS and FRUIT of the Spirit and I think to even ask the question is an error of judgement. I don’t think it was ever the intention of these scriptures to separate out these two works of the Spirit and somehow pit them against one another. After all, the most important aspect of both the FRUIT and the GIFTS is that they are both manifestations of the Holy Spirit. In other words they are both GIFTS of GRACE, of divine origin (not from human effort) and therefore both of great value and to be desired in our lives.

Both FRUIT and GIFTS are manifestations of FAITH in God (that is to say, we don’t manifest FRUIT or GIFTS by ‘going after them’ but by pursuing God and His Kingdom):

The FRUIT of the Spirit comes through abiding in the TRUE VINE of Jesus and obedience to His word (John 15).

The GIFTS also come from the one Spirit and to those who greatly desire to serve the purposes of God (1 Cor 12).

The message of 1 Corinthians 13 is that the antidote to using the GIFTS of the Spirit in a prideful way is to ‘follow the way of love‘ 1 Corinthians 14:1 (Cultivate the FRUIT of the Spirit). But conversely the message of Galatians 5 is that if we want to cultivate the FRUIT of the Spirit – then we need to ‘Keep in STEP with the SPIRIT‘ (In other words – ‘eagerly desire what the Spirit desires – especially prophecy’ – 1 Corinthians 14:1)

The FRUIT is not for us but for the Father (John 15). Neither are the GIFTS ‘for us’ but these supernatural empowerments are to serve the purposes of the Spirit. (1 Cor 12)

Is there more to GIFTS and FRUIT?

The lists of GIFTS and FRUIT in 1 Corinthians and Galatians are not meant to be exhaustive but descriptive. In Romans 12 the SUPERNATURAL emphasis of the GIFTS of the Spirit in 1 Corinthians 12 is expanded to include qualities such as mercy, serving and giving (as well as prophecy). These are GIFTS that are usually associated with characteristics of the FRUIT of the Spirit.

Similarly in the teachings of Jesus spiritual FRUIT is often expanded beyond virtuous attributes to include other manifestations of the Kingdom such as salvation, healing and deliverance (the harvest is plentiful but the workers are few – Matt 9:37-38, and in regard to healing and miracles:

“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.” John‬ ‭15‬:‭7‬-‭8‬ 

So perhaps GIFTS and FRUIT have more in common than we might first think. Truly the Lord’s purpose is that the GIFTS and the FRUIT of the Spirit work together in unison to bring glory to God in our lives (much like the heart and lungs work together to oxygenate the blood).

Bells and Pomegranates

A picture of FRUIT and GIFTS working together appears in a wonderfully symbolic aspect of the priestly adornment in the Old Testament. As part of the instructions for the High Priests robe we read:

“Make pomegranates of blue, purple, and scarlet yarn all the way around the lower hem, with gold bells between them, alternating the gold bells and pomegranates around the lower hem of the robe.” Exodus 28:33

The High Priest who served in the tabernacle of Moses would wear a garment that had both GOLDEN BELLS (symbolic of GIFTS of the Spirit – particularly prophecy) and FRUIT (in this case pomegranates) sewn onto the hem.

The people could not see the Priest when he entered the tabernacle – but they could HEAR him. In this way one symbolic meaning of the GOLDEN BELLS is the outward expression or manifestation of spiritual realities – the GIFTS of the Spirit (in the New Testament Paul uses ‘clarity of musical notes’ as a metaphor for clarity in prophetic ministry in 1 Cor 14:7).

The POMEGRANATES can symbolise the FRUIT of the Spirit; that which could be known and tasted and gave life (Taste and see that the Lord is good Ps 34:8).

This is far more a picture of ‘which is more important’ – because we need BOTH FRUIT and GIFTS TOGETHER working SIDE BY SIDE in wonderful harmony.

Is God developing our CHARACTER? Yes, as we seek Him above all things. Is God expanding our capacity to receive and use GIFTS of the Spirit? Yes, as we are obedient to the service of the Holy Spirit and desire to perceive and act as God perceives and acts.

The GIFTS of the Spirit are given to be FRUITFUL, the FRUIT of the SPIRIT increases our capacity to be used in true POWER.

FRUIT and GIFTS are complementary

I have seen over and over again the GIFTS handled rightly developing FRUIT in a person’s life. (for example: expressing sacrificial love, mercy to others and joy in God), and life-giving FRUIT in one’s life and character overflowing to others as powerful salvations and restoration in all its many forms.

Sure we are all ‘work-in-progress’ and that is why we have the admonition passages for the GIFTS of the SPIRIT in 1 Corinthians and the antidote to the works of the flesh as the FRUIT of the Spirit in Galatians. But – Praise be to God who gives us both the graces of LOVE and POWER: the true spiritual wisdom and understanding that enables us to live lives that are worthy of him – bearing FRUIT in every good work, growing in the knowledge of God and being filled with great POWER according to his glorious might! (Colossians 1:9-11).

About the Author: Rob Cresswell

Rob Cresswell avatar
Rob Cresswell along with his wife Aliss pioneer ministries which seek to engage all who are hungry for the things of the Spirit and demonstrate the love and power of God. After graduating from ministry school in 2006 they established a local church in their home town of Chester and several exciting outreach initiatives (known for salvations, healings and miracles) including a café, shop and B&B. Rob is the author of 'The Threefold Miracle Mandate', 'The Believer's Guide to Survival' and 'The Believer's Guide to Thriving'. Together they founded Spirit Lifestyle and continue to write, present, train and travel, spreading the gospel and pioneering Kingdom initiatives internationally.

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