GIFTS AND FRUITS OF THE SPIRIT – DIFFERENCE?
Scriptures are cited from the King James (Authorized) Version, unless stated otherwise.
Question: Is there a difference between the gifts of the spirit and the fruits of the spirit?
Answer: At the two outpourings of the spirit – upon the Apostles on Pentecost (Acts 2: 1- 4), and upon Cornelius and his family, who were Gentiles (Acts 10: 44-47) – various miraculous gifts of the spirit were bestowed. Apart from these two events, the gifts of the spirit were never given except by the laying on of the Apostles’ hands (Acts 8: 14-19; 19: 1-6).
The Gifts of the Spirit
These gifts are explained by the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 12: 1, 4-11. Some were given the ability to speak one language and some another, of which they had no previous knowledge; some had the gift of interpreting the foreign languages which the others spoke; some received the gift of healing; and some had power to work other miracles. These gifts served a three-fold purpose:
(1.) They proved God’s favor through Christ, that He had ascended to heaven, and that His work of redemption had been satisfactory to the Father.
(2.) They were proofs to the public that God was with these people, leading some to hear their message.
(3.) They were an assurance to the disciples themselves that God was leading and blessing them.
These gifts were necessary for the establishment of the early Church because the Lord’s people did not have the New Testament in written form at that time. Since the Apostles were the only ones who could confer these gifts, it means that when the last disciple died upon which an Apostle had conferred these gifts, the gifts ceased to exist. This principle is forcefully illustrated in Acts 8: 5-24. This account makes it clear that even Philip the Evangelist, though able to perform “miracles and signs” (vs. 6, 13), could not himself confer the gifts of the spirit, but was obliged to wait for Apostles to do this for his converts (vs. 14-17). Simon the sorcerer “saw that through laying on of the apostles’ hands” the gifts were bestowed. He then selfishly sought to buy from the Apostles this exclusive power (vs. 18-24). In a similar instance, the disciples at Ephesus manifested the spirit gifts only when the Apostle Paul laid his hands on them (Acts 19: 1-6). Following the death of the Apostles, the church had the New Testament in written form, and the gifts were no longer necessary (1 Cor. 13: 8-12).
The Fruits of the Spirit
The fruits of the spirit, on the other hand, are developments of the heart and character. Instead of being received instantly, as the gifts were, the fruits are more or less slow developments, depending upon the zeal, personality, and environment of the Christian. Some of these fruits are faith, hope, love, patience, brotherly kindness, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, and meekness (Galatians 5: 22, 23; 2 Peter 1: 5-9). As these fruits become ripe, or developed, they become manifested in one’s words and deeds, as well as one’s thoughts. Although we contrast the gifts and fruits of the spirit, the fruits are also gifts in one important sense: though the consecrated Christian must put forth effort to develop these fruits, or graces of character, it is God, through the ministry of Christ, who provides all the means for their development. The means, or resources He provides are: (1) His holy spirit, (2) His Word, and (3) His providences. As to their comparative importance, the Scriptures teach that the fruits are far superior to the gifts (1 Corinthians 12: 31). The gifts served their intended purpose for the appointed time, but the fruits of the spirit, those beautiful graces of character – especially unselfish love, the greatest of all – will adorn the characters of all who will be found worthy of eternal life (1 Corinthians 13: 13).