Christlike Graces of Character

There is a singular charm, a charm that one can scarcely explain, in the words of Paul in Galatians 5: 22,23,

“The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, temperance.”

What a catalogue we have here of lovely moral characteristics. Paul tells us that they are the fruit of the Spirit, that is, if the Holy Spirit is given control of our lives, this is the fruit that He will bear. All real beauty of character, all real Christlikeness in us, is the Holy Spirit’s work; it is His fruit; He produces it; He bears it, not we. It is well to notice that these graces are not said to be the fruits of the Spirit but the fruit, i. e., if the Spirit is given control of our life, He will not bear one of these as fruit in one person and another as fruit in another person, but this will be the one fruit of many flavours that He produces in each one.

There is also a unity of origin running throughout all the multiplicity of manifestation. It is a beautiful life that is set forth in these verses. Every word is worthy of earnest study and profound meditation. Think of these words one by one:

  • “love”
  • “joy”
  • “peace”
  • “longsuffering”
  • “kindness”
  • “goodness”
  • “faith” (or “faithfulness”; faith is the better translation if properly understood. The word is deeper than faithfulness. It is a real faith that results in faithfulness)
  • “meekness”
  • “temperance” (or a life under perfect control by the power of the Holy Spirit).

We have here a perfect picture of the life of Jesus Christ Himself. Is not this the life that we all long for, the Christlike life? But this life is not natural to us and is not attainable by us by any effort of what we are in ourselves. The life that is natural to us is set forth in the three preceding verses: “Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousies, wraths, factions, divisions, heresies, envyings, drunkenness, revellings and such like” (Gal. 5:21). All these works of the flesh will not manifest themselves in each individual; some will manifest themselves in one, others in others, but they have one common source, the flesh, and if we live in the flesh, this is the kind of a life that we will live. It is the life that is natural to us.

But when the indwelling Spirit is given full control in the one He inhabits, when we are brought to realize the utter badness of the flesh and give up in hopeless despair of ever attaining to anything in its power, when, in other words, we come to the end of ourselves, and just give over the whole work of making us what we ought to be to the indwelling Holy Spirit, then and only then, these holy graces of character, which are set forth in Galalatians 5:22, 23, are His fruit in our lives.

Do you wish these graces in your character and life? Do you really wish them? Then renounce self utterly and all its strivings after holiness, give up any thought that you can ever attain to anything really morally beautiful in your own strength and let the Holy Spirit, who already dwells in you (if you are a child of God) take full control and bear His own glorious fruit in your daily life.

We get very much the same thought from a different point of view in the second chapter and twentieth verse, “I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I that live, but Christ liveth in me: and that life which I now live in the flesh I live in faith, the faith which is in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.”

We hear a great deal in these days about “Ethical Culture,” which usually means the cultivation of the flesh until it bears the fruit of the Spirit. It cannot be done; no more than thorns can be made to bear figs and the bramble bush grapes (Luke 6:44; Matt. 12:33). We hear also a great deal about “character building.” That may be all very well if you bear constantly in mind that the Holy Spirit must do the building, and even then it is not so much building as fruit bearing. (See, however, 2 Pet. 1:5-7.) We hear also a great deal about “cultivating graces of character,” but we must always bear it clearly in mind that the way to cultivate true graces of character is by submitting ourselves utterly to the Spirit to do His work and bear His fruit. This is “sanctification of the Spirit” (1 Pet. 1:2; 2 Thess. 2:13).

There is a sense, however, in which cultivating graces of character is right: viz., we look at Jesus Christ to see what He is and what we therefore ought to be; then we look to the Holy Spirit to make us this that we ought to be and thus,

reflecting as a mirror the glory of the Lord, we are transformed into the same image from glory to glory, even as from the Lord the Spirit” (2 Cor. 3:18).

Settle it, however, clearly and forever that the flesh can never bear this fruit, that you can never attain to these things by your own effort that they are “the fruit of the Spirit.”


An excerpt from The Person and Work of The Holy Spirit As Revealed in the Scriptures And in Personal Experience, By R. A. Torrey (New York, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1910). Chapter 13: “The Holy Spirit Bringing Forth in the Believer Christlike Graces of Character”.

“R. A. Torrey (1856-1928), an American evangelist, pastor, educator, and writer. Called by D. L. Moody to head Bible institute in Chicago (now Moody Bible Institute). Dean of Bible Institute of Los Angeles. Pastorates included Chicago Avenue Church (now Moody Memorial) and Church of the Open Door, Los Angeles. Worldwide evangelistic meetings with Charlie Alexander. Founded Montrose Bible Conference, PA. Wrote more than forty books.” – Christian Biography Resources

Biblical quotations from the R.V. translation. Italics added for emphasis – JBW


Honorable Mention

A brief video by John Piper on John 15:1-8 on abiding in Christ: “We Can Do Nothing.”

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