The Fruits of the Spirit
Acts 2:1–8, 12-14, 22-24 (ESV) When the day of Pentecost arrived, they were all together in one place. And suddenly there came from heaven a sound like a mighty rushing wind, and it filled the entire house where they were sitting. And divided tongues as of fire appeared to them and rested on each one of them. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak in other tongues as the Spirit gave them utterance. Now there were dwelling in Jerusalem Jews, devout men from every nation under heaven. And at this sound the multitude came together, and they were bewildered, because each one was hearing them speak in his own language. And they were amazed and astonished, saying, “Are not all these who are speaking Galileans? And how is it that we hear, each of us in his own native language? We hear them telling in our own tongues the mighty works of God.” And all were amazed and perplexed, saying to one another, “What does this mean?” But others mocking said, “They are filled with new wine.” But Peter, standing with the eleven, lifted up his voice and addressed them: “Men of Judea and all who dwell in Jerusalem, let this be known to you, and give ear to my words: Jesus of Nazareth, a man attested to you by God with mighty works and wonders and signs that God did through him in your midst, as you yourselves know—this Jesus, delivered up according to the definite plan and foreknowledge of God, you crucified and killed by the hands of lawless men. God raised him up, loosing the pangs of death, because it was not possible for him to be held by it.”
On Pentecost, though Peter had been filled with the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ was the focus of his preaching. This underscores the fact that the Holy Spirit’s main role is to bring people to Christ. Peter talks about Jesus’ crucifixion, resurrection, exaltation to the right hand of God, and sending of the Holy Spirit. He backs up his assertions by showing some Old Testament passages that pointed to Christ, and makes it clear to Israel that Jesus is not only the Messiah—He is the Lord Himself!
Some churches make a big to-do about “speaking in tongues” being a “spiritual gift” (cf. 1 Corinthians 12:1, 10). Often the Pentecost account in Acts is pointed to as an example of why “speaking in tongues” should be done in the Church. But the “speaking in tongues” of Acts 2 was a unique, one-time gift of the Holy Spirit so that the Galilean apostles could be miraculously understood by people who spoke different languages. The goal in this case was intelligibility, not incomprehensibility, as is so often the case in churches that “speak in tongues.”
St. Paul also discusses “speaking in tongues” in 1 Corinthians 14, and much ink has been spilt over precisely what he is talking about. We should keep in mind that the church at Corinth was truly in a mess, so the charismatic outbreaks that were occurring there most likely were aberrations from the norm in the Church. On the whole, St. Paul’s assessment of “speaking in tongues” is rather negative, and he makes the point that, “In church I would rather speak five words with my mind in order to instruct others, than ten thousand words in a tongue” (1 Corinthians 14:19). That statement alone should give pause to anyone who advocates “speaking in tongues” in the Church.
Rather than focusing on “speaking in tongues” as a “spiritual gift,” we should contemplate the “fruit of the Spirit” that Paul describes in Galatians 5:22-26 (ESV): “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another.”
St. Paul tells us to “walk by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16), which means to live a life of repentance and trust in the Word that the Spirit sends. An important part of the Christian life is the struggle against the sinful flesh. Galatians 5:1 tells us that “For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.” If we live our life being “led by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:18), the Spirit produces fruit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Remaining in Christ, our sinful flesh is continually pruned, and the Spirit produces good fruit in us.
Prayer: Lord Jesus, You have joined us to Yourself in Holy Baptism and made our bodies a temple of Your Holy Spirit. May the fruit of the Spirit be born in our bodies as we show forth in the world Your love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, for against such things there is no law; for You live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit, one God, now and forever. Amen.