Galatians 5:22-23--Nine Qualities of the Holy Spirit

By:  Hugh Crowder


The Christian life style is the major focus of Paul’s teachings.  His main theme is the outworking of love as a fruit of the Holy Spirit (Romans 12:9-21; 1 Corinthians 13; Galatians 5:22-23; Colossians 3:14; Ephesians 5:2).  Thus, love with all of its attendant features is important to our understanding of how to serve and honor the Lord Jesus Christ.  The development of this characteristic of love is by the following:

(1) The formation of a Christian mind (Romans 8:5; Romans 12:2, 17; 1 Corinthians 2:15-16; Philippians 2:5-9; Philippians 4:8; Ephesians 4:17-24).

(2) A life lived by the empowering presence of the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:13; Romans 12:11; 1 Thessalonians 1:6; Galatians 5:16; Galatians 5:22-25; Ephesians 3:14-18; Ephesians 5:18-20).

(3) Serving in the context of an interdependent fellowship of believers (Romans 12; 1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:1-16; Colossians 3:12-17; 18-21; 22-25; 4:1).

(4) Being inspired by a constant awareness of the imminent return of Christ (1 Corinthians 7:29 -31; Romans 8:23-25; Romans 13:11-14; 2 Corinthians 5:9-10; Galatians 6:8; Philippians 3:12-14; 1 Thessalonians 5:4-11).

Paul’s metaphor of fruit for the graces of the Holy Spirit emphasizes the fact that the Christian life style is predicated upon the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. The spiritual characteristics listed in Galatians 5:22-23 emanate from the presence of the Spirit of God and not from something that the individual does.  They are fruit, not works. Fruit grows, ripens, and comes to perfection through its relationship to the vine or tree (John 15:1-14).

The noun “fruit” (karpos) in Galatians 5:22 is singular, which means that the Holy Spirit reflects His presence in the believer by the entire list of qualities. All of the nine characteristics or elements are found intact in the life of a believer controlled by the Holy Spirit.

To live this “spiritual” life, the believer must walk in the Spirit (i.e. confess known sins, 1 John 1:5-9 cf. Galatians 5:16; Ephesians 4:1; Colossians 1:10), being filled with these qualities by means of the Holy Spirit (Ephesians 5:18 cf. Colossians 3:16), offering their faculties (mind and body) as instruments of the filling through the study of God’s Word (Romans 6:13; Colossians 1:10; Colossians 2:6-7).

Love, (agape), denotes the love that is the essence of God.  The chief ingredient of this kind of love is selflessness or self-sacrifice on behalf of the objects loved (John 3:16).  According to Romans 5:5 this love is shed forth in the believer’s heart by the Holy Spirit.  Paul explains the extent of the overt qualities of this love in 1 Corinthians 13.

Joy, (chara), means gladness, elation. There is no human source for this. The Holy Spirit produces this in the hearts and minds of those who receive the gospel (1 Thessalonians 1:5-6).

Peace, (eirene), this word is probably from the verb eiro.  It means to join, or fasten together, and denotes the idea of harmony between individuals. Believers are said to have peace with God because they are united forever through the sacrifice of Christ. Peace is the well being of the believer, assured of salvation and eternal life, enjoying that state. Jesus promised His followers that they would have a peace that banishes fear and worry (John 14:27).  The peace of God actually transcends our understanding; nevertheless, God uses His peace to keep our hearts and minds through Christ (Philippians 4:7).

Longsuffering, (makrothumia), this word expresses the steadfastness of the believer in the midst of adversity, ill treatment, or trouble. Longsuffering is the divinely given ability of forbearance and patient endurance when one is called upon to suffer in some kind of trial.

Gentleness, (chrestotes), this word is the same as kindness. It refers to kindness exhibited toward others in the act of serving them.  It is from the verb (chraomai) which has the idea of usefulness. In 1 Corinthians 7:21 it carries the idea of availing one’s self for service to others.

Goodness, (agathosune), from agathos meaning good, profitable, generous, upright, beneficent. This word indicates a willingness to aid those in need.  It is also a zeal for that type of activity, as a production of the divine will in the believer.

Faith, (pistis), in the context of Galatians 5 the term is most likely referring to the “faithfulness” of a believer in relation to God.  Of course, faithfulness could not exist without faith. 

Meekness, (prautes), this is the expression of mildness and reasonableness. It is antithetical to self-reliance and arrogance.  It denotes humility, receptivity, and submission to God’s will and word.  It does not connote weakness or lack of courage. Jesus was meek but certainly not weak and cowardly.

Temperance, (egkrateia), the Greek here is a compound word meaning “holding in” or “maintaining control.”  Probably the best term to explain the idea is “self-control.”  However, it is the “self” that must be under the control of the Holy Spirit. The presence of the Holy Spirit enables the believer to master all his desires and appetites. If the believer attempts to conquer the self by means of his own efforts, the result is self-righteousness. Any attitude of self-righteousness is excluded  (Ephesians 2:9; Titus 3:5). The struggle that we all have with the flesh in any temptation is one means of our learning the reality of the Spirit’s presence.  When we learn to yield to Him, we have victory.


The following works were consulted in the writing of this handout:


The Analytical Greek Lexicon, Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1970.

Blackwelder, Boyce W., Light from the Greek New Testament, Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1958.

Wuest, Kenneth S., Studies in the Vocabulary,  of the Greek New Testament for the English Reader, Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1971.