Beware the Opposite Traits of the Fruit of the Spirit

Contributing Writer
Beware the Opposite Traits of the Fruit of the Spirit

Christians are called to be different from the world they inhabit. One way to identify a Christian is by their fruits (Matthew 7:15-20) and how they walk by the Holy Spirit. But what are the opposites of each of the fruit of the Spirit? How can we avoid them?

Galatians is a letter the Apostle Paul wrote to churches he founded in the southern region of Galatia. He wrote the letter to dispute judaizing false teachers who attempted to challenge the doctrine of justification by faith. These false teachers were telling the people Gentile believers had to be circumcised and subject themselves to the Mosaic laws to be saved. So dire was their circumstance, Paul gave them no commendation in the letter.

What Is the Fruit of the Spirit?

Paul begins chapter 5 with an admonition to stand fast in their Christian liberty and don’t be “entangled again with a yoke of bondage” (Galatians 5:1). He sets up the passage listing the fruit of the Spirit by saying, “Walk by the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh” (Galatians 5:16).

We read of the fruit of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22-23, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Nine excellent attributes which belong to every believer who walks by the Spirit. Paul completes the passage by telling the Galatians there is no law against any of the fruit of the Spirit. As a stern reminder, Paul adds, “And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.” The holy desires of the Spirit are against those of the flesh.

Being led by the Spirit means not being led by the law; He keeps us from doing the fleshly things our flesh wants to do.

What Fruit Opposes That of the Spirit?

Our Lord Jesus, in Matthew 7:15-20 (the Sermon on the Mount), told His listeners to beware of false prophets who appear peaceable yet are instead “ravenous wolves.” Jesus said they are recognizable “by their fruits.” He gave further explanation of the difference between a good fruit bearer and one who produces bad fruit. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles. A healthy tree bears good fruit and a diseased tree bears bad fruit. False teachers produce bad fruit in themselves and in everyone who follows them. They are only good to be burned in the fire.

The Apostle Paul takes the foundational “mantle” Jesus spoke of when he wrote the list of that which opposes the fruit of the Spirit. Notice this list is almost twice as long as the list of the fruit of the Spirit, which leads us to this supposition: evil has to take many forms to try to overpower good, much as it tries. But it can never supplant the Spirit in Christians. Jesus said, “But take heart, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33).

Paul begins his list of opposing fruit in Galatians 5:17:

The Desires of the Flesh

This harkens back to Genesis 3 and the Fall. Being with God wasn’t enough. Adam and Eve wanted more and got more than they bargained for. Their fleshly lust brought death to them and to all humanity. These desires are against the Spirit. The entire following list opposes every fruit of the Spirit.

Sexual Immorality

Bible Study Tools defines sexual immorality as “Interpersonal activity involving sex organs that does not conform to God's revealed laws governing sexuality.” This includes sexual activity outside the holy confines of marriage between a man and a woman (Matthew 15:19).


The same as uncleanness, impurity has everything to do with a person who is living an unholy life, as in displeasing our holy God by actions and attitudes counter to His character. Since we are to be holy, any act or attitude which doesn’t conform to Christ’s image is impure (Romans 6:19).


In the same vein as sexual immorality, sensuality is indulging in a lifestyle of self-pleasure and following one’s own will to their and others’ detriment. Sensuality is a coercive tactic used by the wicked to lure or draw one into temporal and condemning fleshly pleasures (Romans 13:13).


Anything or anyone who takes the place of the Lord God in our heart is idolatry. We say we love God, but if we choose to love someone or something else more than God, it is idolatry (Colossians 3:5).


Calling to the dead or seeking counsel from those who claim communion with the “spirits” is sorcery (2 Chronicles 33:6).


Enmity entered human existence in the Garden of Eden when Adam and Eve sinned against the Lord God. Because of Satan’s act of deception and Adam and Eve’s willingness to partake in sin against the Lord, God put enmity between the devil and man (Genesis 3:15). Enmity with someone is a deep-rooted hatred.


When enmity enters the church, strife ensues. Strife is ongoing conflict pertaining to major issues (Proverbs 10:12; James 3:16).


We are not to compare ourselves to anyone but Jesus because He is Lord and Savior, and any comparison leads to our humiliation and contrite hearts. Comparisons with other people is sinful in its selfish motive to covet what another has (Proverbs 27:4).

Fits of anger

Where is gentleness when anger is present? Where is love? The Bible tells us to not let the sun go down on our anger (Ephesian 4:26). Wait, get introspective, pray, and give your anger to the Lord. Solve problems with all the fruit of the Spirit.


Jealousy leads to rivalry and the will to lord one’s perceived superiority over another. The Bible tells us to consider others as better than ourselves (Matthew 7:12; Philippians 2:3).


Quarreling fits right alongside fits of anger and rivalries. We have no cause and we have no time to cause or take part in dissensions (Titus 3:9).


And do not fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, and jealousy cause division in the church (1 Corinthians 12:22-26)?


As with jealousy, envy is selfish and wholly “I” centered. We are to be Christ centered and Spirit-controlled (Proverbs 23:17).


To be in control, we are to be filled with the Spirit, not drunk with alcoholic beverages (Ephesians 5:18).


An utterly abominable practice that debases one’s and others’ purity (Romans 13:13; 1 Peter 4:3).

Things like these

You get the picture (Romans 12:2).

Paul completed this admonition by saying, “I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21b).

Why Is Fruit Not Plural?

The Fruit of the Spirit is listed in singular form because every one of the Spirit’s fruits works in tandem in Christians to display who we are in Christ. Without even one of the fruit, we are incomplete as Christ’s ambassadors and cannot do the work the Lord has for us with excellence. To be led by the Spirit, we are to be filled with the Spirit (Ephesians 5:11, 18-21).

God’s divine power gives us everything we need to live a life of godliness (2 Peter 1:3). It’s good to have contrasts, though, so we don’t fall into a practice forbidden by the Lord. But focus on Christ. Focus on the fruit of the Spirit we Christians are called to display. You will be humbled to hear the Lord say, “Well done thou good and faithful servant.”

Photo credit: Unsplash/Mari Potter

Lisa Baker 1200x1200

Lisa Loraine Baker is the multiple award-winning author of Someplace to be Somebody. She writes fiction and nonfiction. In addition to writing for the Salem Web Network, Lisa serves as a Word Weavers’ mentor and is part of a critique group. She also is a member of BRRC. Lisa and her husband, Stephen, a pastor, live in a small Ohio village with their crazy cat, Lewis. 

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