I studied the Apostle Paul’s Epistle to the Galatians for this week’s “Come, Follow Me” studies. The book known as Galatians is a short book with only six chapters, but it has numerous powerful principles in it. The principle that impacted me the most is, “If I ‘walk in the Spirit,’ I will receive the ‘fruit of the Spirit’” (see Galatians 5:13-26; 6:7-10). What does it mean to “walk in the Spirit”? What are the “fruits” of the Spirit?
Maybe the best way to see if we are walking in the Spirit is to understand what the “works of flesh are” (Galatians 5:19). Paul says that “the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like” (Galatians 5:19-21). The New Testament Student Manual – Religion 211-212 (, 419) explains some of these terms.
These sins fall into four general categories. (1) Sexual sins. “Fornication” refers to any immoral sexual relationship; “lasciviousness” refers to unbridled or excessive lust. (2) Sins from the religious realm, such as idolatry and witchcraft. (3) Sins against other persons. “Variance” can be interpreted as discord and is an outgrowth of “hatred”; “emulations” are actions carried out in order to equal or be superior to another, often out of jealousy. (4) Sins associated with alcohol: “drunkenness” and “revellings.” Paul warned that those who habitually participate in these sins “shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21).
I think that we can assume some things from Paul’s list of sins. We can judge ourselves on three of the four groups of sins. If we are free from sexual sins, worship Heavenly Father and Jesus Christ properly, and abstain from all alcoholic beverages, this leaves us with one group of sins to conquer – sins against other people. Are we free from contention, hatred, and jealousy? Are we honest in our business dealings? Do we show love and kindness to members of our family? If we are free from all the major sins and many of the minor ones, we most likely are walking in the Spirit even though we may not actually see the fruits of the Spirit.
We should know what the fruits of the Spirit are in order to recognize them. The Apostle Paul wrote that they are “love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, [and] temperance” (Galatians 5:22-23). President Gordon B. Hinckley taught the following about the fruits of the Spirit.
How do we know the things of the Spirit? How do we know that it is from God? By the fruits of it. If it leads to growth and development, if it leads to faith and testimony, if it leads to a better way of doing things, if it leads to godliness, then it is of God. If it tears us down, if it brings us into darkness, if it confuses us and worries us, if it leads to faithlessness, then it is of the devil.
[On another occasion, President Hinckley said] “You recognize the promptings of the Spirit by the fruits of the Spirit – that which enlightens, that which builds up, that which is positive and affirmative and uplifting and leads us to better thoughts and better words and better deeds is of the Spirit of God. That which tears down, which leads us into forbidden paths – that is of the adversary. I think it is just that plain, just that simple (Teachings of Presidents of the Church: Gordon B. Hinckley , 121; as quoted in New Testament Come, Follow Me – For Sunday School .
We should look for “fruits” that bring growth and development and helps us to become better people. We should look for “fruits” that strengthen our faith and our testimony. We should look for “fruits” that bring more light into our lives and helps us to think, speak, and act with more kindness and love.
After reading Galatians 5:22-23, Elder Dennis E. Simmons of the Seventy (“His Peace,” Ensign, May 1997, 32) explained, “In other words, the Spirit can penetrate anything. No law can be passed which will preclude the Spirit from doing His work with an obedient follower of Christ. The scriptures teach us that the Spirit [can do the following things]. Then he proceeded to list seventeen ways that the Spirit can bless us – or the fruits of the Spirit.
· Enlightens the mind (see Doctrine and Covenants 6:15)
· Fills the soul with joy (see Doctrine and Covenants 11:13; Mosiah 4:20)
· Reveals the “truth of all things” (Moroni 10:5)
· Bears record of the Father and Son (see Doctrine and Covenants 20:27)
· Know all things (see Doctrine and Covenants 42:17)
· Convinces (see Doctrine and Covenants 100:8)
· Gives knowledge (see Doctrine and Covenants 121:26)
· Speaks in a “still small voice” (1 Nephi 17:45)
· Teaches a man to pray (see 2 Nephi 32:8)
· Brings about mighty change (see Mosiah 5:2)
· Gives assurances (see Alma 58:11)
· Fills with “hope and perfect love” (Moroni 8:26)
· Gives liberty (see 2 Corinthians 3:17)
· Comforts (see John 14:16)
· Speaks peace (Alma 58:11)
· Is available (see Doctrine and Covenants 6:14)
It seems that we can know if we are walking in the Spirit and enjoying the fruits of the Spirit. The Spirit brings peace, joy, hope, perfect love, assurance, and liberty. He teaches us to pray, gives knowledge, and reveals all truths. If we are enjoying any or all the listed fruits of the Spirit, we can assume that we are walking in the Spirit.