What, if any, is the difference between “the fruit of the Spirit” in Galatians 5:22 and “the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ,…” in Philippians 1:11?

In essence it is the same issue in both places, but the nature of the context has dictated Paul’s wording. With the Galatians the emphasis is upon the source of the fruit. Hence, the designator “of the Spirit.” With the Philippians the emphasis is upon the means by which God the Father is being glorified through them, and that being because the life of Christ was being manifested through them. Hence, Paul describes the fruits of righteousness that they were bringing forth as being “by Jesus Christ.”

In view of the fact that the Galatians had put themselves “under the law,” they were not “walking after the Spirit” at all. Contrary to what they thought, or had been taught, by putting themselves “under the law” they were not going to be able to live unto God. The law is a fleshly performance system that manifests the productive capabilities, and fruit, of the flesh. It puts on display what the flesh can do; what it can accomplish. And so when one is “under the law” he is “in the flesh,” “walking after the flesh,” trying to be made “perfect after the flesh,” and brings forth the fruit of the flesh. However, the fruit of the flesh is not “fruit unto holiness.” It is not fruit that God’s Justice can accept. It is not fruit that God has anything to do with producing. Rather, it is just as Paul says in Philippians 3:9, it is “mine own righteousness, which is of the law.” And as such it falls far short of being “fruit unto holiness.”

The Galatians, having been “bewitched” by erroneous teaching about the law, weren’t recognizing the reality of this. They didn’t realize that they couldn’t “live unto God” by the law; that their position “in Christ” was not being put into practice by them being “under the law.” They needed to realize that the Spirit of God’s fruit being produced through us, (which is what the glory of our sanctification is all about), doesn’t occur except by living “under grace.”

It’s only by “walking after the Spirit” that the “fruit of the Spirit” is produced. It’s only by “walking after the Spirit” that our members are what God has sanctified them to be – i.e. instruments of righteousness unto Him.

And so in dealing with the Galatians, Paul talks about the “fruit unto holiness” that our sanctified position “in Christ” enables us to bring forth as “the fruit of the Spirit” that it is. Its source is not “of our flesh,” but “of the Spirit.” As we “walk after the Spirit” He quickens our mortal bodies, actively making our members “instruments of righteousness unto God” and so bringing forth His fruit through us.

With the more doctrinally mature Philippians, Paul speaks to them regarding the understanding and appreciation they had for the fact that as they lived in accordance with the fulness of their position “in Christ,” the life of Christ was also being manifest through them to God the Father’s glory and praise. Hence as they abounded yet more and more in knowledge and all judgment, and were approving the things that were excellent, they would be ones who would be “filled with the fruits of righteousness.” And those “fruits of righteousness” would be the issue of Jesus Christ being made manifest through them, and God the Father being glorified and praised thereby.

The Philippians understood and appreciated not only the doctrine of our justification “in Christ” and our sanctification “in Christ,” they also knew the doctrine of our exaltation “in Christ.” And in connection with our exaltation “in Christ,” they knew that we have the exceeding high privilege of God’s grace to be putting the life of Christ on display, and for that to be done in the face of the principalities and powers in the heavenly places. They knew what Paul knew that made him say, “According to my earnest expectation and my hope, that in nothing I shall be ashamed, but that with all boldness, as always, so now also Christ shall be magnified in my body, whether it be by life or by death. For to me to live is Christ,…” They also understood what Paul meant when he said, “that I may win Christ”; and also, “I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.” They understood, appreciated, and operated in connection with all of this understanding. And so with them, Paul speaks of what “the fruits of righteousness” are when it comes to the glorification that God the Father receives from them. They are not just the genuine “the fruits of righteousness” in contrast to the fruits of the flesh produced by the law. They are “the fruits of righteousness, which are by Jesus Christ”; .i.e. by the Lord Jesus Christ living His life out through us, the members of His body, to the glory of God the Father in the heavenly realm.

– K.R. Blades

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