Can unbelievers bear the Fruit of the Spirit?
This is a question that puzzles many believers.
When one sees unbelievers manifesting “good acts”, for example, acts of kindness, generosity, gentleness etc, it causes them to wonder. Where do these acts originate?
Well! I think that the answer is in the question.
The question is referring to “The Fruit of the Spirit”. The fruit of the Spirit is:
Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,
23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
The producer of this fruit is the Holy Spirit. They proceed from the Holy Spirit so they are not the works of the flesh.
There are, according to scripture, “Fruit of the Spirit” and “Works of the Flesh”
The first scripture that comes to mind is:
John 3:6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.
Romans 8 Those controlled by the flesh cannot please God.
9 You, however, are controlled not by the flesh, but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ.
10 But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet the Spirit gives you life because of righteousness.…
Also: 1 Cor 2:14 But the person without the Spirit does not receive what comes from God's Spirit, because it is foolishness to him; he is not able to understand it since it is evaluated spiritually.
According to these verses, it is impossible for anyone who does not have the Holy Spirit, to do anything of the Spirit, on the contrary, everything that he does, he does in the flesh. How can the Holy Spirit manifest fruit through someone that does not have the Holy Spirit within? The answer is He can’t.
The words of Jesus in Matthew 7:18 says, A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
Like, begets like. The product comes from the producer. Only the Holy Spirit can conceive and bear the fruit of the Spirit.
Everything produces of its own kind.
Can a tomato produce a cabbage? Can a dog produce a cat? These may seem silly questions but they serve the purpose.
Can that which is born of the flesh produce anything other than flesh? So, only that which is born of the Spirit can produce things of the Spirit.
Jesus is the vine. Only a branch that gets its sustenance from the vine can produce the fruit of that vine. Any branch that is not connected to the vine cannot.
John 15:5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.
One may say, but the act that an unbeliever does is kindness just the same. It is a good work.
This is true but the root of this kindness is self and not the Spirit.
Out of whatever motive, it is still a work of the flesh.
In the eyes of the world, this is a good work but what is it in the eyes of a pure and holy God? It is not a “God work”.
We are reminded in scripture, Isaiah 64:6 We are all as an unclean thing, and all our righteousnesses (good works) are as filthy rags.
Any righteousness that comes from the flesh is self righteousness, So any “good” that he does is born out of self righteousness. He is motivated by self. It is born of the flesh.
We are told in the scriptures that there is none good, no not one.
Psalm 14:3, 53:3, Romans 3:12 There is none that doeth good, no not one.
Mark 10:18 And Jesus said unto him, Why callest thou me good? there is none good but one, that is, God.
So, if no one is good but God and no one does good, then outside of God we can do no good thing.
Again this proves that we can only produce of our nature. The old nature, (the flesh) can only produce works of the flesh.
The new nature, that which is born of God produces the things of God. If the Holy Spirit dwells within you, you can produce the fruit of the Spirit.
However, someone that is born again of the Spirit of God can also succumb to the flesh. As the Apostle Paul reminds us.
Romans 7:18-20 18 For I know that in me (that is, in my flesh,) dwelleth no good thing: for to will is present with me; but how to perform that which is good I find not.
19 For the good that I would I do not: but the evil which I would not, that I do.
20 Now if I do that I would not, it is no more I that do it, but sin that dwelleth in me.
Martin Luther said:
“The flesh profits nothing”. He declared that “nothing” is not a “little something.”
The Apostle Paul put it like this:
There is the natural man, there is the spiritual man and there is the carnal man.
The natural Man:
1Co 2:14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
Basically, the “natural” man is one who does not have the Holy Spirit residing within him. As Jesus said, “Flesh gives birth to flesh, but the Spirit gives birth to spirit” (John 3:6).
“The ‘natural’ man, still unsaved, cannot appreciate spiritual truths. He must first understand Christ’s atoning sacrifice for him, but even that is ‘foolishness’ to him.
1Co 1:18 For the preaching of the cross is to them that perish foolishness; but unto us which are saved it is the power of God.
The spiritual man:
1Co 2:15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
The spiritual man is one that has been born again of the Spirit of God and is a new creation in Christ Jesus.
2 Cor 5:17 Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.
Romans 8:9 But ye are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if so be that the Spirit of God dwell in you. Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his.
The Carnal Man:
1Co 3:1 And I, brethren, could not speak unto you as unto spiritual, but as unto carnal, even as unto babes in Christ.
2 I have fed you with milk, and not with meat: for hitherto ye were not able to bear it, neither yet now are ye able.
3 For ye are yet carnal: for whereas there is among you envying, and strife, and divisions, are ye not carnal, and walk as men?
Here the Apostle is talking to Christians, not unbelievers. He uses the word “Brethren”, (brothers and sisters in Christ)
The carnal Christian is a spiritual man who is living as though he is a natural man and is therefore carnal. He is succumbing to the old nature and not living according to his new nature.
A carnal Christian is not willing to “present his/her body as a living sacrifice pleasing and acceptable to the Father” (Romans 12:2).
This is the difference between a believer and an unbeliever.
The believer has free will, to choose between right and wrong, his will that was bound in sin was set free when he was regenerated by the Holy Spirit and received the Gospel.
John 8:36 If the Son therefore shall make you free, ye shall be free indeed.
When he is walking (abiding) in Christ, when he as the branch takes his nourishment from the Vine, he chooses what is good. When walks according to the flesh, he chooses what bad.
On the other hand, the unbeliever, whose will is still in bondage, cannot of himself choose what is good unto God, he can only choose between the greater or lesser evil.
Acts 8: 23 For I see that you are in the gall of bitterness and in the bond of iniquity.”
Martin Luther made this clear in his work “The Bondage of the Will”.
Adam had a free will when God created him, when he sinned his will became bound in that sin. He still had a will to choose but it was bound in sin.
When one becomes a Christian he is set free from the bondage of sin and his will becomes free again.
Therefore this caused Martin Luther to state that “Free will is an empty term” to an unbeliever. That everything that is done, is done out of necessity, under the bondage of sin.
Freedom of the will can only be restored in Christ through the power of the Holy Spirit.
A Christian is at constant battle with the world, the flesh and the devil.
We are told in the letter to the Colossians:
Col 3:1 If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.
Col 3:2 Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth.
Col 3:3 For ye are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God.
The answer to the question then is this, only those in Christ can live according to the Spirit, only those in Christ can manifest the fruit of the Spirit.
An unbeliever who is of the world, in bondage to sin and not in Christ can only manifest the works of the flesh.