Characteristics of Love (1 Cor 13:4–7)

Virtue & Love

The gifts of the Spirit must be regulated by the fruit of the Spirit

These virtue lists, and in particular, the fruit of the Spirit, remind us of another list in Paul’s writings, one where he describes love as the regulating principle for how the church exercises the gifts of the Spirit. So we might almost suggest that the gifts of the Spirit must be regulated by the fruit of the Spirit. And why not? If you stuck Paul’s description of the fruit of the Spirit in the middle of his regulations for exercising the gifts of the Spirit, nothing much would jar and fall out of place.

Certainly Pentecostal worship is characteristically charged with joy, sometimes ecstatic and generally the rock-solid response to living the blessed life. Where the biblical pattern for exercising the gifts prevails there can also be peace, both in the sense of a peaceful atmosphere that suffuses a genuinely Christian service and in the sense of harmony among the people who gather to worship. Of course, it takes patience if everyone is to take a turn in due time and kindness if one charismatic must defer to another.

Surely goodness is an essential feature in any ministry of helping one another with the gifts of service. I think of how essential faithfulness is for the exercise of the role of pastor-teacher and the church’s daaconal ministries. Or think of how essential gentleness is for the edifying use of the gifts of administration, discerning of spirits, and adjudicating the messages of the prophets. And when we think of self-control, remember that Paul tells us, “people who prophesy are in control of their spirit and can take turn” (1 Cor 14:32).


There is no law against these things.—Those who belong to Christ Jesus have nailed the passions and desires of their sinful nature to his cross and crucified them there. Since we are living by the Spirit, let us follow the Spirit’s leading in every part of our lives. Let us not become conceited, or provoke one another, or be jealous of one another. (Gal 5:23b–26)

No law that enables or constitutes these things: “Paul does not simply mean that the nine virtues which make up the fruit of the Spirit are not forbidden by law; he means that when these qualities are in view we are in a sphere with which law has nothing to do.”1F. F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Galatians: A Commentary on the Greek Text, NIGTC (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1982), 255. It’s difficult to turn the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit into legalistic rules, as Paul hints when he says, “against such there is no law.” Yet, by both negative and positive measure, we can look to Galatians 5:16–26 and 1 Corinthians 13 for a measure of what the Christian walk in the community of Christ must look like.


Author: Dale A. Brueggemann

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