This question arose this week, and it was interesting enough to take some time and look deeper into it. The question, which the person asking had apparently wrestled with for quite some time, comes from the book of Galatians. When Paul lists the fruit of the Spirit as love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control, why are these not called the "fruits" of the Spirit?
After all, it seems like Paul is talking about nine somewhat different things, things that look very different to us. Love and joy are not the same thing. Peace and kindness are rather different. So how is it that the Scriptures take these nine seemingly different things and call them just one thing - fruit?
There is, to some degree, a language argument here, although it's not the most important or most satisfying one. In fact, to try to argue word usage and language nuance here would be to distract from the simple truth that puts the matter to rest and explains beautifully, in a way that we don't often think about it, why this is.
Imagine walking up to an apple tree. It is covered in fruit - fruits, really, since there are more than one of them. And these fruit come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are big, some are small. Some are fully mature, some are still growing. Some have darkened into a good, solid red, while some remain a little streaked for whatever reason. Bite into a few, and you'll find that one may be a little sweeter or juicier, another may be a little more tart or meatier. Even though all of the fruit are the same, they are all also slightly different, unique in their own expression of the seed from which they came.
And yet, all apples. All specifically the same type of apple. We know this because they grow on the same apple tree; we have great confidence in this.
Now, if we were looking just at the fruit, we might be tempted to try to separate it in some way. The lighter-colored ones over here, the darker ones over there. The smaller ones here, the larger ones there. And so on. And we might even convince ourselves there was some fundamental difference between the groups of apples that we've created, but the truth remains that they are actually fundamentally the same - still all the same fruit from the same tree.
This is what we find with the fruit of the Spirit. If we try to categorize it in some way by looking at the nine items we are given, we find that we're tempted to conclude there is some fundamental difference between love and joy, peace and patience, kindness and goodness and faithfulness. And we look at these things and wonder why they are not called "fruits," since they seem to be so different. But the truth remains that they are actually fundamentally the same -
All fruit from the Spirit tree.
See, it is the tree that makes it the fruit. It is the Spirit that produces them. It's as though we could walk up to the Spirit and see all these things hanging there, ripe for the picking. They all look a little different, all shaped according to their own unique growth and existence, but the fact that they are hanging on the Spirit tree makes us confident that they are all the same fruit; they come from the same seed.
And if you were to cut them open, every one of them, what you would find inside would be the seed of the Spirit, the ability to grow more of the same. And not just more of the same, but more of what even looks different.
Because if you cut open love and look to the seed, you find there the ability to grow joy and peace and patience. If you cut open kindness, you find in its seed the genetics for self-control and gentleness. If you cut open goodness, you find faithfulness in its seed. And we know this is true because cultivating one of these nine helps us to cultivate the others. Which should come really as no surprise, since they are all fruit of the same tree.
So that's why they're called the fruit of the Spirit and not the fruits of the Spirit - because we're not actually looking at the fruit itself. At least, we're not supposed to be. We're looking at the tree. The tree is the Spirit, so here is its fruit.