One of the most poignant metaphors to describe the life of a true Christian, and therefore describing a true Christian, is bearing fruit. This metaphor is used by John the Baptist to describe true repentance. This metaphor is also used by Christ throughout his ministry and therefore is used throughout the synoptic gospels. We also see this metaphor used by Christ with His disciples in John 15, in his final discourse only a few hours before His crucifixion.
In the synoptic gospels, Christ tells us this in regard to false teachers, "You shall know them by their fruit." In regards to the difference between professors of Christ and possessors of Christ He says, "Good trees produce good fruit, and bad trees produce bad fruit." In the parable of the four soils, He tells us that only the good soil produces fruit, and that the other three don't. Immediately following we have a parable concerning the kingdom of heaven, in which Christ tells us that there will be tares sown among the wheat by the enemy. What is the difference between a tare and a stalk of wheat? The wheat produces the fruit of the grain, the tare does not. Later He curses a fig tree because it should be producing figs and is not...it only looks the part. He goes on to tell the Jews, "Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing the fruit of it." See (Matthew 7:15-20; 13:3-8, 18-23, 24-30; 21:19, 41-43), and there are parallel
passages in Mark and Luke.
In John 15 Jesus tells His disciples that bearing much fruit proves that they are His disciples and brings glory to God; and that the Father prunes the true believer so that He will bear much fruit. In this chapter He also tells us that it is only those that abide in Him who can bear fruit, and that those who truly abide in Him will bear much fruit.
Of those who do not bear fruit, here is what is said about them: They shall be cut down. They shall be taken away. They shall be gathered together and burned. They are cursed. They are workers of lawlessness (bad fruit, sin). He has never known them. They shall not be part of the kingdom of God.
Wow, pretty telling isn't it? Christ isn't waffling here when He uses this metaphor. There is no salvation shuffle going on, just plain and to the point, in language that paints a picture that we can understand. Why? Because salvation is at stake! So there should not be any waffling or shuffling going on when eternal destiny is on the line. Just as Christ does throughout the gospels, He draws a distinct line in the sand so that we can see which side we are standing on. And as blunt as it seems, and is, it is the grace of God to be this direct and this black and white. As I have said to the people in my church many times, "A proper presentation of the gospel should always leave people with the understanding of which side of the fence they are on."
The questions, though, that would be logical here are: Okay, what is spiritual fruit? What does it look like? How would I know it if I saw it, and how do I know if I am producing it?
Fortunately, as is always the case with spiritual questions, the answers are in the Scriptures. Let's take a look at what the Bible tells us about spiritual fruit.
- It is the result of the gospel, and is the obedience of faith.
The key here is that the gospel is constantly, consistently, bearing fruit and increasing. And this is taking place in the life of the believer. Remember the parable of the seeds in Matthew 13. The seeds represented the word of God (the gospel) and when the seeds fell in the good soil they produced fruit...some thirty, some sixty, some one hundred fold. The word of God is the seed from which spiritual fruit is born.
Romans 1:5-6, 13 through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith among the Gentiles for His name's sake, among whom you also are the called of Jesus Christ...I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I have planned to come to you (and have been prevented so far) so that I may obtain some fruit among you also, even as among the rest of the Gentiles.
What is this fruit that Paul is wanting to obtain among the church at Rome. It is the obedience of faith. The basket in which all spiritual fruit is gathered is the obedience of faith. All spiritual fruit is a result of obedience. So when we as believers grieve or quench the Spirit, we are not producing spiritual fruit. Being obedient to the faith is being obedient to the revealed word of God, and out of this obedience comes spiritual fruit. See also (Isaiah 55:10-11; James 1:18,21; Mark 4:26-29)
- It is the fruit of the indwelling Spirit.
Notice how each aspect, each facet, of the fruit of the Spirit is an inner quality, a settled disposition of the soul. Each of these facets will manifest themselves in a myriad of ways as we go about our daily lives (See Luke 6:43-45). They stand in sharp contrast to the claims of those who are clamoring to get into heaven in Matthew 7:21-23 "Not everyone who say to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter (remember the obedience of faith). Many will say to Me on that day, 'Lord, Lord,' did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.' " It is easy to get caught up in what people do for the Lord, versus being mindful of the fruit they actually manifest. It is the manifestation and working out of what is dwelling within in which we see true spiritual fruit.
- It is the opposite of deeds of the flesh.
Galatians 5:19-21 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these...(so this is not a complete list). But Paul adds to that list in Ephesians 4. They are: greediness lusts of deceit, falsehood, stealing, unwholesome words, bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander, and malice.
And these verses still do not contain an entire list, but are enough to give us a picture of what bad fruit looks like. And who produces bad fruit? Not the good tree!
- It is born out of the dynamic qualities of faith.
So if these qualities are ours and we are growing in them, maturing in them, then we will be fruitful in our Christian life. We will be bearing mature fruit, rich fruit, and more fruit; just as a mature tree produces more abundant and richer fruit than a young tree.
- It is good works
Hebrews 13:20-21 Now the God of peace, who brought up from the dead the great Shepherd of the sheep through the blood of the eternal covenant, even Jesus our Lord, equip (katartizo--to render fit, to fully train, to furnish completely) in every good thing to do His will, working in us that which is pleasing in His sight, through Jesus Christ, to whom be the glory forever and ever. Amen.
Colossians 1:9-10 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, so that you will walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God.
Remember, in John 15 we learn that our producing much fruit proves we are Christ's disciples, but is also brings glory to God the Father. So following the logic in the verses above....
- God has prepared beforehand good works for us to do.
- He equips us to do these good things that please Him.
- In these good works, good things, fruit is born...manifested.
- In the producing of spiritual fruit God is thus glorified.
- It is the fruit of the Light
Goodness, righteousness, and truth all go together, they walk hand in hand. So when our light is shining before men, our walk (manner of life/way of life) will be characterized by all three. The goodness here is not a passive or meek goodness, but an active goodness, a desire for goodness that compels one to action. It is also the zeal behind righteous indignation. This is the zeal behind Christ driving out the moneychangers, in order to protect the righteousness of His Father's house. It is goodness in action, and it is a prevailing goodness. It is an infectious goodness that influences others around it. This kind of lifestyle is one that brings glory to God, for it is obvious that God is the power, and it will point men to Him.
- It is righteousness
In I John 2:1 our Lord is called Jesus Christ, the Righteous. So the fruit we bear will be righteous as He is righteous. In fact, it is His righteousness that we are producing, not our own. It is the righteousness whose foundation is faith in Christ. Faith in all that He is and all He has done to secure our salvation. In fact, we are most righteous when we are living as Christ would live (Again, referring back to the obedience of faith).
- It is Godly wisdom
Godly wisdom is the mind of Christ (which all true Christian's have) applied to the situations and circumstances of life in the world, and life in the church. It comes from a knowledge of the Scriptures, it comes from prayer, it is the result of knowing Christ, and comes out of a desire to be like Him in all of life.
- It is caring for the brethren
We also see this in the letter to the Philippians as Paul commends them for their support for him over the years (approximately 11 years); in II Corinthians as well, as Paul talks about fully supplying the needs of the saints.
The Scriptures tell us to do good and be ready to share, and we are to be particularly sensitive to the needs of those within the family of God, our brethren in Christ. This sensitivity to, and desire to provide for the needs of the saints is a particular fruit of the Spirit, and gives testimony to the world of God's love and care for His own.
- It is the outworking of the three Divine distinctives
We should see these three distinctives manifested in not only the lives of the individuals, but also in the life of each church. If you look at the letters to the churches in Revelation, they are commended for their manifestation of these distinctives or rebuked for their lack of them. Also, the church at Thessalonica was commended for their work of faith, their labor of love, and the steadfastness of their hope; and for the church at Colossae; the object of their faith was Jesus Christ, their love was directed towards all the saints, and their hope was laid up in heaven.
Again, as the people go, so goes the church. So each church will manifest fruit in relation to the fruit produced by its people; and to the extent that faith, hope, and love are manifested in the lives of its members, they will be manifested in the life in that church. This is what makes the churches at Thessalonica and Colossae stand out. So the question for all of us is how much of faith, hope, and love do we bring to our church?
- It is the result of our conduct
Remember, Jesus said we shall know them by their fruit, or, in other words, you personally will be known by your fruit. You know, you really do live what you believe. Therefore your life will bear out what is actually on the inside. God has constructed life in such a way that our fruit is made known/evident through what life brings about. We see this fruit, not only in the behavior itself, but also in its consequences. This is true for all of us whether a believer or a non-believer, but is particularly crucial for leaders in the church. We should be able to see spiritual fruit in the lives those who are spiritual leaders. Again, it is not about talking a good game, but it is about the totality of our life.
- It is the life of Christ lived out in us
Galatians 4:19 My children, with whom I am again in labor until Christ is formed in you--
Philippians 1:6 For I am confident of this very thing, that He who began a good work in you will perfect it until the day of Christ Jesus.
Colossians 1:28 We proclaim Him, admonishing every man and teaching every man with all wisdom, so that we may present every man complete in Christ.
Since Christ is the vine from which the branches draw their life and sustenance, it is His life that will be reproduced in and through the branch. It is Christ who is our life, and therefore His life is being lived out through us. The essence of Christianity is not becoming a better person, but becoming more and more like Christ. He lived the life that we were supposed to live, but could not; and now lives that life out through each and every one who is truly a Christian.
So when we bear fruit, that fruit is a manifestation of Christ, His character and His attributes. This gives a richer meaning to the term Christlike. As we mature, as we grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior, we will become more like Him; and in becoming more like Him we will not only produce more fruit, but the fruit we produce will be richer and sweeter and more luxurious. It will be pleasing to the eye, flavorful to the taste, and give off an aromatic smell. It will be a delight and appealing to the spiritual senses of those who are true Christians, but will be the odor of death, and therefore offensive, to those who are not.
Our bearing fruit, and much of it, will prove out our discipleship; and in the proving to be true disciples, God will be glorified. So, let us focus on becoming more like Christ, for in doing so we will bear much rich fruit, our Father and God will be glorified, and we will have truly done something on this earth that is not only worthwhile, but will count for eternity.