Sunday, July 24, 2011

Spiritual Fruit--Part I

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 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.
Colossians 1:5-6 because of the hope laid up for you in heaven, of which you previously heard in the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth.

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.
Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control...

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 who people are for the Lord; but it is the manifestation and working out of who people are for the Lord in which we see true spiritual fruit.
  • It is the opposite of deeds of the flesh.
We can get a more complete picture of spiritual fruit by knowing what it is not, and obviously what is listed here would be considered bad fruit.

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.
II Peter 2:5-8 Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply moral excellence, and in your moral excellence, knowledge, and in your knowledge, self-control, and in your self-control, perseverance, and in your perseverance, godliness, and in your godliness, brotherly kindness, and in your brotherly kindness, love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing , they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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
Ephesians 2:10 For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them.
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....
  1. God has prepared beforehand good works for us to do.
  2. He equips us to do these good things that please Him.
  3. In these good works, good things, fruit is born...manifested.
  4. In the producing of spiritual fruit God is thus glorified.
Follow the trail of good deeds in Titus 1:16, 2:7, 2:14, 3:1 3:5 verse 3:14 where we learn "Our people must also learn to engage in good deeds to meet pressing needs, so that they will not be unfruitful."  Good deeds, deeds that bear spiritual fruit, are important to God, and they should be important to us.  The good deeds talked about in this short epistle to Titus result in the confirmation and adornment of the gospel.  They give validity to the gospel, and in many instances pave the way for the gospel.

To be continued....italics mine for emphasis.

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