Author: Ron Graham
The New Testament has much to say about God's people bearing fruit. The parables of Jesus, such as...
...teach that Christians need to be abundantly fruitful and productive in Christ. We are to be abundant in fruit as was the Tree of Life in the vision of heaven: it bore twelve crops of fruit every year, a crop every month (Revelation 22:2).
When we consider the importance of our bearing fruit, naturally we are led to ask the question, "What is the fruit that we must bear?"
Of course we realise that this fruit is not literal fruit such as oranges, apples, mangoes, or tomatoes. It is spiritual fruit such as... well, that's the question. What is this spiritual fruit? This lesson attempts to answer that question, and to identify the fruit that Christians are to bear with fulness to overflowing.
Jesus once said, "Unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone, but if it dies, then it bears much fruit (John 12:24). The seed undergoes a regeneration.
Note —Regeneration means new birth, rebirth, being born again. This must be preceded by a death of sorts. Especially, when being born again in Christ, one must enter into Christ’s death and be buried with him (Romans 6).
This experience is God’s will for every human being as part of the journey of life. Paul teaches that physical death is but a prelude to a human being's metamorphosis into a far more glorious creature.
Note —Metamorphosis is a change of form, especially when a creature undergoes a marvelous transformation into another creature, such as a caterpillar turning into a moth.
Like Jesus, Paul uses the powerful analogy of the seed that dies and then rises up as a new body, namely the plant (1Corinthians 15:35-38). Paul is here speaking of resurrection.
Note —Resurrection is rising from the dead. The mortal body dies, but at Christ's second coming a glorious body, immortal and eternal will rise up in its place.
In the same way, there has to be a spiritual death and regeneration which is sometimes called conversion (Acts 3:19). This is a death to sin and a rebirth as a new creature in Christ (2Corinthians 5:17, Romans 6:3-13 ).
Note —Conversion is the change or turning of one thing (or person) into another. In the bible, this turning is toward a new and better purpose. Being converted is related to repentance (Acts 3:19).
A little further down from that last passage in Romans, Paul speaks of the "fruit" that the new creature in Christ bears toward holiness and eternal life (Romans 6:22). A change of heart (repentance) results in a change of life (holiness). The old person is dead and buried and the new person has risen up. This change should be evident as a reformed manner of life.
When John the Baptizer preached, he told people to "bring forth fruit in keeping with repentance", and when they asked him what he meant, and what they should do, he gave simple answers about ceasing their greedy and corrupt practices and doing good instead (Luke 3:7-14).
It is wonderful to be forgiven of sin, but we have to stop doing the things we have been forgiven of, and replace those dead works with new deeds and new attitudes that are holy and good and fruitful. We even have to try, insofar as it is possible, to make amends for the harm that our dead and sinful works have caused. We might call this the Zacchaeus principle (Luke 19:1-10).
The scriptures call the fruit born by the new convert, "the fruit of righteousness". We are reminded that we shall reap whatever we sow (Galatians 6:7-8). If we sow the seed which God supplies, we are promised that "God will increase the harvest of your righteousness" (2Corinthians 9:10) so that we become "filled with the fruit of righteousness" (Philippians 1:11). We must "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" (Colossians 1:10).
One of the fruits of righteousness is reconciliation and peace, not only between us and God, but also between ourselves. The reason for so much fighting, quarreling, and bitterness between people is their uncontrolled behaviour: what they call “letting it all hang out” (James 4:1-3).
Living a righteous life is not easy, and it takes hard discipline, but it "yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it" (Hebrews 12:11). The result of taking this hard road and making the necessary sacrifices, is that the enmity and division caused by unfruitful works is healed and replaced by reconciliation and peace.
James says, "The wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace" (James 3:17-18). Imagine a society where everyone lived on that basis. Unfortunately a lot of people live by quite the opposite code. We as Christians must not be like that.
Among the fruit of righteousness is the conversion of others to Christ. Jesus spoke of this as a "harvest" (Matthew 9:36-38), and he who reaps that harvest "gathers fruit for eternal life" (John 4:35-36). Paul thought of himself as a gardener in the kingdom of God, and of his labour as bearing fruit when he brought others to Christ and helped them to mature (Romans 1:13, Philippians 1:21-22, Philippians 4:17, Colossians 1:5-6). On one occasion Paul wrote, "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the increase" (1Corinthians 3:5-8). This shows how we bear fruit in a spirit of cooperation. The book of Daniel closes with this prophecy: "Those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the firmament, and those who turn many to righteousness like the stars for ever and ever" (Daniel 12:3)
When we think of bearing fruit as Christians, we cannot help but remember the phrase, "the fruit of the Spirit" (Galatians 5:22-23, Ephesians 5:9). "The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control". Fruit of that sort is contrasted with the works of the flesh (Galatians 5:19-26) such that we have a very vivid picture of the change that is wrought in one who is converted to Christ. We are to "increase and abound" in these fruits of the light (1Thessalonians 3:12, 4:7-10).
Finally we especially note "the fruit of lips" (Hebrews 13:15). Jesus used the fruit metaphor with regard to the things which a person speaks. Our words, he says, are the fruit of what is in our hearts. Jesus makes it clear that our words count as much as our deeds (Matthew 12:33-37).
'Tis hard work making a weedy field into a garden; and hard work keeping a garden from becoming a weedy field.