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Understanding and Bearing Spiritual Fruit, Part 3

 

Today we are looking at the third and final category of spiritual fruit. The first was the general category dealing with the nature of spiritual fruit. The second addressed spiritual fruit that is internal to the believer and primarily connected to the believer’s own life.

In working through those first two categories we developed this definition:

Spiritual fruit is a God-glorifying, God-produced, recognizable life change of growing internal Christlikeness that God has affected through a saved person’s divinely granted repentant wisdom and daily dying to self.

This last category of spiritual fruit is external to the believer and primarily connected to the lives of others. Let’s examine the biblical passages that speak to this.

1) Scripture assumes you will produce fruit in others.

Romans 1:13 (NASB95) — 13 I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that often 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.

Philippians 1:22 (NASB95) — 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose.

Colossians 1:10 (NASB95) — 10 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;

2) Christians will use the spiritual gifts God has given them to produce fruit in other’s lives.

1 Corinthians 12:7 (NASB95) — 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good.

1 Peter 4:10–11 (NASB95) — 10 As each one has received a special gift, employ it in serving one another as good stewards of the manifold grace of God.

Ephesians 4: 16 (NASB95) —16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

Colossians 2:19 (NASB95) — 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

3) The fruit produced in other people is marked by the spiritual features mentioned in the first category, and the Christlikeness of the second and/or third category.

Ephesians 4:15–16 (NASB95) — 15 but speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in all aspects into Him who is the head, even Christ, 16 from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

4) Though we are the agents and instruments, God is the one producing this fruit in others.

Colossians 2:19 (NASB95) — 19 and not holding fast to the head, from whom the entire body, being supplied and held together by the joints and ligaments, grows with a growth which is from God.

1 Corinthians 3:6–8 (NASB95) — 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God was causing the growth. 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.

5) Christians should fear living a life of vanity where there is no fruit produced in the lives of others.

Galatians 2:2 (NASB95) — 2 It was because of a revelation that I went up; and I submitted to them the gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but I did so in private to those who were of reputation, for fear that I might be running, or had run, in vain.

Galatians 4:11 (NASB95) — 11 I fear for you, that perhaps I have labored over you in vain.

Philippians 2:16 (NASB95) — 16 holding fast the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I will have reason to glory because I did not run in vain nor toil in vain.

1 Thessalonians 2:1 (NASB95) — 1 For you yourselves know, brethren, that our coming to you was not in vain,

1 Thessalonians 3:5 (NASB95) — 5 For this reason, when I could endure it no longer, I also sent to find out about your faith, for fear that the tempter might have tempted you, and our labor would be in vain.

6) Christians should not fear little fruit. God is the producer of fruit and He determines that some will bring forth much and others less. Therefore, God will reward on the basis of labor and not on amount of fruit.

1 Corinthians 3:7-8 (NASB95) — 7 So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor.

Matthew 13:23 (NASB95) — 23 “And the one on whom seed was sown on the good soil, this is the man who hears the word and understands it; who indeed bears fruit and brings forth, some a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty.”

7) Deeds of service done behind the scenes, when done in the name of Christ, are used by God to produce fruit in others.

1 Peter 4:11b (NASB95) —whoever serves is to do so as one who is serving by the strength which God supplies; so that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belongs the glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Acts 9:36, 39 (NASB95) — 36 Now in Joppa there was a disciple named Tabitha (which translated in Greek is called Dorcas); this woman was abounding with deeds of kindness and charity which she continually did…. 39 So Peter arose and went with them. When he arrived, they brought him into the upper room; and all the widows stood beside him, weeping and showing all the tunics and garments that Dorcas used to make while she was with them.

Philippians 4:17 (NASB95) — 17 Not that I seek the gift itself, but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.

We can now bring a final revision to our working definition.

Spiritual fruit is a God-glorifying, God-produced, recognizable life change seen internally by a growing Christlikeness and seen externally when people are drawn to God. God affects those life changes through a saved person’s divinely granted repentant wisdom, spiritual giftings, and daily dying to self.

Summary Conclusions:

We have examined much Scripture in this three part series, and so I would like to conclude by highlighting several implications and applications I think are important.

First, programs are no guarantee of spiritual fruit. Since God is the one who produces this fruit in and through us, we first have to make sure we are pursuing biblical goals. Where a biblical goal exists, we can be confident that the Holy Spirit will supply strength. A program may or may not be helpful, and biblical goals can be undercut by unbiblical methods. Additionally, God may bring surprisingly little or surprisingly much fruit in a program. Let us not put our hope in a program, but in God who causes growth.

Second, Christians should be highly concerned about fruit bearing. We should pray for it and strive for it with all our might. Yes, God is the prime producer, but we are not passive. He has called us to press forward with diligence. Just doing spiritually-related things is not enough. We need to work to identify our giftings and to exploit them to the glory of God. God is glorified when we bear much fruit. Therefore do not be content until you see where God uses you most for His kingdom.

Third, while every person should be speaking the truth in love to people, there are those whose primary gift is serving. They serve behind the scenes and few recognize their service. These servants should be encouraged that the fruit that comes from the preacher’s preaching or the women’s ministry or the discipling relationships is accruing on their account as well. That servant cared for the building those ministries used or provided other needful tasks to make those ministries possible.

Fourth, don’t ignore one category of spiritual fruit while resting in the other. We raised this issue in the first part of this series. Let’s imagine that a senior saint has been teaching a Sunday school class for 40 years. That is faithfulness for sure. But faithfulness is only in the second category of spiritual fruit, the personal fruit of internal Christlikeness. That is good, but it should not be exclusive. The third category must be happening as well. There should be life change happening in other people because of that Sunday school class. If there is basically no known life change happening, then this senior saint needs to seriously question if there is something else he should do. If the participates have not been deeply blessed by being regularly challenged and consistently edified, then there is a problem. This Sunday school teacher should go to work in other areas and see where his Christ-like faithfulness should be applied. He should seek the internal fruit of self-control and wisdom in order to make a good, but difficult, change. It is not wise to spend 40 years doing anything that is not producing fruit in others.

Fifth, what do we say to the person who sees very little external fruit in lives around him? There are places where ministry of any type is extremely difficult. When there is little external fruit, it can be easy to question the validity of the little you think you see. Am I just fooling myself? Is the fruit I think I see, actually coming from somewhere else? First, I would examine your labor. Is it sufficient, is it biblical, and is it wise? Second, I would talk to wise people around you. Ask them hard questions about your giftings, and the fruit of your labor. Third, I would look to where your hope rests. Does your planning outweigh your praying? Do you actually believe God builds the “house” or are you really hoping in your labors (Psalm 127)? Do you rest in the gospel, or do you rest in your accomplishments? Finally, if everything checks out, then rest content that your strenuous labors will one day be rewarded, though in the temporal realm little known fruit was brought forth.

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