Understanding and Bearing Spiritual Fruit, Pt. 1
I am fascinated by fruit. Sometimes I catch myself staring at an apple. In my hand is a perfectly portioned meal, containing wonderful nutrients, sealed in its own protective skin, carrying seeds for propagation, and to top it off it is delightfully tasty. What a wonderful gift God has designed for us. But even more wonderful is spiritual fruit. I have been thinking a lot about spiritual fruit lately. Preaching from Hosea chapter 9, we saw how the nation of Israel had forfeited God’s blessing and therefore their crops failed; God promised to carried them off in judgment; they had nothing to give for sacrifices; they had nothing to use for feast days; and lastly, the prophets who once directed and fed God’s people with God’s word now promised only judgment.
Israel was supposed to be God’s nation of blessing and prosperity, the one that lent and never borrowed, and that instructed the nations. Sadly, they squandered all their blessing and opportunity and saw their usefulness dry up and wither away.
Many Christians are on the same path. Their usefulness could be expansive, but instead they are wasting away and squandering opportunity.
What is spiritual fruit and what importance does it have? Scripture has much to say.
I see three ways Scripture talks about spiritual fruit. First, there is the general category that deals with the nature of spiritual fruit. Second, there is a specific category of spiritual fruit that is internal to the believer and is primarily connected to the believer’s own life. Third, there is the specific category of spiritual fruit that is external to the believer and is primarily connected to the lives of others. Each one of these categories is important to understand. We will look at just the first category today.
The General Category: The Nature of Spiritual Fruit
Under this category we find the utmost importance of spiritual fruit. While the fruit itself is not defined, the importance of fruit is fully seen.
a) Spiritual fruit is a necessary evidence of salvation. (See also Rom. 7:4)
Matthew 7:19 (NASB95) — 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.”
b) Spiritual fruit can be seen and recognized. (See also Rom. 15:28)
Matthew 7:16 (NASB95) — 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?”
c) Spiritual fruit will be in different quantities for different people.
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.”
d) Spiritual fruit will be the dominate feature of a true Christian.
Luke 6:43 (NASB95) — 43 “For there is no good tree which produces bad fruit, nor, on the other hand, a bad tree which produces good fruit.”
There is no need to press this verse to the breaking point with a wooden literalism. Plenty of other passages speak to the reality of sin in a believer’s life. Yet this verse says that a true believer cannot be dominated and defined by bad fruit. There may be much that needs pruning, but the reason you prune instead of cut down is because you know it is producing good fruit and it can do it even more.
e) Spiritual fruit is a product of taking up the cross and dying daily.
John 12:24 (NASB95) — 24 “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit.”
f) God’s work in you is directly linked to the purpose of bearing more fruit. (See also Heb. 12:11)
John 15:2 (NASB95) — 2 “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.”
g) The triune God is the source of spiritual fruit. (See also Jn. 15:8)
John 15:5 (NASB95) — 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
1 Corinthians 3:7 (NASB95) — 7 “So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but God who causes the growth.”
h) You were predestined in order to bear spiritual fruit.
John 15:16a (NASB95) — 16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit…”
i) Spiritual fruit is fruit that remains because it is about changed lives.
John 15:16b (NASB95) — 16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain…”
The reason I am equating fruit that remains with life change is because God-glorifying change in a person’s life is what will be rewarded in eternity. Books, sermons, and programs will all turn to dust and be forgotten. But how God used them to change a life is the fruit that remains.
j) Spiritual fruit is the primary purpose of prayer. (See also connection between Jn 15:5 and 7)
John 15:16 (NASB95) — 16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”
k) Spiritual fruit is connected to repentance and spiritual wisdom.
Matthew 3:8 (NASB95) — 8 “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance;”
James 3:17 (NASB95) — 17 “But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, reasonable, full of mercy and good fruits, unwavering, without hypocrisy.”
Let’s try to sum these up in a single definition. Spiritual fruit is a God-glorifying, God-produced, recognizable life-change that God has affected through a saved person’s divinely granted repentant wisdom and daily dying to self.
The following blogs are going to refine that definition even more, mainly on the issue of “life-changing.” Exactly whose life is being changed and what are those changes?
Before closing, I want to highlight one of the above points, mainly because it stands at the heart of all the others. Take a long look at letter “g” again. God is the source of all spiritual fruit. Grasping this will clear away some of the fog in our thinking on this topic. Because God is the source of what is produced, all human means and methods are not necessarily spiritual fruit. You might preach or teach or write or lead or serve or a hundred other things. These are not in and of themselves spiritual fruit. Spiritual fruit is a God-produced thing. A program or method won’t make it come forth. Yes, it may be used by God. But it also may not be used by God. Simply doing some activity, even “churchy” activities, does not mean spiritual fruit will be brought forth.
What does this mean for the Sunday school teaching who faithfully taught for 40 years? That is a question for next week.
For now, let the above points sink in. If you don’t really grasp any one of these then your spiritual life will be noticeably impacted. Let us cast ourselves upon Him who will cause the growth we so desperately need.