By Stan Davidson
Statement of Faith: God demands fruitfulness from believers. His Spirit will bear fruit in those who adhere to His word. Paul calls this work of God in believers the fruit of the Spirit. Inside this fruit is the seed for reproduction. Proper application of godly principles will result in fruitful Christians!
“The fruit of the righteous is the tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise.” Proverbs 11:30
Introduction: There is a statement in World Book Encyclopedia, volume 7, page 470, which is a good foundation for this study. “To the plant itself, the fruit is a matter of life and death because of the seed it has within.” There is more to fruit than food for the human body. It is simply a fringe benefit that most fruit is edible, for its real purpose is reproduction. One cannot separate fruitfulness from reproduction. So when an individual speaks of fruit in a Christian he must include soul winning. Fruitfulness is essential if one is to please God. Just as God’s Spirit creates fruit within His children so the child of God should bear fruit in the world. This lesson will explore both the fruit of the Spirit and the fruit of the Christian.
By Their Fruit
The Mark of Identification
In Matthew 7:17-20 Jesus declares that one is identified by the fruit he bears. It is impossible for evil to produce good and it is impossible for good to produce evil. Therefore, the fruit it gives identifies the tree. If the product displayed on the limbs is ungodly it is impossible for the tree to be godly! God sends ministers to challenge the believer to righteousness before the unrighteousness of the heart is exposed. Few individuals can identify a seed, but there are specialists who have no difficulty doing so, and God sends them to minister to believers so these unholy seeds can be purged from the heart. Even foliage is not easily identified by the common man, but there are experts who can identify any leaf presented to them. Spiritual specialists can identify improper foliage in one’s life before unrighteous deeds are exposed. These ministers can save Christians from the embarrassment of producing evil fruit. Most people, however, can identify the various fruits, so it is by these that a person is known. If one persists in his ungodly way until the fruit is borne all will know his condition. All the verbal proclamations one can make will not override his actions and deeds. His fruit identifies him.
Ordained to Bear Fruit
John 15:16 declares that there are those who are chosen to bear fruit. Jesus was not just interested in saving man so he could live a leisure life of bliss. God’s children have been commissioned with a task and the fruit they bear helps them carry out this mission. With the Lord’s anointing one’s fruit will remain. It is God who preserves the believer’s labors. The things one does in Him will remain and stand the test of time. The true purpose of life is found in the truth in this simple passage. Human beings are fulfilled when they are fruitful for God.
Fruit in Contrast
Jesus’ words in Matthew 7 have already shown that there is more than one kind of fruit. A tree can produce evil or good. There is a warning in Deuteronomy 22:9 about mixing seed. In essence, this practice will destroy the garden. Jesus declared that it is impossible for an evil tree to bear good fruit or a good tree to bear evil fruit. Jude 12 shows an apostate church as one whose fruit is fallen and withered. Proverbs 10:16 contrasts the righteous with the evil. Life comes from the labor of the righteous while the fruit of the wicked is sin. Romans 6:22 pictures a good man bearing fruit unto holiness. One must make his choice, for he cannot produce both good and evil. “A double minded man is unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:8) This lesson is an excellent foundation for the holiness study that follows. The correct seed will produce the correct fruit.
Roots and Fruits
A beautiful principle is expounded in Isaiah 37:31. In speaking of the restoration of a remnant of the house of Judah the prophet said that they would take root downward and bear fruit upward. This is a symbol of the relationship of commitment and fruitfulness. One must take root downward in the word of God if he expects to bear fruit upward. No man can see the root structure beneath the earth, but all can admire the beauty of that which hangs on the limbs. Some would try to mimic fruitfulness, but it cannot be done. True fruits have true roots! Cosmetics are not needed if the real thing exists!
Chastening and Purging
There are several references to purging in the Bible. The limbs of a tree must be trimmed often to aid fruit bearing. Hebrews 12:11 associates chastening with fruitfulness. If one does not allow the Husbandman to purge him he will not be productive. The end result for this refusal will be the fire!
The Fruit of the Spirit
The Works of the Flesh
One cannot fully understand the fruit of the Spirit without first examining the works of the flesh. These concepts are expounded in the same passage of scripture written by Paul in his epistle to the church in Galatia. Galatians 5:19-21 lists the works of the flesh. Remember that no tree can bring forth good and evil fruit. Therefore, a close examination of the fruit one bears will reveal if the flesh or the Spirit leads him! The works of the flesh are adultery, fornication, uncleanness (of flesh and spirit), lasciviousness (unbridled lust), idolatry, witchcraft (drug abuse), hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies (doctrines of the devil), envyings, murders, drunkenness, revelings (feasting and drinking, late night parties), and such like (the picture is clear). It is emphatically stated that one who does these things will not inherit the kingdom of God. No matter how many claims to salvation one makes he will not go to heaven if these works of the flesh are in his life. By his fruit he is known!
The Attributes of Spiritual Fruit
Notice that “fruit” is singular. There is only one fruit with all these attributes. There is but one tree. Christ is the vine and believers are the branches. As there are nine spiritual gifts listed in the primary record in I Corinthians 12 there are nine attributes of the fruit of the Spirit mentioned in Galatians 5. According to verses 22-23 they are-
1) Love – The Greek word used in this passage is “agape.” In the Greek language “philia” means brotherly love, “eros” means romantic love, and “agape” means the love of God. Romans 5:5 reveals that the love of God is shed abroad in the heart of the Christian by the Holy Ghost. This is spiritual fruit in production. This love is not conditional, but it can be tough. “Whom he loves he chastens.” (Hebrews 12:6) The carnal man can never love the way God loves. Therefore, the only way to have this attribute in one’s life is for the individual to stay on his knees until Christ is formed in him.
2) Joy – This is joy from Christ expressed through the believer. One cannot give what he does not have, so this joy must first be received from God before it can be imparted to others. A true Christian exudes joy at all times. This does not mean he will always be “giggly.” Joy is a state of the heart, not a reaction to circumstances. “The joy of the Lord is my strength.” (Nehemiah 8:10)
3) Peace – Philippians 4:7 speaks of peace that passes understanding. This attribute is the tranquility the child of God can have and share in a world of hatred and turmoil. In John 14:22-27 Jesus says this peace is what will distinguish His followers from the rest of the world. Verse 27 is the answer to the question in verse 22. “My peace I give to you.” Through the infilling of the Holy Ghost the believer can have peace in his heart. A person who is not at peace with himself is at peace with no one.
4) Longsuffering – The Greek word translated “longsufferings” means patience, endurance, constancy, steadfastness, and perseverance. One can understand what persevere means by dissecting the word. God gives one the gift of grace “per severe” circumstance he encounters. This word also means slowness in avenging wrongs.
5) Gentleness – In the original text this refers to moral goodness and integrity, and the kindness a person of this nature is certain to exhibit. Gentleness is a virtue sometimes overlooked, especially in the masculine nature, but it is a trait of God that He wants to be expressed in His children. There is nothing weak about gentleness.
6) Goodness – While gentleness has to do with one’s treatment of others goodness is more an expression of one’s character. It simply refers to uprightness of heart. Remember, these are not separate fruits, but various attributes of one fruit, so it is not always possible to completely distinguish them. Indeed, it is not desirable to distinguish them.
7) Faith – While the gift of faith refers to miracle working belief the fruit attribute called faith refers to faithfulness. One cannot be full of faith without being faithful! No matter how many mountains one can move, if he is not dependable he is of no benefit to God or anyone else. An “on time” God wants an “on time” people.
8) Meekness – Another word for meekness is mildness. This is not to be confused with cowardice, for some of the world’s meekest people have been the boldest. Humility is a character trait of the meek who, according to Jesus, will inherit the earth. (Matthew 5:5)
9) Temperance – In defining this word Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance uses the following phrase. “The virtue of one who masters his desires and passions, especially his sensual appetites.” It basically means self-control. Paul said one who strives for the mastery is temperate in all things. (I Corinthians 9:25)
The concluding words of verse 23 need to be expounded. Of course there is no law against these spiritual traits. If each person would let the fruit of the Spirit radiate in his life there would be no need for law. But the real meaning of this phrase is this; “against such no one can receive an accusation.” It is hard to bring accusation against a person who exhibits all attributes of the fruit of the Spirit.
The Fruit of the Christian
It is not possible to completely separate the fruit of the Spirit from the fruit of the Christian. Believers are the branches that bear the fruit of the Spirit. But an effort must be made to show certain distinctions. The fruit of the Spirit is that which God produces in one’s life while the fruit of the Christian is what one produces for Christ in this world. The fruit of the Christian is a reference to the souls the believer brings to God in this life. These two concepts are interrelated. Lesson Seven illustrated how the gifts of the Spirit help in leading others to Christ, and this lesson will reveal how the fruit of the Spirit will aid this effort.
The Seed is in the Fruit
Genesis 1:29 reveals that the fruit is made for human consumption, therefore, it is God’s plan for the fruit to provide a food source for humanity. Yet the real purpose of the fruit is found in Genesis 1:11-12. The fruit is an incubator for the seed, and the seed is the reproductive part of the tree. So the real power of the fruit is that it carries within itself the power of reproduction. While others may derive pleasure from the child of God as the attributes of the fruit of the Spirit are displayed in his life, the real power of the fruit is in its reproductive qualities. The first step toward winning others to Christ is bearing spiritual fruit!
The Fruit of the Righteous
The key verse for this lesson, Proverbs 11:30, seems to be a verse of contrast. One’s mind does not immediately grasp the connection made by the writer. How are fruit and trees related to soul winning? Yet a deeper examination reveals the parallel being drawn. Just as the seed of reproduction is in the fruit of the natural tree, so is the seed of reproduction in the fruit of the spiritual tree. “He that winneth souls is wise.” In Matthew 23:15 Jesus says that the hypocrite will compass land and sea to make one convert, and the convert is twofold more the child of hell than he who won him. This declares that an individual will reproduce himself in others. The fruit one bears contains the seed of reproduction and will only produce a product like itself The fruit of the righteous is the tree of life. The key word is “righteous.” A righteous child of God will reproduce himself in this world. This is the fruit of the Christian.
Cut it Down
The words of John the Baptist recorded in Matthew 3:10 are sobering. A tree that continually fails to produce fruit must be cut down! Will a person be lost if he does not win a soul in his lifetime? There is no proof that Jeremiah ever converted anyone. History says his last days were spent walking through an abandoned Jerusalem weeping over the sins of his people. All his prophecies had come true, yet no one heeded his warnings. It can be safely said, however, that a person will be lost if he does not allow the fruit of the Spirit to be evident in his life, and the power of reproduction is in the seed. So if one puts forth an effort he should be successful in leading others to Christ. Failure to make the effort will definitely cause one to be lost. Jesus’ parable of the fig tree found in Luke 13:6-9 shows the great length to which God will go to make one fruitful. The tree must be tilled around, fertilized, and cared for. But if it continually fails to produce it eventually must be cut down, for “it encumbereth the soil.” Let another fruitful tree partake of the nutrients in the soil. If a person is only interested in feasting on the goodness of God without bearing fruit then let another person who will produce fruit receive those blessings.
Jesus said, as recorded in John 15:8, that to be His disciple one must bring forth fruit. So fruitfulness is discipleship. It is God’s plan for Christians to reproduce themselves in this world!
Conclusion: The first step toward fruitfulness is allowing the fruit of the Spirit to be produced in one’s life. In this fruit dwells the seed that holds the power of reproduction. If the fruit of the Spirit is in a person he will be able to lead others to a salvation relationship with Jesus.
Open Book quiz – Student Copy
1) According to Matthew 7:17-20, what is one’s mark of identification, or how is one known?
2) John 15:16 proclaims that one is chosen and ordained by God for what purpose?
3) As recorded in Proverbs 10:16, the labor of the righteous is what and the fruit of the wicked is what?
4) According to John 14:22-27, what will distinguish the followers of Jesus from the rest of the world?
5) What does “longsuffering” mean?
6) Explain (simply) the difference between faith as the gift of the Spirit and faith as an attribute of the fruit of the Spirit.
7) Explain the difference between the fruit of the Spirit and the fruit of the Christian.
8) As stated in this lesson, the first step toward soul winning is what?
9) What will happen to the tree that continually fails to produce fruit?
10) According to John 15:8, if one is to be called Jesus’ disciple, what must he do?