Up the Apples and Pears
I remember sitting on the platform during a Q&A session of a conference and suddenly we were talking about fruit and being fruitful. The church was open and a stranger from the area, seeing the lights on, came wandering in to see what was going on. He turned to leave after about five minutes and someone followed him out to share the gospel with him before he left. But I often wonder about him - what on earth went through his mind for that five minutes? Did he think he’d happened upon a Local Grocers Convention or an Agricultural Appreciation Society?
Fruit, fruitful and fruitfulness are Christian buzzwords. Right there in the Christianese Dictionary under ‘F’. We bandy them about and throw them casually into Christian conversation. But what on earth do they mean? How would you define them to that person who has just become a Christ follower?
It’s a theme throughout Scripture, beginning in Genesis 1 and flowing its way right up to the last chapter of Revelation. Our calling to be fruitful is one integral part of this theme, a sub-theme if you will. God constantly, from the beginning to the end, calls people and trees and animals to be fruitful and He’s also the One enabling them do it. There is the fruit of reproduction. There is the fruit of being prosperous. There is the fruit of, well, trees actually yielding fruit. And there is the fruit of God-likeness; that is, to live as God’s representatives, to live as Image of God.
Israel was called by God to be fruitful in a number of ways; reproductively fruitful, prosperously fruitful and also, as the chosen nation of God, to be God-like; to, live in such a way as to show off God’s just, kind, holy and good character to the world around them. Sadly, Israel did not succeed in this calling (read Isaiah 5v1-4 and Jeremiah 2v21).
But through the coming of Christ, something incredible has happened which has enabled humans to finally re-image God, to finally re-bear God-likeness; to finally be fruitful (Romans 7v4). We’ll look at this more later. But for now, what is God calling us to when He calls us to be fruitful? What are the fruits of holiness, the fruits of righteousness, the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of light (Romans 6v22, Galatians 5v22, Ephesians 5v9, Philippians 1v11, James 3v17-18, Hebrews 12v11).
The Fruit of Character
Found in Galatians 5v22-23 is the beautiful list of the Fruit of the Spirit. It stands in contrast to the works of the flesh that naturally come from our sinful bent. This list is a list of inward character that will eventually express itself outwardly. As you read it, you are reading the character of Christ and also the Spirit-and-Gospel-transformed character of a believer. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
The Fruit of Works
As we noted above, the fruit of Character will express itself outwardly into action. Colossians 1v10 is mid-way through one of Paul’s Spirit-inspired prayers; “bearing fruit in every good work”. We receive Christ and are born again by faith alone. But that faith does not remain alone; it begins to express itself and the inner transformation outwardly through good works (James 2v17). We are not saved by works, but we are re-created for good works (Ephesians 2v10). Our lives will be full of the fruit of good works (Titus 3v1, 14, Hebrews 13v21).
The Fruit of Praise
“Let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips” (Hebrews 13v15). This verse speaks of those who openly confess the name of God being those who gladly offer up praise and thanks to Him continually. Jesus speaks of those who praise God with hearts that are far from Him, but those who are in Christ are called to offer both heart and mouth to God in praise.
The Fruit of Generosity
Our generous God has transformed those who have come to Him by faith in Christ. They are becoming more and more like Him. God loves to give and He delights to see us cheerfully give like Him (2 Corinthians 9v7). Generous giving is one of the fruits of the Christian life (Romans 15v28, Titus 3v14).
The Fruit of Converts
As the world around us sees our Christlike character lived out in our conduct, our praise and our generosity, they will be drawn to Christ. God is working in our lives giving us the boldness and wisdom to share the gospel message with others around us. And as these people come to Christ, it is fruit (Romans 1v13, Colossians 1v5-6, John 4v35-38).
This is why we have been created in the first place and it is why we were recreated in Christ. We are called to be fruitful. God delights to see these fruits flow from our hearts to our lips and hands.
Our problem, however, is that we, in ourselves, can never produce any of this fruit.
This is Part 1 of a Series on Bearing Fruit.
Alan Campbell is from Belfast, Northern Ireland. He came to Christ as a young adult and trained for ministry at Bethesda Free Church, Sunderland. Alan ministered in Bethesda as the Associate Pastor until 2019 and now ministers at Union Chapel, Bath. From time to time he teaches at North Cotes (NTM/Ethnos 360) College and The Theological College of North Staffordshire. Alan travels across the UK, Ireland, Europe and the States speaking at universities and equipping churches and campus ministries to share the gospel in a post-modern context. He is passionate about helping the believer to root their identity more and more into the person and work of Jesus Christ. Alan is married to Victoria.