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The Fruit of the Spirit - Christ's Command to Us

Bear Good Fruit and Much Fruit

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The Fruit of the Spirit - Christ's Command to Us: Bear Good Fruit and Much Fruit

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At the mention of fruit, what are your first thoughts? A snack? A dessert? Your favorite fruits?

The Bible refers to literal fruit—such as olives, grapes and figs—many times. More frequently the biblical Hebrew and Greek words translated “fruit” have a symbolic sense. All crops are considered “fruit of the earth.” Children are called the “fruit of the womb.” A man’s words are “the fruit of his mouth.”

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit.”

In ancient and modern times, people have used “fruit” to mean results, products, outcomes, accomplishments and achievements. An employee must be productive to be worthy of his wage. He must work hard, work fast and work smart to get jobs done and done right. In Scripture, “fruit” has similar meanings.

Defining “good” fruit

The Bible at times likens people to fruit trees or grapevines and portrays God as the owner of the orchards and vineyards. The Master knows our character by our spiritual fruits, just as “a tree is known [identified] by its fruit”—either good or bad (Matthew 12:33 Matthew 12:33Either make the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit.
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God’s number one concern is for all fruit to be good —”the fruit of righteousness” (James 3:18 James 3:18And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.
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). In fact, Jesus warned, “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and is thrown into the fire” to be destroyed (Matthew 7:19 Matthew 7:19Every tree that brings not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
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And what is good? Only God has the supreme authority to define good and evil. Jesus went on to say, “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven” (Matthew 7:21 Matthew 7:21Not every one that said to me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that does the will of my Father which is in heaven.
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, emphasis added throughout).

And what is God’s will for our lives? It is revealed throughout His Word and is summarized by the two great commandments and the Ten Commandments (Matthew 22:36-40 Matthew 22:36-40 36 Master, which is the great commandment in the law? 37 Jesus said to him, You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. 38 This is the first and great commandment. 39 And the second is like to it, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. 40 On these two commandments hang all the law and the prophets.
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; Matthew 19:17 Matthew 19:17And he said to him, Why call you me good? there is none good but one, that is, God: but if you will enter into life, keep the commandments.
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).

We must aim high to reach the highest goals. To produce the best fruit requires work, time, patience and perseverance (James 5:7-11 James 5:7-11 7 Be patient therefore, brothers, to the coming of the Lord. Behold, the farmer waits for the precious fruit of the earth, and has long patience for it, until he receive the early and latter rain. 8 Be you also patient; establish your hearts: for the coming of the Lord draws near. 9 Grudge not one against another, brothers, lest you be condemned: behold, the judge stands before the door. 10 Take, my brothers, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience. 11 Behold, we count them happy which endure. You have heard of the patience of Job, and have seen the end of the Lord; that the Lord is very pitiful, and of tender mercy.
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).

We are to be  fruitful

Closely following God’s desire for good fruit is His desire for us to produce a lot of it—to be highly productive . Jesus said, “This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples” (John 15:8 John 15:8Herein is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit; so shall you be my disciples.
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, New International Version). Notice, bearing abundant fruit glorifies God and identifies Christ’s disciples!

Later, Jesus states the purpose of our calling: “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit —fruit that will last” (John 15:16 John 15:16You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain: that whatever you shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.
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, NIV). Hence we must be oriented toward eternal goals and work with all our hearts to bring them to fruition!

The following parable is quite instructive: “A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well . But if not, after that you can cut it down’ ” (Luke 13:6-9 Luke 13:6-9 6 He spoke also this parable; A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came and sought fruit thereon, and found none. 7 Then said he to the dresser of his vineyard, Behold, these three years I come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and find none: cut it down; why encumbers it the ground? 8 And he answering said to him, Lord, let it alone this year also, till I shall dig about it, and dung it: 9 And if it bear fruit, well: and if not, then after that you shall cut it down.
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).

The keeper of the vineyard asked for another year, during which time he would fertilize the soil to encourage growth. This illustrates God’s patience with us—how He is “not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9 2 Peter 3:9The Lord is not slack concerning his promise, as some men count slackness; but is long-suffering to us-ward, not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance.
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).

A fruitless fruit tree, however, will eventually be “cut down.” Professing without producing is no good.

We are to  grow

The similar parables in Matthew 25:14-30 Matthew 25:14-30 14 For the kingdom of heaven is as a man traveling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered to them his goods. 15 And to one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey. 16 Then he that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. 17 And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. 18 But he that had received one went and dig in the earth, and hid his lord’s money. 19 After a long time the lord of those servants comes, and reckons with them. 20 And so he that had received five talents came and brought other five talents, saying, Lord, you delivered to me five talents: behold, I have gained beside them five talents more. 21 His lord said to him, Well done, you good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord. 22 He also that had received two talents came and said, Lord, you delivered to me two talents: behold, I have gained two other talents beside them. 23 His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord. 24 Then he which had received the one talent came and said, Lord, I knew you that you are an hard man, reaping where you have not sown, and gathering where you have not strewed: 25 And I was afraid, and went and hid your talent in the earth: see, there you have that is yours. 26 His lord answered and said to him, You wicked and slothful servant, you knew that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed: 27 You ought therefore to have put my money to the exchangers, and then at my coming I should have received my own with usury. 28 Take therefore the talent from him, and give it to him which has ten talents. 29 For to every one that has shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that has not shall be taken away even that which he has. 30 And cast you the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
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and Luke 19:11-27 Luke 19:11-27 11 And as they heard these things, he added and spoke a parable, because he was near to Jerusalem, and because they thought that the kingdom of God should immediately appear. 12 He said therefore, A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom, and to return. 13 And he called his ten servants, and delivered them ten pounds, and said to them, Occupy till I come. 14 But his citizens hated him, and sent a message after him, saying, We will not have this man to reign over us. 15 And it came to pass, that when he was returned, having received the kingdom, then he commanded these servants to be called to him, to whom he had given the money, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. 16 Then came the first, saying, Lord, your pound has gained ten pounds. 17 And he said to him, Well, you good servant: because you have been faithful in a very little, have you authority over ten cities. 18 And the second came, saying, Lord, your pound has gained five pounds. 19 And he said likewise to him, Be you also over five cities. 20 And another came, saying, Lord, behold, here is your pound, which I have kept laid up in a napkin: 21 For I feared you, because you are an austere man: you take up that you layed not down, and reap that you did not sow. 22 And he said to him, Out of your own mouth will I judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, taking up that I laid not down, and reaping that I did not sow: 23 Why then gave not you my money into the bank, that at my coming I might have required my own with usury? 24 And he said to them that stood by, Take from him the pound, and give it to him that has ten pounds. 25 (And they said to him, Lord, he has ten pounds.) 26 For I say to you, That to every one which has shall be given; and from him that has not, even that he has shall be taken away from him. 27 But those my enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring here, and slay them before me.
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illustrate God’s emphasis on spiritual growth and accomplishment. In each story, two servants obediently invested the master’s money to earn a profit for him. But the third servant merely hid the money for safekeeping. Fear of failure was his excuse for not even trying.

The parable shows that we must obey God with faith and courage even when it may be humanly frightening. The fearful servant is called “unprofitable” and “wicked and lazy” (Matthew 25:30 Matthew 25:30And cast you the unprofitable servant into outer darkness: there shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth.
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; Matthew 25:26 Matthew 25:26His lord answered and said to him, You wicked and slothful servant, you knew that I reap where I sowed not, and gather where I have not strewed:
American King James Version×
).

To each of the profitable ( fruitful ) servants, the master said, “Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord” (Matthew 25:21 Matthew 25:21His lord said to him, Well done, you good and faithful servant: you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord.
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: Matthew 25:23 Matthew 25:23His lord said to him, Well done, good and faithful servant; you have been faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things: enter you into the joy of your lord.
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). May this be what we hear when Christ returns to reward His servants!

We can’t bear fruit without God

During His life on earth, Jesus Christ said of His miraculous acts, “The Son can do nothing of Himself” (John 5:19 John 5:19Then answered Jesus and said to them, Truly, truly, I say to you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he sees the Father do: for what things soever he does, these also does the Son likewise.
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). He explained, “The Father who dwells in Me does the works” (John 14:10 John 14:10Believe you not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak to you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwells in me, he does the works.
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).

Neither can we, acting on our own, produce spiritual fruit! It requires a miracle of God through Christ. Let’s carefully read and ponder what Jesus explained to His disciples the evening before His arrest.

He said: “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit” (John 15:1-2 John 15:1-2 1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the farmer. 2 Every branch in me that bears not fruit he takes away: and every branch that bears fruit, he purges it, that it may bring forth more fruit.
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). “Pruning” includes the Father’s loving discipline to correct our faults (Hebrews 12:5-11 Hebrews 12:5-11 5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to children, My son, despise not you the chastening of the Lord, nor faint when you are rebuked of him: 6 For whom the Lord loves he chastens, and whips every son whom he receives. 7 If you endure chastening, God deals with you as with sons; for what son is he whom the father chastens not? 8 But if you be without chastisement, whereof all are partakers, then are you bastards, and not sons. 9 Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection to the Father of spirits, and live? 10 For they truly for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11 Now no chastening for the present seems to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yields the peaceable fruit of righteousness to them which are exercised thereby.
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).

“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing” (John 15:4-5 John 15:4-5 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches: He that stays in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.
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). Rely on God and great things will happen!

“If anyone does not abide in Me,” Jesus continued, “he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you” (John 15:6-7 John 15:6-7 6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, you shall ask what you will, and it shall be done to you.
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). Abiding in Christ includes learning and applying God’s Word. And a major key to bearing fruit is praying for help!

Abiding in Christ also includes abiding in His Church, “the body of Christ,” as numerous scriptures show (1 Corinthians 12:12-14 1 Corinthians 12:12-14 12 For as the body is one, and has many members, and all the members of that one body, being many, are one body: so also is Christ. 13 For by one Spirit are we all baptized into one body, whether we be Jews or Gentiles, whether we be bond or free; and have been all made to drink into one Spirit. 14 For the body is not one member, but many.
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; 1 Corinthians 12:27 1 Corinthians 12:27Now you are the body of Christ, and members in particular.
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; Ephesians 1:21-22 Ephesians 1:21-22 21 Far above all principality, and power, and might, and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in this world, but also in that which is to come: 22 And has put all things under his feet, and gave him to be the head over all things to the church,
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; Ephesians 4:12 Ephesians 4:12For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ:
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).

The essential role of God’s Spirit

Jesus said we can bear fruit only if He “abides” in us (John 15:4-5 John 15:4-5 4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can you, except you abide in me. 5 I am the vine, you are the branches: He that stays in me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without me you can do nothing.
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). How is this possible? It is through the gift of God’s Holy Spirit dwelling in us.

How do we receive this gift? Peter said, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit” (Acts 2:38 Acts 2:38Then Peter said to them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.
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).

God’s Spirit does many things. It imparts spiritual understanding (1 Corinthians 2:10-14 1 Corinthians 2:10-14 10 But God has revealed them to us by his Spirit: for the Spirit searches all things, yes, the deep things of God. 11 For what man knows the things of a man, save the spirit of man which is in him? even so the things of God knows no man, but the Spirit of God. 12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God. 13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man’s wisdom teaches, but which the Holy Ghost teaches; comparing spiritual things with spiritual. 14 But the natural man receives not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness to him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
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). It imparts a willingness to obey—to be like Christ who said, “Nevertheless, not My will, but Yours, be done” (Luke 22:42 Luke 22:42Saying, Father, if you be willing, remove this cup from me: nevertheless not my will, but yours, be done.
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). It imparts an ability to obey and love far above human ability. It is the Spirit “of power and of love and of a sound mind” (2 Timothy 1:7 2 Timothy 1:7For God has not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind.
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).

The power to bear fruit

With the Holy Spirit, one becomes spiritually alive, beginning a new life! God’s Spirit is like the life-giving sap that flows up the trunk of a tree to all its branches so they can yield fruit!

Notice God’s beautiful portrayal of His people as flourishing fruit trees: “Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord, and whose hope is the Lord. For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters, which spreads out its roots by the river, and will not fear when heat comes; but its leaf will be green, and will not be anxious in the year of drought, nor will cease from yielding fruit” (Jeremiah 17:7-8 Jeremiah 17:7-8 7 Blessed is the man that trusts in the LORD, and whose hope the LORD is. 8 For he shall be as a tree planted by the waters, and that spreads out her roots by the river, and shall not see when heat comes, but her leaf shall be green; and shall not be careful in the year of drought, neither shall cease from yielding fruit.
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; compare Psalms 1:3 Psalms 1:3And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatever he does shall prosper.
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).

The apostle Paul said in Galatians 5, “Walk in the Spirit . . . If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16 Galatians 5:16This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.
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Galatians 5:25 Galatians 5:25If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
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). God’s Spirit enables us to act according to God’s principles—to live a godly life!

Without God’s Spirit, we are merely mortal flesh, and the fruits of raw human nature are called the “works of the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21 Galatians 5:19-21 19 Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, 20 Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, jealousies, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, 21 Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
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. After listing these sinful “works,” Paul warns that “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (Galatians 5:21 Galatians 5:21Contentions, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.
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).

With the help of God’s Spirit, however, we produce something far different: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering [or patience], kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control” (Galatians 5:22-23 Galatians 5:22-23 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, long-suffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, 23 Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.
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). That is truly good fruit! God wants us to bear much of this fruit!

Spirit-led people have these wonderful virtues of godly character as the result of God’s Spirit acting from within. The credit for this fruit belongs to God and Jesus Christ who supply that Spirit.

And God will let us bear this fruit only when we are trying to give of ourselves to others. This fruit is manifested in relationships. God’s Spirit is like a river (John 7:38 John 7:38He that believes on me, as the scripture has said, out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water.
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). It will flow into us only when it is also flowing out to others.

In a series of future articles we will examine each of the special aspects of the fruit of the Holy Spirit listed in Galatians 5—to thoroughly understand them, to see how we can cultivate them and to see how we can use them in serving God and one another. We will get a good taste of each one.

As we do that, let’s remember to focus on Christ’s overall lesson regarding the fruit of our lives: Bear good fruit and much fruit!

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