Most religions of the world teach in some way that there are two classes of people: an “ordained” ministry or priesthood responsible for teaching others—harvesting their Father’s fields, and a lay-membership responsible for physical service and financial support. What does the Bible say? For what kind of fruit is each person responsible?
Before we begin talking about bearing fruit, we need to establish the scriptural need to bear fruit. “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. You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 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. If anyone does not abide in Me, 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. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:1-8)
What happens if those with the Holy Spirit do not bear fruit? Our Father, like a good man tending an orchard, digs about us and puts in some manure (Luke 13:6-9). If we, in this life occasionally feel as if we are getting more than our share of digs and manure, this may be what is happening to us. The purpose of these trials is not to make our lives miserable, but to help us bear fruit. We must remember that we have a purpose for being here. “But you are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, His own special people, that you may proclaim the praises of Him who called you out of darkness into His marvelous light” (1Pet 2:9). Revelation 20:6 shows this priesthood will continue into the thousand years of Messianic rule.
Salvation comes by grace, through faith, not because of our works (Eph 2:8-9). But the purpose for our salvation is so that we can do good works (Eph 2:10). Indeed, we will be rewarded according to the works that we do: “For no other foundation can anyone lay than that which is laid, which is Jesus Christ. Now if anyone builds on this foundation with gold, sliver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw, each one’s work will become manifest; for the Day will declare it, because it will be revealed by fire; and the fire will test each one’s work, of what sort it is. If anyone’s work is burned, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire. Do you not know that you are the temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you?” (1Cor 3:11-16).
This concept is illustrated through the parable of the minas. While the parable is long, every word is worth reading. It should be “required reading” for anyone that feels there is no real work that can be done now.
“A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return. So he called ten of his servants, delivered to them ten minas, and said to them, ‘Do business till I come.’ But his citizens hated him, and sent a delegation after him, saying, ‘We will not have this man to reign over us.’ And so it was that when he returned, having received the kingdom, he then commanded these servants, to whom he had given the money, to be called to him, that he might know how much every man had gained by trading. Then came the first, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned ten minas.’ And he said to him, ‘Well done, good servant; because you were faithful in a very little, have authority over ten cities.’ And the second came, saying, ‘Master, your mina has earned five minas.’ Likewise he said to him, ‘You also be over five cities.’ Then another came, saying, ‘Master, here is your mina, which I have kept put away in a handkerchief. For I feared you, because you are an austere man. You collect what you did not deposit, and reap what you did not sow.’ And he said to him, ‘Out of your own mouth I will judge you, you wicked servant. You knew that I was an austere man, collecting what I did not deposit and reaping what I did not sow. Why then did you not put my money in the bank, that at my coming I might have collected it with interest?’ And he said to those who stood by, ‘Take the mina from him, and give it to him who has ten minas.’ (But they said to him, ‘Master, he has ten minas.’) ‘For I say to you, that to everyone who has will be given; and from him who does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. But bring here those enemies of mine, who did not want me to reign over them, and slay them before me’” (Luke 19:12-27).
Now that we can see that we must bear fruit, what kinds of fruit can we bear? Some kinds are well known and written about often; others we may not discuss as much as we should. We need to understand all of them to be an active part of the Eternal’s work.
“Therefore by Him let us continually offer the sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of our lips, giving thanks to His name” (Heb 13:15). Singing songs, reciting poems, and offering prayers are things very pleasing to the Eternal. The largest book in the Bible is essentially a collection of praises to our Maker. When men such as David and Hezekiah were very near death, what did they promise the Eternal in exchange for their life? Did they promise to “be good?” To do great works in His name? No. They promised to sing Him praises if he redeemed their life (Ps 6:1-5, 30:8-10, 88:10-18, Isa 38:3,18-20).
While not all have musical skills, many do have skills that they are not using. Almost everyone can read the Psalms and praise God in personal prayer. Some have skills for writing that they should be using. While it should be our best effort that we give to the Eternal, there is no scripture that says we cannot praise the Eternal because another “does it better.” Even though there are many religions that make great shows of praising God while teaching little of his truth, that should not stop us from David-style, energy-filled praises. The scripture supports this (2Sam 6:12-22, Psalm 98, 148, etc.). We should encourage each other in these areas, rather than be “scale of 1 to 10” judges.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law” (Gal 5:22-23). This is a familiar scripture and rightly so. Everyone wants friends and neighbors that are like this. We should all strive to have these fruits. There are at least three other scriptures that plainly show that righteousness is a fruit to be desired (Phil 1:11, Heb 12:11, Jms 3;18). The thirteenth chapter of Corinthians leaves no doubt that we can have all kinds of other great works and if we do not have love for our neighbor (which is the fulfilling of the law–Rom 13:10, Gal 5;14), all of our other great works are nothing.
A study of each of the fruits mentioned in Galatians 5 would be quite valuable, but many other writers have written on this subject and this article will take more time with some of the less-studied areas.
“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), proving what is acceptable to the Lord” (Eph 5:8-10). This passage mentions three fruits. Goodness and righteousness were included in the previous section, but truth is something different. A person who is drawing near to the Eternal and obeying Him will begin to understand more truth.
“However, when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth; for He will not speak on His own authority, but whatever He hears He will speak; and He will tell you things to come” (John 16:13). It is interesting that neither the scriptures nor the leadership are listed as the path to all truth, although certainly His word is Truth (John 17:17), and we are commanded to study the scriptures (2 Tim 2:15).
Proverbs 23:23 tells us to “Buy the truth, and do not sell it, also wisdom and instruction and understanding.” Since Bible translators have not always understood the truth in what they were translating, we sometimes need to try our best to find the meaning of the original writings. We learn what it means to “buy the truth”: multiple translations, concordances, word-books, histories, etc. Once we learn some truth, we should give it away to those who want it. Do not pester people that do not want to hear it (they may not be ready yet—John 16:12) or your “new truth” may be a mistake. On the opposite side, truth should not be a money-making proposition. If we have freely received of the Eternal, freely give (Mt 10:8).
Scriptures about this fruit include 2 Corinthians 9:6-15, Rom 12:8, 15;25-28 and 1 Corinthians 9:6-14. Most people who have been within a church organization for any length of time have heard more than enough about this type of fruit.
This title is not an insult to the human race, but a summary of the many places where people who learn the Truth are called the fruit of those that the Eternal works through to teach them. “After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then He said to them, ‘The harvest is truly great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold I send you out as lambs among wolves’” (Luke 10:1-3). John 4:35-38 records a different but similar story,: the fields being “white and ready for harvest.”
Paul refers to those he has taught as “his fruit” in Romans 1:13: “Now I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that I often planned to come to you (but was hindered until now), that I might have some fruit among you also, just as among the other Gentiles.”
The parable of the sewer appears to fit into this analogy (Matt 13:3-9, 18-23). Seeds are scattered in many places, but only those on good ground grow. “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty” (Matt 13:23). A good seed produces more seeds like itself. For a man whose fruit is to bring others to the truth, does not this mean that during his lifetime he should teach 30, 60 or 100 others? And for those that do not teach directly, should we not be a positive influence on 30, 60 or 100 others?
We are all responsible to bear fruit. Some fruits are individual, and some can be harvested as a group. “Personal righteousness” we must bear ourselves (though some organizations have tried to “enforce righteousness” with a myriad of enforced regulations). Most of the other fruits can be achieved on either a personal or a group basis.
“But what do you think? A man had two sons, and he came to the first and said, ‘Son, go, work today in my vineyard.’ He answered and said, ‘I will not,’ but afterward he regretted it and went. Then he came to the second and said likewise. And he answered and said, ‘I go, sir,’ but he did not go. Which of the two did the will of his father?” They said to Him, “The first.” Jesus said to them, “Assuredly, I say to you that tax collectors and harlots enter the kingdom of God before you. For John came to you in the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him; but tax collectors and harlots believed him; and when you saw it, you did not afterward relent and believe him.” (Matt 21:28-32)
The Messiah was addressing, among others, the chief priests in the temple. If there was an equivalent to a “big church organization” at that time, it was them. They could trace their genealogy back to Aaron and show how the Eternal commanded them to be teachers of the people (Mal 2:7). By contrast, John the Baptist was an “independent upstart.” Though the son of a priest, he had simple taste in clothes and food, and he spoke not at the temple, but in the wilderness. He spoke against the established leadership (Mat 3:4-10). But who will enter the kingdom of God first, those that listened to the organization historically established by the Eternal (the priests, now corrupt), or those that listened to a preacher of the “way of righteousness”?
While large organizations too often lead people astray, do not think that small organizations or individual efforts automatically stay on track. The New Testament has plenty of stories of individuals and small groups that became lost on their own ideas and did not bear fruit (Matt 19:16-22, Luke 14:16-20, Luke 13;1-2, Acts 19:13-16). Read these stories if you have any doubt!
More than once I have seen people discover that their organization was “wasting” more than half of the funds that came to it. They stopped attending and supporting it—planning to bear fruit themselves. When difficulties and trials came along, their efforts ceased altogether. Their first estate was better then their last. It is better to be a part of a big organization that is 50% effective than to look directly to the Father for leadership but end up doing nothing. We must never forget Paul’s instructions in 1 Corinthians 3, quoted near the beginning of this article: “If anyone’s work which he has built on it endures, he will receive a reward.” If your “work” is largely contributing to another organization, then you should find out if that organization is bearing fruit. If your work is as an individual or small group, you must stay close to the Eternal and be diligent to keep moving forward.
“Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, that he will also reap. For he who sows to his flesh will of the flesh reap corruption, but he who sows to the Spirit will of the Spirit reap everlasting life. And let us not grow weary while doing good, for in due season we shall reap if we do not lose heart. Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all, especially to those who are of the household of faith” (Gal 6:7-10).
We must always remember that all of the articles, exhortations and other diligent efforts we can muster will not produce good fruit unless it is done by the power of His spirit. “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 15:5).
If a branch is well-connected to the vine, it will naturally bear fruit. All the fruit needs is the light of Truth and room to grow, the vine provides everything else. A shaded branch that gets no light or a crowded branch with no room to bear fruit may have to be moved to a new location on the vine. A good husbandman (the Father) will often do this very thing. It may “hurt” the branch when it is cut off and the branch may bear little fruit that year—many of the resources of the branch are devoted to restrengthening its connection with the vine. But later, the branch is far move productive than it ever could have been in its former location.
The lesson we can learn from this analogy is to not resist the Husbandman if it is time for Him to “move our branch.” It may be in our best interests to begin serving in another capacity, with a different group of people, or in a different place. It is easy for us to be comfortable where we are and think that we must always be there. But if he moves us to a new place on the vine, then we should not long to be in the old location but settle in to our new location, redirect our leaves to catch the sun, and take advantage of the new opportunity to bear fruit.
Other people may recognize that their branch is in a “tight place” and “ask” the husbandman to move them elsewhere. They are elated when they move to a new place on the vine. But once we have a new place, we need to be about the business of bearing fruit, not about the business of looking for yet another place.
There is no “perfect” place on the vine. Some places receive morning sun, others afternoon sun; some places have lots of wind, others do not; some are visible to the outside world, others are shielded. A branch may need to be moved more than once in its lifetime for it to keep bearing fruit, but a branch that moves every year (or more) is unlikely to bear any significant fruit.
If we are not in a place where we can grow and bear fruit, we need to ask the Husbandman to put us in a place where we can do it. Once there, we make sure we have a good connection with the vine. The fruit will come. We need not worry about other branches that appear to have more or less fruit—the Husbandman will tend to them. “By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples” (John 15:8).
—Norman S. Edwards