I must begin by saying up front that I am not a farmer, nor a gardener, nor anything else that may faintly resemble either of those noble professions or avocations. I am a city boy, born and raised. Having said that, however, after almost 25 years of preaching the gospel, I have picked up enough information along the way to be able to address this topic. Watchman is a webzine dedicated to the truth of Gods word, so we will limit our remarks to His revelation and not any personal frame of reference.
The theme of this months issue is on the fruit of the Spirit from Galatians 5. I am certain that Stan and the writers who have contributed to this issue have done a superb job of putting before us the issue of bearing that fruit in accord with the will of God. Of that fact I have no doubt. In this article, I want us to focus on three passages that have to do with the general topic of bearing fruit and see what the Lord says about this important task.
"By this is My Father glorified, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples (John 15:8). Discipleship is demanded of the Lord. The goal of the Great Commission was to make disciples (Mathew 28:19). It was the disciples who were called Christians (Acts 11:26). The obvious point is that if we are going to prove to be disciples, we must bear fruit, and, not only that, but, as Jesus said, bear much fruit.
In the lives of many people, there is the tendency to let someone else do the job, or as we might say it, do the dirty work. I do not believe any Christian would view teaching the lost as dirty work, but there is that tendency, even in the church, to let someone else do whatever there is to be done. If the labor bears fruit, we can look back and say what a working church it is of which we are members. We may have done nothing to aid in the work, but it is still our church that is strong and growing. Making disciples is a hard work. It requires a great deal of effort, planning, preparation, and execution. It is work that does not always accomplish its desired effect. Matthew 9:38 and Luke 10:2, in synoptic passages, tell us to pray to the Lord of harvest to send forth laborers into His harvest. Constant contact with the Lord concerning the matter of the harvest of souls is essential. Only with Gods help can we expect results. While that is true, the prayer is for laborers. God has supplied us with the tools to get the job done, but we must do it. We must go make the disciples by preaching the gospel to every creature (Mark 16:15).
So, from this first passage, John 15:8, fruit bearing is linked to discipleship.
Consider now, Romans 7:4. Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God (Romans 7:4). The context of this passage shows us that Paul was addressing Jews who were having a serious problem with letting go of the Old Law under which they and their ancestors were raised. Paul assures them that there is no spiritual adultery involved in moving on to another Law once the Old Law was dead, just as there is no adultery in a marriage partner taking another mate after the first one has died.
The marriage figure is particularly poignant in that the natural fruit of the marriage union is the birth of new children. All things being usual, if there are no children born to a married couple who are trying to bear such fruit, we realize that there is a potential problem that is addressed with particular zeal. Are we as concerned with the lack of spiritual fruit? While we recognize the truth that it is God who gives the increase after we plant and water the seed (1 Corinthians 3:5-8), if we are not seeing fruit, do we look to ourselves to see if we are planting and watering with adequate zeal?
There are too many churches not reproducing themselves in the Lord. I encourage you to look within yourself seriously and see what kind of fruit you are bearing for the Lord. (compare 2 Corinthians 13:5). While the text passage for this issue of Watchman clearly shows that there is a wide variety of fruit the Christian can and must bear, we must reproduce ourselves or at least seek that with all diligence. If we stop reproducing, where is the future of the church?
The first area of our focus on reproduction is within our own family. Noah was a preacher of righteousness who was able to save only his wife and children after 120 years of labor under the grace of God. His sons also saved wives, and that is good, but Noah was only one of eight souls saved over the whole earth. Though the story of Noah is not intended to give us solace that we can stop with converting our children, it is important for us to see just how important it is to teach our children the essentials of the gospel so as to save them from sin through faithful obedience to the gospel of Christ. I want every parent who reads these words to read again Deuteronomy 11, with special emphasis on verse 19. "You shall therefore impress these words of mine on your heart and on your soul; and you shall bind them as a sign on your hand, and they shall be as frontals on your forehead. "And you shall teach them to your sons, talking of them when you sit in your house and when you walk along the road and when you lie down and when you rise up. (Deuteronomy 11:18-19). That is a command given to every Israelite parent. Is this principle any less important today?
The third passage to consider is from the Lords Mountain Message. "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit; but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-20). You will know them by their fruits, Jesus said. What is the fruit of a musician? Anyone knows that it is music. What does a builder produce but a building? False prophets or false teachers, and I have no trouble using the two interchangeably based on 2 Peter 2:1, produce prophecy or teaching. Bible men were repeatedly warned about the false prophet, and we are warned about the false teacher. What is the fruit of a teacher? It is, by the same rule of language that a musician makes music and a builder makes a building, teaching. We are warned about the false teacher and told to base our judgments on what makes them false or true, good or bad, on their fruit, their teaching. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Are we able to judge the truthfulness of a teaching? The Lord said in John 7:24 to judge with righteous judgment. Did He command us to do something we could not do? Men are wont to put us in the business of judging motives, i.e. the wolf in sheeps clothing. Where is there any validity for the passing judgment on motive? The truth is that it is impossible for any man to judge motive. We only can judge fruit. For who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the spirit of the man, which is in him? Even so the thoughts of God no one knows except the Spirit of God. (1 Corinthians 2:11) Just as we cannot know the thoughts or mind of God without revelation, we cannot know the thought of a man without the same kind of revelation. The accusation, therefore, that we cannot know the heart of a false teacher is an obvious statement. No man can. All we can judge is fruit. How do we know the mind of God? He reveals it in His word. How do we know the mind of man? We listen to him speak. If a man teaches that one is saved by faith only, he is a false teacher. His teaching is false. The command of Jesus Christ is to beware of that man. Why does he teach that false doctrine? Only he can tell you that. We are unable to make that determination. All we can do is to compare what he teaches with Gods word, and make a decision as to what to do with the teaching and the teacher. This same truth holds consistent as we handle all the revealed mind of God.
You will find the work of men in this issue of Watchman. Consider it as the work of men who seek to do the will of God. Search the scriptures to see whether the things contained in their work is of God. If so, accept it. If not, reject it. Judge them by their fruit. If you judge their fruit to be of God, plant that seed and water it. Make disciples with it. Convert others. Bear fruit unto God. Anything not of God, reject. If a brother has taught error, reach out to him in love to save his soul, and thus bear fruit unto God.