Bear fruit or else! That is a common theme from preachers who do not understand the distinction between law and Gospel. Sadly even some who should know this distinction. Perhaps it is born of frustration with seeming inactive, fat and lazy Christians in his congregation. Granted whoever follows Jesus will bear fruit. Jesus said so recorded in John 15. Perhaps an examination of what fruit is and who it is seeing it can shed light in these seeming dark and threatening corners:
Galatians 5:22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. 24 And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking one another, envying one another. ESV
What we see is that fruit, rather than works done by the Christian, is actually attitude and motivation by reason of presence of the Holy Spirit. This is contrasted by earlier reference to fruit of the flesh and the warning that those who do such things shall not inherit the Kingdom of God. The promise is that those who are inheriting the Kingdom are also not doing the fruit of the flesh. Later we will see who would see that fruit.
However, the natural theologian of glory in each believer will always spot what looks like our activity. Aha, says he, if a believer does not crucify the flesh he or she will not bear fruit. This person will not be living or walking by the Spirit. But the whole action of attempting to prove to him or herself that he or she is bearing fruit aplenty is a desire of the flesh. So how is one’s flesh crucified with its passions and desires?
Romans 6:3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. ESV
It is in our baptism that our flesh is crucified. A baptized Christian is crucified with Christ. This is why we must always remember our baptism each and everyday and especially when times of doubt creep in. These times come when the law approaches us and accuses us. Or we hear an unfortunate sermon by a frustrated pastor can also toss a person into a season of doubt. That is why it is very important to pay close attention to the type of preacher one is listening to. We should listen to only those who draw proper and clear distinctions between what we do and what Jesus has done for us in his life, death, burial and resurrection. That our trust will remain in that which saves us.
Matthew 25:34 Then the King will say to those on his right, Come, you who are blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. 35 For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, 36 I was naked and you clothed me, I was sick and you visited me, I was in prison and you came to me. 37 Then the righteous will answer him, saying, Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? 38 And when did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? 39 And when did we see you sick or in prison and visit you? 40 And the King will answer them, Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me. KJV
Now we see who it is that is the real fruit inspector. On the last day those in Christ will have a public pronouncement of that which was purchased for them by Jesus and given to them graciously. Notice the fruit was not even known by those who are blessed in this way. They had no idea they were bearing this fruit. This is why it is vital, as mentioned earlier, we are careful to not listen to a lot of sermons. These unfortunate ramblings will do nothing but cast doubt rather than to encourage us in the promises given to us.
This fruit is not the reason these are entering the Kingdom but rather the evidence. And this evidence is hidden from our eyes because of sin. We carry on our daily rounds with absolutely no hint that fulfilling our tasks each day is fruit pleasing to our Father in heaven. Perhaps it is the best for our flesh surely would seek a way to take credit for these activities.
Now about the fruit of the flesh. God also is the one who inspects that. Rather he sees the lack of fruit of the Spirit in the unbeliever. The unbelievers are told they did not do these things. The unbeliever does not love Jesus so how could he or she do anything for him? Neither does the unbeliver have the Holy Spirit bearing fruit one of which is faith. Perhaps they fed the hungry, clothed the naked and visited people in prison but only out of self motivation. To either feel good about themselves or to impress others. We see that all the time when a rich person will call a conference to announce a large gift to charity or serve in a soup kitchen. He or she has the only reward that will earn. The fleeting recognition from the world until it moves onto something better.
Notice also the word inherit. We inherit the Kingdom we do not earn it. It is ours from before the foundation of the world. How comforting is that? Let us believe this good news and live in the peace that it offers.
In the name of Jesus. †