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Spiritual fruit - Part 3 Created 17 February 2014

This article is a continuation of Parts One and Two.

We know that the Father expects fruit from those who have been born into His family (John 15:1-8). We know that various 'ministry gifts' were given by God’s Spirit to equip the people of His Church in order to deliver such fruit (Eph 4:11-13) and thus to continue Jesus' ministry on earth (Mat 28:28-20). By implication these gifts are not limited to church staff but are meant to be used by all born-again believers. We know that the working of the Holy Spirit in and through believers was given to the Church for the benefit of all (1 Cor 12:4-11). And, we know that without receiving His Word – in writing (2 Tim 3:16) and through His Spirit (John 14:26, 1 John 2:27) – we will not produce the fruit He is looking for (Mark 4:13-20). Clearly, for the believer in Christ, fruitfulness is a big deal.

But fruitfulness is not the same as ‘working for your salvation’. Some church doctrines, on the basis of Paul’s writings (Gal 2:21), suggest that if you try to add one little bit of work to your faith, then your faith is not real and then you will not be saved. James – the brother of Jesus – argued the exact opposite to this doctrine (James 1:22). Yet, James agreed with Paul. But how?  

Paul was talking about the perceived need by some to observe the Law of Moses in trying to earn the right to become righteous. James was saying that, after having become righteous through faith - if you and I truly were part of the household of God – we would by us being 'united with Him' be doing the same things as Jesus did during His earthly ministry. This corresponds perfectly with Jesus' words to His disciples: All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you always, even unto the end of the world (Mat 28:18-20, KJV).

Let us look at the bigger picture for a minute:

But what about the "fruit of the Spirit" – isn’t that the ‘fruit’ the Father is looking for? Great question.

There is a quantitative (Mark 4:20) and qualitative (Gal 5:22-24) aspect to continuing the work of Jesus on earth. Where the gifts of the Spirit speak about resultsprophesy, healings, miracles, etc. – the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, goodness, kindness, gentleness, longsuffering and self-controlGal 5:22-23) speak about the approach (or the attitude/heart) one takes in producing those results.

Say a believer (even a born-again believer, I believe) prophesies by the gift of the Spirit (which are: word of wisdom & knowledge, special faith, healings, miracles, prophecy, discerning of different kinds of spirits, different kinds of tongues, interpretation of tongues) but does so out of selfish ambition ('worldliness' - refer Footnote), such work does not honour God, even if it is done by the gifts of the Spirit. Such people may go on to have large followings, but still, if there is no Spiritual fruit, it does not honor God. Note, that despite such 'unfruitfulness', the recipients of the gifts of the Spirit - those who received the prophesy in the example above - still may benefit from those gifts. The gifts do not lose their value because the Christian does not live in agreement with God's character.

Know this: the gifts of the Spirit do show God's power but they do not neccessarily point to a godly life and they do not neccessarily validate a preacher's teachings. This is how many get confused.

Where the gifts of the Spirit are given in one go (like a one-off birthday gift), the fruit of the Spirit are cultivated only over time. That is why Spirit-filled yet immature believers can often create great damage to the perceptions of Christianity - they are capable of presenting God's power (gifts), but not His character (fruit). Some among us, on the basis of these believers questionable motives, discount the gifts of the Spirit. This is a huge mistake for God would not have deliberately and purposefully given them if He did not want them to be used. In the end, they provide the means to fulfilling Jesus' ministry on earth. So, are the gifts important? Yes. And, is it important to live out these gifts by the fruit of the Spirit? Equally Yes!

Click here for Jesus' To Do list which is the extent of His ministry on earth. From this we learn what Jesus' ministry was all about and also what His disciples are busy with from day-to-day.

As a side note, note that 1 Cor 13 (see 1 Cor 12:31-13:1-13) does not actually list godly love as a "gift" although it is noted that 'the love of God is shed abroad' in believers hearts by the Holy Spirit (Rom 5:5). Thus, love is not a gift but it is a new nature afforded to believers by the Holy Spirit. Further, as you may see below, love is something that, by a conscious decision, may be cultivated (refer 2 Peter 1).

Essentially, it is to the person who operated by the gifts of the Spirit but not through the fruit of the Spirit that Jesus said ‘depart from me, I never knew you’ (Mat 7:21-23) - thus, He was saying 'you used my power but My character was never represented in you' (paraphrase).

Therefore, should believers be operating in the gifts of the Spirit? Emphatically Yes! It is doing God’s work on earth. And, should we be diligent in cultivating the fruit of the Spirit in delivering those Spiritual gifts? Again, emphatically Yes! It is not an ‘either, or’ scenario – both are critical to delivering the type of spiritual fruit the father is looking for.

Delivering the right type of spiritual fruit is bringing God’s Kingdom about. You and I need to know that and we need to surround ourselves with people who are actively busy doing the same thing through living out their God-given ministry gifts (apostles, prophets, etc). Not doing that is wasting valuable time, which is not wise. It is producing light in a dark place (Eph 5:11). It includes saying the right thing when it needs to be said as well as not saying that thing when God does not want you to say it (1 Peter 4:11). It includes looking out for your neighbour (James 1:26-2), giving up you resources in the interest of another, loving God and loving your fellow human being.

At it’s base it is about being led by the Holy Spirit – to do what He says in the way that He says, every day He says it (Rom 8:13-14).

We can be assured that that which He asks of us will be that for which He would have equipped us for: Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord, as His divine power has given to us all things that pertain to life and godliness, through the knowledge of Him who called us by glory and virtue, by which have been given to us exceedingly great and precious promises, that through these you may be partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust. (2 Peter 1:2-4)

Finally, delivering godly fruit is the opposite to what the Bible calls being “unfruitful” (Titus 3:14). We have two choices in this world – there is no third choice: working in our respective ministry gifts (apostles, prophets, teachers, pastors and evangelists), being fruitful by the gifts of the Spirit (word of knowledge, healings, special faith, miracles, etc.) through having cultivated the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, etc.), or being unfruitful by missing any one of the above.

Therefore, brethren, be even more diligent to make your call and election sure, for if you do these things (what things? – click here) you will never stumble; for so an entrance will be supplied to you abundantly into the everlasting kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Pet 1:10-11)

May this be you and me!

Footnote:
Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. (Gal 5:19-21). (back to the article)

Scriptural foundation for what I am say here:

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Please consult the Bible and test what is written here. Ask the Lord to give you wisdom in this area. Keep that which is good and reject that which is not Scriptual. Should you come to a different understanding than I please let me know - perhaps I can learn from you.

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