The Fruit of the Spirit
Robert Wurtz II
Therefore bear fruits worthy of repentance, and do not begin to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father.’ For I say to you that God is able to raise up children to Abraham from these stones. And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” So the people asked him, saying, “What shall we do then?” (Luke 3:7-10)
Since the Garden of Eden, trees and fruit have been part of the story of humankind. All the trees in the garden yielded fruit that was good for food. One tree, however, was off limits; the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Adam and Eve were trees, too, figuratively. All humankind are trees in biblical metaphor. As trees, we yield fruit after our own kind. The fruit motif is taught throughout the scriptures but comes into focus during the ministry of John the Baptist.
Fruits are the means by which trees and other plants disseminate their seeds. A more straightforward way of putting it is that the fruit carries the seed. So when Eve and Adam rebelled and ate the fruit from the forbidden tree, the seeds of sin and rebellion went into them and altered the root of their very being. Whereas the fruit of their life was good like the other trees of the Garden, now, just as the ground, they brought forth thorns and briars (Genesis 3:18, Hebrews 6:8).
The Ax is Laid to the Root
From the days of John the Baptist until now, God expects all people to bear good fruit rather than thorns and briars. Fruit is a common metaphor in the New Testament used to denote the good behavior of a person who is yielded to God’s Holy Spirit. The tree or the branch (depending on the passage) is the person, and their actions are its fruit. Conversely, a life yielding thorns and briars is one of sin and rebellion.
John the Baptist arrests the people’s attention, proclaiming, “And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” What could be more simple? Nobody uses thorns and briars except to burn, and if that’s what we are in God’s sight, that is awful news! We are bound for Hell!
The stunned people asked, “what must we do?” They understood that their behavior must change. John gave each person something to do based on what the Spirit led him to say. Most of his directives targeted unbiblical attitudes towards money and possessions. Why? Because most people are covetous, which is idolatry, the same as serving false gods (Ephesians 5:5, Colossians 3:5). If they obeyed, they brought forth fruits worthy of repentance, the first good fruit anyone can bring forth as a tree or a branch.
The Vine and Vinedresser
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 NKJV)
John 15:1-2 explains how fruit develops using the same basic idea of a branch. The true Vine is Jesus, the true branches are the Saints, the unfruitful branches are false believers, and the Father is the Vinedresser. Any person in Christ can bring forth fruit if they allow and do not resist the Holy Spirit’s life-giving flow.
Tree sap is sometimes called the blood of the tree. This is because it carries nutrients from the roots to the rest of the tree. Likewise, we’re told in the Old Testament that the life of the flesh is in the blood (Leviticus 17:11). I am reminded of the verse where Jesus said, “Unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you have no life in you.” (John 6:53) When the people heard this, many stopped following Him. Instead, they asked, “How can He give us His blood to drink?” It may seem like a stretch to link these things together, but just like a grafted branch receives a new life source, the life of Christ flows in us when we are grafted into the True Vine. His life produces the fruit of the Spirit.
“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.” (John 15:4)
Romans 11:16-21 explains how God breaks off natural branches that don’t produce. So the unbelieving Jews who are in unbelief are broken off, and “wild” branches are grafted in because of their faith. If that grafted branch continues in His goodness and produces fruit, it remains, but if not, it will be broken off, too.
It should have been natural for the Jews to believe and receive the Holy Spirit (producing fruit) because they had been cultivated for that purpose since the time of Abraham. But they always resisted the Holy Spirit, leaving their branches dead and withered (Acts 7). The Gentiles were aliens and strangers to all these benefits (Ephesians 2:12) but were grafted in when they believed in Christ and received His Holy Spirit.
If we yield to the authority of the Holy Spirit, we will produce the Fruit of the Spirit. Any branch (person) in which the Holy Spirit flows unresisted will bear His fruit. Steven’s sermon in Acts 6-7 explained that people always resist the Holy Spirit. One cannot resist and receive at the same time. As the Holy Spirit strives with us individually, it is imperative that we not resist Him. Resisting the Holy Spirit leads to unfruitfulness and barrenness.
But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you (John 14:26).
The objective of the Holy Spirit is to bring about a consistent walk of life, in public and private, that agrees with the teachings of Jesus Christ. Obedience and compliance are where the fruit evidence rests. We call it the fruit of the Spirit, which manifests as goodness, righteousness, truth, holiness, love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Ephesians 5:9, Galatians 5:22-23, Romans 6:22).
Jesus emphasized the importance of keeping His words so that He and the Father could come and make their home in the obedient person. The Helper, or the Holy Spirit, reminds us of Jesus’ words and continues our instructions for an obedient life. Moreover, He came to convict the world of sin, righteousness, and judgment to come (John 16:8). Conviction is when the hand of God presses hard on us to bring about compliance with His word (Psalm 32:4).
The Holy Spirit is here to enforce submission to Christ. When we are disobedient, He reproves us strongly, bringing a sense of shame for our wrongdoing. Jesus is our Savior from sin when we allow His Holy Spirit to instruct and guide us. The objective is more than forgiving past sins; it is being saved from sinning at all. When this reality is working, our tree or branch brings forth much fruit.
Jesus said, “You have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain” (John 15:16). In other words, God has ordained that a Christian yield fruit and He will accept no substitutes. Talents can’t substitute; giftings can’t substitute; education can’t substitute; prophetic utterances can’t substitute; and divine miracles can’t substitute.” A tree is known by the fruit it bears. Fruit is not a piece of evidence; it is the evidence.
The Danger of Fruitlessness
“And seeing a fig tree by the road, He came to it and found nothing on it but leaves, and said to it, “Let no fruit grow on you ever again.” Immediately the fig tree withered away.” (Matthew 21:19)
When Jesus cursed the fig tree, it should have reminded everyone of the saying of John the Baptist regarding the ax being laid to the root of the trees. Likewise, every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire. Trees are a picture of people, and fruit is evidence of the operation of the Holy Spirit in their life.
The Danger of Bad Fruit
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:15–17 NKJV)
It is a simple truth, “Bad trees produce bad fruit, and good trees produce good fruit. Every tree is known by its fruit.” Moreover, trees don’t bear thorns or bad fruit one minute and good fruit the next. There will be consistency if the tree is good. The impact of these things is that nobody is qualified to be a Christian if the fruit of the Spirit is gone from their life. Everyone is known by the fruit their life produces consistently.
Sadly, the deceived will appeal to their everything from being “Abraham’s Seed” to their own miraculous works as evidence of their salvation, only to hear, “depart from me you worker of iniquity, for I never knew you.” (Matthew 7:13-27) Judas was a miracle worker, and yet he killed himself after betraying the Lord. He lacked that first fruit of repentance where he should have dealt with his love of money. But he had many chances to repent afterward. He heard all the teachings of Jesus for three solid years. But he kept coveting and stealing, deluded that he was right with the Lord. What a tragedy. The ax was finally applied to the root of his tree. His life reminds me of the passage in Hebrews:
“For the earth which drinks in the rain that often comes upon it, and bears herbs useful for those by whom it is cultivated, receives blessing from God; but if it bears thorns and briers, it is rejected and near to being cursed, whose end is to be burned.” (Hebrews 6:7–8 NKJV)
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