Fruit-Bearing And Working
Walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him, bearing fruit in every good work.(Colossians 1:10)
There is a difference between fruit and work. Fruit is that which comes spontaneously, without thought or will, the natural and necessary outcome of a healthy life. Work, on the contrary, is the produce of effort guided by intelligent thought and will. In the Christian life we have the two elements in combination. In the words “bearing fruit in every good work” we have the practical summing up of this truth.
Because God works by His life in us, the work we do is fruit. Because, in the faith of His working, we have to will and to work, the fruit we bear is work. In the harmony between the perfect spontaneity that comes from God’s life and Spirit animating us, and our cooperation with Him as intelligent fellow-laborers, lies the secret of all true work.
The words “bearing fruit in every good work” suggest that as an apple tree or a vine is planted solely for its fruit, so the great purpose of our redemption is that God may have us for His work and service. In the parable of the vine, our Lord insisted on this: “He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit……Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit” (John 15: 5,8). Nothing is more to the honor of a husbandman than to succeed in raising an abundant crop-much fruit is glory to God.
The call to be fruitful in every good work is for every Christian without exception. The grace that fits for it, of which the prayer, in which our words are found, speaks, is for everyone.
Every branch fruitful in every good work-this is an essential part of God’s gospel. As we grasp this, we shall boldly give ourselves to the diligence, sacrifice, and effort needed for a life that bears fruit in every good work.
It is without question that an apple tree bears apples, the fruit which bears seeds that in turn produce more trees which bear more apples which bear more seeds which bear more trees and on and on. This is the progression of Gods design in creation for Genesis tells us that God designed everything to reproduce after its own kind. When that apple tree ceases to bear fruit and yet continues to soak up the nutrients and water, it does so at the expense of the other fruit-bearing trees. The wise farmer will remove the tree and plant another fruit-bearing tree in its place for that tree is no longer fulfilling its purpose.
Jesus gives us a parable to this end that we as His people are designed by God to produce fruit that produces seed that produces more fruit-bearing believers and the kingdom of God increases.
Then He began telling them this parable: “A certain man had a fig tree that had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, but did not find any; 7 so he said to the vineyard-keeper, ‘For three years I have come looking for fruit on this fig tree and have found none. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground [depleting the soil and blocking the sunlight]?’ 8 But he replied to him, ‘Let it alone, sir, [just] one more year until I dig around it and put in fertilizer; 9 and if it bears fruit after this, fine; but if not, cut it down.’”
There is no question of the patience and grace of God in this story for it says that the man came for three years looking for fruit before he told the vine keeper to cut it down. The vine keeper who represents Christ asks to give it another year of digging and fertilizing it and then if it didn’t bear fruit it would be cut down. Yet we must not overlook the expectation that the tree must bear fruit or else it would be cut down and removed. In the parable the man said that it was “depleting the soil and blocking the sunlight.
We as the people of God, once we are born again, are designed to be like Christ. This is not just in His character but in His work. What, then, is the work of Christ? We read that He fed the hungry and healed the sick and taught the Word of God. But was that the work of Christ, for if so the cross was unnecessary. Sometimes the church becomes so busy meeting the physical needs of people that it forgets it’s true purpose of meeting their spiritual needs. In all His work of meeting physical needs, Christ never strayed from nor forgot His mission. He clearly defines it:
10 for the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost.”
Further, He did not tell us to go feed the hungry or clothe the naked or to advocate for justice as the mission of the church. Although as believers, we ought to do those things, Christ commissioned us for a higher purpose. That purpose was to continue His work of “seeking and saving the lost.” Listen to what we call the Great Commission:
Jesus came up and said to them, “All authority (all power of absolute rule) in heaven and on earth has been given to Me. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations [help the people to learn of Me, believe in Me, and obey My words], baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe everything that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always [remaining with you perpetually—regardless of circumstance, and on every occasion], even to the end of the age.”
So if our apple tree is only producing branches and roots but no apples, then it is not doing what it was created to do and as the parable says it is taking up space and using up resources for no purpose. I realize that for years the church and Christians have considered the Great Commission as the Great Suggestion and far too many churches and Christians live as though making disciples is a sideline rather than the mainline purpose of the church. We have been given the grace of God even while ignoring His instructions.
The disciples wished to divert the purpose of their mission, but Christ redirected them in His last words.
So when they had come together, they asked Him repeatedly, “Lord, are You at this time reestablishing the kingdom and restoring it to Israel?” He said to them, “It is not for you to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by His own authority. 8 But you will receive power and ability when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be My witnesses [to tell people about Me] both in Jerusalem and in all Judea, and Samaria, and even to the ends of the earth.”
At no point did the Acts church veer from this course of fruit bearing. We decry the fact of the declining church without considering the disease leading to this malady. It is this: the apple tree that bears no fruit has no place and the idea that a Christian bears no fruit isn’t a biblical concept.
It’s time to rediscover or to discover our purpose, the work of Christ in the proclamation of the gospel. One day when we stand before Christ, He will ask us what we did to grow the kingdom. He may not ask us how many people we helped or clothed or fed, but how many we led to follow Him.
As God instructed Adam and Eve, let us “be fruitful and multiply.” May it become for us in our day what was said of the Acts church: “and the Lord added daily to the church” because the believers were fruitful in their work for God.
Dr. John Thompson