And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God. Philippians 1:9-11 (ESV)
Paul tells us in verse 11 what we are to do in order to become that pure and blameless bride of Christ that he describes in verse 10. In order to have abounding love, increasing knowledge and discernment, so that we may approve what is excellent, we must be filled with the fruit of righteousness. I wanted to know what this fruit of righteousness is, so I did a search of the New Testament for the word “fruit” in an English concordance. The word is used 43 times in the New Testament, occasionally talking about literal fruit, but most often used as a metaphor for the works of the spirit. “Fruit of righteousness” or “fruit of the Spirit” are both terms used to describe the external product of the internal growth of our spiritual life. We spoke about love being an action; fruit is the product of that action.
Jesus spoke extensively about fruit in His teaching in Matthew. In the Sermon on the Mount Jesus warned his listeners to be aware of those who claim to be believers but who produce bad fruit. He tells us that a good tree will produce good fruit and a bad tree will produce bad fruit. But what is the good fruit Jesus is talking about? Paul gives a concise answer to that in Galatians 5:13-26.
13 You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love. 14 The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15 If you keep on biting and devouring each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other. 16 So I say, live by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the sinful nature. 17 For the sinful nature desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the sinful nature. They are in conflict with each other, so that you do not do what you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under law. 19 The acts of the sinful nature are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the sinful nature with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.
What fruit am I producing in my life? Do I spend my time “biting and devouring” my fellow believers? If so, I need to heed Paul’s warning that we will destroy one another. I also need to remember that my enemy is not flesh and blood—we as believers are on the same side of the battle against the evil one! Paul encourages us to keep in step with the Spirit by living out the truth that our sinful nature has ALREADY been crucified! We do not fight against our sinful FOR victory; we battle our sinful nature FROM victory! Producing the fruit of righteousness in our lives is possible for every believer who chooses to daily live in the reality of our flesh being crucified and our spirit being renewed and controlled by the Holy Spirit. As I seek to allow the Lord to work out this prayer in my own life, I pray that I will keep this comparison list close to the front of my mind. Is my life producing discord, jealousy, selfish ambition, idolatry? Or am I producing love, joy, peace, patience and the rest? Sometimes we see ourselves better than we really are. If asked, how would those closest to me describe the fruit in my life?
The fruit we produce is of utmost importance for our walk with the Lord and our representation of Him and His kingdom as we journey through this life as His ambassadors. How will people know that we are His ambassadors? Jesus said in the Gospel of John that they will know us by our love for one another. It is our unity as a body of Christ that sets us apart from the world! They will not know us by our building programs or by our humanitarian aid. They will know us by our unified diversity and love for one another. How are you showing love for your brothers and sisters in Christ that causes you to stand out in the world?