Meditations in Colossians: 20. Bearing Fruit
Col 1:10 And we pray this in order that you may live a life worthy of the Lord and may please him in every way: bearing fruit in every good work
We have already seen ‘fruit bearing’ language a little earlier in this chapter but there it was in connection with the Gospel that was growing and spreading all over the world, but now this is ‘fruit bearing’ in respect of us as individuals. Now to start of somewhat legalistically we might suggest that God expects fruit from our lives. Isaiah pictured Israel in the form of a vineyard and said, “Then he looked for a crop of good grapes, but it yielded only bad fruit.” (Isa 5:2) The primary role of a vineyard is to grow vines to produce grapes. In his picture when this vineyard failed to bear good fruit, God removed the vineyard. What a warning!
Jeremiah used a ‘fruit bearing’ picture to indicate blessedness: “But blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose confidence is in him. He will be like a tree planted by the water that sends out its roots by the stream. It does not fear when heat comes; its leaves are always green. It has no worries in a year of drought and never fails to bear fruit.” (Jer 17:7,8) This is the person who “trusts in the Lord” – that’s you and me! That is very similar to Psalm 1: “Blessed is the man….. (whose) delight is in the law of the LORD, and on his law he meditates day and night. He is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season and whose leaf does not wither. Whatever he does prospers.” (Psa 1:1-3) Fruitfulness and prosperity comes to the one whose heart is set on the will and word of God.
John the Baptist’s teaching was very basic: “Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.” (Mt 3:8) If you repent, you change – that’s if you really repent. Jesus similarly used the fruit analogy but in a different way: “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.” (Mt 7:16-20) i.e. the fruit reveals the state of the tree! It doesn’t matter what you say or call yourself, if you are bearing ‘bad’ fruit, you are still a bad tree. Later on he added to this: “Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit.” (Mt 12:33) How do you make a bad tree good? It is to born again!
Even later he uses the vine analogy: “I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. He cuts off every branch in me that bears no fruit, while every branch that does bear fruit he prunes so that it will be even more fruitful. You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.” (Jn 15:1-5)
The psalmist saw this and pointed out that it is not a matter of age, for, “The righteous will flourish like a palm tree… They will still bear fruit in old age, they will stay fresh and green.” (Psa 92:12,14) With God’s word we are designed to keep on being fruitful.
Fruit is clearly part of the ‘salvation package’, if I may put it like that, that Jesus has for us. Indeed if we go to my most quoted verse in Ephesians, “For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do,” (Eph 2:10) we see that the ‘fruit’ we bear, as now indicated in our verse above, is the fruit of ‘works’ and they are works that God has on His heart for us. Because each one of us is unique, and we are different members of the body of Christ (1 Cor 12:27), we will have different ‘works’ from one another, as we are led by His Spirit.
But note Paul says, “in every good work”. Success or fruitfulness is the guarantee of everything that we do that is good and inspired by God’s Spirit within us. As we abide, or stay close to Jesus, he will guide his Spirit to guide, inspire and empower us and the things we do, will have his blessing and because of that will flourish. As believers, as we allow him to lead us, so we may expect his blessing on what we do and that will be seen in success and even more fruitfulness. It is not something that we have to work at so much as receive. Fruit is the natural growth and development of a healthy plant. As we live our lives, “in Christ”, trusting in him, trusting in his word, being led by his Spirit, so we expect good things to come from our lives: goodness, love, righteousness etc. May it be so.