Many people like to speak about “bearing fruit”. That is natural, since “fruit” occurs in various forms 253 times in the KJV. Jesus Himself spoke a lot about the subject. However, it seems that every time the subject comes up, there is only one verse that ever really gets quoted:
17Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
Out of Context Means It Could Mean Anything
There is a danger any time you pluck a verse out of the Bible and try to interpret it.
What makes it really strange is that it is always slanted towards one’s particular organization. The “fruit” is often viewed as the number of telecasts, booklets, magazines or other publications. Sometimes, it might even be radio broadcasts. What makes it really strange, though, is that the numbers are massaged and slanted against the “other” more “Laodicean” organization.
I have written before about the media strengths and weaknesses of various COG groups. I suppose if one had time, a more accurate comparison could be done, but I have to wonder what the purpose of it would be. Even more, what good would it do?
The real problem I have with it all is that it totally ignores what Jesus meant!
Verse In Context of Sermon
Jesus continues His sermon in Matthew 7, where verse 1 is the often abused “Judge not” command. He then has a discourse on some other matters, but if you follow His discourse, you can see the relationship chain between each item and the one previous to it. Then He progresses through this chain and then states what is often called the “Golden Rule”:
He had just finished speaking about how “your Father” treats you, and so you should pass on that love and kindness to others. Note how this love and kindness is wrapped up in “the law and the prophets.”
Then, Jesus seems to break the chain, at least initially:
13Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat:
That seems completely out of context if you believe that “the Law was done away”. However, keeping God’s Law is totally the narrow way. Going back to the Golden Rule, then, it is Law that defines how to love, and that kind of love comes from above.
What could keep someone from finding the narrow way?
15Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
I want you to re-read that passage, please. When you use the words of Matthew 7 to talk about the perceived fruits of other Church of God organizations, what are you really saying? Are you sure that you want to make that comparison?
21Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? (Matthew 7:21-22, King James Version)
Did we not print many booklets in thy name? Did we not have many telecasts in thy name?
Or, as the NLT puts it:
But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.’
Verse In Context of Rest of Bible
Not only that, but the notion that “fruit” applies to booklets, etc, pretty much ignores just about every other reference to fruit in the Bible.
Like HWA used to say, though, don’t believe me, believe your Bibles:
Where is the first mention of eating fruit in the Bible? What did that fruit symbolize?
Was there another tree in the Garden? What did its fruit symbolize?
Where is fruit first mentioned in the NT? Are there any parallels to Mt 7?
Where is Jesus’ second reference to fruit in the NT? Does it have anything to do with the Holy Spirit? Does it have any parallels to the Tree of Life?
What are fruits of the Spirit? Are they pamphlets, books and telecasts?
What fruits come from the Parable of the Sower? Why does Luke call it “fruit to perfection”?
Did Paul think bearing fruit had something to do with keeping the Law in Romans 6 – 7?
Did Jesus emphasize love and bearing fruit both in John 15? Did He tie together love and keeping the commandments (v 10)?
Conclusion: What is Fruit?
I think it should be evident that “fruit” is not booklets, pamphlets, telecasts, websites or even sermons! Gal 5:22-23 pretty much outlines what fruit looks like.
And, that is just it. Fruit is the outward sign of God’s Holy Spirit working within you. It is the changed heart that willingly obeys God and applies His Law within their everyday lives, leading to an outgoing concern for others which is the visible fruit of God’s Spirit.
Or, as Jesus described it, we (or, more precisely, our hearts) are the ground. The seed is the word (including the Law, obviously). The Holy Spirit, then, is the water.
Are you good soil?