Calvary Road Baptist Church

“THE FRUITS OF A BELIEVER’S UNION WITH CHRIST”

 

One of the most profound and significant aspects of a believer’s relationship with Jesus Christ is what the Bible shows to be union. Beyond the full understanding of even the most sophisticated Christian thinker, the believer’s union with His savior is both miraculous and mystical. That said, the believer’s union with Christ is, nevertheless, a union that is experienced, which is to say, it affects the way you live your life. How is the believer’s union with Jesus Christ experienced? The basis for the believer’s union with Jesus Christ is His crucifixion on the cross of Calvary for our sins, His burial, and His resurrection from the dead and ascension to the Father’s right hand in glory. That saving work performed by Jesus Christ is the basis upon which the sinner’s reconciliation to God by grace through faith is established. Jesus Christ beckons sinners by means of gospel preaching. Those who respond to the gospel by coming to Christ are shown to be joined in union with Jesus Christ. How are those who experience union with Christ to understand what has happened and what is happening to them? We are shown in scripture by means of various illustrations that approximate in physical and emotional terms the spiritual reality represented, establishing that whatever union with Jesus Christ is, it is both wonderful and delightful to the soul.

The illustration of the vine and its branches is one of the most familiar, showing the living reality of union with Christ. The illustration of God the Father’s relationship with His Son, Jesus Christ, pictures life and love in the bond of the Spirit. The comparison of the entire human race being in Adam and all believers being in Christ illustrates how, by faith, believers enjoy solidarity with Jesus Christ. The other three illustrations found in the New Testament that improve our understanding of the believer’s union with Christ are the church being likened to a temple, a congregation being likened to a human body, and the illustration of union with Christ as the lifelong physical, spiritual, emotional, and legal union between a husband and wife in Christian marriage.

We also considered the results of the believer’s union with Christ. To quickly summarize what I could spend months teaching about, when the believer’s union with Jesus Christ is established, he is crucified with and has died with Christ, he has been buried with Christ, he has been made alive with Christ, he has been raised with Christ, and he certainly will be glorified with Christ someday. May I say that the implications of these results are staggering in the life of every believer. As well, allow me to list the issues that relate to the believer’s union with Jesus Christ. In ways that are very different, and obviously more advantageous for the believer than for the nonbeliever, issues related to the believer in Jesus Christ include God’s wonderful grace, God’s sovereign election, saving faith, regeneration or the new birth, justification, the forgiveness of sins, adoption into the family of God, the process called sanctification whereby the saint is transformed into what God has declared the believer to be, and finally the perseverance (or the preservation) of the believer. The ramifications of union with Christ are staggering.

Last week we focused our attention on the believer’s communion with God and the Savior. Communion is the experience that is made possible by one’s union with Christ, the what you might refer to as mystical, which is to say not fully explainable, aspect of the believer’s relationship with his God and his Savior. This morning I wrap up this series of five messages about the believer’s union with Jesus Christ in a sermon about the fruit of the believer’s union with Jesus Christ, under four headings:

 

First, THE IMPORTANCE OF THE FRUIT OF A BELIEVER’S UNION WITH CHRIST

 

Is fruit important? It would seem to be a frivolous question on the surface, yet I think we would agree that laying a good foundation for a consideration of this matter would be very helpful.

Is fruit important to God? Notice what God said concerning fruit in the natural order of things. Genesis 1.11 reads, “And God said, Let the earth bring forth grass, the herb yielding seed, and the fruit tree yielding fruit after his kind, whose seed is in itself, upon the earth: and it was so.” It its broadest meaning, fruit is that which is produced by a living kind as the means for propagating its kind. Thus, not only are fruits from various trees properly understood to be fruit, but also seeds and spores in all their forms are fruit. As well, offspring are rightly understood to be fruit. Deuteronomy 30.9 reads, “And the LORD thy God will make thee plenteous in every work of thine hand, in the fruit of thy body, and in the fruit of thy cattle, and in the fruit of thy land, for good: for the LORD will again rejoice over thee for good, as he rejoiced over thy fathers.” Fruit is so important to God that He withheld fruit from His people as a means of dealing with them about their sins. Psalm 105.35: The locusts God sent “did eat up all the herbs in their land, and devoured the fruit of their ground.” In other words, their crops did not produce, and their animals did not bear young. God withheld fruit because of their sins. Later on, we will see God chastising His children for their sins to produce fruit in their lives. Notice how the concept of fruit is broadened by John the Baptist, in Matthew 3.10, where he warns unbelievers, “And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.” The picture here is of a person who is likened to a tree that does not bear good fruit being cast into the fire. Obviously, then, this entire matter of fruit is important to God. It is significant in the natural order of His creation, in His dealings with His people, and in the words of His greatest prophet.

Is fruit important to the Lord Jesus Christ? Notice what the Lord Jesus Christ taught about those who appeared to be one thing, but were quite different. Consider our Lord’s instructions for discerning one’s true nature by evaluating fruit, in Matthew 7.15-20:

 

15     Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16     Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17     Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

18     A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

19     Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

20     Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

 

Fruit, as we see in this passage, is obviously very telling. Now notice Luke 20.9-16, where the Lord Jesus Christ illustrates the importance of fruit in a parable. As I read, take note of how important fruit is shown to be to the vineyard owner, analogous in this parable to God the Father:

 

9      Then began he to speak to the people this parable; A certain man planted a vineyard, and let it forth to husbandmen, and went into a far country for a long time.

10     And at the season he sent a servant to the husbandmen, that they should give him of the fruit of the vineyard: but the husbandmen beat him, and sent him away empty.

11     And again he sent another servant: and they beat him also, and entreated him shamefully, and sent him away empty.

12     And again he sent a third: and they wounded him also, and cast him out.

13     Then said the lord of the vineyard, What shall I do? I will send my beloved son: it may be they will reverence him when they see him.

14     But when the husbandmen saw him, they reasoned among themselves, saying, This is the heir: come, let us kill him, that the inheritance may be ours.

15     So they cast him out of the vineyard, and killed him. What therefore shall the lord of the vineyard do unto them?

16     He shall come and destroy these husbandmen, and shall give the vineyard to others. And when they heard it, they said, God forbid.

 

Clearly, fruit is important both to God and to His Son, Jesus Christ. However, a consideration of First Corinthians chapters one through eleven reveals a troubling characteristic of Christians who are spiritually immature or temporarily carnal: They diminish in their lives the importance of what God deems important and elevate in importance what God does not deem important, focusing on the spiritually trivial and ignoring the spiritually crucial. In other words, fruit is very important to spiritual and mature Christians, but it is quite unimportant and is neglected by those who are not spiritual or mature. Keep this in mind as we explore this topic that is important to God, to the Savior, and (as you will see) to the Spirit. I hope fruit is important to you.

 

Next, THE IMPLICATIONS OF THE FRUIT OF A BELIEVER’S UNION WITH CHRIST

 

There seems to be three options set forth in God’s Word concerning the quality or nature of fruit. There is good fruit. There is evil fruit. There is no fruit. What are the implications of fruit?

We look back to Matthew 7.15-20:

 

15     Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.

16     Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?

17     Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.

18     A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.

19     Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.

20     Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

 

A second consideration of this passage supports the notion that the kind of fruit that is produced by a tree is a clear indication of the kind of tree it is. Good fruit can only be produced by a good tree and evil fruit can only be produced by a corrupt tree. As well, twice in this passage our Lord declares that the fruit produced by the tree merits conclusions being drawn about the nature of the tree, understanding that our Lord is using the metaphor of tree and fruit for the spiritual condition of individuals and what their lives produce. Your fruit shows your spiritual nature.

Now we look to Matthew 13.3-9:

 

3      And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;

4      And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:

5      Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:

6      And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.

7      And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:

8      But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

9      Who hath ears to hear, let him hear.

 

Four kinds of soils on which the seed of the Word is sown; the way side, stony places, among thorns, and the good ground which resulted in the seeds germinating and bringing forth fruit in varying amounts. Each type of soil typifies a sinner’s receptivity to the Word of God. If you would care to read verses 18-23, where our Lord returns to the parable and interprets it to His disciples, it becomes quite clear that this parable refers to the evangelistic activity of casting the seed of the Word and the various responses. It is imperative for you to understand that only the fourth type of soil, with the bearing of fruit, represents real conversion. The first three types of soil, with no fruit in each of the cases, represent either no response at all or false hopes without real conversion. What is the implication of fruit, at least good fruit? Life, real life. Real life implies reproduction, and fruitlessness, or evil fruit, renders reproduction impossible. Therefore, if there is evil fruit, or if there is no fruit, there is no life (no spiritual life at any rate). Where there is life, from a real conversion, there is fruit in varying amounts.

Verification of this conclusion is found in Matthew 21.19, where the Lord Jesus Christ cursed a fig tree the day following His triumphal entry into Jerusalem. The reason for cursing the fig tree? By all appearances, it was a healthy tree, full of leaves. However, it bore no fruit: “And when he saw a fig tree in the way, he came to it, and found nothing thereon, but leaves only, and said unto it, Let no fruit grow on thee henceforward for ever. And presently the fig tree withered away.”

Recognizing that fruit is used in the New Testament to refer to the byproducts of a genuine spiritual life, a life of union with Jesus Christ much as a fruit bearing branch is in union with the vine, mere apparent attachment to the vine without the production of fruit, and the full growth of a fig tree without the corresponding figs, is insufficient and unacceptable. Branches that produce no grapes are bound for the fire. The fig tree that produced no fruit was cursed and withered away, to be uprooted at a later time and burned, just as John the Baptist predicted: “And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: every tree therefore which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.”[1] No fruit, or evil fruit, implies no life, not spiritual life anyway.

Jude 12 speaks to this issue of fruitlessness: “These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots.”

 

Third, THE EXAMPLES OF THE FRUIT OF THE BELIEVER’S UNION WITH CHRIST

 

There are four different kinds of the fruit produced by the believer’s union with Christ specifically identified in the New Testament as good fruit:

First, there is the fruit of righteousness. What is meant by this? By the fruit of righteousness is meant the kind of behavior that results from the believer’s union with Christ that is pleasing to our righteous and holy God. Think you can be a Christian and live like those who are not Christians? Think again. Some verses speak to this type of fruit in the lives of genuine believers:

 

·               Romans 6.21: “What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed? for the end of those things is death.” This speaks of the evil fruit of the unsaved person’s existence as a sinner estranged from God.

·               Romans 6.22: “But now being made free from sin, and become servants to God, ye have your fruit unto holiness, and the end everlasting life.” See how the Christian’s life, without any claim of perfection, is different than the unsaved person’s life?

·               Romans 7.4-5, where the two types of fruit illustrate the two kinds of behavior of the two spiritual conditions, the believer in union with Christ and the unbeliever who is not:

 

4      Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ; that ye should be married to another, even to him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God.

5      For when we were in the flesh, the motions of sins, which were by the law, did work in our members to bring forth fruit unto death.

 

·               James 3.18: “And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.” This is righteous conduct by the believer resulting from his union with Christ.

·               Hebrews 12.11: “Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby.” This shows that God will chastise the disobedient believer to make sure his life produces the fruit of righteous conduct.

·               Hebrews 13.15: “By him therefore let us offer the sacrifice of praise to God continually, that is, the fruit of our lips giving thanks to his name.” Even the words that come out of a believer’s mouth comprise one aspect of the fruit of righteous conduct.

 

Second, there is the fruit of conversions. This is perhaps the second most commonly recognized fruit of the believer’s union with Christ. Excuse me, but real Christians produce real Christians. After dealing with the woman at the well, the Savior speaks to His returning disciples, John 4.35-37, likening the souls of men to fruit to be gathered at harvest:

 

35     Say not ye, There are yet four months, and then cometh harvest? behold, I say unto you, Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest.

36     And he that reapeth receiveth wages, and gathereth fruit unto life eternal: that both he that soweth and he that reapeth may rejoice together.

37     And herein is that saying true, One soweth, and another reapeth.

 

Here are some select verses from John chapter 15, where Jesus likens believers to branches that are attached and that derive their life from the branch, which is He. Though the passage speaks mainly about the union of the believer and Christ, it is usually agreed that fruit in this passage refers to conversions:

 

2      Every branch in me that beareth not fruit he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit, he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit.

4      Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.

5      I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing.

8      Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.

16     Ye 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: that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

 

Now consider Colossians 1.6, where Paul reminds the Colossians of their own experience, likening their own conversion to fruit: “Which is come unto you, as it is in all the world; and bringeth forth fruit, as it doth also in you, since the day ye heard of it, and knew the grace of God in truth.”

Third, after the fruit of righteousness and the fruit of conversions, there is the fruit of the Spirit, easily the most familiar fruit in the New Testament: The fruit of the Spirit is that which is produced in the believer’s personality as a result of his union with Jesus Christ. Galatians 5.22-23:

 

22     But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith,

23     Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.

 

Ephesians 5.9 speaks to the conduct produced when the indwelling Spirit of God produces such character traits in the believer’s personality: “For the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness and righteousness and truth.” Do you see the relationship of these two passages? Consider. Is it any wonder that a person whose personality is being so affected by his union with Christ will demonstrate goodness, righteousness and truth? Because of this union, making possible the indwelling of the Spirit of God, the believer now loves others, he now rejoices to express the joy he feels in his heart, he is now at peace with men because he is at peace with God and feels peace in his heart, he is longsuffering in situations that used to frustrate and irritate him, he now shows gentleness toward others, he exhibits goodness in his dealings with others, has faith, exhibits meekness, and even reflects a temperance that results from the inner discipline that is resulted from learning to deny self.

Finally, there is the fruit of Christian giving. Notice what Paul writes in Romans 1.13: “Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.” Most people misinterpret this comment as being a reference to wanting to come to Rome to preach and see folks saved under his preaching. Indeed, he is certainly ready to preach the gospel, verse 15: “So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.” However, is the fruit that Paul mentions in Romans 1.13 a reference to sinners brought to Christ, as is no doubt what fruit means in other passages? Or does Paul sometimes refer to something else when he uses the word fruit in this letter to the Romans? Consider what he wrote in Romans 15.20: “Yea, so have I strived to preach the gospel, not where Christ was named, lest I should build upon another man’s foundation.” Therefore, you see, Paul did not intend to come to Rome to preach the gospel to them, since they were already believers. His goal as a missionary was to come to Rome so that he might enlist their help to reach those who were not believers in Spain, Romans 15.28: “When therefore I have performed this, and have sealed to them this fruit, I will come by you into Spain.” By the way, the fruit he refers to in verse 28 is the special collection of money he was raising to take back to the Christians in Judea. When he is speaking of the offering raised for the needy saints in and around Jerusalem fruit refers not to converts, or to conduct, or the Spirit’s affect on one’s personality, but an offering of money! In Philippians 4.14-17, the Apostle Paul addresses the matter of the Philippian congregation sending financial support to him while he was imprisoned in Rome. Notice the number of times in these four verses he makes reference to their offerings for his financial support, concluding in verse 17 by identifying their monetary gifts to him as “fruit that may about to your account”:

 

14     Notwithstanding ye have well done, that ye did communicate (1) with my affliction.

15     Now ye Philippians know also, that in the beginning of the gospel, when I departed from Macedonia, no church communicated (2) with me as concerning giving and receiving (3), but ye only.

16     For even in Thessalonica ye sent once and again unto my necessity (4).

17     Not because I desire a gift (5): but I desire fruit (6) that may abound to your account.

 

Thus, there are at least four different kinds of fruit produced as a result of the believer’s union with Jesus Christ: The fruit of righteousness, the fruit of converts, the fruit of the Spirit, and the fruit of monetary gifts given through the local church.

 

Finally, THE BENEFITS OF THE FRUIT OF THE BELIEVER’S UNION WITH CHRIST

 

Living things must produce fruit in order for the species to reproduce and thereby survive. Christians are no different in this respect. The believer’s union with Jesus Christ must somehow be linked to reproduction or Christianity will die out after one generation. From our consideration of the fruit of the believer’s union with Christ, we know that fruit is important to God, important to the Lord Jesus Christ, important to the Holy Spirit, and important to spiritual believers. The only kinds of people who are not vitally concerned about the fruit of the believer’s union with Christ are those who are not believers and those who are not acting like believers. Fruit is so important to God the Father and Jesus that failure to produce fruit results in dire consequences, with the picture being provided of fruitless vine branches and fruitless fig trees being cast into the fire being used to drive the point home. Think about it for a moment. What Christian would not want God to work in his life, producing fruit as a direct result of his union with Christ, and putting on display for heaven and earth to see evidence of his life in Christ?

In John 12.24, Jesus said, “Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” Though He was obviously referring to His own death on the cross, in principle the believer must experience a death to bring forth much fruit as well, just as a branch must suffer by being pruned back in order to bear much fruit. Fruit, of whatever type is being referred to, can only be produced at some cost. The cost to the corn of wheat to bear fruit is falling to the ground and dying. The cost to the branch on a grape vine to bring forth more fruit is the suffering that comes from pruning. Fruitfulness always costs, but it is a price of time, money, inconvenience, and effort that those in union with Christ are willing to pay to produce fruit that remains.

What is the benefit of fruit? There is the immediate benefit of fruit bearing, the eventual benefit of fruit bearing, and the eternal benefit of fruit bearing. The immediate benefit of bearing fruit is God being glorified. God is glorified when believers bear the fruit of righteous behavior. God is glorified when the indwelling Spirit of God alters a believer’s personality. God is glorified when Christians sacrificially give to spread the gospel, or as they did in Corinth and Macedonia for the impoverished Christians in Judea. The eventual benefit of fruit bearing is conversions. The fruit of righteousness validates the gospel message in the eyes of the lost. The fruit of the Spirit validates the gospel message in the eyes of the lost. The fruit of Christian giving not only validates the gospel message in the eyes of the lost, but it also finances the spread of the gospel message. So, what happens when lost folks are not only exposed to the gospel message, but are also attracted to the fruit on display in the lives of the Christians they see? Attracted to the fruit, they become interested in what produces the fruit, our Savior Jesus Christ, and some even become fruit themselves when they come to Jesus. This results in the eternal benefit of fruit bearing. God is greatly glorified whenever a sinner comes to Christ, and throughout all eternity the new Christian, who is himself the fruit of the believer’s union with Christ, will forever enjoy his union with Christ, and will forever sing God’s praises with the saints.

 

I know better than to trust the smiles and laughter of the unsaved. I was unsaved for a long time myself, so I know how hard a lost guy works to convince himself he is having a good time or is happy. Besides that, I know what the Bible says about that empty fellow who has no experience of union with Jesus Christ. Apart from union with Jesus Christ, a man produces nothing of value, nothing of worth, nothing of benefit, and nothing by which his soul is satisfied. Why not? His life produces no good fruit. At best, he occasionally produces nothing, but most of the time he produces the evil fruit of wrecked lives and dashed hopes as he wickedly sins against God. Therefore, in the end he will be “hewn down, and cast into the fire.” A sad but fitting ending to a life of rejecting Jesus Christ.

For the believer, however, because of his union with Christ, there is fruit, fruit, fruit and more fruit. Why is there fruit of righteousness? Why is there fruit of the Spirit? Why is there fruit of monetary giving? Why is there the fruit of conversions, sinners coming to Christ? Because there is life, because there is union, because we both want to and can produce fruit by reason of our union with the savior, Jesus Christ.

What do people do who don’t want the fruit of righteousness? Whatever they want to do. What do people do who don’t want the fruit of the Spirit? They grieve and quench the Spirit as much as they want. What do people do who don’t want the fruit of Christian giving? They hold on to their money, or spend it on really important stuff like expensive cars. Finally, what do people do who don’t want the fruit of new converts? All the above, plus they stay home from evangelism and do not try to bring people under the sound of the gospel . . . because they want to.

Why does an apple tree produce apples? Why does an orange tree produce oranges? Why do Christians produce four kinds of fruit? It is what we do. It speaks of our union with Christ. We choose to live this way because we are Christians. If you do not produce fruit, and do not want to be hewn down and cast into the fire, you need to seriously reconsider the gospel of Jesus Christ.



[1] Luke 3.9



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