Spiritual Fruit and Spiritual Gift
Spiritual fruits and gifts are two most popular topics with any study of the Bible. Due to the nature of this writing, we can’t develop a detailed theme here. We will only outline some key points and passages in order to give an overview of these.
In last chapter, we mentioned spiritual growth as the process and spiritual maturity as the fulfillment of the life God gives to us.
Just like a tree, it takes time to develop from being a seed to be a full-grown tree. Then it is able to bear fruits. Now, for a farmer, the most pleasant moment of his labor is when he has harvested the many fruits from the tree. God is the Farmer, and He takes good care of us as His trees, always working to see to it that we become more fruitful.
What are Spiritual Fruits?
Paul mentioned nine spiritual fruits in his letter to the Galatians:
Gal 5:22-23 [NIV]
22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.
It is very easy to see that these fruits are all characteristics of a person, describing the quality of God’s personality. Evidently God is interested in who we are in Him, more than what we can do for Him.
Mentioned in contrast here are two types of life. One is like a gentile indulging the evil desires that are the norm of the secular culture in the Roman world. The other is a Jew under the law, zealously trying to fulfill the righteous requirements of God by his own endeavors. Either way, it is not the pattern of life Paul tried to share. That is to live by the Spirit and allow God works out His life in us through our faith and obedience to Christ Jesus.
By fellowing different ways of life, we will bear different kind of spiritual fruits. We reap what we sow. If we seek diligently the life of Jesus Christ and the righteousness that comes from His Kingdom, we will grow into eternal life and bear everlasting fruits. We will become the glory and the joy of our Heavenly Father.
Matt 6:33 [NIV]
33But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.
The Kingdom mentioned here is our spiritual Life in and of God the Father, which is vested in His reality, a spiritual Kingdom of His power, glory, order, righteousness and majesty. As we grow and partake His divine nature, we will be more and more like Him, who is love, peace, righteousness, joy, justice, mercy, goodness, etc. Paul mentioned this in the Book of Romans:
Rom. 14:17 [NIV]
17For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit,
Now we can see that, life in the Kingdom of God is not about external achievements for God, rather the inner spiritual life in Him, which is to bear spiritual fruits. Please take note, the eating and drinking mentioned here is not talking about personal eating habits. Rather Paul used it to illustrate the kind of fellowship the believers from the book of Romans indulged in. Evidently they had drifted far away from the practice and substance of true fellowship or communion in Christ Jesus. In Paul’s mind, fellowship or communion in Christ is not about external behaviors or rituals, but the partaking of the substance of the Life of Christ. And it should be done in conformity with the spiritual reality issued from the Kingdom of God.
They are to fellowship and partake spiritual things together in the Kingdom Order, with reverence and understanding.
How to bear Spiritual Fruits
How to have fruits? Jesus teaches us about this very clearly: abide in Him. Let’s take a look.
John 15:1-8 [NIV]
1“I am the true vine, and my Father is the gardener. 2He 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. 3You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. 4Remain 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.
5“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. 6If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. 7If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. 8This is to my Father’s glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples.
Let’s offer some key observations of this very important passage relating to our spiritual life. We are indeed the work of the co-laboring of all the godheads and God’s servants.
God the Father is the gardener or the vinedresser. This means He holds the standard to judge the quality of the fruits, being it good or bad. He will prune the vine so that what left will bear good fruit.
Jesus Christ is the vine. He is the source of all nourishment and only through abiding in the vine can any branch bear fruit.
We as the branches are given life so that we bear much fruit. We can only do so if we remain in the vine. That is our life by the power of the Holy Spirit and faith in Christ Jesus.
How to abide in Him then? He gives clear instruction in the following discourse:
John 15:9-17 [NIV]
9“As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Now remain in my love. 10If you obey my commands, you will remain in my love, just as I have obeyed my Father’s commands and remain in his love. 11I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and that your joy may be complete. 12My command is this: Love each other as I have loved you. 13Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. 14You are my friends if you do what I command. 15I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you. 16You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you to go and bear fruit—fruit that will last. Then the Father will give you whatever you ask in my name. 17This is my command: Love each other.
Godly Love is our best Spiritual Fruit and Spiritual Service
Remain in His love and love one another, this will show unto the world that we are His disciples. How liberating and illuminating to see that He is not keen to have us to perform miracles and signs, which is more related to the working out of our gifts by the Holy Spirit, rather to have His heart of love in us and extend that love to others, esp. those within His Family. Let’s slow down here a bit and envision this for a moment, it portraits a fundamentally different picture of how we are to relate to one another and live together as the people of God from the many norms and visions of modern Christianity. Indeed, when perfection comes, which is Godly Love, the childish things should be done away. And in the discourse above, Jesus is talking about our spiritual maturation and spiritual fruits. Later Paul expound on this topic as well.
1 Cor. 13 [NIV]
13 If I speak in the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing. 3 If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I gain nothing.
4 Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5 It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. 6 Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. 7 It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
8 Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. 9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part, 10 but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears. 11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me. 12 Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
13 And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.
And this is the discipleship or business that our Lord Jesus revealed and entrusted to the early Apostles. You see, the Lord taught and sent them so that they can co-labor with Him in and by the Holy Spirit, not for a culture of the world, but a culture of love in the Household of God. They are to server others the way He serves. In essence, He entrusted them to teach others how to love each others as God would have them. You see, the true content of discipleship goes far beyond just to have the people saved by receiving the Gospel and the Lord, it is to teach others how to love with wisdom and understanding in the Household of God.
Allow me to expound on this further, we often hear, in modern days, how powerful the Lord can be when He moves through a person or a ministry with their gifts or so-called anointing, so we have somehow implicitly or explicitly a picture of what it means to be sent by God. The culture or movement of the Kingdom of God seems to have much to do with the manifestation of spiritual gifts. But, this is such a short-sighted, if not wrong, vision or pattern of the culture of the Kingdom of God. God gives us great gifts, but all gifts are given for a central purpose, that is to build up His Household and serve the Fellowship or Communion of Christ therein, which is the way and power of His Love and the “impartation” of His wisdom.
On one side, the Lord’s command to us to love each other is not a religious creed that confines or even oppresses one to do good deeds or merely to seek the harmony of man, which is the peace of the World as the Lord put it. The Jews at the time taught that, Jesus was not happy with such teachings and criticized them as practicing hypocrisy-honoring Him with their lips, but not with their heart. No, He wants to writes His Law of Love into men’s hearts and minds, so that they become, like Him, sons that belongs to and are taught by their Heavenly Father, endowed with His wisdom and His love.
On the other, the exercise, practice and learning of His way of Love is entrusted to the Church as His family on earth as it is in heaven. In essence, the business of the Father is to have His Heavenly Family to include those who believe the Name of Jesus Christ into His Culture and His Order that comes from above, not to mingle with the one from below which is earthly, demonic and sensual, as James put it. So they can all grow to become His mature sons, like the Son of God.
This is ever the way and design that He positioned and blessed man when He first created him. Man is to multiply and fill all the earth as a special race, one that is taught by Him and can represent Him in every way. Man is to serve Him so as to flow His love, wisdom, which is His glory, unto all creations. For this reason He sent His only begotten son to become a man of grace and truth. The Son knows Him perfectly and is the exact Image of Him and represents Him also perfectly in His Likeness. He was sent by the Father to teach or show man the Way, which was lost when Adam and Eve, the first family sinned or missed this mark of God’s purpose of His divine work. He came so that we can be restored back to the desire and the ways of our Heaven Father. Father God want to share His love and His wisdom with all who belong to Him. And this is the true ministry (service, work or business of the Father) that was given to the Son and later He passed unto the Apostles, even us today. In this sense, it is suffice to say, the way of Godly Love and Godly wisdom is the true content of new covenant ministry and the real purpose of all the services that to be rendered under it.
No wonder the Lord would explain to His disciples: “The world will know you being my disciples by the way how you love each other ”. And as we mentioned before, we are to grow into this perfect love of God by partaking the Life of the Son of God with the help of His blessed and fore-ordained family for us on earth as it is in Heaven.
Abiding in Him is not merely to be “filled by the Spirit”, which we will never despise, but rather more importantly, we are to learn His Business or His Work. That is to receive Godly wisdom so that we can all mature into Godly Love. And this will confer to us a culture and a people of His own, patterned after His Heavenly Family and empowered by His Kingdom. This is the true meaning of what it means that we are set apart or made holy, or to be called out from this evil and corrupted world into His wonderful Kingdom and Household. In this way, we become His chosen people on earth as it is in Heaven.
Now, it is important for us to understand the “work of the cross” in our spiritual journey in the Life of Christ. The symbolic meaning of the cross, needless to say, is the death unto our old nature and life into God. In this light, “suffering in Christ” in the working of God’s discipline unto us as sons of God is ever need to be emphasized. But allow us to expound this topic at another time. Let’s now continue with our main theme here.
In order for us to grow, the Lord not only gives each believer the Gift of the Holy Spirit, He also blesses us with gifts of the Holy Spirit in the Body of Christ or the Church. And they are be exercised out of love unto one another, so that our life can be merged into the work or the business of our Heavenly Father as an extension of His life to benefit all members of His Family, even all creation. In the giving and receiving of these things, we need spiritual discernment. Whether in the receiving or the offering, we will have to ask and discern the effectiveness and the heart behind the working of spiritual gifts. Even when one is offering from a heart of sincerity and good will, we still need the Lord to affirm unto us whether they are properly offered or suitable for our needs in Him or not. But godly love is the sure mark. The Lord has one standard for this love to be expressed: it is be founded upon the reality that one has indeed laid down his life for others. Self-indulgence and complacency are surely need to be purged away before we can wisely and effectively excise our spiritual gifts. Sadly, this often isn’t the case within the Body of Christ today, which makes the understanding and discernment of such things even more necessary.
Now, in the Body of Christ, God gives diverse gifts to different members of the Body to help each other to grow. Let’s take a look at these gifts.
1 Cor 12:4-11 [NIV]
4There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord. 6There are different kinds of working, but the same God works all of them in all men.
7Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. 8To one there is given through the Spirit the message of wisdom, to another the message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he gives them to each one, just as he determines.
All gifts are for service. That is to serve the members of the Body so that each member can grow, as a result, the whole body will grow.
1 Co 12:27-31 [NIV]
27Now you are the body of Christ, and each one of you is a part of it. 28And in the church God has appointed first of all apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then workers of miracles, also those having gifts of healing, those able to help others, those with gifts of administration, and those speaking in different kinds of tongues. 29Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? 30Do all have gifts of healing? Do all speak in tongues? Do all interpret? 31But eagerly desire the greater gifts. And now I will show you the most excellent way.
Now, here Paul offers a further list of spiritual gifts. It is a list of a sequential order. Part of it is because there are greater gifts such as apostolic and prophetic gifts, but mostly it is because this is how a local church would grow under his ministry. Paul came to a place, preached the Gospel, then, the prophets, like Barnabas, would co-labor with him to lay down the spiritual foundation in the lives of the believers and set in order of the local church as a genuine family of God’s people, able to live together in love, faith and freedom by the Holy Spirit. As others members of the church were baptized in the Holy Spirit, their spiritual gifts would manifest. Then they will guide those who are so gifted to practice and foster them in a orderly and helpful manner in the their daily fellowships. This is a very common thing, not a scarce commodity as we commonly witness in many of today’s so-call fellowships. And they are also not overtly the center of their fellowship as well. The center is mutual help and care, and the teachings of the Word of God.
Let us talk a look at this. Just like with our natural life, we enjoy various talents and gifts. Some we will develop very well in life, some we don’t necessary have the chance to do so. For example, I may be a very gifted person with music, but without the proper training and education, my talent will not have the opportunity to achieve excellence. Even if I did, I will still have to decide how I should use it. Should I use it just to gain money and fame? To just entertain people? Or to help others? These aspects are not confined by the perfecting and using of the gift itself, rather are decided by the purpose and value that it is used for. And this always has to do with my heart attitude and desire, whether or not I have the good, even the best of others when using my gifts.
It is the same with our spiritual gifts. Spiritual gift is given to us by God, for us to steward, develop and exercise for the benefit of His Kingdom, to serve Him and His people. That is why Paul would continues to speak of a more excellent way.
That more excellent way is Godly love.
Now, to sum up, let’s look at a passage that states clearly how gifts serves the growth of the body, the end of which is to bear spiritual fruits and come to spiritual maturity.
Eph 4:7-16 [NIV]
7But to each one of us grace has been given as Christ apportioned it. 8This is why it says:
“When he ascended on high,
he led captives in his train
and gave gifts to men.”
9(What does “he ascended” mean except that he also descended to the lower, earthly regions? 10He who descended is the very one who ascended higher than all the heavens, in order to fill the whole universe.) 11It was he who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, 12to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up 13until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.
14Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming. 15Instead, speaking the truth in love, we will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. 16From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work.
Is 11:1-3 [NIV]
1A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord— 3and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears;
Gal 6:7-10 [NIV]
7Do not be deceived: God cannot be mocked. A man reaps what he sows. 8The one who sows to please his sinful nature, from that nature will reap destruction; the one who sows to please the Spirit, from the Spirit will reap eternal life. 9Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up. 10Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people, especially to those who belong to the family of believers.
James 3:17-18 [NIV]
17But the wisdom that comes from heaven is first of all pure; then peace-loving, considerate, submissive, full of mercy and good fruit, impartial and sincere. 18Peacemakers who sow in peace raise a harvest of righteousness.
Psm 1:1-3 [NIV]
1Blessed is the man
who does not walk in the counsel of the wicked
or stand in the way of sinners
or sit in the seat of mockers.
2But his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
3He 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.
Rom 12:3-8 [NIV]
3For by the grace given me I say to every one of you: Do not think of yourself more highly than you ought, but rather think of yourself with sober judgment, in accordance with the measure of faith God has given you. 4Just as each of us has one body with many members, and these members do not all have the same function, 5so in Christ we who are many form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. 6We have different gifts, according to the grace given us. If a man’s gift is prophesying, let him use it in proportion to his faith. 7If it is serving, let him serve; if it is teaching, let him teach; 8if it is encouraging, let him encourage; if it is contributing to the needs of others, let him give generously; if it is leadership, let him govern diligently; if it is showing mercy, let him do it cheerfully.
1 Tim 4:14-15 [NIV]
14Do not neglect your gift, which was given you through a prophetic message when the body of elders laid their hands on you.
15Be diligent in these matters; give yourself wholly to them, so that everyone may see your progress.
2 Tim 1:6-7 [NIV]
6For this reason I remind you to fan into flame the gift of God, which is in you through the laying on of my hands. 7For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.