What is meant by being a fruitful Christian?

In Scripture, fruit is a metaphor used to describe the outward demonstration of one's inward disposition. Our "fruit" includes things like our behavior, attitude, words, and thoughts. Fruit can be either good or bad. Naturally, all people produce bad fruit (i.e. sinful actions, deeds, or behavior; see Matthew 15:18–20; Romans 7:5; Galatians 5:19–21). Our bad behavior/fruit is a natural result of being born with bad hearts (Psalm 51:5; Ephesians 2:3; Romans 5:12). We are born with a sinful nature and thus we naturally produce bad fruit. Therefore, the first and most important thing towards understanding what it means to be a fruitful Christian is to understand what it means to be a Christian. This may seem obvious, but the truth is that many people have misconceptions about what it means to be a Christian. Many people believe that doing outwardly "good" deeds, going to church, or being born to Christian parents, makes them Christian. However, God's word teaches that a Christian is one who has been born again through faith in Jesus Christ and is therefore a new creation who is indwelt and empowered by the Holy Spirit (John 3:3; 1 Peter 1:23; 2 Corinthians 5:17; Romans 8:9–11).

The contrast between the fruit or works of the flesh produced by sin and the fruit of the Holy Spirit produced in the life of a Christian is clearly set forth in Galatians 5:19–24: "Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires." Those who have been born again spiritually and belong to Jesus Christ produce the fruit of the Holy Spirit.

It is crucial to realize that being fruitful is not something that is accomplished by mere human willpower, but only by the power of God and His Holy Spirit working in and through the believer in Christ. Being fruitful is a work of God's grace (Philippians 2:13; 1 Corinthians 15:10; John 15:1–5).

Good fruit cannot be judged on mere external acts. If that were the case, then the Pharisees would be the most fruitful of all people. Instead, Jesus calls them white-washed tombs because although they appear good on the outside, inside they are rotten (Matthew 23:27–28). They are not motivated by love for Jesus and their aim is not to glorify God. Instead, they are motivated by self-righteousness with the aim of appearing righteous before men (Matthew 23:5–7). They bear bad fruit disguised as good fruit.

Being a fruitful Christian works from the inside out. For instance, the apostle Peter in his second book, chapter 1 verses 5–8, states, "For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ." Notice that it is not actions, but qualities, that have the priority. God first transforms our inner being, which then results in our bearing good fruit outwardly. If we are not first inwardly made alive to God, our outward good deeds are mere hypocrisy.

However, this is not meant to dismiss or demean the necessity of the good fruit or good works themselves. The faith that God gives us to receive Christ is a faith that works. True saving faith, as opposed to a hypocritical false profession of faith, will make us fruitful. A dead faith is no real faith at all (James 2:17).

So, what does this fruit look like? Good fruit is seen in a change in our disposition, attitudes, affections, and actions. Those sins which we formerly loved become loathsome to us (Romans 6:21). We begin to love others with the love of Christ (John 13:34–35). We more easily forgive (Ephesians 4:32; Colossians 3:13). As we are given opportunity, we seek to do good to everyone (Galatians 6:9–10). We exercise our spiritual gifts for the building up of the body of Christ (1 Corinthians 12; Ephesians 4:11–16). We share the good news of salvation and make disciples (Matthew 28:18–20). We are grateful and give praise to God (Colossians 3:15). We seek to do all things for God's glory (Colossians 3:17). We confess our sins to God and pray for His continual work in us (1 John 1:9; Philippians 1:6). We strive to know God and to do the things which please Him, knowing that we can bear no true fruit apart from Him (John 15:1–12).

Being a fruitful Christian is not accomplished by checking off a "to do" list but by having our essential being and character changed, renewed, and progressively conformed to the image and likeness of Christ (Romans 12:2; 2 Corinthians 3:18). To be fruitful means to follow Christ. To love what He loves. To do what He commands from a loving motive and with a joyful spirit. This obedience is both predestined by and empowered by God Himself which removes any grounds for boasting in how fruitful our lives or ministries become (Ephesians 2:10; 1 Corinthians 1:28–31). It is by God's grace and our abiding in Christ that we produce good fruit (John 15:4–5). The fruit is good because God is good and we ascribe all the glory to Him for it (Philippians 1:11).

Related Truth:

What is the fruit of the Spirit?

What does it mean to be filled with the Holy Spirit?

How can I seek first the kingdom of God?

What must I do to please God?

I want to live my life for God. How do I do that?

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