“Fruit of righteousness? What is this? Need more clarity.”
This was a great question from Sunday’s sermon here at Reforming Church, that I am answering somewhat late in the week. It’s a question that came on one of our Communication Cards, and I love questions like this because it affords the opportunity for clarity – yet also for application from God’s word.
That phrase, ‘fruit of righteousness’, appears in the Apostle Paul’s prayer for the church at Philippi:
‘And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.’ [Philippians 1:9-11]
So how do we know what this is?
A helpful way to read the Bible and understand hard texts, or to simply find more clarity on phrases like this, is by seeing how Scripture interprets Scripture. For this phrase then, where else in the Bible do we see it?
We similar language in Hebrews 12:11, where God’s discipline of us as believers is for our good. He allows our struggles so that by looking to Jesus we ultimately live a life that ‘later yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness’. So we see in Hebrews, like Philippians 1:11, that the fruit which comes from the Christian life is that which comes through faith in Jesus Christ.
In Ephesians 3:19 the Apostle Paul also prays there that Christians would know the love of Christ and ‘be filled with all the fullness of God.’ To be in union with Christ, saved and shaped as a Christian by faith in Christ, is to be filled with the Spirit of Christ.
Then we see in Galatians 5:22 that because a Christian has the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, they then are to ‘walk by the Spirit’ and not ‘gratify the desires of the flesh’ (Galatians 5:16). This way of living by the Spirit produces fruit of the Spirit that we see evident in a Christian’s life, evidence of them being born-again.
So as we look at these parts of Scripture to form a whole picture of what it means to be ‘filled with the fruit of righteousness’, we see Paul’s prayer would be one we want to pray. For those in Christ, who love one-another in Christ, who are partners (team members) in Christ’s body the church – we pray that we would live to produce the ‘fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.’
We pray as we are filled with the Spirit, we would produce the fruit of the Spirit.
We pray we would abound in love and knowledge of who Jesus is and what he has done for us.
We pray that as we go through trials and pains, even partners with people who suffer, that we would yield the fruit of righteousness. That we would live for Jesus our Lord.
What God’s word is saying here, is that we ought to pray that the gospel changes us, that we produce the fruit of being righteous in Christ, and that God gets all the glory and praise for this – for God has given us grace.
This is what this phrase means, moreover, it will mean more as we pray for it in each other’s lives.
So let’s do just that.