In the parable of the sower (Matt. 13) one of the characteristics of the good ground is that it "beareth fruit." Since the various soils in this parable are representative of the hearts of men, the lesson for us is that when the seed (the word of God) is sown (put into the mind by teaching) the result will be that the man will bear fruit if he has a good heart.
In Romans 7:1-5 Paul speaks there of two types of fruit that it is possible for men to bear. (1) Fruit unto death. This was the fruit that was borne by "the sinful passions which were through the law" (vs. 5). (2) Fruit unto God. This is the fruit that we must bear today as a result of having been made "dead to the law through the body of Christ" and having been "Joined to another, even to him who was raised from the dead" (vs. 4). Men today are bearing fruit either unto God (fruit which leads to acceptance by God) or unto death (fruit which leads to rejection by God — spiritual death). Let us look at some things which must be true of a person before he can bear fruit unto God.
(1) A man must be "in Christ" or a Christian. In our Lord's discussion of the vine and the branches (Jo. 15:5) He said "I am the vine, ye (my followers–DS) are the branches: He that abideth in me and I in him, the same beareth much fruit: for apart from me ye can do nothing." Paul said in Phil. I: I I that we are to be "filled with the fruits of righteousness which are through Christ Jesus." A man must be "in Christ" before he can bear fruit "through Christ" and to be "in Christ" is to be a Christian. But this is not all there is to bearing fruit unto God.
(2) A man must be a righteous Christian. Many people claim to be "Christians" yet are living ungodly and unholy lives. No fruit unto God can be borne in this condition. Notice again Phil. 1: 11"being filled with the fruits of (belonging to, coming from) righteousness (a righteous life)." Col. 1: 10 also shows that bearing fruit and living righteously are inseparably connected: "walk worthily of the Lord, bearing fruit unto every good work." See also Eph. 4: 1 and Phil. 1: 27. However, just as it takes more than being a "good-moral-man" to be a Christian, it takes more than being a "good-moral-Christian" to bear fruit unto God. There are many Christians who are living righteous lives (not immoral lives characterized by debauchery) that are still not bearing fruit. It is not difficult to find these two requirements for bearing fruit in congregations of the Lord's people, yet many times there is no fruit being borne unto God either individually or collectively. So —
(3) A man must be a righteous Christian who is zealous. Notice Jno. 15:5 again. The man who abides in Christ bears much fruit. Phil. 1: 11 — "being filled with the fruits of righteousness." Rom. 12: 1 — "Present your bodies a living sacrifice." I Cor. 15:58 "always abounding in the work of the Lord." In order to bear much fruit and to be filled with the fruits of righteousness and to always be abounding in the work of the Lord and to present our bodies as living sacrifices, we must be zealous. There will be no fruit borne unto God without it. Again, however, this is not all there is to fruit bearing. There are many righteous people in the kingdom of Christ that are zealous but are still not bearing fruit unto God. Their fruit is not accepted by God, either because (a) their zeal is leading them to do a "good" work that is not approved of or authorized by God or (b) their zeal is leading them to do good -works (evangelization, edification, benevolence) in an un-approved or un-authorized manner. Therefore —
(4) A man must be a righteous Christian who is zealous and knowledgeable. Notice Col. 1: 10 — "bearing fruit unto every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God." Our zeal must be tempered and controlled by a knowledge of what God approves and authorizes. It is certainly a sad thing to witness brethren with "a zeal for God, but not according to knowledge." (Rom. 10: 2).
Are you bearing fruit? Is it fruit unto God or fruit unto death? The answers to these questions lie in the answer to another one: "Am I a knowledgeable-zealous-righteous-Christian?"