What is the purpose of a fruit tree? Well the answer is quite obvious of course. The purpose is to bear fruit. This fruit will then be enjoyed by the tree’s owner. The farmer rejoices at the sweet taste of the juice flowing from the first ripe orange which he cultivates each year. Quite similarly scripture tells us that we are a fruit yielding tree (Matt. 7:16-20, John 15:5, Phil. 1:11, Hos. 14:8). By Christ’s saving work we have been renewed that we might now produce good fruit. We have not by our strength sunk our roots into Christ so to imply that we made ourselves Christ’s. Rather, we have been by God “baptized into Christ” and “grafted in” and “our sufficiency is of God” (Gal. 3:27, Rom. 11:19, II Cor. 3:5). What is our purpose now as grafted branches, or rather as a fruit tree? Christ tells us His desire, “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:8). We must understand these works as our purpose as God’s saved children, the natural fruit as those engrafted into Christ, and especially those works flowing out of a gratitude for love so undeserved from our heavenly Father.
First, we observe that we have been “created in Christ Jesus unto good works” (Eph. 2:10). “What shall we say [of righteousness unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord]? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? God forbid” (Rom. 6:1, Rom. 5:21). Of course not!! We have not been saved to now abound in transgression, but rather “that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Rom. 6:4). Scripture reveals to us Christ’s desire in saving us. We are not saved to be able to enjoy a life of sin, but saved unto good works or newness of life. God gave His Son that whosoever believed should have life not death (John 3:16). Shall they then walk in death? No, but they will walk in life. What is it to walk in life? That branch in which Christ abides bears fruit (John 15:5). We have explained that God wills a regenerated man to walk in faith and bear fruit. All this work of sanctification by God is ultimately for His glory and His delight. “These works, as they proceed from the good root of faith, are good and acceptable in the sight of God” (Belgic Confession Art. 24). They may be mere filthy rags and certainly “are of no account towards our justification”, but yet Samuel tells us that God has great delight in the obedience to the voice of the Lord (I Sam 15:22).
Secondly, these fruits are those “before ordained that we should walk in them” (Eph. 2:10). This fruit is the natural product of a child of God. “It is impossible that this holy faith can be unfruitful in man” (Belgic Confession Art. 24). These are organic results of those who have been saved. James says that he will “shew thee my faith by my works” (James 2:18). He is insisting that anyone with faith will of course show fruit of this faith in their lives. Christ sends His Spirit to work in the hearts of His believers. James goes even further to emphasize his point and says, “faith, if it hath not works, is dead, being alone” (James 2:17). Those engrafted into Christ will bear fruit.
Thirdly, though ordained by God and achieved by the strength of Jesus Christ yet these works are performed by us out of a heart overflowing with gratitude. The purpose of these works is not meritorious. So then why must we do good works? “Because Christ…delivered us by His blood…that so we may testify by the whole of our conduct our gratitude to God for His blessings” (Heidelberg Catechism Q.A 86). What greater blessings could we possibly imagine as God’s people? We have fellowship with Jesus Christ and the promise of life everlasting in heaven in His presence. Our thanks ought to be so painfully obvious in our lives that even others ask, “What is the reason for the hope that is in you?” (I Pet. 3:15).
We rejoice that God’s salvation over death and sin is so complete that even now on this earth life is worked within us. We are not dead branches cast aside, but God takes us wild olive branches and grafts us into Jesus the tree with roots that have real life (Rom. 11:17). What amazing work of Christ to take dead sinners and make us into fruitful trees. May our hearts jump for joy at this wondrous work. In gratitude, may we be strengthened each day to perform the good works flowing from faith , which works God has ordained for us.
Luke Christian Potjer