“When we look at a tree and see bad fruit, we conclude it is a bad tree (Matt. 7:17-20). When we look at the same tree and it has good fruit, new fruit, we conclude the tree has changed. There’s not just new fruit but a new tree. This is what God does for His people in regeneration. He doesn’t just change the fruit; He changes the tree.”
A few weeks ago, I was stunned by the beautiful vineyards that filled the Vineland area of the Niagara region in Ontario. So much time, so much money, and so much effort must have been poured into these vines in order to produce the innumerable rich and juicy grape clusters. Beautiful fields full of beautiful vines full of beautiful fruit.
But come with me to the fields of Scripture, especially Galatians 5, where we find trees, and fruit that are even more beautiful, even more valuable, and even more useful.
Look closely and you’ll see a tree with new fruit on it. It had fruit before, but not this fruit; in fact, not really worthy of the name “fruit.” Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and many more rotten fruits used to deface this tree.
But now that old “fruit” is withering or has disappeared. In its place you see: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.
When we look at a tree and see bad fruit, we conclude it is a bad tree (Matt. 7:17-20). When we look at the same tree and it has good fruit, new fruit, we conclude the tree has changed. There’s not just new fruit but a new tree. This is what God does for His people in regeneration. He doesn’t just change the fruit; He changes the tree.
In contrast to the old “fruit” which came from sinful human nature, this is fruit of the Spirit, not the fruit of the human spirit but of the Holy Spirit. These are fruits produced by the Holy Spirit in the human spirit. They are not produced by human effort but by divine power. They have not been stapled on to a tree, but have come from within, from the work of the Holy Spirit deep in the human spirit.
When Jesus said that we would know a tree by its fruits, He meant that its fruit can be seen and identified. It’s no use saying that the Holy Spirit has worked in our lives if the fruits of that work cannot be seen. He’s saying: if fruit cannot be seen, there’s something wrong. There’s no such thing as invisible fruit. The fruits of the Spirit are visible and can be seen by observers.
Trees usually bear only one kind of fruit; this tree bears many different fruits. But what’s especially interesting here is that the Apostle uses the singular “fruit” in the expression “fruit of the Spirit.” In other words, these varied fruits are viewed like a unity, like a bunch of grapes that come altogether. Unlike the gifts of the Spirit, which one Christian may have and not another, the fruit of the Spirit come together or not at all.