Thursday 6 April 2017


Sweet and succulent grapes; wild grapes; thorns and thistles

Vivid imagery from agriculture gives us a good idea of the type of fruit that God approves and disapproves

Most believers are familiar with the passage in John chapter 15 where Jesus is the vine and believers are the branches.

Once we become believers, we are expected to bear fruit—good fruit, abundant fruit, the kind of fruit that lasts.

The secret of fruit-bearing is to abide in Christ; for without Christ, we can do nothing (John 15:5).

Believers who bear much fruit bring glory to God and prove that they are true disciples (John15:8).

The logical question you might ask, next, is this: What are the various types of “spiritual fruit”?

Well, here are some of the "fruits":
  • Fruit of good works (Colossians 1:10)

  • Fruit of righteousness (Philippians 1:11)

  • Fruit of the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5: 22-23)

  • Fruit of evangelism—lives impacted by Paul’s ministry (2 Corinthians 3:2)

  • Fruit of lips—praising God (Hebrews 13:15)

In the Parable of the Sower, the seeds that fell on good soil yielded abundant fruit—thirtyfold, sixtyfold and a hundredfold. Now, what does this good soil represent? It is symbolic of those with receptive hearts who are obedient to God and do His will (Mark 4: 20).

In the Parable of the Talents, the men with two talents and five talents each made a 100% return on investment for the master. These faithful stewards utilised well the “talents” that God has entrusted to them—time, skills, knowledge, experience and money (Matthew 25:14-30).

Having dealt with the good fruit, let us now focus on the bad fruit.

In Isaiah’s story of the vineyard, God showed His love and care for the vineyard (Israel) and, in return, was expecting to reap good, sweet and luscious grapes. But what happened? God’s people yielded wild grapes.

“He dug it and cleared it of stones, and planted it with choice vines; he built a watchtower in the midst of it, and hewed out a wine vat in it; and he looked for it to yield grapes, but it yielded wild grapes.”
(Isaiah 5:2)

By the way, how do we know that the vineyard represents Israel? The answer is found in this verse: “The vineyard of the Lord Almighty is the nation of Israel” (Isaiah 5:7).

In response to the bad fruit, which left a sour taste, what did God do?

And now I will tell you
    what I will do to my vineyard.
I will remove its hedge,
    and it shall be devoured;
I will break down its wall,
    and it shall be trampled down.
I will make it a waste;
    it shall not be pruned or hoed,
    and briers and thorns shall grow up;
I will also command the clouds
    that they rain no rain upon it.”
(Isaiah 5:5-6)

In other words, God unleashed His judgment on Israel because of their disobediencedespite His love for them.

Having considered both the good and the bad, let us now take a peek into the ugly.

A farmer eagerly awaits to see the fruit of his labour. The months or years of toil give way to joy the moment he can savour succulent and luscious fruit. But what happens if what he gets are just thorns and thistles? He will be justifiably angry and bitterly disappointed for things have really turned ugly. All his effort and investment have come to nothing.

Failure to produce good fruit—bearing bad fruit instead—is bad enough. But nothing could be worse than producing thorns and thistles, which are truly ugly

In God's eye, what do these thorns and thistles symbolise?  We shall soon find out as we examine more references.

                                            Thistle: wild plant with sharp pointed leaves and purple flowers

Let us examine a passage in Hebrews which is difficult and often avoided for it seems harsh to believers, many of whom prefer something soothing and comforting. This passage is on renunciation of the faith (apostasy) and its consequences:

“For it is impossible, in the case of those who have once been enlightened, who have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, to restore them again to repentance, since they are crucifying once again the Son of God to their own harm and holding him up to contempt. For land that has drunk the rain that often falls on it, and produces a crop useful to those for whose sake it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it bears thorns and thistles, it is worthless and near to being cursed, and its end is to be burned.”
(Hebrews 6: 4-8)

In a sense, God is also a farmer. God, the father, is the vinedresser (John 15:1). He looks for good, abundant and lasting “fruit” from those who believe in Him. But if believers willfully turn their backs on God and renounce their faith if they bear thorns and thistleswhat will be God’s response?

Apostasy is defined as an abandonment of one’s faith. Apostates are those who renounce their faith. Notice that apostasy is different from backsliding. Believers may sin in a moment of weakness under temptation but that is different from apostasy, which is a willful renunciation of the faith.

Why is this condition of apostasy so serious? Because, once the point of no return has been reached, it is impossible to restore apostates to repentance (Please compare this passage with Hebrews 10:26-31 below).

First, this passage in Hebrews 6 clearly outlines FIVE characteristics of a true believer:
  • Enlightened

  • Tasted the heavenly gift

  • Shared in the Holy Spirit

  • Tasted the goodness of the Word of God

  • Tasted the powers of the age to come

Truth be told, this passage in Hebrews chapter 6 tells us that there will be genuine believers who chose to turn their backs on God and willfully live in sin—and, inevitably, incur God’s judgment and lose their salvation.

For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins, but a certain fearful expectation of judgment, and fiery indignation which will devour the adversaries. Anyone who has rejected Moses’ law dies without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. Of how much worse punishment, do you suppose, will he be thought worthy who has trampled the Son of God underfoot, counted the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified a common thing, and insulted the Spirit of grace? For we know Him who said, “Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,” says the Lord. And again, “The Lord will judge His people.” It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.
(Hebrews 10:26-31)

The book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians who were in danger of abandoning their faith and returning to Judaism. They were exhorted to hold fast to Jesus, who is the source of eternal salvation to all who obey Him (Hebrews 4:14 and 5:9).

Though he warned them concerning apostasy (Hebrews 6: 4-8), the author felt that they had not yet reached the disastrous state of no return (Hebrews 6: 9). He hoped that they would earnestly press on—with faith and patience—to inherit the promise of God, which is eternal life (Hebrews 6: 11-12 and 10:39).

Thus, the optimism of inheriting God’s promise of salvation—provided they held fast to their faith—was set against the backdrop of a stern warning against apostasy.

Another passage, similar to Hebrews 6:4-8, also sheds light on the serious consequences that befall those who turn their backs on God and willfully live in sin:

And when people escape from the wickedness of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and then get tangled up and enslaved by sin again, they are worse off than before. It would be better if they had never known the way to righteousness than to know it and then reject the command they were given to live a holy life. They prove the truth of this proverb: “A dog returns to its vomit.” And another says, “A washed pig returns to the mud.”
 (2 Peter 2: 20-22)

To know God, to be set free from the clutches of sin, and then become enslaved to sin again is a state likened to a dog swallowing its own vomit. And God’s judgment upon such believers is worse than if they had never believed in Him in the first place.

To recapitulate, by examining three key passages found in John 15, Isaiah 5 and Hebrews 6, we discover for ourselves the type of fruit that God approves and disapproves:

According to John chapter 15, God is the farmer (vinedresser) and believers are expected to bear good fruitabundant fruit that lasts. The secret of fruit-bearing is for the branches (believers) to abide in the vine (Christ).

Believers who—despite God’s love—fail to demonstrate obedience are compared to those who produce bad fruit (wild grapes). Consequently, they will face judgment, just like God’s favoured nation, if they do not repent (Isaiah chapter 5).

Believers who turn their backs on God and willfully live in sin are likened to those who produce thorns and thistles. This is truly an ugly state to be in—for it is impossible to restore such ones to repentance (Hebrews chapter 6).

Failure to produce good fruit—bearing bad fruit instead—is bad enough. But nothing could be worse than the ugly state where thorns and thistles are produced.

As believers, are we producing good fruit, bad fruit or worse, thorns and thistles?


Cut down, thrown into the fire … serious overtones

“A certain man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard, and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. Then he said to the keeper of his vineyard, ‘Look, for three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree and find none. Cut it down; why does it use up the ground?’ But he answered and said to him, ‘Sir, let it alone this year also, until I dig around it and fertilize it. And if it bears fruit, well. But if not, after that you can cut it down’”(Luke 13: 6-9).

“I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (John15: 5-6).

In John chapter 15, Jesus was addressing believers. Furthermore, the fact that the branches (believers) are originally attached to the vine (Christ) means that these people are genuine believers. Those who fail to abide will not be able to bear good fruit and thus are thrown into the fire and burned. This is a scary prospect and a slap in the face for eternal security aka Once Saved, Always Saved (OSAS).

“Bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Matthew 3: 8).

“And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”(Matthew 3: 10).

“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”(Matthew 7:19).

“Bear fruits worthy of repentance” (Luke 3: 8).

“And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”(Luke 3: 9).


What fate awaits those who sin repeatedly after they have believed?

Why being faithful means we have to be fruitful

Can a true believer give up his or her faith?

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