When Jesus was alive and walking the earth, He frequently spoke about fruit trees, hearts, and words. In fact, the New American Standard version uses the word ‘fruit’ 61 times in the New Testament. This shows how much emphasis both Jesus and the Apostles placed upon this concept.
The Rule of First Mention
In God’s word there is a concept called, ‘the rule of first mention.’ This rule essentially says, “If you want to understand a concept in God’s word, go to the first place it was mentioned and study that passage. Typically speaking, this passage will shed the most light on any subject.” This rule is equally true for both the Old and New Testament.
Old Testament: First Mention - Fruit
For example. Let’s take the word: fruit. The first time the word fruit was mentioned was Genesis 1:11 and says this:
“Let the earth sprout vegetation, plants yielding seed, and fruit trees on the earth bearing fruit after their kind with seed in them.”
Here’s the scene. God is creating the earth and fruit trees and He exclaims, “Let the…fruit trees on the earth, bear fruit according to their own kind.” In simple terms, God was creating fruit trees and they bore fruit according to the nature of the tree. Lemon trees bore lemons (sour). Apple trees bore apples (sweet). Lemons never grew on apple trees. Simple concept.
New Testament: First Mention - John the Baptist and Fruit
The first time the word ‘fruit’ is used in the New Testament can be found in Matthew 3:7-9 (NASB) and John the Baptist is rebuking the religious teachers for having ‘bad fruit.’ This is what is says in the passage:
“But when John saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Therefore, bear fruit in keeping with repentance.”
Picture the scene. John the Baptist is the new hot spiritual guru. He has many eager followers and He is baptizing them as sign of their repentance and faith. Some religious dudes show up at the water's edge and want John to baptize them.
John rebukes these religious dudes for coming to be baptized because they had ‘bad fruit.' John warns them to ‘repent.’ Then a few verses later John prophesies of Jesus’ coming and says that he himself baptizes with water, but that Jesus will baptize with fire and the Holy Spirit.
New Testament: First Mention - Jesus and Fruit
To broaden your understanding of any topic, I also suggest researching the scripture where either God or Jesus first mentions the concept you want to understand. This will give even more insight into what God says about a topic.
Since we are studying ‘fruit,’ I suggest we look in the New Testament to the first time Jesus mentioned the concept of fruit and see what He has to say.
Jesus is giving ‘The Sermon on the Mount.’ He is two chapters into His lengthy teaching when He says this in Matthew 7: 15-20 (NASB):
“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
Interesting isn’t it. Like John, the first time Jesus speaks of fruit has to do with the religious teachers and ‘false prophets.’ In this passage, Jesus explained that you can discern them by their fruit. But exactly what does Jesus mean by ‘fruit.’ Does He mean popularity? Does He mean number of followers? Was Jesus referring to how big their ‘church’ was?
Jesus was brand new on the scene and preaching on a mountain top. He didn’t yet have a fancy church building to preach in, so He took the opportunity to preach on a mountain. Exactly what did Jesus mean by the concept of fruit? I will answer that very soon.
A few verses later in verses 28-29 it says this:
“When Jesus had finished these words, the crowds were amazed at His teaching; for He was teaching them as one having authority.”
Interesting to also note, that the crowds were amazed by the ‘new man on the mountain.’ When Jesus spoke, He spoke differently than all the other teachers before Him. The crowds perceived that Jesus had 'Divine anointing' upon Him and therefore He spoke with ‘authority.’
In Matthew 12:33-34 (NASB) Jesus clearly defined fruit.
"Either make the tree good and its fruit good or make the tree bad and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart.”
Again, Jesus is speaking of bad and good fruit. Then He rebukes the religious teachers for being ‘vipers.’ In other words, Jesus is rebuking them for having sharp and poisonous tongues. He then says, ‘the mouth speaks from that which fills your own heart.’
Here’s the truth:
Trees are either bad or good.
All trees bear fruit.
The words you speak are the fruit.
Your heart is the tree.
In other words, your heart is either evil or good and the words you consistently speak reveals the condition of your heart: whether it is evil or good.
Defining Good Fruit
Here’s what we know so far. God created fruit trees to bear fruit according to their own nature. John the Baptist rebuked the religious teachers for having bad fruit. Jesus warned of false prophets who also had bad fruit. Apparently, John and Jesus were serious about having good fruit, but what is good fruit?
Galatians 5:22-23 gives us the answer:
"The fruit of the (Holy) Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness,and self-control.”
In Galatians 5, Paul is contrasting two very different lives. One is a life lived according to the flesh, and the other is a life living according to the Holy Spirit. He is contrasting the ‘fruit’ of these two very different lives when he explains the ‘fruit of the Holy Spirit.’ Notice carefully each word.
These are the fruit to which both John and Jesus were speaking.
Read these nine qualities again. Are any of them negative? Do any of them include fear? Do any of these concepts refer to death? Are there any mean or unkind concepts listed here? Would you consider any of these words to be ‘darkness’ or are they all full of ‘light.’
The fruit of the Holy Spirit are all light. The fruit of God’s Spirit are all love. It is not only your actions that reveal your fruit, it’s your words.
Words Reveal Fruit
The words you consistently choose to speak reveal the ‘fruit of your spirit.’ If your heart/spirit is dark, you’ll speak dark words. If your heart/spirit is light, you’ll consistently choose ‘light’ words. If your spirit/heart is full of love, you’ll consistently choose loving words.
Remember the fruit of the Holy Spirit. All light. All love.
Proverbs 18:20-21 (NASB) further explains this concept:
“With the fruit of a man’s mouth his stomach will be satisfied; he will be satisfied with the product of his lips. Death and life are in the power of the tongue, and those who love it will eat its fruit.”
Notice the concept here is once again fruit. It defines fruit as ‘the fruit of a man’s mouth.' Then it goes on to explain that both death and life are in the power of the tongue or more specifically ‘your words.’ Then this passage reveals one final concept. Literally it says, ‘You will eat the fruit of your own words.’ This passage is revealing the Biblical concept of sowing and reaping. The words you sow, you will reap. If you sow words of death, you will reap death. But if you sow words of life, you will reap life. The conept the writer is teaching is this: "You should attempt to sow as much 'life' as possible."
Now, let's clarify what fruit is and isn't. Fruit isn’t how big your congregation is. Fruit isn’t how many Bible verses you can spout. Fruit isn't now funny you are, or how many people you can make laugh. Fruit also isn’t how many friends you have on instagram or facebook. Fruit has nothing to do with fame or popularity. Fruit also isn’t how many books you can write or how many songs you can sing. According to God's word, none of these things in and of themselves are fruit.
Fruit are the words that consistently come out of your own mouth and those words
reveal the true nature of your own heart.
If your spirit is connected to the Holy Spirit, then your words will align with His words and they will consistently look something like this:
All these fruit are ultimately words that bring life.