In the final analysis, God is glorious in Himself alone: only He and what He produces—the works of His hand—are truly glorious. The very best effort that the very best man offers “come[s] short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Not only does it fail in the positive sense of truly matching the holiness, righteousness, and purity of God, but it also fails in a negative sense in that both its motive and its results tend to glorify the doer rather than God. Are we doomed to futility, then, in our effort to glorify God? Certainly not. The Lord Jesus averred: “Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples” (John 15:8).
Bearing much spiritual fruit glorifies God. The fifth chapter of Paul’s epistle to the Galatians presents a well-known and interesting contrast between two catalogues. The first catalogue Paul labels “the works of the flesh” (v. 19). The flesh is a factory, if you will, set up to manufacture a product. That product is sin, which comes in various designs that Paul labels “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness, idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like” (vv. 19b-21a). Anyone can and everyone does produce these things naturally and automatically. Note the frequent use of the plural nouns that indicate how prolific the flesh is in producing sin. Note also the indiscriminate mixing of “big” sins (“adultery,” “murders”) with “little” sins (“emulations,” “envyings”). Before God, sin is sin. Some sins may cause greater natural harm and carry heavier natural consequences, but the smallest sin damns us before God. “For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (Jam. 2:10). In other words, God’s character is an indivisible whole. Someone has compared it to a multi-link chain: if just one link in the chain is broken, the chain is broken. The person “in the flesh” is in a hopeless situation. Just as a computer manufacturing plant is set up to manufacture computers and not automobiles, so the flesh is destined to manufacture sin, not righteousness.
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance,” Paul continues when cataloguing righteousness (vv. 22, 23a). Stewart Custer points out that “fruit cannot be manufactured. You must plant the tree and grow the fruit.” In this case, the “tree” is a “vine.” For the Lord declared, “I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing” (John 15:5). But the analogy holds. Unlike manufactured works, fruit is the product of the proper planting and cultivation of a fruit-producing plant. And as Scofield observes, “The minor moralities and graces of Christianity are often imitated, but never the ninefold ‘fruit’” of the Spirit. As the believer abides in Christ, yielding His will to the authority of the Word of God and allowing the power of Christ’s life to animate him through the Holy Spirit, the character of Christ comes to fruition, the fruit is manifested and matures—eventually in abundance—and God is glorified. God is glorified because the “much fruit” bears testimony to the fact that this is God’s work. For only God can make a sourpuss sinner into a joyful saint, or a fearful sinner into a peaceful saint, or a contentious sinner into a gentle saint. And we are left to exclaim, “What hath God wrought!” (Num. 23:23). And lest we become careless or complacent, we must observe that it is not the bearing merely of some “fruit” or even of “more fruit” but only of “much fruit” by which the Father is said to be glorified. And should our flesh protest that such production is impossible, or at least, too hard, we should be reminded that this is not a “work” of our own. If we know the Lord, we are in the Vine; if we remain yielded to Him and His Word, the fruit will follow.
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