Fruitful and Growing
1. Once again, we are looking at Paul’s prayer for the Colossians.
2. He prayed for:
• Them to be filled with the knowledge of God’s will
• Wisdom and spiritual understanding (discernment)
• A worthy walk
• Divine strength
• Pleasing to the Lord
• The knowledge of God
3. This morning we are going to look at another aspect of Paul’s prayer: for the believers to be fruitful and increasing.
A. Being Fruitful
‣ Defined – bearing fruit; (fruiting)
‣ Present, active, participle
• The worthy walk is characterized by fruitfulness.
• In fact, the present tense indicates that a worthy walk is continually characterized by fruit bearing.
• A barren life is not a worthy walk.
• A worthy walk is a fruitful walk… a fruitful life.
1. Col. 1:6 – fruit is the result of the gospel. Every believer produces some fruit… some time… in some form… The gospel, when believed, never fails to produce fruit.
a. Luke 8:15 – seed on good ground brings forth fruit unto patience.
• Good fruit is to be borne in our lives… unto patience.
• We are never to grow weary in well doing… nor are we to grow weary in our walk… our maintaining our testimony…
• Good seed continues to bring forth good fruit – patiently… with endurance… through good times and bad…
• The true believer hears the gospel, responds in faith, produces fruit… and CONTINUES to produce fruit… unto patience…endurance… it lasts…
• Fruit bearing characterizes a living branch… it is the distinguishing mark of a believer. It’s how you can tell the wheat from the tares… the true from the imposter…
b. Matt. 13:23 – seed on good ground brings forth fruit, some 100 fold, some 60, and some 30.
• The Lord states that all true believers will bring forth fruit… but in different degrees.
• Some are more fruitful than others.
• The difference is due to the fact that not all believers are faithful in their walk… not all walk worthy consistently. Some bear fruit all the time… some most of the time… and others some of the time.
• Don’t be content with 30 fold! Strive for 100 fold!
• Some believers are up and down… Some are constantly wandering off the straight and narrow on to some dead end street and then return… you don’t make much progress that way…
• We should be praying for one another that we would be consistently bearing fruit for the glory of God…
c. All believers will produce fruit… and that is encouraging. To the degree that we are fruitful… we are pleasing to the Lord.
• There is no such thing as a fruitless believer.
• There are lots of fruitless professors… but not true believers.
• We may go through a barren stretch in our walk… but the Lord will not allow us to stay there.
• If a man be IN CHRIST, he is a new creation. That indwelling life cannot be covered up forever. If there is life there – it will manifest itself sooner or later.
• Sin shall NOT have dominion over you!
• Wherever the gospel is received – it bringeth forth fruit – as it doth also in you, since the day he heard it!
2. Heb. 12:11 – fruit is the result of chastisement.
a. God chastens His sons SO THAT we would once again bear fruit.
b. Chastening often hurts, but afterwards, it produces good fruit… to those who are exercised thereby. (If we let God work in us!)
c. Remember – chastening doesn’t necessarily mean punishment. It can be… but it is often a very positive kind of discipline…
• It = “child-training.” (There are all kinds of disciplines in life.)
• Strong’s: the whole training and education of children (which relates to the cultivation of mind and morals, and employs for this purpose now commands and admonitions, now reproof and punishment.)
• God chastens us in order to make us more fruitful…
d. John 15:2 – the Father purges even the fruitful branches to make them even MORE fruitful… and pruning hurts too!
• As God prunes us, we become more fruitful…
• Pruning involves cutting away useless growth on a vine’s branch… growth that is not unhealthy, but simply takes away the fruit bearing capabilities.
• This should be the focus of our prayer life: “God take away that which hinders me from bearing more fruit for thee!”
• Do we DARE to pray like that? Be careful – God may answer that kind of prayer!
• It may not be evil, but just excess baggage that hinders us in running the race.
• Too often our hearts become attached to that baggage… and we become quite fond of all the things in that baggage… and the very things our hearts become attached to – are the very things that are weighing us down. Our adversary is quite clever.
• Are we willing to lay aside every weight and whatever else may be weighing us down and hindering our spiritual progress?
• God’s child training “convinces” us to WILLINGLY lay aside such baggage for the glory of God. Fruit is the result.
4. Rom. 7:4 – Fruit is the result of a relationship to Christ.
a. We died to the Law by the Body of Christ.
• Because of our faith, we are united to Christ in His death.
• We died with Him. We died to the Law.
• The Law has no jurisdiction over a dead man.
• This is Paul’s point: the Christian is NOT under the Law as a rule of life.
b. We died to the Law SO THAT we could be married to another – even to Christ.
• In context, Paul stated that a woman is bound to her husband so long as he lives (vs. 2)
• But if a death occurs, she is free to marry another.
• His point: under the Old Covenant, believers were married to the Law.
• But since we died with Christ, we are no longer bound to that Law. Death changes everything!
• The old relationship to Law is over. It has ended forever.
• Hence, we are free to marry another: Christ.
• Going from law to grace is like going from Moses to Christ…
• We are no longer under the old Mosaic law system. Rather, we are in a new relationship to Christ.
• What did the law produce? (vs. 5 – fruit unto death.)
• What does this new relationship produce? (vs. 4 – good fruit unto God!)
• The old dispensation was like being married to the Law. The new dispensation is like being married to Christ.
• Believers who follow the teachings of Covenant Theology miss this vital point. They see the opposite of being under the Law as lawlessness. Paul sees the opposite of being under the law as being under a new relationship to Christ: marriage.
• We are still to submit to Christ – but the motivation is not law or fear, (do or die!) but love and gratitude… living a LIFE!
• This new relationship results in good fruit… hence, this is what we ought to be praying for – that we would all grow in our relationship to Christ.
c. John 15:1-3 – fruit is the result of an abiding relationship to Christ, the true Vine.
• When talking about bearing fruit you have to go to John 15!
• Vs. 4 – the branch CANNOT bear fruit of itself. It is a supernatural work. It is the life of the VINE that flows through the branch and produces good fruit.
• Vs. 5 – if we ABIDE in the Vine… in Christ… rest in Him… remain in Him… stay close to Him… then fruit WILL be borne in our lives. He will do the work in us.
• Our job is to concentrate on our relationship to Him. His job is to produce the fruit.
• We don’t produce fruit. We BEAR it… AS we abide.
5. Gal. 5:22-23 – Fruit is the result of the indwelling Holy Spirit.
a. Fruitfulness is the work of God in us.
b. It is a supernatural work that ONLY the Holy Spirit can produce.
c. We can attempt to imitate His fruit – but the Lord is not pleased with the works of the flesh…
d. We can do all kinds of good deeds… helping others… giving… sacrificing… showing kindness… but if it is not empowered by the Holy Spirit, then it is nothing but wood, hay, and stubble.
e. All of our works are either produced by the power of the indwelling Holy Spirit OR by our own fallen flesh.
f. NOTHING the flesh produces can ever please God… and none of it is ever considered good fruit by God.
g. God isn’t pleased with flesh, even if it is religious or moral. They that are in the flesh CANNOT please God. Good water can never come from a polluted fountain. An evil tree cannot produce good fruit. Our sinful nature is incapable of producing good… in my flesh dwells NO good thing.
h. BUT, when we yield ourselves to God and GOD works in us… those deeds done in the power of the Holy Spirit are good in God’s sight… and pleasing to Him… a sweet smelling savor.
6. James 3:17 – fruit is the result of God’s gift of wisdom.
a. Note here spiritual wisdom is FULL of good fruit.
b. This is what Paul prayed for the Colossians: that they might be filled with the knowledge of God’s will IN all wisdom and spiritual understanding.
c. Note also in this passage, that this wisdom is from above. This is not natural wisdom, but supernatural.
d. It is a gift of God! It is the product of the Holy Spirit in us.
e. DO you need this kind of wisdom? PRAY. “If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God that giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not.” (Jas. 1:5)
f. Pray for the wisdom that results in good fruit…
g. If we want to be bearing fruit for the glory of God, then PRAY… for this kind of wisdom… because it produces good fruit.
h. And since it’s from above, we need to pray for it.
7. Phil. 1:9-11 – fruit is the result of spiritual discernment… a gift of the Spirit.
a. Note here that the discerning believer, who approves things that are excellent, is the one who will be “filled with the fruits of righteousness.”
b. Note also that this is the kind of fruit that is unto the glory and praise of God.
c. Which believer will be manifesting good fruit in his life? The one who puts everything to the test… he accepts the things that are excellent… and he rejects the things that are not.
d. He is discriminating… discerning… not gullible… he wants to get to the truth… he tests everything according to the word of God.
e. Believers who aren’t so careful… who don’t put things to the test will find themselves getting involved in things that weighs them down spiritually… and waste time…
f. Since we know this – let’s PRAY for discernment… so that our lives can be more fruitful for the Lord.
8. Jas. 5:7-8 – fruit requires longsuffering and patience.
a. God has patience in waiting for fruit… so should we.
b. Fruit takes time. Fruit trees don’t become productive overnight.
c. So too with new believers. It takes time to grow…it takes time for a new believer to be chastened, disciplined and trained by God… it takes time to develop a deep, abiding relationship to Christ… it takes time to accumulate spiritual wisdom and discernment…
d. And there just isn’t any way to speed up the process of spiritual growth… though we might like to.
e. God is at work in each believer… doing a work that only HE can do…
f. As a family… or as a church family… the best we can do is to provide an environment CONDUCIVE to spiritual growth. We can teach, train, and guide, but ultimately, it is the LORD who must produce fruit in the lives His people.
g. Like a fruit farmer – his job is to break up the fallow ground, keep the soil from getting hard, sow, water, weed, add nutrients… and then wait, rest, and trust in the Lord for a good harvest.
• Defined: Strong’s: (auxaunw) to grow, increase: of plants; of infants; of a multitude of people; of inward Christian growth.
• The term is used 22 times – and translated either grow or increase (about 50/50)
• It is the normal word used of spiritual growth.
1. I Cor. 3:6-7 – growth or increase is of the Lord.
a. It is the Lord who gives any increase in His work – either in a church or in an individual life.
b. We can minister, but only God can give the increase.
c. When it comes to being saved, only God can give life.
d. When it comes to being sanctified, only God can sustain life…
e. If we want to see our children growing in the Lord… if we want to see church members increasing in wisdom, and growing in Christlikeness… then we have a role to play – we are to teach, exhort, rebuke, minister, encourage, etc. But ultimately, increase is of the Lord. We are but a tool God uses… for His good end.
f. The case was the same in the Old Testament when the Israelites went out to battle. They had to pick up their swords and shields, march out against the enemy and fight… BUT ultimately, the battle is the Lord’s!
g. Vs. 9 –Paul told the Corinthians that THEY were God’s husbandry (cultivated field)…where fruit was expected to grow… also called God’s building… the church.
• In context, his point is that the pastor and teachers can sow, water, and cultivate, but ultimately, only the Lord can produce fruit and spiritual growth in believers.
• We are but tools in God’s hands. The emphasis here on fruit and growth is on GOD – and not the ministers…
• BUT – these are the tools that God uses…if you want to be growing spiritually then participate in what God is doing in the local church. It is HIS means for spiritual growth!
• The local church is the PRIMARY place where God’s life, character, wisdom, and FRUIT are manifested… to men and angels… so BE INVOLVED in God’s program for this age.
• Eph. 4:11-14a – the local church ministry is designed BY GOD for your edification… growth/increase… and maturity.
2. I Pet. 2:2 – growth comes from a thirst for God’s Word.
a. Here Peter lets us know that God’s Word sustains life… nourishes life… it is vital for a spiritually healthy walk with the Lord.
b. Just as a baby desires its milk – the believer should crave after God’s Word…
c. We need it for our spiritual growth, just as a baby needs milk for its physical growth.
d. It is a sign of health when a baby cries after its milk. We would be concerned if the baby had no desire for milk. So too with the believer! We should be concerned if we have no desire for God’s Word! It’s healthy to be hungry.
e. There are things that will HINDER our thirst for the pure milk of God’s word… and Peter exhorts us to lay them aside. (vs. 1)
• If we allow these poor attitudes to fester in our hearts, it will erode all thirst for the milk of the Word… and it will hinder spiritual growth.
• If we stop feeding on the word, we stop growing.
• (vs. 3) But if we keep on tasting, we will develop an appetite for God’s Word, for His grace, for Himself!
• In vs. 3, Peter likens their present knowledge of Christ to a tasting. Every believer has tasted the Lord’s grace in salvation. We are to keep on tasting… feasting… feeding our souls on His Word.
• As we do, we develop a taste for it… and a love for it… and we will continue to come… like a sheep being led to green pastures and still waters… like a hart panting after the waterbrooks… these are healthy signs of spiritual growth.
3. Col. 2:19 – Increase in the Body stems from holding the Head.
a. As the body holds on to Christ the Head, it increases with the increase of God.
b. As members of the Body, we should “hold fast” to Christ the Head (abide in Him; married to Him; looking unto Him) we experience a spiritual increase…
c. Read the verse backwards to trace the SOURCE of spiritual growth:
• The body increases with the increase of God -divine increase.
• There is a knitting together of members in that body
• The joints and bands are ministered to in the Body and thus receive nourishment.
• When all the body is “holding the Head” — holding fast to the Head… embracing Christ… abiding in Him.
e. Now read it forwards: When the Body holds fast to the Head, each member of the Body is ministering, and nourishment for the Body is provided… the members are knit together… and the whole Body increases… with a supernatural increase that comes from God! The HEAD is the Source of the growth… like the Vine.
f. Note once again, that whether in the life of an individual, or corporately in the Body, increase is of the Lord… spiritual growth is God’s work in us.
g. So PRAY for that… for your family… for your church family… that each one of us would hold on to the Head and as a result, experience what Paul calls “increase with the increase of God.”
Fruit and Increase By Means of the Knowledge of God
1. Instrumental case, “by means of the full knowledge of God.” This rendering is held by many good Greek scholars, such as A.T. Robertson; Vincent; Wuest; Darby; and Lightfoot.
2. One Greek form is shared by three different functions: dative, locative, and instrumental.
a. Our English version translated it perfectly accurately…
b. The difference here is not one of translation, but of interpretation… sometimes they by necessity overlap.
‣ Our English version ascribes the locative to the form… increasing in the sphere of the knowledge of God.
‣ The instrumental gives it a slightly different meaning: increasing BY MEANS OF the knowledge of God.
3. Darby captured this in his translation: so as to walk worthily of the Lord unto all well-pleasing, bearing fruit in every good work, and growing by the true knowledge of God.
4. Also, the word order is a bit different in the original.
• In the Greek: Unto all pleasing in every good work; being fruitful and increasing by means of the knowledge of God.
5. Wuest’s captured the word order in his translation: “So that you may order your behavior worthily of the Lord with a view to pleasing Him in everything, in every work which is good, constantly bearing fruit and increasing by means of the thorough and perfect knowledge of God.”
6. The point is that a deep knowledge of God is the means by which we grow spiritually… and have a fruitful Christian life. It comes through knowing God…
a. In order for spiritual growth to occur, it is necessary to KNOW God, His will, His word, His plan for sanctification.
b. Ignorance of God and His word is no premium in the Christian faith.
c. We get to know Christ, the Living Word through the written word. The Bible was meant for reading… and studying… growing comes through knowing.
7. Now this is not to say that growth NEVER occurs in the lives of those who are ignorant of God and His Word.
a. A sincere believer who is ignorant of the Bible can still have a genuine and meaningful relationship to God… but not very deep.
• They will stumble over many stumbling-stones that they could have avoided… but they can get up and keep walking.
• They may struggle over sin longer… and experience more frustration in their Christian walk, but they can walk with God.
• They are more likely to become a prey to the wolves and false teachers… or to get entangled in one of the many isms out there… to be tossed to and fro…
• Knowing God will keep us from wandering down many dead end streets… spiritually.
b. True spiritual growth will be greatly hindered or curbed through ignorance of God and His ways.
• To a certain degree, our ability to grow depends upon what we know.
• There is a right way to grow spiritually which produces good fruit. God’s methodology is spelled out for us in Scripture.
• There are also wrong methods of spiritual growth which do NOT produce good fruit.
• That is part of the reason for the epistle to the Colossians – to combat the false teachings which were having an adverse effect on the believers.
• They were introducing Jewish law as a means of growth; and pagan asceticism; and neither one would ever produce good fruit.
• But if the believers were ignorant of God and His plan… they would be trapped into religious systems that were dead end streets…
• What is needed is wisdom and spiritual understanding… which is just what Paul prayed for.
• Believers need to KNOW God… His Word… His truth… and that truth will set them free… set them free from the bondage of legalism or asceticism… or Gnosticism… or any other ism that might come down the pike in the future.
• The key is not to study all the cults and become an expert at all of their doctrines. Rather, Paul says, get to KNOW GOD!
• If you know Him… you will have discernment… and you will grow and increase. Knowing God is the MEANS by which we grow, mature, and have discernment.
8. Everything is based upon knowing God – a relationship to God through Jesus Christ.
a. How do we come to a full knowledge of God’s will? By getting to know Him…
b. How do we come to please God? By getting to know Him!
9. Gal. 4:9—Paul asks the Galatians: how can you turn back to law if you know God?
a. This thought sounds preposterous to Paul… he has a hard time digesting it…
b. After you have known God… and were known by God—after you have had a close, personal relationship with the Lord, how could a person ever turn back to the law as a rule of life?
c. Knowing Christ IS spiritual discernment.
d. Increasing in our knowledge of Christ IS increasing in spiritual discernment… for in HIM are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
e. Paul figured that if they really knew God, they would never turn back to the law!
f. Paul assumes here that a healthy knowledge of God would have PREVENTED them from ever departing from the truth.
g. Knowing God is a form of spiritual discernment that enables us to recognize truth from error…
• EX: I know my wife. I know her likes and dislikes. I know her character. I even know the KINDS of things she would do… and the kind of things she would never do.
• I know the way she talks. I know the kinds of things she would say, and the kinds of things she would never say.
• If someone told me “Your wife told me to tell you to meet her inside Joe’s Bar at six tonight”… I would instantly recognize that they are either lying or they got the story mixed up.
• If someone told me that they saw my wife at Buchika’s looking for a new ski sweater – I would believe that. It sounds like her.
• Even though I wasn’t there, I can instantly recognize the difference between truth and error because I know my wife.
h. How do we as believers GROW and INCREASE in wisdom and spiritual understanding? Increase in the knowledge of God! Get to know Him better.
• I don’t need a master’s degree in music to know that there’s something wrong with bringing rock music into the church… I know who God is… He is holy…
• You don’t need to be an expert in ecclesiology to know that there’s something wrong with the ecumenical movement today… you just have to know God. He hates mixture! Read the Old Testament!
• If someone claims to be a prophet of God with some new and important message – we don’t have to waste time investigating. I know God. He is no longer speaking to men as He did in ages past. He has spoken in these last days through His Son. The doctrine has already been delivered!
10. Being fruitful and spiritual growth occur BY MEANS OF the knowledge of God.
a. It is possible to be saved without knowing very much about the Bible. Little kids can get saved. One only needs to know the gospel message.
b. But spiritual growth and maturity requires a deeper knowledge of God… and a continual increase in that knowledge… never satisfied… always hungering for more…
c. There is a direct link between learning and living; between wisdom and walking; between knowing and growing;
d. II Pet. 1:2, 3 – grace and peace THROUGH the knowledge of God…
• Grace and peace = Christlike character; good fruit.
• Vs. 2 – How is it obtained? Through the knowledge of God!
• Vs. 3 – we receive everything we need for godliness (a holy, sanctified life) THROUGH the knowledge of Him…
• We can’t walk with the Lord if we don’t know Him.
• Experiencing His grace and peace is THROUGH the knowledge of Him.
11. The better we come to know Christ, the more like Him we will be
a. II Cor. 3:18 – as we BEHOLD HIM and His glory in the word, we are transformed into that same image. Spiritual growth comes through getting to know Christ.
b. The knowledge of God that produces spiritual growth and fruit is an ACCURATE knowledge of God as found in the Scriptures –
• Too often our knowledge of God is based upon circumstances… our condition.
• If things are going well, then God loves us and cares for us.
• If things are going poorly, then God has abandoned me… maybe His love doesn’t extend to me…
• Our knowledge of God should never be based on our feelings… what we FEEL He is like… or what we feel He is doing for us. It is to be based on the WORD…
c. When we have an accurate knowledge of God, then we can rest in Him… and enjoy His fellowship regardless of our circumstances.
• And as we rest in Him… commune with Him… then spiritual growth IS taking place… one bit at a time…
• If we know who God is… THEN we can trust Him no matter what the circumstances… for to know Him is to trust Him.
• If we really know Him – He who loves us with an everlasting love… and in whose hands we are… He who will never leave us nor forsake us… if we know Him, we don’t have to fear what man will do to us.
• If we really know Him – the One who crushed the head of the serpent as He died on the cross – then we need not fear the powers of darkness… and even though Satan walks about to devour us – we need not live in fear… not if we know Christ… for to know Him is to trust Him… and faith in Him will always quench all the fiery darts of the wicked one!
• If we really know Him – the One who picked up Peter as he began to sink in the sea… the one who prayed for Peter when his faith began to falter… the one who sent His angel to deliver him from prison… if we know Him… then we need not worry about sinking… or failing… or not making it to the finish line…
• If we know God… the Husbandman who prunes His vines… and lifts up that branch that is hanging low… and cuts and trims here and there… then we can have assurance that we too will grow… and produce good fruit.
• If we know Him as our Father… the One who chastens every son whom He loveth… so that once again we become partakers of His holiness… and once again yield the peaceable fruit of righteousness… then we can be assured of the Father’s love.
• If we know Christ as our Good Shepherd… then we can be assured that when we do wander, He will bring us back to the green pastures and still waters…
• If we know Him as the Bread of life… then we will feast upon Him… and be nourished and strengthened…
• If we know Him as our Great High Priest – then we will continually come to the throne of grace for grace and strength to help in time of need…
• If we know Christ as the Vine… then we know that He continually supplies us with all we need… we are complete in Him… then we can be assured that fruitfulness and spiritual growth will be our in direct proportion to our abiding in Him.
• To know Him is to trust Him. To know Him is to rest in Him. To know Him is to fear Him. To know Him is to love Him. To know Him is to abide in Him.
• THIS is how spiritual growth and fruit occur: by trusting, resting, fearing, and abiding in Him.