Are They The Same?
When the Bible talks of works and fruits, are the words interchangeable? When we do "works", are we also producing fruit? The two are not interchangeable, but quite different from each other as we will see in this article.
Works are talked about far more in the Bible and especially in the New Testament than are fruits and it seems quite easy for us to understand works. Letís examine some verses that describe works and tell us about works to make sure that we all understand the importance of works before we go on to see what the Bible has to say about fruit.
In the Greek, works comes from Strongís #2041 (ergon) which is translated: to work, toil, an act, deed, doing, labor or work. Jesus had the most to say about works so we will look at some of those scriptures and then at some from the rest of the apostlesí writings.
First, in Matthew 5:16 Jesus tells us to "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father in heaven." Our works are to glorify God, not to be done for people to say good things about us or that we would get "a raise in rank or stature," but our works should be done in such a manner as to bring glory to God and Jesus, not ourselves. After doing many works that glorified God in several cities, Jesus turned to rebuke the people of those cities for not repenting.
Then He (Jesus) began to upbraid the cities in which most of His mighty works had been done, because they did not repent: Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you Bethsaida! For if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented long ago in sackcloth and ashes. But I say to you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon in the day of judgment than for you. And you, Capernaum, who are exalted to heaven, will be brought down to Hades; for if the mighty works which were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until this day (Matt 11:20-23).
What were the "mighty works" that Jesus had performed? He had performed many miracles, cast out demons and healed the multitudes that came. These were the works that Jesus was talking about: the work that He did serving the people and teaching the people. Jesus warns us that we are not to be doing works to be seen by men, but works to glorify God:
Therefore whatever they tell you to observe, that observe and do, but do not do according to their works; for they say, and do not do. For they bind heavy burdens, hard to bear, and lay them on menís shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. But all their works they do to be seen by men. They make their phylacteries broad and enlarge the borders of their garments (Matt 23:3-5).
The leaders of that time, only did works that made them look good before men, to be raised in stature themselves, but would not lift a finger, according to Jesus, to truly serve the people they were to be serving.
Jesus tells us also that the works He did bore witness of Himself and therefore when we do true works they bear witness of us also that Jesus the Christ lives within us, that we are a child of God. "But I have a greater witness than Johnís; for the works which the Father has given Me to finish, the very works that I do, bear witness of Me, that the Father has sent Me." (John 5:36) One more quote about works from Jesus comes from John 14:10-12:
Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father in Me? The words that I speak to you I do not speak on My own authority; but the Father who dwells in Me does the works. Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.
Jesus said that He was not doing the miracles, the healings, the teachings and all His other works on His own authority, but rather because the Father was in Him and the Father was doing the works through Him. Jesus tells us that He could do nothing of Himself, and then tells us here that all His mighty works were done by the Father. If Jesus could not do works of Himself, but only through the Father doing them through Him, how can we do good works any other way? If we are truly doing a "good work" then it will be God doing it through us, not our efforts to do a work. Jesus tells us the worldís works are evil and they hated Him because He testified of it to them (John 7:7). Jesus finishes about the Father doing works through Him by telling us that those who believe in Him will do the works He did, because God and Jesus is in us also, and greater works than He did because He went back to the Father.
Today there are many Christians, but there are not many of the works such as Jesus did being done today. We talk about our works for God and our service to mankind, but the works such as Jesus did, where are they? They are not often evident in the world today? Why?
Our works are nothing without God in them. How many of our works glorify God and how many of our supposed works glorify us or our group? We all have to ask ourselves these hard questions and then repent of our selfish desires and our sins and lack of faith, to trust God to do His works through us realizing that in our efforts our works are useless to God. If Jesus had to rely on God to do the works through Him, how much more do we?
For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is a gift of God, not of works, lest anyone should boast. For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God has prepared beforehand that we should walk in them (Eph 2:8-10).
We should all realize that we are saved by Godís grace through our faith in His Son Jesus Christ. He tells us not to think that we are saved by our works, the deeds that we do, because then someone could boast about how good they were. Our works are nothing, but any work that we do that glorifies God and is of true service to God is done by God anyway.
The good works that we do are not our own, but rather the works that we allow God to do through us. We are rewarded for the works that we allow God to do through us. (Matt 16:27) But we are saved from our sins and given eternal life by grace alone, not by any work that we do. The true works that we do, God did through us anyway, we did not do them on our own. God tells us that we were created in Jesus Christ to do good works and that we should walk in them. But we are not saved by any work that we do or do not do.
In Galatians 5:19-21, Paul under inspiration listed the works of the flesh, they are not pretty, but we are all familiar with many of them. They have been parts of our lives at certain points, and we have had to turn from them and put our faith in Jesus Christ to come out of that way of life. The works of the flesh are all things that we can see in people and too often in ourselves, they happen everyday and we see the results of these actions. Unhappiness and misery, not the results that all people want, yet they and we continue to do the works of the flesh, these are the things we can do.
Now the works of the flesh are evident [we can see them], which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, licentiousness [means the disregard for accepted rules or standards], idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissentions, heresies ["factions" in NIV and othersódividing up into competing sects], envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries [means noisy merry making, or boisterous festivities], and the like, ... (Gal 5:19-21).
These are the works that we are able to do, and most of us know this too well, we see ourselves mentioned too often in this list. These are not the works that God did through Jesus, that Jesus said we would do and more. Good works can only be done by allowing God to work through us, our efforts produce the works in the list above. "Who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began." (2Tim 1:9) None of us were or can do good works, and God saved us by His grace anyway, not by our works.
We can understand from these scriptures that works, good or bad, are things that we can see, they happen and they affect us, either good or bad. But we see that the works that we are able to do apart from God are all going to affect us and all those around us in quite negative and harmful ways. They are the works or deeds of the flesh. But when we allow God to do His works through us, then people see the glory of God and they glorify God for the things that He did through us. Naturally, these are the works that we want to be allowing to be done through us, without doing the works of the flesh also.
The works of the flesh destroy our witness for God, the good works we allow God to do through us boister His kingdom and the work He is doing on this earth. Jesus tells us what Godís work on earth is.
Then they (the disciples) said to Him, "What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?" Jesus answered and said to them, "This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent" (John 6:28-29).
What is the work of God? That we allow God to do works through us that will bring others to believe, put their faith and trust in, Jesus Christ the Son of God. That is the work of God and that is why God works through us. Do people see Jesus Christ in you by your works? If not, repent and give God place to do works through you. People see our works and they should glorify God. Can people see fruits?
The fruits of the Spirit come right after the works of the flesh in Galatians 5. "But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law." (Gal 5:22-23) Are any of these things that can be touched or things that you can do? These are all things that you see in people, they are not things that they have done. Letís take an example of a scene we see and a work that was done.
We look out our window of our office and we see a blind man standing on the corner ready to cross the street. We see a well-dressed, nice looking man come up beside the blind man. As the walk sign appears, the well dressed man puts an arm around the blind man and leads him across the street to the other side. You see the blind man thank the other and they part. What have you seen? You would guess you had just seen a good work done by this nice man. But did you? You saw a work done, that we know, but you can not know why the man helped the blind man.
There are several scenarios that could have taken place. First, the man really cared about the blind man and wanted to help him, to serve him in just this little way. Second, the man could have known that his boss was behind and he wanted the boss to see what a good guy he was. Third, he could have felt sorry for the blind man and helped him out of pity for him. Fourth, he could have been a pick-pocket and by wrapping his arm around the blind man, to supposedly help him, he robbed the blind man unknowingly. Fifth, the man could have been the blind manís son who had just had a fight with him, but loved him enough that he helped him across the street, but then just left him immediately on the other side.
The point is that we can see works done, but we do not know if they represent fruits of the Spirit or not. We can only know this if we spend time with and get to know the person well enough to see their character. You can not know if someone displays a fruit of the Spirit by seeing a work that they do. It is only through works that are done, that we can see the fruits displayed, but every human being has the capacity to do what looks like a good work, for the wrong reason, to get something for themselves. Hindus, Buddhists, atheists or anyone can do a work that appears to be good on the surface. But we learned before that true good works glorify God and are done through us by God. God can do a good work through a Buddhist and receive glory from a Christian, but the fruits of the Spirit are only possible if you have the Holy Spirit. Someone who does not believe in Jesus Christ the Son of God, does not have the Holy Spirit and therefore the work did not show a fruit of the Spirit. They are not the same.
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheepís clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them (Matt 7:15-20).
Jesus tells us that when there are false prophets around that we will know them, not by the lack of works they do, but by their lack of fruit. They can still do the works that look good, that people tend to like, but He tells us we can not discern from the works, because they look like sheep. But we can discern by their fruits, or in this case lack of fruits. A good prophet or teacher will have fruits that we can see produced in him, but a false teacher will not have fruits as we can not produce of ourselves the fruits of the Spirit, they are from God alone. In order to discern if someone has fruit we have to know them personally and see their character, the reasons that they are doing the things they do. We can not tell by their works; their works can look good, but the fruit is not there.
Today, unfortunately, fruit seems to be very lacking in the church. People are judging and condemning by the works or lack of works, and Jesus said you could not tell a false teacher by their works, but their fruits. Who do you know in your Christian life that God is producing fruit in? For most of us, it is probably hard to come up with names of really "fruitful trees". The fruit just is not there. Many have works that appear good, but we do not see the fruit in them. Can we produce the fruit? We have seen that God does any true good work through us, but can we produce fruit? Can we learn and grow in love, joy, peace, etc.?
It is a good experience for us to decide that we are going to be more loving to everyone around us from now on. Try it. Try to love everyone unconditionally around you, in every situation. How long does it last before someone upsets you and you do not show them love? Maybe about as long as it takes to get to work the next morning when the first person cuts you off in traffic and causes you to have to slam on your brakes to keep from hitting him. We of ourselves cannot grow in unconditional love as that of the Holy Spirit, but rather we have to submit ourselves to God and allow Him to display His love through us. An outburst of wrath at the "ignorant" driver that cut you off is not the fruit of love, or joy, or peace, or self-control, or kindness, or patience, or gentleness, or meekness, or goodness, or faithfulness to God. Does that mean if we do this that there is no fruit of the Spirit in us? Absolutely not! It simply means we have failed, sinned and fallen short of what we should have done. Our focus was on ourselves, not of our Lord Jesus Christ and God and the things of God. Jesus tells us how fruit is produced:.
1I am the vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit. 3You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you. 4Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5I 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. 6If 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 up. 7If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you. 8By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples (John 15:1-8)
Jesus said He was the vine and His Father the vinedresser and we are the branches. If we (the branches) abide in Him (the vine) then we will be bear fruit. And if we bear fruit, God (the vinedresser) will prune (test and try) us that we bear more fruit. Do the branches produce fruit? They are a part of fruit production, but they can do nothing without the nourishment from the vine! Only by abiding in Jesus can we produce fruit.
Verse 6 indicates that those who do not abide in Christ will be cast out. Verse 2 in nearly every translation seems to say that those not bearing fruit, even though they may be abiding in Christ, are also "taken away". The problem here may be in the translation of "takes away." According to Strongís it comes from word #142, airo, which means "to lift, to take up or away, to raise, away with, bear (up), carry, lift up, loose, make to doubt, put away, remove, take (away, up)". By looking at other uses of this word in the Bible (Matt 16:24; Mark 8:3; 10:21; Luke 9:23 are some), it is possible that Jesus was not talking about cutting the branch off and casting it away as with the branches that did not abide in Him, but was rather talking about lifting it up, or raising it up, bearing it up so that it would bear fruit. The passage is about bearing fruit, much fruit and more fruit. If a branch of a grape vine is lying on the ground it will not bear fruit, it has to be lifted up off the ground and then it will be able to produce fruit. There are times in our lives that we are not bearing fruit and God lifts us up, encourages us that we may bear fruit. But these branches were abiding in the vine, they were not like the branches that were cast into the fire that were not abiding in the vine. We know that those branches have no capacity to produce fruit, by themselves they can do nothing. Therefore they are cast into the fire and destroyed.
"Being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God." (Phil 1:11) We are to bear fruit and that fruit is displayed through our works, but true good works and true fruits of the Spirit both come from God, we are unable to do either. He does the works and Jesus bears the fruit through us. But the fruits of the Spirit are the characteristics of God that we should be allowing God to develop and bear in us. The good works are the deeds that we should allow God to do through us, that glorify Him. Our fruit can be displayed by the works that we do, but the works are not the same as fruit. The fruit we bear should help people see Jesus and God in us, but it needs to be our character, just like the fruits of the Spirit are the characteristics of God. People should see God in us by the fruits that Christ bears through us. If we have true fruit we will also have good works, but you can have "good works" and not have fruit. That is why we have to discern false teachers by their fruits, not by their works, we can be deceived by the works. But to discern the fruit we have to know the person well enough to know their character.
Letís all allow Jesus to bear fruit in us. If we are a branch that needs lifting up, we know that God will lift us up and encourage us that we can allow Jesus to bear fruit in us, and if we are bearing fruit, then we also know that God will prune us that we allow Jesus to bear even more fruit through us. We also have to be willing to allow God to do good works through us, to have the faith to allow Him control of our lives and to take ourselves and our desires out of the works that we are doing and truly allow them to be good works. óRon Wilson
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