How soon autumn comes upon us. To some of us who are older, this rings true of life as we realize that we ourselves are now in the autumn of life. What kind of memories do past autumns hold for us? For the poet, autumn was a ‘season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’. As a young fellow this was so true as I spent most of my autumns in a county where a lot of fruit was grown, and apart from the usual blackberrying, there were happy hours spent in an orchard picking apples, plums, damsons and nuts.
A season of mellow fruitfulness is also what the autumn of life should be, but not just then of course, for every phase of our lives should be fruitful for God. He is always seeking fruit and has always been doing so. Early He sought fruit of Israel. The nation was His vineyard for which He did everything that it might produce fruit. In his fifth chapter Isaiah describes what God did to achieve fruitfulness in Israel. He has to ask, ‘What more could I have done?’, v. 2. When He later went looking for fruit the nation’s return was wild and sour grapes, vv. 2, 4. The vine of which He had expected much had run wild. The same complaint is heard in Jeremiah. The Lord had planted Israel, ‘a vine of the purest stock’, ‘the very best’, ‘a noble vine’, but it grew into a corrupt, wild vine, Jer. 2. 21.
How could this happen? The solemn answer is that the nation had become idolaters. The same message is heard in Hosea, ‘an empty vine’, He says, 10. 11, empty, that is, for God. Much fruit was wasted on idolatrous altars, but none for God. The Lord had been seeking fruit, and from time to time in His search He had sent servants, ‘that he might receive … of the fruit of the vineyard’, Mark 12. 2. But the servants, His prophets, had been ill treated and rejected, and so finally He sent His Son. ‘And they took him, and killed him, and cast him out of the vineyard’. They rejected Him and handed Him over to the Gentiles to be crucified. Still no fruit.
Of course, God’s purposes are not to be finally thwarted, and one day yet future, Israel will yield fruit to God. Idols forsaken, once more it will be, ‘Ammi’, ‘My people’. Israel will then recognize that her fruit is found in God. ‘From me is thy fruit found’, Hos. 14. 8.
Today, God is still seeking fruit. On the night of the betrayal, having left the upper room, John 14. 31, the Lord Jesus drew attention to Himself as ‘the Vine, the true One’ and His Father as the Vinedresser. What does His Father seek? Fruit, more fruit, and much fruit, 15. 2, 5. From whom does He seek fruit? Those who are in the vine, that is, in Christ. It is the Father who constantly tends each branch on the vine to see that it bears fruit. But what is the fruit? It is the fruit of the vine.
Fruitfulness here has reference not to service, but to character, it is the fruit of Himself produced by the indwelling Spirit, the fruit which is like the true Vine Himself. It is Christ likeness. It is the fruit of the Spirit as in Galatians 5. 22, 23. The word is ‘fruit’ not ‘fruits’. These qualities are essentially part of one thing and not isolated things. They are not separable characters, but one character, a single cluster, so that every Christian should experience them all. We may not pick one and discard the other. We must have love as the first, and self control as the last, and all in between. We are expected to manifest all of these qualities. It would be a tall order were it not that this fruit is of the Holy Spirit. Because the very power of God is operative within our lives, we are able to produce fruit that otherwise would be completely beyond us. There are many gifts of the Spirit, but there is only one fruit. No one has all the gifts but every Christian should bear the entire fruit of the Spirit. This is not only a statement as to what Christian character is, but a description of the life Christ lived while here on earth. This is a portrait of the Lord Jesus. No person has manifested these qualities in such perfection as Him. It is a statement of the manner of life which the Lord would have the Christian experience here and now.
To be continued.