Sunday, June 17, 2018

Fruit, Souls or Not?

Enemies of Evangelism 2

One of the devil’s favorite ways to attack evangelism is to explain it away. In other words, he establishes some incorrect understanding, some doctrinal misperception that when followed pulls the rug out from underneath our high necessity to preach the Gospel. Such is the case with today’s post.

One of the primary words in the New Testament representative of soul winning is the word “fruit”. We find frequent reference to it in one of the primary passages in Scripture that emphasize witnessing, John 15. Take a moment and read it with the understanding that “fruit” references the souls of men and you will see this emphasis clearly.

John 15. 1 I am the true vine, and my Father is the husbandman.
2 Every branch in me that beareth not fruit (does not win souls) he taketh away: and every branch that beareth fruit (wins souls), he purgeth it, that it may bring forth more fruit. (more souls)
3 Now ye are clean through the word which I have spoken unto you.
4 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit (win souls) of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me.
5 I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit (many souls): for without me ye can do nothing.
6 If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.
7 If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you.
8 Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit (reach many souls); so shall ye be my disciples.

16 Ye have not chosen me, but I have chosen you, and ordained you, that ye should go and bring forth fruit (win souls), and that your fruit should remain (that those souls would grow in grace): that whatsoever ye shall ask of the Father in my name, he may give it you.

The anti-evangelism theologian, however, will say that fruit this nowhere represented in Scripture as the souls of men, and the word “fruit” in John 15 only refers to the fruit of the Spirit – love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance, righteousness, and truth. (Galatians 5.22, Ephesians 5.9) The anti-evangelism theologian says, “Well, where is evangelism or witnessing or soul winning listed in the fruit of the Spirit?” The only possible reply to that question is that it is not. Take a moment and go back through that passage just above and substitute love, joy, and peace for everywhere I have written souls and you will see how dramatically it changes the interpretation of the passage.

Now, I do not argue for one moment that such an interpretation is invalid. I do not believe it is invalid. “Fruit” can be the fruit of the Spirit, and I think there is much to be gained in our understanding if we approach John 15 that way. I do take issue, however, with the idea that “fruit” in this passage ONLY refers to the fruit of the Spirit. I believe with all my heart that “fruit” in this passage also refers to the souls of men. It is that interpretation I wish to argue for in this post, and to do that we are going to look at a lot of Scripture. If that bores you, I am sure I have already lost you so I shall plunge ahead fearlessly at this point.

Right off the bat I would show you the obvious connection in Proverbs 11.30. The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life; and he that winneth souls is wise. Oh, sorry, I forgot we are not allowed to use that verse in reference to evangelism since it is in the Old Testament. <insert eye roll emoticon here> Ok, New Testament then...

The phrase “beareth fruit” found in John 15.2 is only found in one other place in the New Testament. Sound hermeneutics would tell you that to establish an unsure meaning you examine other places that phrase is used. We find it in Matthew 13. But he that received seed into good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty. The context shows us Jesus telling the parable of the sower.

Matthew 13.3 And he spake many things unto them in parables, saying, Behold, a sower went forth to sow;
4 And when he sowed, some seeds fell by the way side, and the fowls came and devoured them up:
5 Some fell upon stony places, where they had not much earth: and forthwith they sprung up, because they had no deepness of earth:
6 And when the sun was up, they were scorched; and because they had no root, they withered away.
7 And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprung up, and choked them:
8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

th (1)Now here the anti-evangelism theologue has a problem. If fruit in the New Testament is ONLY referring to the fruit of the Spirit you have a terrible time with this parable. The sower must of necessity be the Holy Spirit. The seed must be, what, miniature spiritual graces? The ground is a heart that is sometimes receptive to conviction and other times is not. The graces rise up, then wither, some scorched by fire, some with no root, some result in a tremendous number of fruits. Which is puzzling since “fruit of the Spirit” is singular, and in any case only eleven are listed in Scripture.

Let us come back to the context of Matthew 13 and hear our Lord’s own interpretation.

18 Hear ye therefore the parable of the sower.
19 When any one heareth the word of the kingdom, and understandeth it not, then cometh the wicked one, and catcheth away that which was sown in his heart. This is he which received seed by the way side.
20 But he that received the seed into stony places, the same is he that heareth the word, and anon with joy receiveth it;
21 Yet hath he not root in himself, but dureth for a while: for when tribulation or persecution ariseth because of the word, by and by he is offended.
22 He also that received seed among the thorns is he that heareth the word; and the care of this world, and the deceitfulness of riches, choke the word, and he becometh unfruitful.
23 But he that received seed into the good ground is he that heareth the word, and understandeth it; which also beareth fruit, and bringeth forth, some an hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.

How can “fruit” in the New Testament ONLY be the fruit of the Spirit if said fruit is often called “he”, and given a large number (exceeding the fruit of the Spirit), in a verse that finds the only other time the phrase is used outside of John 15? The only possible reply to that question is that it is not. “Fruit” here in Matthew 13 clearly refers to the souls of men, and “beareth fruit” explicitly ties it in with John 15.

Not only that, but Matthew 13 contains a second parable about fruit which is tied by word usage, context, audience, and timing to the first parable.

8 But other fell into good ground, and brought forth fruit, some an hundredfold, some sixtyfold, some thirtyfold.

26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.

“Brought forth fruit” is only used two times in the Bible, both in the same chapter, both in parables about fruit. Would it then be a stretch to think that there are obvious similarities between the first parable about fruit in Matthew 13 and the next one? No – the “fruit” of the first one is the “fruit” of the second one.

24 Another parable put he forth unto them, saying, The kingdom of heaven is likened unto a man which sowed good seed in his field:
25 But while men slept, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went his way.
26 But when the blade was sprung up, and brought forth fruit, then appeared the tares also.
27 So the servants of the householder came and said unto him, Sir, didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?
28 He said unto them, An enemy hath done this. The servants said unto him, Wilt thou then that we go and gather them up?
29 But he said, Nay; lest while ye gather up the tares, ye root up also the wheat with them.
30 Let both grow together until the harvest: and in the time wheat grain-3of harvest I will say to the reapers, Gather ye together first the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn them: but gather the wheat into my barn.

The anti-evangelism theologian is having even more difficulty here than he did with the first parable. If fruit in the New Testament is ONLY the fruit of the Spirit then this parable must mean that a mixture of good and bad is allowed to grow in the Christian’s life until the final judgment. But that is clearly not so.

36 Then Jesus sent the multitude away, and went into the house: and his disciples came unto him, saying, Declare unto us the parable of the tares of the field.
37 He answered and said unto them, He that soweth the good seed is the Son of man;
38 The field is the world; the good seed are the children of the kingdom; but the tares are the children of the wicked one;
39 The enemy that sowed them is the devil; the harvest is the end of the world; and the reapers are the angels.
40 As therefore the tares are gathered and burned in the fire; so shall it be in the end of this world.
41 The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity;
42 And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth.

Without partiality, Matthew 13 shows us that “fruit” means the souls of men. The “beareth fruit” of Matthew 13 connects this interpretation with the “beareth fruit” of John 15. Ergo, there is to be a huge emphasis in the life of the Christian on reaching others with the Gospel.

Do not let theologians intimidate you out of a simple belief in a heavy New Testament emphasis on soul winning.

1 comment:

  1. AMEN. What a wonderful connection between the passages you used to explain and expound upon that it is soul-winning that bears, and bringeth forth fruit, much fruit, and more fruit; that remains.