The Fruit of Righteousness

They had begun well. Paul wanted them to finish well. Though he was confident that the “good work” begun in them was of God, and that God would complete that work (1:6), he also knew it required their cooperation. Though they were partakers of grace (1:7), they also needed to be participants in grace.

And so the apostle prays for the believers at Philippi. That their love would abound. And that their knowledge and understanding of Christ–not just their awareness of the facts concerning Jesus, but their full participation in the abiding life they now could experience with Christ–would grow.

But Paul prays for one more thing. And it’s caught my eye this morning. So I’m chewing on what it means to be “filled with the fruit of righteousness.”

And it is my prayer that your love may abound more and more, with knowledge and all discernment, so that you may approve what is excellent, and so be pure and blameless for the day of Christ, filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.

(Philippians 1:9-10 ESV)

When we think of fruit in the life of the believer, I’m guessing most of us might immediately go to the fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23). But the Bible also speaks of the “fruit of light” being found in “all that is good and right and true” (Eph. 5:9), and the “fruit of our lips” that is offered up as sacrifices of praise to God (Heb. 13:15).

And I’m also guessing that when we think of fruit, we’re likely to think in terms of “bearing fruit.” It’s what we’re meant to do as abiders in the Vine, bear fruit (John 15:5, 8). So we think of fruit as an output, something produced, something yielded. And that’s how the writer to the Hebrews talks about the fruit of righteousness:

For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

(Hebrews 12:11 ESV)

So what I’m noodling on this morning is the idea of being filled with the fruit of righteousness.

I suppose it could be another way of expressing the idea of a bountiful crop. That Paul wants us to be filled with the fruit just as a silo’s can be filled after a harvest.

Or, I’m wondering, rather than referring to what’s reaped, could it be referring to what’s sown through the work of salvation? That through Jesus Christ, His perfect person and His finished work, we start out filled with the fruit of righteousness–His righteousness. That this is the seed from which our love can abound, our experiential knowledge grow, and our pure and blameless standing on that day be realized. A reminder that any fruit we might bear, righteous or otherwise, is only because of the fruit we have already been filled with.

We can bear the fruit of the Spirit only because we have first been filled with the Spirit. We can offer the fruit of lips praising God, because we have been filled with the awe of God. And we can be righteous, and do righteous works, because He has first filled us with the fruit of righteousness.

For our sake He made Him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God.

(2Corinthians 5:21 ESV)

Isn’t that the good news of the gospel? Isn’t that it’s power? That a righteousness has been revealed by God “from faith for faith?” (Rom 1:16-17) That not only did Jesus take our sin upon Himself, but that He has credited, or imputed, His righteousness to us?

Paul’s confidence in the Philippians wasn’t because of who they were or what they could do but because God had begun a work in them, and had begun it by filling them with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ.

Not sure, that’s the primary interpretation of this verse. But I think it fits. Regardless, it’s true.

For His sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ and be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith . . .

(Philippians 3:8b-9 ESV)

Filled with the fruit of righteousness. That’s my only hope that I might, in His power, bear the fruit of righteousness.

Filled with the fruit of righteousness. Not because I deserved it, but because He delighted in it.

Filled with the fruit of righteousness. Reason alone to bow at His feet and declare His praise.

Filled with the fruit of righteousness . . .

By His grace. For His glory.

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