Sourcing Paul’s Knowledge of Fruit and Trees


As I have pondered the God-breathed words of the NT, red-letters and black letters, I have realized the beautiful harmony of ALL of the Bible…… how Jesus Christ’s knowledge, understanding of and obedience to the OT “Law and Prophets” could only have been accomplished by him BEING the Living Word of God whose Holy Spirit is imbued in every word of the OT. Therefore, Jesus Christ’s life and everafterlife witness to the truth of the OT gives life and breath to the His Own Holy Spirit Presence in the NT, as well, bringing all to fulfillment. When we can see the beauty, majesty, glory harmony and truth of God woven through the cords (and chords) of all the Word we see the Incarnate Christ present with us in the here and now, living in our minds and hearts and His Word is illuminated to us that we, too, may fulfill God’s plan and purpose in our lives!

“1 Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2 And I saw a mighty angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3 And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4 and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. “. Rev 5:1-4

As I study the whole of the Word of God, OT and NT, it seems clear to me that Jesus Christ alone was then and is now the only one worthy to “0pen the scroll”, and in fact, did exactly that for his disciples then by the transformation of their minds, giving them the “eyes to see and ears to hear”, and He does the same for His disciples today. When we read the OT through the lens of the mind of Christ revealed in His teaching and the interpretation of it through His Apostles in the era of the early Church as they were led by the Holy Spirit, we, too, led by that same Holy Spirit may bring clarity and unity to the task of righteously using all scripture for this purpose:

16 All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching,rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness,17 so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work. 2 Timothy 3:16-17.


The Apostle Paul’s conversion was about 2-3 years after Jesus Christ’s resurrection and ascension in 36. And his ministry began a few years later and his letters came much later, after the churches he planted had gained a measure of functionality (or dysfunctionality!)

He remained in Damascus for a couple of years where he presumably was instructed by Christians there in Jesus’ teachings.   Then he fled to Jerusalem, then went to Tarsus.  He preached across Syria and Cilicia from his base in Tarsus.  Then he was sent to Antioch and was there a year.  Then in 45 he visited Jerusalem with Barnabas.  Then returned to Antioch for 2 more years.  His first missionary journey was 48, then to Antioch.  Second missionary journey was in 51-52 to Galatia, Cilicia, Lycaonia, Troas, Philippi, Thessalonica, Berea, Athens, and Corinth.  At Corinth he writes 1 and 2 Thessalonians in 52 and 53.  In 54 he leaves Corinth and visits Jerusalem during Pentecost.  Then returns to Antioch.  He begins his third missionary journey from Antioch and goes to Ephesus where he writes a number of epistles.  Then to Macedonia where he writes 2 Corinthians.  In winter he returns to Corinth and writes Galatians.  Then in 58 he writes Romans and leaves Corinth again to go to Philippi and Miletus, then to Jerusalem at Pentecost. He is arrested and sent to Caesarea.  He is sent to Rome by Festus and shipwrecked at Malta.  Arrived at Rome in 61 and while there writes Philemon, Colossians, Ephesians, Philippians.  He is acquitted in Rome in 63 and goes to Macedonia and Asia Minor.  In 64-65 some sources indicate that he may have gone to Spain.  In 66 he goes to Asia then in 67 to Macedonia where he writes 1 Timothy and to Ephesus where he writes Titus, then spends time in Nicopolis.  In 68 he is back in prison at Rome and writes 2 Timothy.  He was executed in the summer of 68.


So, my thought is this:

Tonight we read from the Galatians letter about the fruit of the Spirit in 5:19-23.  This would have been written in the winter of 57 from Corinth.  This is 24 years after Jesus’ death.  His writings are prolific over the next 10 years.  When Paul is writing about the fruit of the Spirit, this is something that he seems to have taught many times in many places, just as he did about the gifts of the Spirit, too. 

So, where did his teaching about this fruit of the Spirit come from?

As I ponder this teaching, I look to the words of Jesus reported in the Gospels and given Jesus’ penchant for quoting or alluding to the OT, I look there, too.  There are a number of references to fruit and fruit trees in Jesus’ parables and sermons.  

But when I look at the structure of the Galatians passage I am struck by a parallel to Psalm 1:3 which compares the way of righteousness with the way of wickedness, which is the same pattern and theme developed with more detail and specificity by Paul in Galatians 5:19-23. The way of those who pursue righteousness is compared to a tree planted by the rivers of water, that brings forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.   The ungodly are like chaff blown away by the wind who will not stand in the judgment nor in the congregation of the righteous.  The way of the righteous is known by the Lord, but the way of the ungodly will perish.

In Matthew 7:17-20 Jesus says, “ “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”  Jesus is warning about false prophets and teachers.  Immediately, after this section he talks about false disciples who are turned away by Jesus when he says, “I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!” immediately after hearing them list their gifts and how they used them for him. 

In tonight’s lesson Craig Carter observed that the gifts of the Spirit are temporary, performed in the earth.  The fruit of the Spirit is eternal and is the character we take into eternity.  He further observed that gifts are what we do under the influence of the Spirit and fruit is what is born in those who are made righteous in Christ.  That being the case it seems that the growth and maturation of fruit would come first and, in true disciples, would give birth to the evidence of the gifts of the Spirit.  Those who act out of gifts in their own strength without the righteousness of the fruit of the Spirit will be revealed for their erroneous priority… doing over becoming, for their deceived hearts and deceiving conduct.


Then, back to Paul in 2 Timothy 4:1-4, he writes, ”In the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and in view of his appearing and his kingdom, I give you this charge: Preach the word; be prepared in season and out of season; correct, rebuke and encourage—with great patience and careful instruction. For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths. But you, keep your head in all situations, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, discharge all the duties of your ministry.”

This, too, seems to be a reference to mature aspects of fruitfulness- like faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.  In season and out of season speaks of faithfulness, but also that it is prepared to persevere in that faithfulness, is born in great patience with careful instruction, in other words, standing ready all the time in the eternal status of having achieved the righteousness of the fully formed fruit that marks one as a true member of the kingdom of God.  The fruit of the Spirit is the mark of the mature, true disciple.  The gifts are apparently are temporary and can even be manufactured out of deceptive hearts.  What counts in the end is what one has become, not what one can do.

In Jesus’ exhibition to this disciples of the withering of the cursed fig tree that had been lush with leaves…. even prematurely so or “out of season”…. So much so that it could easily be seen from a distance as they approached Jerusalem at a time in the spring when the leaves would be expected to emerging and small.  The presence of mature full leaves would lead one to believe that fruit would also be present, but when examined by Jesus, the fig tree had no fruit and Jesus cursed it.  Later, after he and the disciples had been to the Temple and cleansed it of the moneychangers, restoring his Father’s house to a house of prayer and worship, they returned along the road to find the fig tree withered.  This is reminiscent of his words in Matthew 7:17-20, “ 17 Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”  A tree that can put up a good show but doesn’t produce fruit of the Spirit is as good as dead wood, and will be cast into the fire.  

The point of this pondering is that one cannot simply refer to a verse or group of verses and know the power of its message without looking to the Gospels and also to the source references to which Jesus may have been referring when he spoke in the Gospels.  Examining the whole of the text brings a fuller, more meaningful picture of The Way of Jesus as he interpreted the Old Testament letter of the Law and lived into the New Testament era’s need for a fresh interpretation of their ancient texts in light of the coming of the Spirit of the Law, and pointing the way for the future implementation of instruction about the apostolic ways of living and teaching The Way to each successive generation. 


                                                                                                                                    9/8/21  CBB