The Fruit of Righteousness

Righteousness is spoken of in different ways in Scripture, and it is essential for us to realise this if we are to understand God's thoughts on this subject. There is God's standard of righteousness to which man in the flesh can never attain, for God has said, "There is none righteous, no, not one." Only One, the blessed Son of God in flesh, completely answered to God's will; His every thought, word and action being for God's glory and pleasure. Well does He deserve the Name, "Jesus Christ the righteous" (1 John 2:1).

Yet, in the Psalms, "the righteous" are often spoken of, for there were those who sought to do what was right in the sight of God, and although they did not answer perfectly to the mind of God, as did His blessed Son in Manhood, they were true children of God. The divine nature within them produced the desire to please God; and as children of believing Abraham their faith was counted for righteousness.

Then there were those like the ruler who, in Luke 18 could say regarding the commandments of the Law, "All these things have I kept from my youth." Such was Saul of Tarsus, who wrote of himself, that "touching the righteousness which is in the law" he was blameless (Phil. 3:6). It was only when the ruler was asked by the Lord to sell all that he had and give to the poor that it became evident that he did not love his neighbour as himself; and only when Saul felt the probe of the commandment, "Thou shalt not covet," that he realised that he did not fulfil the righteous requirements of the Law. There are many that men could not convict of unrighteousness by the standard of the Law, but the most righteous of this sort, when brought into the presence of the Lord, would have to confess, "All our righteousnesses are as filthy rags" (Isaiah 64:6).

There is also the human standard of righteousness of which Scripture speaks, where it says, "For scarcely for a righteous man will one die" (Rom. 5:7). Men are not prepared to lay down their lives for one who demands what others owe him as well as always paying what he owes to others. Some might lay down their lives for a philanthropist, who has done much for others; but neither human righteousness, nor philanthropy can merit the blessing of God. To have God's blessing we must have God's righteousness, which is in Christ, through believing "on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead, who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification" (Rom. 4:24, 25).

"The fruit of righteousness" is not the judicial aspect of righteousness that occupies the opening chapters of the Epistle to the Romans, but rather the practical expression of the divine life in those who have been justified in Christ; the manifestation of the features of grace and beauty that were seen in their fulness and perfection in the life of the Lord Jesus on earth. Fruit-bearing is frequently spoken of in Scripture, and in the New Testament it is "by Jesus Christ," the result of the Father's care, and "the fruit of the Spirit." All three Persons of the Godhead are concerned with the production of fruit, the mature expression of the divine life in the saints of God.

The Sowing of the Fruit of Righteousness

The Apostle James refers to fruit bearing a number of times in his epistle, telling us in chapter 3 that "the wisdom from above" is "full of mercy and good fruits." Among these good fruits is the "fruit of righteousness (which) is sown in peace of them that make peace" (James 3:17, 18). Our apostle would have us realise the importance of sowing in relation to the production of this precious fruit for God; and he tells us that it is sown for them that make peace. The Lord on earth said, "Blessed are the peace-makers, for they shall be called the sons of God" (Matt. 5:9). God has no pleasure in those who do not love peace, for He is "the God of peace," and one of the seven things He abhors is "those that sow discord among brethren" (Prov. 6:19).

In making peace we take character from Christ who, in His unique and supreme sacrifice, "made peace by the blood of His cross." A watchful foe is ever seeking to disturb God's people, and the Scriptures witness to the many and varied ways in which he accomplishes his hateful work. But God would have us ever watchful, and with divinely-given wisdom discern, and endeavour to remove, in love, all that would hinder the promotion of peace among the saints. How blessedly was the Lord engaged in this gracious work when His disciples were disputing among themselves who should be the greatest, and how blessedly was His example followed by the Apostle Paul in His care for the church.

Making peace does not mean having peace at any price, but rather the maintenance of all that is according to the will of God, and the refusal of all that is contrary to His will and holy nature of love. The fruit of righteousness could not be sown where righteousness was ignored or set aside, but where peace was made through the manifestation of the divine nature and the refusal of all that is of the flesh.

But peace is also the soil in which the fruit of righteousness is sown, the fertile soil in which the soul in communion with Christ is rooted, even as He said to His own before leaving this world, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." Only those who enjoy His peace can make peace, and it is for such that the fruit of righteousness is sown.

Righteousness and peace are not only found together here. In Psalm 85:10, it is written, "Righteousness and peace have kissed each other"; and how rightly has this been applied to the cross of Christ. Again in Ephesians 6, "the breastplate of righteousness" is followed by "and your feet shod with the preparation of the Gospel of peace." They are also linked in the next Scripture we shall consider, "the peaceable fruit of righteousness."

The Production of the Fruit of Righteousness

Our time on earth is not only for the sowing of the fruit of righteousness, but also for its production, and this is brought out in Hebrews 12, where we read that, through the Father's chastening, there is the yielding of "the peaceable fruits of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby" (Heb. 12:11). How blessed it is when the fruit of righteousness is borne by saints in times of trial, through deep exercise of soul.

Every trial through which we pass should be taken from the hand of a loving Father, who desires to bring out in us the lovely features that came out in their perfection in the life of Jesus; for this is indeed the fruit of righteousness. He ever did what was right in the sight of God, and this is what the Father is seeking in the lives of His children.

There is ever the danger of despising or fainting under the chastening, instead of being submissive and exercised. The knowledge of our relationship with God, and of the love and wisdom that actuate all His dealings with us, will enable us to endure while chastened of the Father. We can be fully assured that He has our profit in view, that which will bring great and lasting spiritual gain for us; and that His desire is to make us more like Himself as partakers of His holiness.

As in the sowing of the fruit of righteousness, so also in its production is it connected with peace. Exercise will bring the "peaceful fruit of righteousness." Peace will fill the heart while the fruit is borne, even if the conditions and circumstances through which we pass are not "joyous, but grievous." The blessed Lord passed through constant trial and sorrow while on earth, for He was "A Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief." There was no need for chastening with Him, for all in Him was purity and perfection, but, having passed through sorrow as Man. He is able to enter sympathetically into all our sorrows, and He who had ever commanded learned obedience by the things which He suffered. Yet in all His sufferings and sorrows peace filled His heart, while, as the True Vine, there was constantly the fulness of the fruit of righteousness for the pleasure of His God and Father. And what pleasure there is for the Father to see the same precious fruit borne in His children, even as the Son said to His disciples, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples" (John 15:8).

The Display of the Fruit of Righteousness

The prayer of Philippians 1 looks forward to "Christ's day," and the writer expresses the desire that the saints "may be pure and without offence" for it, then adds, "being complete as regards the fruit of righteousness, which is by Jesus Christ, to God's glory and praise" (Phil. 1:10, 11). In Christ's day there will be the display in glory of the fruit of righteousness, which has been sown in peace, and produced through a loving Father's chastening hand.

This prayer while looking forward to the day of Christ's glory, in which His own will have part with Him, also considers the spiritual conditions in which the fruit of righteousness, in which the Apostle would have us complete, is borne. First, Paul desires that the love of the saints "may abound yet more and more in full knowledge and all intelligence." The love of the saints at Philippi had been expressed in meeting the needs of the prisoner of the Lord, and his gratitude to God and to them is evinced in his beseeching God that their affections might constantly abound in the full knowledge that Christianity had given them, and in the divine intelligence that would direct aright the outflow of, their abounding love.

Unless the affections are right before God, and controlled by the knowledge of Himself and the spiritual intelligence He gives, we cannot form a true judgment of all we have to meet, whether in our individual lives or in the affairs of the assembly of God; nor can we approve or seek the precious things that have been procured for us through the death of Christ. And it is only as we go in for the heavenly things that are in Christ that we can be "pure and without offence" in view of Christ's day.

In their exercises through which the saints are enabled to live for Christ, the fruit of righteousness is brought forth, and this divine fruit is "by Jesus Christ." Do we not find this also taught by the Lord in John 15, where He says to His disciples, "Abide in me and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abide in the vine, thus neither can ye unless ye abide in me" (John 15:4). Our exercises never could produce anything for the pleasure and glory of God without dependence on Christ. We must continually draw upon the resources that are in Him so that His life might be expressed in us.

The day of Christ will display the glory of Him whom men refused, and all the saints will be displayed with Him as the fruit of His work on the cross for God's glory; and in that same glory there will be displayed the fruit of righteousness which has been sown and produced in the saints in the variety of their circumstances, conditions of life, and exercises, in passing through this world. But all that precious fruit in which the Father finds delight is the fruit of the Spirit, the fruit of the Father's loving care for His sons, and the fruit of Christ's resources on which His own have drawn during His session at God's right hand.