Preface: True religion does not consist in outward behavior but in the condition of the heart. When the heart is surrendered to God, a person’s life will more and more reflect the character of Christ as he or she grows in faith. The heart must be subdued by Christ; when that happens, all else will follow.
The central theme of Galatians 5:16–26 is “the fruit of the Spirit.” In this passage of Scripture Paul talks about good and bad fruit and the way to produce fruit. Ellen White defines the fruit we
bear as “our words and actions.”1
But what importance does all this talk about fruit hold for us today? Ellen White says that “the fruit we bear is the only test of the character of the tree before the world. This is the proof of our discipleship.”2 We are to show our commitment to Christ by our fruit—our words and actions. This can only be accomplished when God touches our hearts. Without this proof the world has no indication that we are Christians. God has called His disciples to be a distinctive people. A unique lifestyle distinguishes those who know Christ from those who don’t.
How can the proper fruit be produced? “Prayers, exaltation, and talk are cheap fruits, which are frequently tried on; but fruits that are manifest in good works . . . are genuine fruits, and grow naturally upon a good tree.”3 Christ is not looking for those things we “try on” ourselves. Good works are naturally produced by a good person. But doing good things does not make a person good.
Jesus said in John 15:5: “I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me, and I in him, he will bear much fruit” (NIV). God promises to produce good works in our lives as long as we are one with Him. As we study His character revealed in the Bible, as we pray and commit ourselves to obedience to His will, we unite ourselves with Him and produce good works. Christ promises results.
How is this accomplished? Through the Holy Spirit. “The sap of the vine, ascending from the root, is diffused to the branches, sustaining growth and producing blossoms and fruit. So the lifegiving power of the Holy Spirit, proceeding from the Saviour, pervades the soul, renews the motives and affections, and brings even the thoughts into obedience to the will of God, enabling the receiver to bear the precious fruit of holy deeds.”4
As we bring ourselves into contact with Christ, His Spirit works in our hearts, changing us, so that we become the kind of people who naturally do and say those things that glorify God before the world. We are also changed into the likeness of Christ and receive the fruits of joy and peace. What a blessing!
1. Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 598.
2. Ibid., vol. 5, p. 348.
3. Ibid., vol. 2, p. 24.
4. The Acts of the Apostles, p. 284.