This morning as part of my regular reading of the Bible I came to that notoriously difficult passage about the cursing of the fig tree and was struck by the words. “May no one ever eat fruit from you again.” (Mk 11:14). I do not want to attempt to discuss the actual issues, but to consider the possibility of such a statement being made concerning a Church, Christian ministry, or even an individual Christian.
Fruit and harvest are metapaphors regularly used in Scripture to describe various forms of growth and production. As early as Genesis 30 we find Jacob saying that he is not responsible that his wife cannot bear fruit, in this case, children. Psalm 1 uses it as a description of spiritual growth in the life of the believer. Isaiah 5 gives us the sad picture of Israel being described as vineyard that bore wild fruit and therefore incurred the judgement of God. In the NT The Lord Jesus Christ uses it describe the result of everyone’s life “Thus you shall recognize them by their fruits” (Mt. 7:20). He later says “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide,” (Jn 15:16). Paul describes Christian growth as “the Fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22f)
God has created the world, the human race and the church, desiring that each of these be fruitful. The facts are however that the world and human race suffered directly as a result of Adam’s decision to disobey God. Both continue to produce fruit, but the uncultivated natural world still produces “thorns and thistles” (Gen. 3:18) and humanity continues to self destruct as nations rise against nation and families disintegrate. It is obvious that as a general rule we are not seeing the fruit that does desires in the world and humanity, but surely the church is different. Is it? We take great comfort from the fact that Christ said “I will build my church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.” (Mt. 16:18), but how seriously do we take the warnings of Rev. 2 & 3, where Christ says to local churches, “Remember therefore from where you have fallen; repent, and do the works you did at first. If not, I will come to you and remove your lampstand from its place, unless you repent.” (Rev 2:5) “Therefore repent. If not, I will come to you soon and war against them with the sword of my mouth.” (Rev 2:16) “Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works,” (Rev 2:22)
These are solemn words and reflect the judgement that Christ executed on the fig tree. He was not prepared to let it exist any longer. While Christ will build His Church universal until His bride is complete, history is clear that local churches wither on the vine and Christians once zealous lose their first love.
As a Church and as Christians we need to be constantly seeking God’s help to cultivate and develop the fruit of the Spirit in our lives, to be growing and effective in our Christian lives and ministries. This is clearly stated in the words to the church at Sardis “Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.” (Rev 3:2)
Christ says “Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent.” (Rev 3:19), so any correction needed in our lives is a demonstration of God’s love, but He will not as it were waste His effort on fruitless lives. He has provided all that we need for life and Godliness may we each be committed to cooperating with God and producing the fruit he desires.
In His Love,
Bernard Lewis March 2012