What does it really mean to bear fruit (in Evangelism)

“You did not choose Me, but I chose you, and appointed you, that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain…” (John 15:16)

This is not an article on predestination or election, even though I could use the words of Christ to support each, but rather a note about suffering. Those of us chosen of God were specifically selected by Jesus Christ our Lord to bear fruit that would last throughout eternity. A good tree will demonstrate spiritual fruit such as godly attitudes (Gal 5:22-23), righteous behavior (Phil 1:11), praise (Heb 13:15), and leading others to faith in Jesus Christ (Rom 1:13).

Since I am an evangelist and was ordained by God to share the gospel with lost people I would like to discuss a view of witnessing rarely mentioned in Christendom. We hear much about tens, hundreds, and even thousands of people professing faith in Jesus Christ every year as a result of outreach or evangelism events (Crusades, Blitzes, Church Services, etc). Baptism figures totaled at the end of the year by Church and Para-Church organizations are used to provide evidence that their outreach efforts were productive or successful.

Nevertheless, it is important that believers consider suffering punishment, imprisonment, rejection, hardships; etc for the gospel as a form of fruit bearing. As example that strongly supports this statement is revealed in the life of the Apostle Paul. Consider his calling as revealed in chapter nine of the book of Acts. This great evangelist was told (by Jesus) that he was not only a “chosen” instrument but would “suffer for My names sake.” Our Lord foreknew that Paul would experience beatings, stoning, shipwrecks, imprisonments, hardships, hunger, thirst, sleepless nights and the like for preaching the gospel to both Jews and Gentiles. Nevertheless, Paul and other messengers of God throughout both the Old/New Testaments as well as church history experienced similar circumstances.

Cover of "Ashamed of the Gospel: When the...

Cover via Amazon

John MacArthur in his book titled, Ashamed of the Gospel” writes, “…Jeremiah, for example, preached forty years without seeing any significant positive response. On the contrary, his countrymen threatened to kill him if he did not stop prophesying (Jer 11:19-23); his own family and friends plotted against him (12;6); he was not permitted to marry and so had to suffer agonizing loneliness (16:2); plots were devised to fill him secretly (18:20-23); he was beaten and put in stocks (20:1-2); he was spied on by friends who sought revenge (v.10); he was consumed with sorrow and shame eve cursing the day he was born (vv. 14-18); and finally, falsely accused of being a traitor to the nation (37:13-14), Jeremiah was beaten, thrown into a dungeon, and starved many days (vv.15-21).” (MacArthur, 88)

John Fox records in his book Fox’s Book of Martyrs the testimonies of hundreds of men and women who throughout church history suffered to the point of death for evangelizing the world. This would include Stephen, the Apostles, Christians under Nero, Domitian, Trajan, Christians in living Persia, France, Calabria, Bohemia, Germany, Lithuania, Poland, China, Japan, Spanish America, Great Britain, Ireland, Scotland, United States, India, West Indies, Inquisitions under the Papacy, etc. Men like John Wickliffe, Martin Luther, John Calvin, Charles Surgeon and the like all suffered some form of persecution for their faith and for preaching the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Would emulating the sufferings of Christ be considered bearing fruit in the eyes of God?

Scripture records that before the Bema Judgment seat of Christ, believes are rewarded for their fruitfulness. The Bible mentions at least five rewards and two of them pertain to leading people to Christ known as the ‘Crown of Rejoicing’ mentioned in Proverbs 11:30; Dan 12; and I Thessalonians 2:19-20. The ‘Crown of Life’ is given to those who successfully endure trials, persecution, or suffering (for His name) is mention in James 1:2-3 and Rev 2:10.

Even though the current climate in our culture or world opposes the teachings of Christ, believers must (like their predecessors) be bold, plus steadfast in the proclamation of the gospel. Even if it means consequences that would cause Christians to suffer some form of ridicule, rejection, or negative repercussions for His name sake.  Not only is there a reward in eternity for this sort of fruit bearing, but also an opportunity to produce fruit in this present life. Remember, God called you out of the darkness and into His marvelous light in order to produce fruit that will remain!

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