In my study this week, I spent a lot of time meditating on part of Paul’s prayer, “And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.” (Phil 1:9-11)
Particularly, I needed to discern what the fruits of righteousness are from Jesus that will glorify and praise our Lord (v 11). The fruit, or result, of righteousness is the outgrowth of righteousness in the heart. A truly righteous person will display certain actions and attitudes that confirm the nature of the heart: honesty, kindness, meekness, goodness, love, etc.
Here we see the wording of the NLT, “May you always be filled with the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ—for this will bring much glory and praise to God”. This links the fruit to our salvation and the resulting Christian character. It’s Paul’s desire that the believers of Christ will show external evidence that they are truly righteous, that they will harvest what Holy Spirit produces in them, that they will be “filled” with all which Christ’s righteousness yields.
The fruit of righteousness, like all fruit, springs from a seed—in this case, the seed of grace implanted in the heart of all believers at the moment of salvation. Without that seed, fruit would not be possible. Prior to God’s work of regeneration, we are incapable of producing righteous fruit. Paul describes the state of unredeemed man in Rom 3:10–18—not one of us is righteous (pure, holy, undefiled). Clearly, unrighteous people cannot produce the fruit of righteousness.
The description of the vine and the branches paints a beautiful picture of the process by which the fruit of righteousness is produced (Jn 15:1–6). The true vine, Jesus Christ, is is how we receive His eternal life-giving nourishment. Branches (believers) do not produce fruit on their own, they merely display the fruit Christ produces within us.
Which is why Jesus says, “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing” (Jn 15:5). All branches attached to the true Vine will display righteous fruit. Which is why Jesus warns us to look at the fruit produced.
The Old Testament used a similar phrase as Paul: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.” (Prov 11:30) And in another epistle helps to explain the fruit the Lord produces in us: “But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” (Gal 5:22–23)
Notice that these qualities are the fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit creates new life in the believer, and the evidence of the new life is the fruit the Spirit produces in that life. The source of the fruit of righteousness is not “righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Phil 3:9).
Paul adds that the goal of the fruit of righteousness is “to the glory and praise of God” (Phil 1:11). The fruit displayed in our lives comes from God and is not for our own praise and glory and not to gain honor and applause from men; it is to glorify God. Others should see our good deeds and “glorify your Father in heaven” (Matt 5:16).
The works of righteousness are those “which God prepared beforehand that we should walk in them” (Eph 2:10). They are proof of a true saving relationship with Christ. Jesus assures us that, if our salvation is real, the fruit of righteousness only He can produce in us will be evident in our lives (Matt 7:16–20).