Ferre Fructum = Indicator #1
Ferre Fructum = Bear Fruit in Latin
PART TWO OF SIX
Indicator #1 – Does the way I am living bear fruit?
God gave us guidelines for the overseers of the church in the pastoral epistles (1 Timothy, 2 Timothy, Titus). The requirement that pretty much summarizes the rest of them is the term above reproach. Paul wrote, “The saying is trustworthy: If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach (or blameless in some translations) the husband of one wife (can be translated as a “one-woman man”), sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money” (1 Timothy 3:1-2). The term reproach means “the expression of disapproval or disappointment.” Obviously, above reproach is a high standard to uphold. However, it is God’s standard so we should not expect less.
A church leader must be of a certain character because the message of the gospel is at stake. During the time of Paul’s letter, there were leaders in the church whose behavior was severely tarnishing the church and the message of the gospel. Therefore, the character of an overseer was critical then, and it still is today.
Philip H. Towner says of this passage, “At the head of the list of qualifications is the term “above reproach.” It has in mind mainly aspects of behavior (inward and outward) that have observable results, and as a measurement it signifies that no grounds for reproach or blame have been found. Its placement within the opening phrase and its wide scope suggest that this is the essential requirement for candidacy. Within the overseer code it is equivalent to the requirement of a “good reputation with outsiders” with which the instructions conclude (v.7).”
Yes, pastors and church leaders are held to a higher standard and will be judged by God accordingly. But I argue that being above reproach should be the target for all followers of Christ. Colossians 3:7-10 says, “7 In these (sexual immorality, impurity, passion, evil desire, and covetousness) you too once walked, when you were living in them. 8 But now you must put them all away: anger, wrath, malice, slander, and obscene talk from your mouth. 9 Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old self with its practices 10 and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator.”
Do you know what the outside world says most often about the church? “They are a bunch of hypocrites!” Really, how many times have you heard this before? Even some people who proclaim Jesus say they do not “go to church” because the church is filled with hypocrites. We, as the church, have to make a conscious effort to try to change this. Yes, some of the accusations are unfounded. When a group of imperfect people chase and follow Perfection, it is not going to be understood by the world. But, a lot of it is our fault as well, and we must take responsibility. Towner spoke of being above reproach as having a “good reputation with outsiders.” This is where bearing fruit comes in. We must live a life that is above reproach, bearing fruit, and showing the love of Christ to the world.
We must also show an above reproach life, bearing fruit, and sharing the love of Christ with our brothers and sisters in Christ. “We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death” (1 John 3:14). We are to love, to build up and not cause our brother to stumble.
Charles Spurgeon said, “Do you love them for Christ’s sake? Do you say to yourself, ‘That is one of Christ’s people; that is one who bears Christ’s cross; that is one of the children of God; therefore I love him, and take delight in his company’? Then, that is an evidence that you are not of the world.”
We are to pursue fellowship with our church family. I believe wholeheartedly in God’s plan for the church and believers, both the “big C” Church (worldwide) and the “little C” church (local). When we are saved by the blood of Christ we are part of the Church (big C). But we are also to follow His call to find a local, bible-believing church (little C) to serve in (Acts 2:42,46, Hebrews 10:25). And I say call because I think the church we attend is a calling. We should seek His will and blessing when we join a church body, and should not leave that church body until He calls us to another church, which might not happen. The body edifies and we need each other. Your church needs you and you need them.
Indicator #1: Does the way I am living bear fruit? Am I living an above reproach life and bearing fruit to be seen by outsiders in the world? Am I living an above reproach life, bearing fruit, and pursuing fellowship with the brethren?
Just for today, meditate on these questions and answer them honestly for yourself.
Tune in tomorrow for Part Three…
Towner, Philip H. The Letters to Timothy and Titus. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 2009.