How’s Your Garden?
Your spiritual garden, that is. Did you know that Paul talks about such a garden in Phil. 1:9-11?
Writing to a church characterized by division and strife he says: “And this I pray, that your love [like a plant] might keep on growing yet more and more in knowledge and full discernment.” Here Paul uses a harvest metaphor to describe the good works planned by God for those who know Him. They are to produce “the fruit of righteousness…to the glory and praise of God.”
The term “fruit” is a familiar, almost trite, figure of speech, yet it should not be allowed to lose its meaning. It describes the Christian life as a life of growth, staring with a seed (v. 9) and issuing in a harvest (v. 11). It is the picture of one who is advancing step by step. It defines a course of life, yet life in its more usual and ordinary aspects and experiences.
Paul dwells upon the metaphor in these verses, and he emphasizes that the growth he has in mind is luxuriant indeed. It begins with love – the starting point from which all else flows. This love is (1) to “abound” (a verb in Greek that conveys limitless growth), (2) to “keep on abounding” (so the Greek tense used here), and (3) to keep on abounding “yet more and more” (the piling up of adverbs in this way is a typical Pauline device to emphasize that the Christian life is a process of many small stages, not one great leap.). “Let your love for one another keep on growing and growing yet more and more,” writes Paul.
Abounding love, then, is to be the rule of the Christian life. It is to be the seed from which the perfected fruit of righteousness is to grow. Its shoots are to be held by the twin stakes of knowledge and discernment, the former term referring to biblical knowledge, the latter to the ability to grasp the true significance of something. The seed of love, thus controlled and directed by knowledge and discernment, begins to put forth leaves and blossoms – the ability to discern what is best, as well as the twin virtues of purity and blamelessness.
The climax of the paragraph is reached as Paul adds, “having been filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ to the glory and praise of God.” Paul’s beautiful prayer is really an exhortation to a lifestyle of love that discerns what is of eternal value and issues in a holiness of inner and outer life. The motive for such a life of love is the provision that Jesus Christ Himself has made available.
Just as at creation God made the earth to teem with good things to satisfy men and women, and just as He has made many a backyard garden to overflow with delicious and nutritious vegetation, so He has showered us with an abundance of good in our salvation. James 1:18 declares, “Of His own will He brought us forth [like plants] by the word of truth, so that we should be a kind of firstfruits of His creatures.” As a result, the life of Christ within produces the “fruit of the Spirit” (Gal. 5:22-23), with God Himself as the vinedresser who exposes us to the sunshine of His presence, enriches the soil in which we are planted by the nutrients of His word, protects us from spiritual drought, and prunes us so that we may bring forth even more fruit.
Will you permit the Spirit to produce a lavish garden in your life? Will I?
August 11, 2005
David Alan Black is the editor of www.daveblackonline.com. If you would like to know more about becoming a follower of King Jesus, please feel free to write Dave.