Matthew 21:43 – Therefore I tell you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people producing its fruits.
Jesus, in speaking with the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem, makes a chilling claim. Comparing the nation of Israel to a group of unfaithful vineyard tenants, Jesus showed how Israel as a nation had refused to obey God’s commands and had put his prophets and eventually his Son to death. As a result, God would take the Kingdom of God away from these wicked men, and would give the work of the Kingdom to another people who would bear fruit.
Right away, the American Christian is tempted to smile to himself when thinking of this passage. We think to ourselves that we are part of that people to whom the Kingdom is given. But before we get too smug, let us remember something crucial that Jesus said, “a people producing its fruits”. For a moment, examine yourself. For a moment examine your local congregation. Are you a people who are producing the fruits of the Kingdom of God?
As I read this verse this morning, I was not even tempted to deal with any sort of dispensationalism issues. Nor am I in any way attempting to deal with any issues regarding believers and the security of their salvation. I simply want us to think about this question: If God gives his kingdom to those who produce its fruits, ought we feel comfortable that we in our own lives and in our corporate church lives would qualify as solid Kingdom citizens? Is your life bearing the fruit of a Kingdom citizen? Is your church bearing fruit as a part of God’s Kingdom? If not, why not? If not, why are you not trembling in fear that God might place you on the shelf and choose to use someone else to accomplish his work?
Here is what I know for sure. If you truly have a saving relationship with Jesus Christ, you cannot lose that relationship. However, if you have such a relationship, it must be marked by fruit. If you are bearing fruit, God will entrust more and more to you in the work of his Kingdom. If you are not bearing fruit, it is likely that you will fail to experience even the smallest of joys available to you as God’s child in this life. It should frighten those who are not bearing fruit that their lives could be lived without truly having the joy for which God created them and saved them. And, it is possible that, if your life is not marked by any fruit, your life is not truly marked by genuine salvation.
And for a local church, the fear ought also be great. In the Ephesian church of Revelation 2:1-7, we see God threaten to take that church out of existence if they do not return in love to him. Do you believe that God would no longer do that? If your church is not bearing fruit, you ought plead with God that he will make your church fruitful. You ought work with all your might to help your church to be fruitful. Bear the fruit of the Kingdom so that your church might continue to be used by God in his great global mission. Fail to faithfully follow God, and you could see your own congregation become less and less relevant in Kingdom conversation.
By the way, fruit does not necessarily equal numeric growth. Bearing Kingdom fruit is faithful obedience to the commands of God. If your church bears Kingdom fruit, there will be love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23). A fruitful church will learn to love God more and more and love each other selflessly (Matthew 22:27-40). A fruitful church will share the gospel with the community around it, carry that gospel to the nations, and teach obedience to Jesus to all who are a part of it (Matthew 28:28-20). A fruitful church will be a place where God is exalted, the Bible is faithfully taught and believed, the lost hear the gospel, the believers love one another, and the needy are helped. A fruitful church will be a place where gossip dies, where grudges are put to rest, where pride is destroyed, where evil doctrines are slain.
Is your church and your life bearing the fruit of the Kingdom of God?