“For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of life (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.” Ephesians 5:8–11

I am always jumping the gun when it comes to anticipating the arrival of spring. Give me just one sunny, balmy day, even if the calendar says it is January, and I start thumbing through the first gardening catalog I see. I do not think I am the only one afflicted with a bad case of DWGTI, the “Dead of Winter Green Thumb Itch.” It gets me every year.

Fruit is the byproduct of the life of a plant—its root structure, its soil, its situation in shade or sunshine, its climate, its environmental hazards (bugs, foot traffic, storms, animals, weed-whackers, and kids), and its DNA. Plant catalogs are brilliant in their marketing. They extoll the quality of the fruit that is anticipated. But, woe be to the one who purchases a plant that is ill-suited to the location or the available real estate situation. Better to match the plant to its preferred medium and, through careful cultivation, fruit may be reasonably expected.

In the Scriptures, fruit is emblematic of the product of a man’s life. Depending on the context, fruit may be either bad or good. In the natural world no fruit is produced by a dead plant, but in the spiritual world spiritually dead people still produce fruit. It is obviously better to be spiritually born again and to produce good, eternal fruit of righteousness rather than be a “natural man” devoid of both faith and works of righteousness, but full of evil fruit and meaningless fruit. It is not that an unsaved person cannot do good works. It is just that his good works, noble though they may be, have no salvific, eternal significance since there is no relationship between his soul and God, through the new birth granted only through the grace of God and the mediatory work of Jesus Christ.

For this reason good fruit is explained in Scripture as the fruit of the Holy Spirit. Galatians 5:22ff explains, “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.” This inspiring list is compared to the works of the flesh (verses 19–21) that come from the natural (unregenerate) man, “adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outburst of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like…those who practice such things will not inherit the Kingdom of God.” These are the horrible, misshapen, bitter fruits of every fleshly man, separated from the grace of God!

Our passage in Ephesians has a similar instruction regarding the fruit that is only borne in a man through the agency of the Holy Spirit. It explains this fruit bearing in the context of light. Every fruit bearing plant that we admire requires light in the right dosage to produce the produce! Paul’s words sound like the Apostle John’s words in 1 John 1:5ff: “This is the message which we have heard from Him and declare to you, that God is light and in Him is no darkness at all. If we say that we have fellowship with Him, and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

Paul clearly states that born-again saints are offspring of Light, “now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light.” You are not just enlightened people, you are now light! Before salvation our lives were full of darkness, darkness of character, benighted judgment, darkened virtues and devilish vices. We breathed in the atmosphere of the kingdom of darkness this world is, and labored under the darkening doom hovering over all of mankind (John 8:12, Colossians 1:13). We were “once darkness,” but now light in the Lord!

An evidence of this new life of light we receive from the Lord through faith is the fruit that is produced as we walk “as children of light.” The fruits identified here are “all goodness, righteousness and truth.” Goodness is not merely good works but works morally excellent in virtue, as God would define it. It is not the easy-going goodness of the kind-hearted and benign. In Paul’s mind is goodness produced of the living DNA God plants within His ransomed saints, that is granted from above, that is ablaze with the light of His countenance, and that is forged in the fire of faith (Philippians 1:22). It is goodness in praise (Hebrews 13:5), in speech (Matthew 12:33), in repentance (Matthew 3:8), and eternal fruit of converted souls (John 4:36) to name a few. I believe that God sees this fruit that He produces in us and declares it “very good” (Genesis 1:31).

Rounding out Paul’s illustrations of the fruit of light within us are the words “righteousness and truth.” Righteousness is not just in behavior but in standing with God, justified saints being granted “positive righteousness” (Romans 5:1) and all that derives from the quickening of the Holy Spirit (Hebrews 12:11). Truth is integrity, honesty, and embrace of God’s Word. It is the fruit derived from truth including good conscience, open-faced profession of Christ, and it encompasses the life we share with God in the Light (Colossians 1:6).

Believers, bear the fruit of light (James 5:7). Trust and obey.