Matthew 12:33, "Either make
the tree good, and his fruit good; or else make the tree corrupt, and his fruit
corrupt: for the tree is known by his fruit."
This morning, we need to pause and consider once again our position in Christ Jesus. While there is much good to be done by contemplating and then acting upon the conditions of the Bible, we need not forget that we are secure in Christ Jesus our Lord, whatever comes. Part of contemplating this secure position is understanding what had to be done to secure it for us. Certainly, we did not secure it ourselves, for we were without strength to do it. (Romans 5:6) Christ came and died for us, for we were precious to Him and unable to save ourselves. So, exactly how should we perceive this magnanimous work of our Lord? What exactly did it take for us to stand spotless before our Father in heaven? One thing we must never forget is that He is a God of justice and mercy. Neither will stand in the corner to the neglect of the other. Therefore, the pouring out of mercy that we receive from Him must also entail the pouring out of Divine justice as well. From this sense, we see the cross as the place where mercy and truth are met together with righteousness and peace kissing each other. (Psalm 85:10)
One important detail that is easily understood in nature but rarely understood in theology is that actions do not precede motivation like fruit does not precede the root or tree. What makes pecans? Pecan trees make pecans, and they make the proper fruit from the root and tree. It would be a mockery to God for a pecan tree to put forth almonds, but God is not mocked as what is sowed is then reaped. (Galatians 6:7) Therefore, when we see men committing sins, we understand that they are first sinners by nature. In the same thought, we need to understand that when we see workers of righteousness, they are first righteous and holy by nature (new nature). What man does in action is preceded by motivation, and the old nature is motivated by sin, lust, and corruption, and the new nature is motivated by purity, holiness, and righteousness.
Understanding that principle, our Lord here declares that corrupt trees do not bring forth good fruit nor does a good tree bring forth corrupt fruit. What makes regenerate people interesting is that we have two natures residing in us that are wholly at odds and opposite from each other. These natures fight and war daily, and the end result (fruit) is that we bear forth both corrupt and good fruit. Therefore, we understand that presently we do bear forth both types of fruits as it is not yet manifest (to us) in a literal sense the fulness of the scope of the work of Christ. What is certain in heaven is only seen partially by us here - as through a glass darkly - for we have not yet been resurrected or changed from these old, vile bodies that we still carry around.
Even though we cannot manifestly see the resurrection, the Scriptural record still records information that we can understand something of the far-reaching aspects of Christ's work. It has been asked, "Did Christ put away our sins or our sin?" The point of the question is whether or not He put away our actions or our nature. The simple Scriptural answer is that He did both, and the verse above shows a natural principle of that. In other places (Galatians 1:4, Matthew 1:21, Hebrews 1:3) we see that our actions (sins) have been put away forever. Still in other places (John 1:29, II Corinthians 5:21), we see that our nature (sin) has been wiped away, to be fully revealed in the resurrection.
One might then inquire, what is the point of this discussion? The simple point is that one without the other does not satisfy God's justice. Simply doing one part of this work, we would still be left lacking and to our own devices to stand just before Almighty God. Consider Christ's analogy above. What if we had all our bad fruit cleaned up and put away? The end result is still that we are a bad (corrupt) tree, even without the fruit of it. While that is enough to damn anyone to eternal misery and contempt, Scripture records that there will be abundant actions to show forth this just condemnation. These actions will be put on display by the August Judge at the last day. (Revelation 20:12)
So, if cleaning up the fruit but leaving the corrupt root leaves us wanting, what would be the result of cleaning up the root but still having bad fruit (extra baggage) lying around? For God's justice to be upheld, not one flaw could be admitted. One unpunished sin is all that it would take for us to be spurned from Him forever. What if our nature from this day forward were perfect and spotless? We would still have our past sins to contend with and answer for. One without the other leaves us destitute in God's sight and presence. However, both together bring us before Him in perfect harmony of His mercy and justice.
When Christ came, He cleaned up our root (made the tree good). Our root was polluted by our first father Adam, and Christ cleansed that nature by creating in us a new nature making us free from sin and not under the dread consequences of sin. (I John 3:9) Yes, we still stumble, come short, and bring shameful actions before our God, but we are RIGHT NOW not under condemnation. (Romans 8:1) Because of His legal work, we have no possibility of the devil or anyone else bringing a just, railing accusation against us. The court will not uphold the charge, for legally, we are rendered righteous by the offering of Christ. As a token of that in reality with us, we have a regenerate nature that has affected us here. That nature yearns after God, does that which is righteous, and longs for the day of release into the glorious liberty of the sons of God. (Romans 8:18-24) The change of nature will be complete when that last great change appears at the resurrection at the last day. (John 5:28-29)
Yet, when Christ came, He cleaned up our fruit as well (made the fruit good). Part of the application of this verse is showing that we bear forth good fruit from a good nature that we have, but part of the same application is that all the dead, corrupt, decaying fruit that we have, do, and will produce has been picked up, borne away, and done away with forever. Every sin that we commit, He has stood for and put away by bearing the justice of God for it. No sin of ours stands between us and God, for it is paid for in full by our Elder Brother. One of the foremost things that should cross our minds every time that we see ourselves in a fault or sin is, "My Saviour endured my justice for that!" While my mind cannot fathom standing the weight of eternal justice, what a load He must have borne just for the burden of my sins that I have seen and understood. Compound that lengthy list of sins by an innumerable host that is the family of God, and we begin to imagine quickly what the burden must have been!
Thanks be unto God that He did not just clean up part of us, but all of us. Not only did He clean up our body, soul, and spirit legally by His death, He has and will clean up body, soul, and spirit vitally in regeneration and the resurrection of His people. Yet, knowing that we still fight and at times lose against our old nature, He put away our every action that is a blight in His sight. Had He not done this in our room and stead, we would still be just corrupt trees bringing forth corrupt fruit all of our days. If we can understand a portion of what He did but fully understand the end result of what He did (complete righteousness and spotless perfection and holiness), what manner of persons ought we to be in meeting the conditions that He has laid upon us to show Him thanks in our life? His conditions for His people are not in order to righteousness (thankfully He laid that furrow for us), but they are in thanks of righteousness (for which we ought to be making straight furrows in our life).