By Derek Prince
In the preceding chapter, we looked at how faith operates as one of the nine spiritual gifts listed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 12:7-11. In this chapter, we will look at how faith functions as one of the nine forms of spiritual fruit that Paul listed in Galatians 5:22-23: “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, temperance” (KJV).
The seventh form of fruit listed is faith. Recent versions of the Bible offer a variety of translations for this word, such as “faithfulness,” “fidelity,” “trustfulness.” However, the Greek noun that Paul used here is pistis. As we saw in chapter one, this is the basic word used for faith throughout the New Testament.
Before we begin to study this particular form of fruit, it will be helpful first to consider the relationship between gifts and fruit in general. What is the difference?
Gifts Versus Fruit
One way to bring the difference into focus is to picture a Christmas tree and an apple tree side by side. I am talking about a Christmas tree on which presents are tied. It is a common practice in some places to tie gifts onto the Christmas tree, instead of placing them under the tree. In this way, a Christmas tree bears gifts, while an apple tree bears fruit.
In the case of the Christmas tree, a gift is both attached to it and removed from it by a single, brief act. The gift may be a garment, and the tree may be a fir tree. There is no direct connection between the tree and the gift. The gift tells us nothing about the nature of the tree from which it is taken.
On the other hand, there is a direct connection between an apple and the tree that bears it. The nature of the tree determines the nature of the fruit, both its kind and its quality. An apple tree can never bear an orange. A healthy tree will bear healthy fruit; an unhealthy tree will bear unhealthy fruit. (See Matthew 7:17-20.) The fruit on the apple tree is not produced by a single act; rather, it is the result of a steady, continuing process of growth and development. To produce the best fruit, the tree must be carefully cultivated. This requires time, skill, and labor.
Let us apply this simple analogy to the spiritual realm. A spiritual gift is both imparted and received by a single, brief transaction. It tells us nothing about the nature of the person who exercises it. On the other hand, spiritual fruit expresses the nature of the life from which it proceeds; it comes only as the result of a process of growth. To obtain the best fruit, a life must be carefully cultivated through time, skill, and labor.
I may describe the difference in another way by saying that gifts express ability, while fruit expresses character. Which is more important? In the long run, character is undoubtedly more important than ability. The exercise of gifts is temporary. As Paul explained in 1 Corinthians 13:8-13, there will come a time when gifts will no longer be needed. But character is permanent. The character that we develop in this life will determine what we will be throughout eternity. We will one day leave our gifts behind; our character will be with us forever.
However, we do not need to choose one at the expense of the other. Gifts do not exclude fruit; fruit does not exclude gifts. Rather, they are intended to complement each other. Gifts should provide practical expression for character, just as they did perfectly in the person of Jesus Himself. His loving, gracious character was expressed by the fullest possible exercise of spiritual gifts. Only through the gifts could He meet the needs of the people to whom He had come to minister, fully expressing to them the nature of His Heavenly Father whom He had come to represent. (See John 14:9-10.)
We should seek to follow Christ’s pattern. The more we develop the attributes that characterized Jesus—love, concern, and compassion—the more we will need the same gifts that He exercised in order to give practical expression to these attributes. The more fully we are equipped with these gifts, the greater our ability will be to glorify God our Father, just as Jesus did.
Fruit, then, is an expression of character. When nine forms of spiritual fruit are present and fully developed, they represent the totality of Christian character, each form of fruit satisfying a specific need and each complementing the rest. Within this totality, the fruit of faith may be viewed from two aspects. These two aspects correspond to two different but related uses of the Greek word pistis. The first is trust; the second is trustworthiness.
Faith as Trust
The first aspect of faith as a fruit is trust. The Jerusalem Bible translates pistis as “trustfulness.” Over and over again, Jesus emphasized that one of the requirements for all who would enter the kingdom of God is to become like a little child. (See Matthew 18:1-3; 19:13-14; Mark 10:13-15; Luke 18:15 – 17.) There is probably no quality more distinctively characteristic of childhood than trustfulness. And yet, by a paradox, it is a quality that is seen at its perfection in the most mature men of God—men such as Abraham, Moses, David, and Paul. We may conclude, therefore, that the degree to which we cultivate trustfulness is a good measure of our spiritual maturity.
More fully, the fruit of faith—in this aspect of trustfulness—may be defined as a quiet, steady, unwavering trust in the goodness, wisdom, and faithfulness of God. No matter what trials or seeming disasters may be encountered, the person who has cultivated this form of fruit remains calm and restful in the midst of them all. He has an unshakable confidence that God is still in complete control of every situation and that, in and through all circumstances, God is working out His own purpose of blessing for each one of His children.
The outward expression of this kind of trust is stability. This is beautifully pictured by David in Psalm 125:1: “Those who trust in the LORD are as Mount Zion, which cannot be moved, but abides forever.” All earth’s mountains may tremble and shake and even be totally removed—except one. Zion can never be moved. God has chosen it for His own dwelling place, and it alone will abide forever.
So it is with the believer who has learned to trust. Others all around him may give way to panic and confusion, but he remains calm and secure. “His foundation is in the holy mountains” (Psalm 87:1).
About 1960, while I was serving as the principal of a training college for African teachers in western Kenya, one of our women students, named Agneta, contracted typhoid. My wife and I visited her in the hospital and found her critically ill. She was in a deep coma. I prayed that God would bring her out of the coma long enough for me to speak to her. A moment later, she opened her eyes and looked up at me.
“Agneta,” I said, “do you know for sure that your soul is safe in the Lord’s hands?”
“Yes,” she said in a clear, firm voice—and then immediately lapsed into a coma again. But I was satisfied. That one word yes was all she needed to say and all I needed to hear. It expressed a deep, untroubled trust that nothing in this world could shake or overthrow.
The key to this kind of trust is commitment. About a year previously, in my presence, Agneta had made a definite, personal commitment of her life to Jesus Christ. Now, in the hour of testing—perhaps at the very threshold of eternity—she did not need to make any further commitment. She only needed to rest in the commitment she had already made—one that included both life and death, both time and eternity.
In His timing, God answered the prayers of fellow students and raised her up again to full health. Her ability to receive the influence of the prayers offered on her behalf was in large measure due to her attitude of trust.
In Psalm 37:5, David said, “Commit your way to the LORD, trust also in Him, and He will do it.” More literally, the verse says, “And He is doing it.” Two things are here required of us. The first is an act: “commit.” The second is an attitude: “trust.” The act of commitment leads to the attitude of trust. David assured us that, as long as we continue in this attitude of trust, God “is doing it.” In other words, God is working out the thing that we have committed to Him. It is the continuing attitude of trust on our part that keeps the channel open through which God is able to intervene in our lives and work out what needs to be done. But if we abandon our trust, we close off the channel and hinder the completion of what God has begun to do for us.
Committing a matter to the Lord is like taking cash to the bank and depositing it into your account. Once you have received the teller’s receipt for your deposit, you no longer need to be concerned about the safety of your money. That is now the bank’s responsibility, not yours. It is ironic that some people who have no difficulty in trusting a bank to take care of the money they have deposited, find it much harder to trust God concerning some vital, personal matter that they have committed to Him.
The example of the bank deposit illustrates one important factor in making a successful commitment. When you walk out of the bank, you carry an official receipt, indicating the date, the place, and the amount of your deposit. There are no uncertainties. In the same way, you need to be equally specific concerning those things that you commit to God. You need to know, without a shadow of a doubt, both what you have committed and when and where the commitment was made. You also need the Holy Spirit’s official “receipt,” acknowledging that God has accepted your commitment.
Trust Must Be Cultivated
Trust is like all forms of fruit: it needs to be cultivated, and it passes through various stages of development before it reaches full maturity. The development of trust is well illustrated by the words of David in Psalm 62. In verse two, he said, “He [God] only is my rock and my salvation, my stronghold; I shall not be greatly shaken.” But in verse six, after making exactly the same declaration of trust in God, he said, “I shall not be shaken.” Between verse two and verse six, David progressed from not being “greatly shaken” to not being “shaken” at all.
We need to be as honest about ourselves as David was. Before our trust has come to maturity, the best that we can say is, “I will not be greatly shaken!” At this stage, troubles and opposition will shake us, but they will not overthrow us. However, if we continue to cultivate our trust, we will come to the stage where we can say, “I will not be shaken at all!” Nothing will be able to shake us any longer—much less overthrow us.
Trust of this kind is in the realm of the spirit, rather than the emotions. We may turn once more to the personal testimony of David for an illustration.
In Psalm 56:3, he said to the Lord, “When I am afraid, I will put my trust in Thee.” Here David recognized two conflicting influences at work in himself simultaneously: trust and fear. However, fear is superficial, in the emotions; trust is deeper down, in the spirit.
Mature trust is like a deep, strong river, relentlessly making its way to the sea. At times, the winds of fear or doubt may blow contrary to the river’s course and whip up foaming waves on its surface. But these winds and waves cannot change or hinder the deep, continuing flow of the waters below the surface. They follow the path marked out for them by the river’s bed to their predetermined destination in the sea.
Trust, in its full maturity, is beautifully depicted by the following words of Paul:
For this reason I also suffer these things, but I am not ashamed; for I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day. II Timothy 1:12
By all worldly standards, Paul at this stage was a failure. Some of his most influential friends and supporters had turned against him. Of all his close coworkers, only Luke remained with him. One of his coworkers, Demas, had actually abandoned him and turned back to the world. Paul was weak and aged, a chained prisoner in a Roman jail, awaiting unjust trial and execution at the hands of a cruel, depraved despot. Yet his words ring with serene, unshakable confidence: “I am not ashamed…I know…I have believed…I am convinced.” Beyond the horizon of time, he looked forward to an unclouded day—“that day”—the day when another judge, the righteous Judge, would award him “the crown of righteousness.” II Timothy 4:8
As it was with David, so it was with Paul: trust was the outcome of an act of commitment. His commitment is expressed in his own words: “He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him” (II Timothy 1:12). Trusting was the result of entrusting. Years previously, Paul had made an irrevocable commitment of himself to Christ. Out of this, subsequent trials and sufferings gradually brought forth an ever deepening trust that had now come to its full fruition in a Roman dungeon, its radiance all the brighter by contrast with its gloomy setting.
Faith as Trustworthiness
Now we will examine the second aspect of faith as a fruit: trustworthiness. Linguistically, “trustworthiness” is, in fact, the original meaning of pistis. In Arndt and Gingrich’s standard lexicon of New Testament Greek, the first specific definition given of pistis is “faithfulness, reliability.” If we go back to the Old Testament, the same meaning applies to the Hebrew word for faith—emunah. Its primary meaning is “faithfulness”; its secondary meaning is “faith.” The verb from which it is derived gives us the word amen—“so be it,” “let it be confirmed.” The root meaning is “firm, reliable.”
Both meanings alike—trust and trustworthiness converge in the person and nature of God Himself. If we view faith as trust, its only ultimate basis is God’s trustworthiness. If we view faith as trustworthiness, it is only through our trust that the Holy Spirit is able to impart to us God’s trustworthiness. God Himself is both the beginning and the end of faith. His trustworthiness is the only basis for our trust; our trust in Him reproduces His trustworthiness in us.
Probably no attribute of God is more persistently emphasized throughout the Scriptures than His trustworthiness. In the Old Testament, there is one special Hebrew word reserved for the attribute: chesed. In the English versions of the Bible, this word is variously translated “goodness,” “kindness,” “lovingkindness,” “mercy,” and so on. However, not one of these translations fully expresses its meaning.
There are two distinctive features of God’s chesed, or trustworthiness. First, it is the expression of God’s free, unmerited grace. It goes beyond anything that man can ever deserve or demand as a right. Second, it is always based on a covenant that God voluntarily enters into. We may combine these two features by saying that chesed is God’s trustworthiness in fulfilling His covenant commitments, which go beyond anything that we can deserve or demand.
Thus, we find a close connection between the following three important Hebrew concepts: emunah, faith or faithfulness; chesed, God’s trustworthiness; and berith, which means “a covenant.” These three Hebrew words form a recurrent theme in a series of verses in Psalm 89:
And My faithfulness [emunah] and My lovingkindness [chesed] will be with him. Psalm 89:24
My lovingkindness [chesed] I will keep for him forever, and My covenant [berith] shall be confirmed [amen] to him. Psalm 89:28
But I will not break off My lovingkindness [chesed] from him, nor deal falsely in My faithfulness [emunah]. My covenant [berith] I will not violate, nor will I alter the utterance of My lips. Psalm 89:33-34
This last verse brings out a special relationship between God’s trustworthiness and the words of His mouth. There are two things God will never do: break His covenant or go back on what He has said. God’s trustworthiness, imparted by the Holy Spirit, will reproduce the same characteristic in us. It will make us people of unfailing integrity and honesty.
In Psalm 15:1, David asked two questions: “LORD, who may abide in Thy tent? Who may dwell on Thy holy hill?” In the verses that follow, he answered his own questions by listing eleven characteristics that mark a person of integrity. The ninth requirement is listed at the end of verse four: “He swears to his own hurt, and does not change.” God expects the believer to be true to his commitments, even at the cost of personal sacrifice. The world has its own way of saying this: “A man is as good as his word.” A Christian who does not honor his word and keep his commitments has not yet developed the fruit of trustworthiness.
While God requires this kind of trustworthiness in our dealings with all men, we have a special obligation toward our fellow Christians. God’s own trustworthiness (chesed) is based, as we have seen, on His covenant (berith). Through Jesus Christ, He has brought us into a covenant relationship both with Himself and with other believers. The distinguishing mark of this relationship is that we exhibit, both toward God and toward our fellow believers, the same trustworthiness that God has so richly and freely demonstrated toward us.
We have already seen that God’s chesed, expressed in His covenant commitments, is based on His grace, going beyond anything that we, who are its recipients, can ever deserve or demand. This grace, too, will be reflected in our covenant relationships with our fellow believers. We will not limit ourselves to the mere requirements of justice or of some legal form of contract. We will be ready to make the full commitment that God made in establishing His covenant with us: to lay down our lives for one another. “We know love by this, that He laid down. His life for us; and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren” (I John 3:16). It is by the laying down of our lives that we enter into full covenant relationship with God and with one another.
Scripture paints a fearful picture of the breakdown of moral and ethical standards that will mark the close of the present age:
You must face the fact: the final age of this world is to be a time of troubles. Men will love nothing but money and self; they will be arrogant, boastful, and abusive; with no respect for parents, no gratitude, no piety, no natural affection; they will be implacable in their hatreds, scandal-mongers, intemperate and fierce, strangers to all goodness, traitors, adventurers, swollen with self-importance. They will be men who put pleasure in the place of God, men who preserve the outward form of religion, but are a standing denial of its reality. Keep clear of men like these. II Timothy 3:1-5 NEB
The Greek word that is here translated as “implacable in their hatreds” is defined in Thayer’s lexicon as denoting “those who cannot be persuaded to enter into a covenant.” The whole trend of this world will be—indeed, already is—away from those moral and ethical characteristics that a covenant demands. As the world thus plunges deeper into darkness, God’s people must, by contrast, be more determined than ever to walk in the light of fellowship. We must show ourselves both willing and qualified to enter into and maintain those covenant relationships on which fellowship depends.
For this purpose, we will need to cultivate the fruit of trustworthiness to full maturity.
Spiritual fruit differs from spiritual gifts in two main ways. First, a spiritual gift can be both imparted and received by a single, brief transaction; fruit must be cultivated by a continuing process that requires time, skill, and labor. Second, gifts are not directly related to the character of those who exercise them; fruit is an expression of character. Ideally, fruit and gifts should balance one another in a combination that glorifies God and serves humanity.
As a form of fruit, faith may be understood in two distinct but related ways: as trust and as trustworthiness.
Stability is a manifestation of trust, and it increases as trust matures. Stability requires an initial act of commitment. Entrusting leads to trusting.
Our trust is based on God’s trustworthiness, or chesed. God demonstrates His trustworthiness toward us by fulfilling His covenant commitments, which go beyond anything we can deserve or demand. In turn, God’s trustworthiness makes us the kind of people who are willing and able to enter into and maintain covenant commitments, both with God and with one another.