Yahshua, the Messiah, told a parable in Matthew 21:33-44 that was autobiographical. It was about the owner of a vineyard who sent his son to get fruit from the people tending his vineyard. As the Son of God, Yahshua was looking for fruit. He hoped to see a response to the love He continually showed towards those around Him, especially those He called to be His disciples. His Father needed a people who would "bear the fruit" of the kingdom of heaven.1 He wanted something heavenly to be established on the earth. That’s why Yahshua taught His disciples to pray that His Father’s kingdom would come on earth as it is in heaven.2 The disciples understood that following Yahshua meant they were going to have to do something to bring that kingdom to the earth.3 And they loved their Master and wanted to bear much fruit!4
Yahshua also taught them that a tree is known by its fruit. If a tree is good it will always produce good fruit; and if a tree is bad, then it will always produce bad fruit.5 In time they realized that obeying the words of Yahshua would result in bearing good fruit, because it would cause them to be vitally connected to their Creator. Bearing much fruit would prove that they were His disciples.6
But what is the “fruit of the kingdom”?
There are two things Yahshua spoke of that stand head and shoulders above all else: love and unity. He revealed to us how one can remain in His love and be tapped into the same love He was tapped into:
If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love. (John 15:10)
His disciples bear fruit by obeying His commands. So, what are His commands? Just a little further He explains,
This is My commandment, that you love one another as I have loved you. Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:12-13)
So we know that He loved by laying down His life for His friends, and in doing that He was an example to us of what the standard of love is for His disciples. He talked about it so often because He knew that mankind was created to love, to express the fullness of the Spirit of God in physical form. All the commands are designed to produce His disciples living together a life of love.
So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions. (Luke 14:33)
Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or brothers or sisters or mother or father or children or lands, for My sake and for the gospel, who will not receive a hundredfold now in this time — houses and brothers and sisters and mothers and children and lands, with persecutions, and in the age to come eternal life. (Mark 10:29-30)
The Master’s commands are what set a person free to live that life of love. However, it is impossible to do it alone. Otherwise, by giving up your possessions you will wind up on the streets with nothing to offer anyone. But by obeying the Master’s commandments together, the life described in the Book of Acts becomes possible. That is how the hundredfold increase He promised in Mark 10:29-30 happens:
And all those who had believed were together and had all things in common; and they were selling their property and possessions and sharing them with all, as anyone might have need. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved. (Acts 2:44-47)
Now the full number of those who believed were of one heart and soul, and no one said that any of the things that belonged to him was his own, but they had everything in common. And with great power the apostles were giving witness to the resurrection of the Lord Jesus, and great grace was upon them all. There was not a needy person among them, for as many as were owners of lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold and laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. (Acts 4:32-35)
This was the life of love that Yahshua gave His life to make possible. He knew it could happen only if His true disciples would obey His Words. Apart from obedience to His commands, a person is left seeking after his own food, clothing, and shelter. But Yahshua told His disciples they were not to even think about meeting their own needs, but to seek first His kingdom, and all these things would be provided for them.7 If everyone is preoccupied with caring for others, and not themselves, then everyone’s needs are met.
Unity was the other topic dear to Yahshua’s heart. In fact, in His final hours it was what weighed most heavily on His heart. He prayed before He went to the cross that those who followed Him would be in perfect unity, and that it would testify to His validity as their Savior:
I am no longer in the world, but they are in the world, and I am coming to You. Holy Father, keep them in Your name, which You have given Me, that they may be one, even as we are one... that they may all be one, just as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You, that they also may be in us, so that the world may believe that You have sent Me. The glory that You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one even as we are one, I in them and You in Me, that they may become perfectly one, so that the world may know that You sent Me and loved them even as you loved Me. (John 17:11,21-23)
It will shock the world to see human beings actually getting along, deeply connected, committed to taking care of one another, making sure everyone has what he needs. That is what it means to love your neighbor as yourself. And it is only that kind of unity that will communicate the hope that God can actually save us from the deep inner workings that have alienated people from each other for all of human history.
Of course, this could not come from anything other than the grace of God being poured out on mankind. History tells many grim tales of failed attempts at living together. Mankind has never been able to do it in his own strength. That is why the life the disciples of Yahshua lived in the beginning was such a miracle! That life is fruit of being truly saved:
We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death... By this we know love, that He laid down His life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers. (1 John 3:14,16).
Some would say it is impossible to love as Yahshua loved, and to attain to the same unity as Father and the Son. But we understand that it is actually within the power of God to save His people to that extent. It is actually the primary goal of the gospel.8
So what is the seed that would produce that luscious fruit? To begin with, it is Yahshua Himself:
Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. (John 12:24)
He overcame every temptation to live for Himself,9 choosing instead to do His Father’s will, which led Him to go to the cross as a Lamb led to the slaughter.10 He died and went into death11 in order to pay every cent that we deserved to pay for our sins.12 But He did so because of the hope set before Him13 — that He would see His spiritual offspring, the fruit of the travail of His soul in death.14 Or as the Apostle Paul put it:
For the love of Christ controls us, because we have concluded this: that one has died for all, therefore all have died; and He died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for Him who for their sake died and was raised. (2 Corinthians 5:14-15)
The seed is also the gospel that Yahshua preached. When planted in the hearts of those who are willing to do the Father’s will, it causes them to truly die in the waters of baptism, utterly forsaking their old lives, including all their possessions, unwilling relatives, careers, plans, philosophies, etc. When that seed germinates and springs forth into a new life, it bears the fruit of salvation, which results in the witness of the kingdom — the radical life of Acts 2 and 4.
Many people wonder why the disciples lived that way back then, and why those who call themselves followers of Christ don’t live that way now. Many have reasoned, “Well, that was just for back then; things are different now,” or, “They had to live that way back then because of persecution.”
However, it is no mere coincidence that the way the early believers lived back then lines up directly with the “hard words” Yahshua said a person had to obey in order to become a disciple and find salvation. The normal response of obedience to the Gospel of the Kingdom produced the life and witness that turned the world upside down at that time.15
So after we read about the radical life of Acts 2 and 4, the question looms: “Why has the church changed so drastically that it is now unrecognizable in comparison to how it was in the beginning?” It is because back then a kingdom was being established. There was a purpose behind the gospel that Yahshua and His apostles preached — a purpose greater than the personal salvation of an individual, so he can go to heaven when he dies. The purpose of the gospel was to produce the holy nation and royal priesthood that the Apostle Peter spoke of in 1 Peter 2:9, the spiritual Israel of twelve tribes that the Apostle Paul spoke of in Acts 26:7 and Ephesians 2:12 and Galatians 6:16, the spotless bride that the Apostle John spoke of in Revelation 19:7-8 and 21:2,9-14.
Yes, the God of Israel wants to rebuild that spiritual nation that was to be a light to the nations, bringing His salvation to the ends of the earth.16 It is a nation where lost and lonely people17 can find refuge from the fallen system of this world which is built and ruled over by the prince and power of the air,18 the one whose sway is over the whole earth.19 It is a nation that is in every way holy and set apart from the world, where there is no love of the world or the things of the world.20 It is a brand new culture that is being established by the God who is Love.
So here is the bottom line: The life of love and unity that is described in Acts 2:44-47 and 4:32-35 is the fruit that comes forth from the seed of the true gospel when it falls in the fertile hearts of those who are willing to do the Father’s will. If anyone rejects that fruit, or is willing to settle for anything less, then it follows that he rejects the seed that bears that fruit. Many settle for the cheap, genetically modified seed that produces the lifeless and fragmented fruit of Christianity today. They experience a form of godliness that lacks the power to produce a life of love and unity, and they are content with it. But are you?
We invite you to come and witness the radical life of love that is taking root once again on the earth. It is a spiritual nation of communities made up of people committed to loving their Creator with all their heart, soul, and strength, and to loving their neighbor (the one nearest them) as themselves.21 That is what it takes to produce the fruit of the kingdom.