Mr. Doezema is a member of the Southwest Protestant Reformed Church in Wyoming, Michigan.
The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, by Richard J. Smit. Jenison, MI: Reformed Free Publishing, 2012. 155 pages (paper). [Reviewed by Don Doezema.]
A friend of mine told me recently that she was reading, and profiting from, Rev. Smit’s little book entitled The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. She went on to tell me that she planned therefore to share it with an acquaintance of hers, who, because of circumstances in her life, would surely find it as beneficial as she had.
That’s high praise. Not, you see, just: “I liked the book,” or: “It was well written,” or: “I found it interesting,” but: “I’m finding the reading of it to be profitable for my spiritual life.” And: “So much so, that I intend to urge someone else to read it in order to reap the same benefit.”
Little, I think, could be more gratifying to the author, for such response answers to the very purpose for which the book was written. “The primary goal,” Rev. Smit declared in the preface to his book, “is that this material may promote faithful piety and godly living among God’s saints….” Clearly, it’s doing that.
Then there’s the rest of that sentence that states his goal. The author hoped that the book would promote faithful piety and godly living “that grow out of the doctrines of God’s sovereign, particular grace, while at the same time giving due honor to the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ, in the work of sanctification and preservation of his saints.” After a careful reading of the book for the purpose of this review, I can say that, in every chapter of the book, Rev. Smit made good on that implied promise. Perhaps it’s his emphasis on the work of the Spirit, as the Spirit of our risen Lord, and on the sovereignty of grace by which we are “transformed into the image of Christ so that more and more we look like him and behave like him” (148), that sets this book apart from others on the same subject. Yes, there are indeed others—as Rev. Smit also acknowledges in his preface. Good ones too. I have some on my own book shelves. The Fruit of the Spirit of Jesus Christ, by Rev. Smit, will not replace them—but it will serve as a valuable and much appreciated addition.
Why? I draw your attention to a few of the book’s features that I much appreciated.
As we would expect, every chapter of the book is replete with references to Scripture. But, in addition, Rev. Smit quotes also from the Reformed creeds, and even from the Psalter. How, better, could he conclude the chapter on peace than by the words of Psalter #369:1: “How pleasant and how good it is when brethren in the Lord in one another’s joy delight and dwell in sweet accord”?
Rev. Smit’s emphasis is, in every instance, on the positive manifestations of the fruit of the Spirit in the life of the child of God, but he does not neglect the contrast, the antithesis, if you will. With respect to joy, for example, he writes: “In antithetical contrast to all the sinful and self-centered reasons that the wicked world has for its fleeting joys, the child of God has many good, virtuous, substantial, and lasting reasons” (42). And, to make it clear that the conflict is not simply between us (believers) and them (those wicked who are out there somewhere), but also within us, he writes, in the Introduction: “The Spirit is pleased to work this fruit in us through the way of leading us to crucify ‘the flesh with the affections and lusts’ ().” And he adds that,
in this light we must regard our sinful natures as repulsive and evil. We must not view our lusts as something with which to play…. Rather, we must flee those works of the flesh like fleeing a plague of death. We must treat these works of the flesh as rotten fruit to be cast away…. We learn by the work of the Spirit in us that fruit-bearing does involve the painful process of being pruned from the works of the flesh unto the production of the fruit of the Spirit (17-19).
“Being pruned.” That’s passive, of course. But Rev. Smit emphasizes repeatedly that, though our sanctification is a process that involves an irresistible work of the Spirit within the heart of God’s people, that does not mean that we are simply passive recipients of grace. It happens that at the end of every chapter there are helpful “Questions for Discussion.” The very first one is this: “Does the sovereignty of the Spirit of Christ in our salvation and sanctification mean that we are inactive?” Surely Rev. Smit’s reference (above) to the “crucifying of the flesh” and “fleeing the works of the flesh” speak to the responsibility of God’s people actively to ‘cultivate’ the gifts of the Spirit in them, but in his “Conclusion,” Rev. Smit elaborates on that concept:
It is not to be expected that the production of the fruit of the Spirit is an automatic process in which we are completely inactive and need not expend any energy nor exert any effort. It is not to be expected that below or beyond our consciousness the fruit of the Spirit suddenly appears in our lives.
And, really, the emphasis on this truth is something that recurs throughout the chapters of the book. In holding before us the powerful example of the apostle Paul, who “finished” his course, “fought the good fight,” and reached the finish line in the confidence that the Lord would give him in grace a beautiful crown (144), Rev. Smit asks: “Ought not we in holy temperance pursue such a crown from the Lord whom we love?” On gentleness, he writes: “Christ commands us to clothe ourselves…with the new man in Christ” (96). And, on gentleness: “Should we not be seeking by faith in Christ alone to put on that virtue of gentleness in word and action?” (94). Regarding joy, there’s this: “Our true gladness flows out of a true and living faith in the Lord Jesus Christ.” Then notice especially this: “It is filled with substantial knowledge of the doctrines of the Reformed faith” (41). What can this mean but, “Get to work and learn them!”
How does one do that? By reading, of course, and by personal study. But Rev. Smit mentions, repeatedly, two other things that come into play in this regard. First, the means of grace. On peace: “Faithful submission to the preaching of the word of the gospel develops and maintains this peace” (64). On meekness: “What Christ by his death and resurrection earned for us, a life of humility, he is pleased to work in us by his Spirit through the preaching of the word” (132). And then especially this in the “Conclusion”: “The Holy Spirit is pleased to work his fruit in the heart and life of the regenerated child of God in connection with the preaching of the word of God, also known as the chief means of grace” (151). And then this: “What we see in the mirror of God’s word concerning Christ is exactly what the Lord mysteriously and graciously begins to make to appear in us.”
Two things, I said, are emphasized repeatedly by Rev. Smit with respect to what is our calling to grow in grace and knowledge. The second is prayer. Concerning the fruit of gentleness, he writes: “This is another virtue that we learn to desire and that we pray that the Spirit of Christ will work in us more and more by the means of grace and his inner working” (81). And also this on the “robe of gentleness in our daily life”: “For that robe and the faithful wearing of it, we must pray unto our heavenly Father daily. We must seek the Father for the Spirit and grace to wear it and to exercise it” (91). Do we wish, for ourselves, more of the fruit of the Spirit of Christ? Do we desire to look more and more like Him as we make our way through this life? Neglect prayer for it, frequent and fervent, and it will not happen.
More to be desired, it is, than much fine gold! Trouble is, our nature being what it is, we need constantly to be reminded of the beauty of it. And Rev. Smit does that. On goodness: “By the miraculous grace of the Holy Spirit, what blessedness it is when we bring forth the fruit of goodness to the glory of God and enjoy its sweetness in the communion of saints” (113). On peace: “What a blessing it is when the Spirit by his grace gives us the opportunities to harvest and taste this fruit in our lives. The taste of peace and unity with the brethren is a great delight!” (66). On love: “What a delightful life and privilege it is to be the blessed recipients of the love of Christ and to love one another as he loved us” (32). And in the “Introduction”:
A heavenly and spiritual sweetness and goodness characterize and permeate the whole fruit…. That is the fruit that is delightfully tasty to our Father in heaven and also to our fellow saints upon earth who see and taste this fruit and are consequently delighted by it (16-17).
Note that: “also to our fellow saints on earth.” The fruit of the Spirit is of course important for my life, personally. But, as Rev. Smit reminds us repeatedly, fruit-bearing “is vital to the communion of saints” (20). Further, by fruit-bearing, “God is glorified.” And, “as the Spirit works the beginning of that fruit-bearing within us in this life, we have blessed hope.”
There appears on the fruit many spots of sin, and there hides in our best works worms of wickedness. But thereby the Spirit makes us long for the day when we shall be planted as living trees by the streams of living water that flow forth from the throne of God. There we shall bring forth abundantly, continuously, and sinlessly the heavenly, wholesome, pleasant, and sweet fruit of the Spirit of our Lord Jesus Christ for the honor and glory of our heavenly Father.
All that, from the Introduction. And all concepts that are amply illustrated throughout the book. Read it, and see for yourself. And find it to be, as it was for the young mother mentioned above, for your spiritual profit.