Question: "What is the fruit of righteousness in Philippians 1:11?"

Answer: In the first chapter of Philippians, Paul tells the church at Philippi that his prayer for them is that their love would abound with knowledge and discernment, that they would be pure and blameless as they wait for the day of Christ, and that they would be “filled with the fruit of righteousness that comes through Jesus Christ—to the glory and praise of God” (Philippians 1:9–11). Here we see the concern of a spiritual father for his spiritual children. Paul had established the church at Philippi and had developed a close relationship with them.

The fruit, or result, of righteousness is the outgrowth of righteousness in the heart. A truly righteous person will display certain actions and attitudes that confirm the nature of the heart: honesty, kindness, meekness, goodness, love, etc. The wording of the NLT links the fruit to our salvation and the resulting Christian character: “the fruit of your salvation—the righteous character produced in your life by Jesus Christ.” It’s Paul’s desire that the Philippian believers will show external evidence that they are truly righteous, that they will harvest what the Holy Spirit produces in them, that they will be “filled” with all that Christ’s righteousness yields.

The fruit of righteousness, like all fruit, springs from a seed—in this case, the seed of grace implanted in the heart of all believers at the moment of salvation. Without that seed, fruit would not be possible. Prior to God’s work of regeneration, we are incapable of producing righteous fruit. In Romans 3:10–18, Paul describes the state of unredeemed man—not one of us is righteous (pure, holy, undefiled). Clearly, unrighteous people cannot produce the fruit of righteousness.

The description of the vine and the branches paints a beautiful picture of the process by which the fruit of righteousness is produced (John 15:1–6). A grape vine is that from which the branches receive the life-giving nourishment of water and nutrients. Only as the branch is attached to the vine can grapes come forth from the branch. Branches do not produce fruit on their own. In the parable, Jesus is the true Vine, and only from Him does spiritual nourishment come to the branches (His people) so that fruit is produced. Believers are the branches attached to the true Vine. They do not produce fruit on their own; they merely display it. All branches attached to the true Vine will display fruit; righteous fruit comes from the righteous Vine.

Proverbs 11:30 uses the same turn of phrase as Paul does: “The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life, and the one who is wise saves lives.” Galatians 5:22–23 helps explain the fruit that God produces in us: “The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control.” Notice that these qualities are the fruit of the Spirit. The Holy Spirit creates new life in the believer, and the evidence of the new life is the fruit the Spirit produces in that life. The source of the fruit of righteousness is not “righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith” (Philippians 3:9).

Paul adds that the goal of the fruit of righteousness is “praise and glory to God” (Philippians 1:11). The fruit displayed in our lives comes from God and is not for our own praise and glory and not to gain honor and applause from men; it is to glorify God. Others should see our good deeds and “glorify [our] Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). The works of righteousness are those God has prepared beforehand that we would walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). They are proof of a true saving relationship with Christ. Jesus assures us that, if our salvation is real, the fruit of righteousness will be evident in our lives (Matthew 7:16–20).