Bearing Fruit

April 2, 2012 at 5:44 pm | Posted in Christianity | Leave a comment
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Recently, I was part of a discussion that has caused me to think about it for the past week almost exclusively. There were other things that were said that have me just as concerned, but this is the one that my mind decided to grab a hold of and not let go. In the midst of a discussion on another topic, this question was raised:

“Can someone claim to be a Christian, not bear fruit, and actually be a Christian?”

The response basically boiled down to:

If an apple tree doesn’t bear apples, does that mean it’s not an apple tree? Of course not! It may not be a very good apple tree, but it’s still an apple tree.”

I had been taking notes that night and even as the response was said, I already was writing down scripture references. Unfortunately, the references that I found (and others since then) don’t line up with the response that was given. Basically, the response said, “You can be soundly saved by Jesus and not show any evidence (fruit) of this act happening”. But, is this true? Can someone be saved and not bear fruit to show this salvation has taken place? I’m going to lay out the scriptures that I’ve found over the last week and present them in context and as clearly and unbiased as I can. I do so for a couple reasons. One, I do so in order to clarify things in my own mind as far as what I believe and whether or not it lines up in scripture. Two, I do so in order to bring this to the attention of others so that if they’ve had this question it may help them see what the scriptures say.

Matthew 3:5-10

Then Jerusalem was going out to him, and all Judea and all the district around the Jordan; and they were being baptized by him in the Jordan River, as they confessed their sins. But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “

This passage shows John the Baptist baptizing people in the Jordan River. As people from all over were coming to him to be Baptized, John sees many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming to get baptized. When he sees them, he wastes no time at all. Look at what he says to them:

“You brood of vipers, who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? “Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance; and do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham. “The axe is already laid at the root of the trees; therefore every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “

He called the Pharisees, the religious leaders of their day, a brood of vipers. They were the men who knew the Law. They were the ones that memorized the Penteteuch. They followed the 613 laws to the letter (in their own mind anyway). They were the pious examples that all of Israel were to look up to, and John called them vipers. But, he wasn’t finished. He then called on them to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance”. He cuts right to the heart of the matter and tells them that their genealogies will not matter. Then, John says that the axe is already at the root of the trees and every tree that doesn’t bear good fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire.

Matthew 7:15-23

“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.“You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they?“So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.“A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit.“Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.“So then, you will know them by their fruits.“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.“Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in Your name, and in Your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?’“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; DEPART FROM ME, YOU WHO PRACTICE LAWLESSNESS.’

Here, Jesus is speaking on the Mount of Olives. He is finishing up His Sermon on the Mount. He has spent much of it explaining to His disciples (and the others that had gathered) that they shouldn’t be like the Pharisees. They should act like the Pharisees, they shouldn’t judge like the Pharisees, they shouldn’t desire attention or fame like the Pharisees. He then warns them about false prophets. He tells them that they will come in sheep’s clothing but will be ravenous wolves. This doesn’t mean that they will be sheep, but that they will present themselves as shepherds. But, Jesus says that we will know them by their fruits. It is the fruit of these “shepherds” that allows us to know whether or not they are true shepherds. Jesus echoes what John told the Pharisees and says that any tree that does NOT bear good fruit will be cut down and cast into the fire. Again we see that it is the bearing of good fruit that allows us to identify the “tree”.

Matthew 13:24-30, 37-43

Here is the parable of the wheat and tares (emphasis mine):

Jesus presented another parable to them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a man who sowed good seed in his field.“But while his men were sleeping, his enemy came and sowed tares among the wheat, and went away.But when the wheat sprouted and bore grain, then the tares became evident also.“The slaves of the landowner came and said to him, ‘Sir, did you not sow good seed in your field? How then does it have tares?’“And he said to them, ‘An enemy has done this!’ The slaves *said to him, ‘Do you want us, then, to go and gather them up?’“But he *said, ‘No; for while you are gathering up the tares, you may uproot the wheat with them.‘Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.”‘”

Since Jesus Himself explained this parable, here is the explanation:

And He said, “The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man,and the field is the world; and as for the good seed, these are the sons of the kingdom; and the tares are the sons of the evil one;and the enemy who sowed them is the devil, and the harvest is the end of the age; and the reapers are angels.“So just as the tares are gathered up and burned with fire, so shall it be at the end of the age.“The Son of Man will send forth His angels, and they will gather out of His kingdom all stumbling blocks, and those who commit lawlessness,and will throw them into the furnace of fire; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.“Then THE RIGHTEOUS WILL SHINE FORTH AS THE SUN in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear.

There is an interesting idea here that needs to be brought out. Jesus said in the parable that when the wheat sprung up and bore grain (fruit), the tares became evident also. The phrase “became evident” carries with it the idea of shining a light on something that is in the dark. If you were in a room with no windows and all the lights turned off and you shone a flashlight on someone, that person would become evident. The light would reveal who they are. It is the same here. When the wheat (sons of the kingdom) bear fruit, that shines a light on those who are not of the kingdom (tares – sons of the evil one!). It is the bearing of Christian fruit that reveals not only who the Christians are, but who the non-Christians are as well!

John 15:1-8

“I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser.“Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it so that it may bear more fruit.“You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.“Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.“I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.“If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.“If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.“My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.

Here, Jesus is talking to His disciples not long before He is to be crucified. He calls Himself the “true vine” (indicating that there are other vines that are not true) and names His Father as the vinedresser. He then makes it clear that those who do not bear fruit are taken away by the Father. Every branch that does bear fruit is pruned so that it bears more fruit. It gets even deeper though. Jesus tells His disciples to abide in Him. Abide means to dwell, stay around. Believers are to abide in Christ. When they do, there is evidence that follows. Jesus says that just as the branch bears fruit because it abides in the vine, so Christians bear fruit if they abide in Christ. This is a natural result of those abiding in Christ. He also says that those who do not abide in Him (and therefore do not bear fruit!) are thrown away, dry up, and cast into the fire. Those who abide in Christ will bear fruit and that fruit glorifies God…

By looking at these passages, we can see that it is not only expected that Christians bear fruit, but it is a given. Those who are truly saved will bear fruit because they are saved and because the Spirit dwells in them. Those who do not bear fruit are not genuinely saved and the lack of fruit is evidence that they’re not saved.

There is a question to be expected from all of this and that is: “What about newly born again Christians? Surely they need time before they can bear fruit?” If the production of fruit was dependent upon the Christian themselves, you might have a point. But, the bearing of fruit is the result of the work of the Spirit and that begins as soon as someone is saved. It may not be the quantity or quality of the fruit that should come in the life of a believer that has walked with Christ for20 years, but there is still fruit that is borne.

So, the question is: Are you bearing the fruit of Christianity? Do you have the evidence that Jesus has saved your soul and you are walking with Him? If not, you can still repent. If you will repent of your sins (lying, stealing, lusting, coveting, idolatry, etc) and put your faith in Christ alone to save you, you can be born again. You can have that fruit as evidence. Will you repent and trust Christ today? Tomorrow may be too late….

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