Recently, I saw a meme on Facebook and, as part of the LGBT community, it hurt me. I posted two installments explaining my view of the Gospel, and now I want to address another Christian concept that blurs the truth of how many of us view each other in Christ. I feel this is another area that is important to understand before I specifically address the meme.
Too often, we Christians go through motions to help us decide if another person is a Christian or not. We look for “proof” that they are saved, and if we don’t see it, we decide they really CAN’T be a Christian. This concept gets a little murky when “life” gets in the way. For example, one might say “no one who breaks the law can be a Christian”, but when you point out that speeding is breaking the law, the explanation is often further refined to mean “when you break IMPORTANT laws”. We also often hear the phrase, “to be a REAL Christian, your life needs to produce fruit”, or “the fruits of your life will show if you’re a Christian.” Today, we will talk about fruit and its place in our salvation.
The Fruit of the Spirit is detailed in Galatians 5:22-23
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”
Many religious people look for these as proof that a person is a Christian. If they believe the fruit is not present, they often decide the person is not REALLY a Christian! They might also go to Matthew 7:15-20 and John 15:6 and take it a step further – not only are you not a Christian, but YOU ARE GOING TO HELL! (I suppose that’s one and the same, but you get my drift.) If they aren’t producing these fruits, then they must be going to hell. I am here today to share, I believe these views are wrong.
Preston Greene in his book asks some questions before breaking down the scripture in Matthew and John. These views are based on the Christian belief of salvation through Jesus as being saved.
1. Can an unsaved person show love?
2. Can an unsaved person show joy?
3. Can an unsaved person show longsuffering towards humanity (through charity)?
4. Can unsaved people promote peace (Gandhi)?
If you are honest, the obvious answer is yes to all the questions. Let’s take this a step further, shall we?
1. Do Jehovah’s Witnesses show these fruits? (If you didn’t know, they don’t believe that Jesus was God in the flesh and think you have to earn salvation).
2. How about Mormons? Do they show fruits of the Spirit?
3. Do peace loving Muslims show any of these fruits?
The truth of this is ALL of the above show the fruit of the spirit as listed in Galatians. It’s hard to deny it even if you’re trying to insist that showing fruit is the true measurement of proving salvation in Christ. If this were not true, why would Matthew 7:15 warn against “wolves in sheep’s clothing”? 1 Cor 11:13-14 tells us that anyone can act like they’re a Christian by displaying this fruit, heck, even Satan appeared to be an angel of light! The fact remains that these attributes can be manifested by people who are not Christians.
But what about Christians? Is there something in the Bible that shows that Christians always show these fruits once they receive Christ? In truth, they show the exact opposite. Preston Greene said it this way (emphasis mine),
“The church at Corinth was carnal, but were babes in Christ (1 Cor 3:1-3). They were a saved church; sanctified (1:2). However, they were sinning all over the place. Some of their sins were envying, strife, and divisions (3:3). A believer has relations with his stepmother (1 Cor 5:5), there were lawsuits among the believers (1 Cor 6:7) there was fornication (1 Cor 7:2), there was drunkenness at the Lord’s Supper (1 Cor 11:21). How many fruits of the Spirit were they showing? Not many, but they were saved.
With reason and scripture we can conclude that fruits of the Spirit are not evidence of salvation. If the unsaved can do them without the Holy Spirit and saved people can all but ignore them, why do the religious insist it is mandatory that they should be exhibited? Because that’s what the “religious” do. Their mantra of “do” for salvation exceeds Jesus’s “done”.”
But what about Matthew 7:15-20 and John 15:6? Let’s break it down.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.”
Preston Greene responds with this:
From a first look at this passage, it appears that if one does not produce fruit, he or she is going to hell. First, this passage is about false prophets (verse 15), not the born-again believer. Verse 16 reads, “You will know them (false prophets) by their fruits.” Well, this is not referring to fruits of the Spirit, as Satan presents himself as an angel of light. Notice verse 18: “a good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit”. Do you sin? Then guess what, you are not a good tree. The only good tree is Jesus. Jesus said, “Why callest me thou good? There is none good but God” (Luke 18:19). Then we get to verse 20, which reads, “Wherefore by their fruits you will know them.” Well, if false apostles transform themselves into apostles of Christ and Satan presents himself as an angel of light, what does “fruit” mean? The answer is in Luke, which talks about the SAME thing.
For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart HIS MOUTH SPEAKETH. (Luke 6:43-45)
This is what fruit means in this passage. It is doctrine and what that doctrine produces (fruit). There are only two ways to see false prophets. One, if they prophesy something and it does not come to pass then they are not from God (Duet 18:22). The second area is “what is coming out of their mouths”. If you study your Bible and learn, you can tell someone is false by the words they speak. Bad doctrine, or false doctrine, will not produce for the kingdom. For example, what type of fruit were the Pharisees producing? What does Scripture teach us?
“Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and when he is made, ye make him twofold more the child of hell than yourselves” (Matt 23:15).
Their fruit was to proclaim salvation by the works of the law to their disciples, to root their disciples in that doctrine that they became more a child of hell then their teachers! This was the “fruit” of the Pharisees (ClearGospel.org). As a result, we need to abide in Jesus (correct doctrine) to produce fruit (converts) for the kingdom.
“If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned.”
Preston Greene responds:
Jesus said to believe (trust) in Him for salvation. IF you have done this, you have abided in Jesus to do what was needed to have everlasting life. Remember, Jesus promised not to cast you out; He will never lose you and nothing will pluck you out of His hand (John 6:39 and John 10:28). Jesus CANNOT contradict Himself. Second, Jesus is talking to believers (disciples). Look what he says starting in verse 3.
“Already you are clean because of the word that I have spoken to you. Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing.”
You can read Preston’s book explaining the reference to fire, but note the MEANING of the fruit as noted in his book (emphasis mine):
Jesus uses this as an “idiom” or metaphor. IF one does not abide in him, he or she is “useless”. Useless branches are tossed away. This does not mean saved people can go to hell. That would contradict so many passages of scripture. Jesus is just saying that if you don’t abide in him (to bear fruit), then you are as useless as a branch bearing no fruit and will be set aside. In other words “God won’t use you”. Can a believer produce no fruit and go to heaven? YES. The Bible is clear. Salvation is by grace through faith in the gospel of Jesus. In 1 Cor 3:11-15 we read how we, as born again believers, will stand before the judgment seat of Christ, where our works will be tested for reward. Some will have all their works burnt up, but they themselves will be saved. If they had “borne fruit”, that fruit would not have been burnt up, but rewarded. We conclude with verse 8, which tells us the context of the passage. Salvation is NOT in view here. Discipleship is in view here: “so shall ye be my disciples”. Salvation and discipleship— always keep them separate.
For salvation, Jesus said, “Come unto me, all ye that labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matt 11:28-30). For discipleship (service) Jesus said “pick up your cross and follow me”. Discipleship is NOT easy with a light burden. They are talking about two different things. The religious confuse salvation and discipleship; please don’t make the same mistake. Salvation is FREE. Discipleship is costly, BUT will be rewarded at the Judgment Seat of Christ. If you abide in Him, you can bear much fruit! Are you in the doctrine of Jesus or the doctrine of the Pharisees (religion)?
In summary, we cannot know man’s heart and it is very dangerous to declare that someone is not a Christian based on your view of their works, or fruits. Their salvation has nothing to do with their works, as their salvation is by faith alone in Jesus Christ. Please don’t confuse salvation with discipleship.