Sunday, February 13, 2011

How Do You Know If It's Fruit?

In my last post, I discussed the fact that where Jesus spoke of being able to identify false prophets (not false believers) by their fruits, the context doesn’t point to fruit meaning actions at all, but rather to the words that these people speak. However, I do think that it is valid to refer to characteristics or changes in one’s life as fruit, since there are passages in the Bible which do use the word fruit in that way, such as Galatians 5:22-23, which refers to the fruit of the Spirit, or the things which the Spirit produces in the lives of those who live under His influence. With that in mind I want to discuss in this post a basic thought which I have had about fruit in the life of a believer. That thought is this: Many people believe that by looking at fruit in their lives, they can verify that they are children of God, but in reality, one can only know that positive things which he sees in his life are fruit produced by the Spirit of God if he already knows beyond a doubt that he is God’s child.

Think about this with me for a moment. If a young believer who used to have a problem with a particular sin shows progress in that area of his life, we look at that and call it fruit, and hopefully it is. At the same time, though, we also know that it is possible for an unregenerate person to make positive changes in his life. For instance, two individuals could both struggle with drinking, and could both get sober at the same time. In one of their lives, this change might be the result of him responding to the Holy Spirit, and in the other one’s life, it might be the result of his decision to get help and stop drinking, or because of his new devotion to a false religion. So the same type of change might be fruit in one person’s life, and not in the other’s. Surely this principal is true in my own life as well. Unless I know objectively, because of the promises in God’s word, that I have eternal life, no positive change in my life could possibly give me assurance, because I would never know for sure that the change was accomplished by God and not by my own efforts.

The teaching that fruit will always be produced in the lives of true believers is a feature of Calvinistic theology, and the same Calvinists who teach it will also say that it is possible for someone who is not truly saved to have the same visible signs in their lives and to think that they are produced by God, even though they aren't. So even the theological system which brought us the teaching that fruit leads to assurance shows that it is logically impossible to really gain assurance of salvation by looking at one’s works, or the “fruit” in his life.

How, then, can a person know beyond a shadow of a doubt that he has eternal life? Simply by believing what the Lord Jesus has told us when He said, “Whoever believes in Me has eternal life.” I know that I have believed in Jesus, therefore I know that His promise applies to me. I have entrusted my eternal destiny to Him, and He has given me eternal life. When there is fruit in my life, it is evidence that I am responding to His work in my life, and when there is a lack of fruit, it shows that I am not responding properly to Him, but either way I rest my eternal destiny and my assurance of it simply on the promises in God’s word.


  1. Hi Ken,

    Another EXCELLENT post~!!! I just sent out your link to a number of my friends and family.
    Very good illustrations~!!! Thank you.


  2. Hi Ken,

    I believe your exactly right in what you are saying~! I don’t believe anyone can know they are born of God other than the objective promise of eternal life that Jesus makes to the one who believes. According to Calvinism (Calvin’s flavor) God gives people a taste of the real thing just to trick them so He can condemn them all the more.

    John Calvin: I am aware it seems unaccountable to some how faith is attributed to the reprobate, seeing that it is declared by Paul to be one of the fruits of election; and yet the difficulty is easily solved: for though none are enlightened unto faith, and truly feel the efficacy of the Gospel, with the exception of those who are foreordained to salvation, yet experience shows that the reprobate are sometimes affected in a way so similar to the elect, that even in their own judgment there is no difference between them. Hence it is not strange, that by the apostle a taste of heavenly gifts, and BY CHRIST HIMSELF a temporary faith, is ascribed to them. Not that they truly perceive the power of spiritual grace and the sure light of faith; but THE LORD, the better to convict them, and leave them without excuse instills into their minds such a sense of his goodness as can be felt without the Spirit of adoption.
    (John Calvin, “Institutes of the Christian Religion, “Book 3, Chap. 2, Sec. 11. Pg. 362). Emphasis mine.

    The remedy to the false spirit of Calvinism:

    That forces us to line up any experience or fruit we have with God’s word. Were to test every spirit to know whether it is from God. By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God (seeà1 John 4:1-2). We see in verse 2 it has Jesus human name and His title Christ. For John to believe in Jesus as the Christ is to be born of God (seeà1 John 5:1). By this we know who our brothers and sisters in Christ are by whether they have believed Jesus testimony, not by their fruit but by their root. That is, have they believed the testimony of Jesus that He has given them eternal life (seeà1 John 5:9-13; John 6:47), (John 20:31 Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name).
    We know that the one born of God does not sin, for His seed remains in him; and he cannot sin, because he is born of God. In fact, the one who sins has neither seen Him nor known Him. (seeà1 John 3:5,6,9) That is, no child of God sins as a manifestation of the New Man (Gal 4:19), but when he sins it’s the fruit of our flesh, the old man. That’s everyone~!!! That is why fruit can never be proof of one’s new birth, because we are still in a body that is not perfect, and produces sin (seeà Gal 5:17; 1 John 1:8; Eph 4:22-24; Colossians 3:5-10).


  3. Yep! It just surprises me how many people never really stop to think about the fact that fruit or what looks like it could never give assurance of salvation to anyone. Even to speak of it as a "secondary" source of assurance seems strange to me. Once you have absolute assurance based on God's word, what more do you need? And if you don't have that, nothing else will do.


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  5. I think the whole "fruit inspector" teaching has exactly the opposite result of what the perseverance lordship folks are aiming for. The really non-introspective insensitive soul, you know, the kind that need to be hit up side the head with a two by four, will think they are saved because of the good works in their life, and ignore the sinful attitudes they have. They very well may think they are saved and not be saved at all. On the other hand, the introspective type, may be so overwrought by sinful attitudes, they will think they are not saved, when they really are. It has exactly the wrong results in those types of people, that is, it gives assurance to people it should not, and takes it away from people that should have it.

    I cannot understand how people think they can look to their works, even 1% in terms of "proving" they are saved. It is filled with subjectivity, and psychological twists and turns that really should have nothing at all to do with whether a person knows 100% that they have everlasting life. I know many unsaved people who live a lot more moral lives than believers I know.

  6. Exactly Don, I think that insensitive types just cruise along, not worrying about whether they're in or out, but to those who really stop and think about it, the teaching that fruit is an inevitable result of faith is devestating.