“By Your Fruit” (or, How to Know if You Are Really Saved)

“By Your Fruit” (or, How to Know if You Are Really Saved)

You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.  Therefore by their fruits you will know them.—Matt. 7:16-20

This one goes out to my brothers and sisters who so earnestly contend for the faith. Today I am pleading with you to beware of a popular misunderstanding of Scripture that has devastating gospel implications. 

It's the idea that once someone gets saved, you will know if they were really saved if they bear fruit—if they begin to sin less and make important changes in their life. Someone who used to get drunk and party every weekend now goes to church and reads the Bible (if he really got saved). Someone who would lie, cuss and swear now tells the truth and avoids the bad words (if he really got saved). Someone who cheated on his wife now stays faithful (if he really got saved). So if you don't begin to see changes in how a supposed-Christian lives, talks, behaves, or how much they sin, then maybe they didn't really get saved and probably they didn't. 

But is this the correct understanding of Scripture? If we look at the passage in context, we see that Jesus  specifically warns about those who have observable righteousness but inwardly are not:
"Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves."—Matt. 7:15
Clothing is what you put on to cover your flesh. The fruit Jesus speaks of is not something you can see with your eyes or observe in someone else's life. 

Notice here: “For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks."—Luke 6:44-45

To redefine “fruit” as something you can see with your eyes (changed life, etc.) directly contradicts Jesus’ warning about those who outwardly look like sheep but inwardly are ravening wolves. The fruit He us speaking of is what they say, teach, and profess. It reveals the heart. “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.” If you are looking at their outward expression of morality, lifestyle, behavior etc., then you are doing exactly what Jesus warned not to do.

When it comes to the gospel and those who profess Christ, why is this so important? Are we not to live holy lives as believers who have been saved by the mercy of God? Aren't the saints supposed to obey and live godly lives? Yes. Absolutely yes! But for the fruit inspector, good behavior and lifestyle changes are a measuring stick not for spiritual maturity, sanctification and growth in the faith, but for salvation itself. This is a perversion of the gospel. Eternal life is a free gift we receive by faith in Christ. We all have sinned (Gal. 3:22), and the wages of sin is death. Jesus Christ is the "Lamb who takes away the sin of the world." (John 1:29) He lived the sinless life we never could, and died for us, taking our sin upon Himself. (2 Cor. 5:21) Our trust in His death for our sins and resurrection from the dead results in our justification.  This means there are no conditions upon it. No hidden "gotchas." 

Accursed gospel

Modern Christianity has altered the message of the gospel. They will say that you are not saved by works, which is true, but later assert that if you are really saved, you will have works. They will gravely misapply the verse "faith without works is dead." They will say that someone who is truly saved will have the evidence of a changed life, good deeds and holy living, because "you will know them by their fruit," which they redefine as works.

This is a sneaky back-door false gospel delivered by false prophets and those influenced by them. Jesus addressed this clearly in what many consider to be the scariest verses in the Bible:

“Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’—Matt. 7:21-23

"See?" the false prophet will say. "It's not enough to just believe. It's also about doing the will of God. We cannot live just any way we want and expect to get in!" Notice that these are earnest and devout folks who are shocked that they were denied entrance to heaven. They proclaimed Jesus as Lord. And they protest, trusting in their works to justify themselves before God. "But Lord, we are really saved! See, we can prove it. Look at our changed life! Look at what we have done in Your name!" Yet Jesus says, "I never knew you"—not "I used to know you, but I don't know you anymore." He says "I never knew you. Depart from me, you workers of iniquity." He calls their good works "iniquity" because they, like Cain, who brought the work of his hands for a sacrifice, were trusting in them for justification. These people were never born again from above. They did not trust in the blood, like Abel. (Gen. 4:1-5) 

Jesus says this is the will and the work of God:

“And this is the will of Him who sent Me, that everyone who sees the Son and believes in Him may have everlasting life; and I will raise him up at the last day.” John 6:40

"Then they said to Him, “What shall we do, that we may work the works of God?” Jesus answered and said to them, “This is the work of God, that you believe in Him whom He sent.” John 6:28-29
Believe. Believe. Believe. Believe. Believe. God has sent His only begotten Son to die for the sin of the whole world. Whosoever believes on Him shall not perish but have everlasting life. This is His will and His promise. Eternal life is a gift we receive by faith in what Jesus did for us. Scripture tells us that faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things unseen. When we judge someone's salvation based on what we can observe in their life, we have perverted the gospel. We have created righteous demands that God did not. Paul would call us accursed. I cannot see your faith! But I can hear your profession of faith. "And since we have the same spirit of faith, according to what is written, “I believed and therefore I spoke,” we also believe and therefore speak, knowing that He who raised up the Lord Jesus will also raise us up with Jesus, and will present us with you." (2 Cor. 4:13-14)

Your profession of faith in the death of Jesus Christ on the cross for your sin, and His resurrection from the dead, is the only "fruit" I need to consider you a brother or sister in Christ. 

Do you believe? "These things I have written to you who believe in the name of the Son of God, that you may know that you have eternal life, and that you may continue to believe in the name of the Son of God." (1 John 5:21) You can have eternal life, and also have full assurance of it based on the word of God.

But what about "faith without works is dead?!"

This verse has caused more angst among Christians than almost any other I know of. What about the Oklahoma b*mbing guy, Timothy McVeigh? He claimed to be a Christian. What about Larry Flynt, a famous publisher of p*rnography, who said he was a born again Christian but deliberately continued to produce p*orn? Both of these examples were given to me recently. 

For now, start here: Salvation vs. Service: Don't Pollute the Gospel. Lord willing, I'll write a new article soon.


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