Confusing Works with Fruit
Luke 6:43-46 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. And why call ye me, Lord, Lord, and do not the things which I say? ----------------------------------
Lately I have been noticing confusion within the body of Christ, mostly centered around the confusion between works and fruit. The purpose of this blog is to try to explain the difference between a WORK and FRUIT. Please bear with me as I attempt to explain it in a manner which makes sense to all readers.
WE ARE NOT SAVED BY GOOD WORKS
Good works are not "bad", but can be "bad" when they are used as a means of salvation. A person is not saved by works but by God's grace through faith in Jesus.
Ephesians 2:8-10 For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God, Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.
Any good work that we do does not earn us favor or merit with God. Salvation is not our own doing and is NOT a result of works. We are fallen creatures, and our best efforts are laced with sin. Good works provide no basis for boasting because they are utterly worthless to save. We are saved by Jesus' works ALONE, and not our own.
WE ARE SAVED FOR GOOD WORKS
Good works are fruit of our salvation, not it's foundation. While good works don't merit salvation, they are a part of Christian faith.
James 2:26 For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also.
Paul makes it clear in Ephesians 2:10 ("For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them.") that we are not saved BY good works but that we are saved FOR good works.
Good works are the RESULT(or the FRUIT), not the CAUSE, of our being a new creation in Christ Jesus. They testify to the fact that we have been redeemed so that our lives might reflect the craftsmanship and character of God. Apart from Christ, we cannot do anything that pleases God, and our works are "filthy rags". 1
MISAPPLICATION OF FILTHY RAGS
All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.
This passage in Isaiah is often used as a proof text to condemn ALL good works as nothing more than “filthy rags” in the eyes of God. The context of this passage is referring specifically to the Israelites in Isaiah’s time (760—670 B.C.) who had strayed from God. Isaiah was writing concerning his nation and their hypocrisy. These people had an illusion of their own self-righteousness, yet God did not esteem their acts of righteousness as anything but “polluted garments” or “filthy rags.” Their apostasy, or falling away, from the law of God had rendered their righteous works totally unclean.
Our salvation is not the result of any of our efforts, abilities, intelligent choices, personal characteristics, or acts of service we may perform. However, as believers, we are “created in Christ Jesus for good works”—to help and serve others. While there is nothing we can do to earn our salvation, God’s intention is that our salvation will result in acts of service. We are saved not merely for our own benefit but to serve Christ and build up the church: 2
And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers; For the perfecting of the saints, for the work of the ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ: Till we all come in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, unto a perfect man, unto the measure of the stature of the fulness of Christ: That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ:
This reconciles the seeming conflict between faith and works. Our righteous acts do not produce salvation but are, in fact, evidence of our salvation.
James 1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. (See also James 2:14–26).
FAITH THAT HAS BEEN MADE ALIVE
Good works are good because they are not produced from a lifeless faith but out of a living faith. We are justified by grace alone through faith alone in Christ Jesus alone, however, the faith that saves is accompanied by spiritual life and loving obedience (See Hebrews 11).
Christ is the foundation of our salvation, faith is the instrument of our salvation, and works are the FRUIT of our salvation.
Whenever the gospel takes root in our lives, it always produces fruit brought forth by the Spirit.
Galatians 5:15-25 This I say then, Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh. For the flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh: and these are contrary the one to the other: so that ye cannot do the things that ye would. But if ye be led of the Spirit, ye are not under the law. Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness,Idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance, emulations, wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, Envyings, murders, drunkenness, revellings, and such like: of the which I tell you before, as I have also told you in time past, that they which do such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law. And they that are Christ's have crucified the flesh with the affections and lusts. If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.
The Spirit enables us to walk in a manner worthy of our calling to pursue Christlike lives:
Ephesians 4:1-7 I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called, With all lowliness and meekness, with longsuffering, forbearing one another in love; Endeavouring to keep the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. There is one body, and one Spirit, even as ye are called in one hope of your calling; One Lord, one faith, one baptism, One God and Father of all, who is above all, and through all, and in you all. But unto every one of us is given grace according to the measure of the gift of Christ."
LIBERTY INTO LAWLESSNESS
We need to be careful of getting off into the ditch where we turn our liberty into lawlessness. We in no way ought to be defending a Christian's right to lie, steal, cheat, commit adultery, murder, etc. We as Christians do not have any more right to perform sinful acts than an unsaved person has a right to do them. To suppose that God's grace is a mechanism for which we can now commit sin with God's approval is turning the grace of God into Lasciviousness (Lawlessness).
1 John 2:1-6 My little children, these things write I unto you, that ye sin not. And if any man sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous: And he is the propitiation for our sins: and not for ours only, but also for the sins of the whole world. And hereby we do know that we know him, if we keep his commandments. He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him. But whoso keepeth his word, in him verily is the love of God perfected: hereby know we that we are in him. He that saith he abideth in him ought himself also so to walk, even as he walked.
The Epistle of 1 John is clear: Anyone who claims to belong to Christ Jesus should walk (or live) as Jesus lived.
True Christians grow to act more and more like Christ.
Those who don't demonstrate Christ-likeness, at minimum, are failing to provide evidence of their salvation.
Still, absence of evidence is not always evidence of absence.
In other words, failure to grow or change in one's life is not an infallible sign of being lost, nor is a continued struggle with sin. According to the Apostle John, this is ultimate proof for how a person knows he or she is a believer: A believer in Jesus lives like Jesus.
However, anyone who claims to be "in Christ" but fails to live like Him certainly does not have a fellowship relationship with Him. 3
We need to be careful that we don't end up defending lawless deeds thinking we are in fact protecting our liberty.
Our salvation is certainly FOR us, but it's not ALL ABOUT US!
We are saved to glorify Jesus!
"Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." (Matthew 5:16)
"Whereunto he called you by our gospel, to the obtaining of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ." (2 Thess 2:14)
We are saved to be a blessing to others!
"And one of you say unto them, Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled; notwithstanding ye give them not those things which are needful to the body; what doth it profit?" (James 2:16)
We are saved to be transformed more and more into the image of Christ! "But we all, with open face beholding as in a glass the glory of the Lord, are changed into the same image from glory to glory, even as by the Spirit of the Lord." (2 Corinthians 3:18)
"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.” (Romans 8:29)
We are saved to spread the Good News and Save Souls! "Declare his glory among the heathen, his wonders among all people" (Psalm 96:3) "For whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be saved. How then shall they call on him in whom they have not believed? and how shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard? and how shall they hear without a preacher?" (Romans 10:13-14) "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you:" (Matthew 28:19)
We must take the focus off of ourselves and put the focus where it belongs: On Jesus!
The selfish-gospel, or a self-serving gospel is of no good to yourself, to God, or to anyone else. We must lay down our pride and pick up our crosses and follow Him daily. We need to stop making excuses for those who are not living out their faith, not condemning them, but discipling them to "obtain the measure of the fullness of His grace".
Jesus works FOR us, IN us, and THROUGH us to accomplish HIS good will, not ours.
----------------------------------------- References 1. "Good Works and the Christian Life" from John Tweeddale, August 26, 2015 2. "Why are all of our righteous acts considered filthy rags?" from GotQuestions.org https://www.gotquestions.org/filthy-rags.html 3. "What does 1 John 2:6 mean?" from BibleRef.com https://www.bibleref.com/1-John/2/1-John-2-6.html
Anna Cheslick is the wife of Scott Cheslick and the creator of Humble Woman Ministries. Scott and Anna created Pure Word Ministries in December of 2017 as a means of Evangelical outreach through Social Media. Her passion is writing about God's Word in order to build-up, encourage and edify others and to glorify God.