Justification by ‘fruit’ alone?

In Bible school, it’s easy to start feeling like a better person than any of us really are. This leads to many interesting conversations about church, theology, and culture. One of those conversations recently was about salvation. The comment was made, “Realistically, only about 1/10 people who say they’re Christians are really saved.”

This actually kind of makes sense. When you look at the standards set in the Bible as often as Bible students do, it’s pretty obvious that there aren’t many who are living up to the standard. I’ve definitely looked out at a congregation before and thought, “These people don’t even get it. This is just a social experience… not a spiritual experience.”

But here’s what’s interesting. The people who make these comments, myself included, assume they’re in. They only question everybody else. The other interesting thing is all the people making these comments hold to salvation “by grace through faith”. Their argument is that if someone believes then you’ll see fruit. But at what point does fruit replace law?

If a person is saved, then yes, there will be fruit. But the reality is that fruit can also be evident in the life of non-believers. Whenever we elevate the “evidence of fruit” above God’s grace, we essentially go back to justification by the law. No one will ever be producing only fruit and no sin, just like no one can ever uphold all the commandments. If there is any standard at all by which to judge salvation besides grace alone, we’re all doomed. Thankfully, our access into grace is faith.

Have you seen this tension between fruit and law before? How do we handle the process of sanctification? Are justification and sanctification supposed to separate at all?

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2 comments

  1. I believe we have to produce fruit according to the Spiritual Gifts given to us by the Holy Spirit. No one has been given all the gifts and we all need to grow in the gifts we are given. As we produce fruit we also develop the gifts and when each member of the body produces the fruit according to their gifts then the body is complete. 1 Corinthians 12.

    Now with that said it is not for me to judge if anyone is exercising their gifts or even what their gifts may be. So it is my duty to love each Christian and if I can help them with their gifts then I should but I should not try to judge. Love you.

  2. I continued to think about your comment “The comment was made, “Realistically, only about 1/10 people who say they’re Christians are really saved.”” I do not know about the number but Jesus did say that not everyone who claims to be Christians is going to make it to Heaven.

    Entering the Kingdom
    Matthew 7:15 “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit. 21 “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord!’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but [only] the one who does the will of My Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to Me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in Your name, drive out demons in Your name, and do many miracles in Your name? 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from Me, you lawbreakers!

    So what do you get from this? Is it that although some may claim to be Christians and work in the church but not truely believe, or do they live one way in public and another in private? When Jesus says “you will know them by their fruit”, is it the fruit produced with a joyful soul and with no expectations of praise?

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