Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Fruit & Works


It seems that the blog is full of posts on the need for fruit and works to bear proof of salvation. However, seldom are these two words accurately defined. Therefore they become some nebulous terminology that we abstractly apply to a 'professing christians' life to see whether or not he is a false or true believer. Please help me dispel the fog of obscurity and bring some clarity and acute understanding of these words. Are fruit and works synonymous? Please define them according to your understanding using biblical references where possible.

26 comments:

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Yes, the fruits are works, because in Galatians chapter 5, Paul contrasts the fruits of the Spirit with the works of the Flesh. This implies that the fruit of the Spirit are works of the Spirit.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Jim said...

Matthew, thanks for your comment. However instead of just taking the implication here, could you point to another verse that specifically mentions the Spirit producing works.

How would you contrast the works James mentions with the fruits of Galatians 5:22?

God bless,
Jim

Dyspraxic Fundamentalist said...

Well, I am not sure there is a great difference. Paul is emphasising the moral characteristics of those works, while James is focused ont their practical results.

Every Blessing in Christ

Matthew

Jim said...

Would love, joy, and peace be considered works or fruit? What then would be a work that is an expression of our faith?

God bless,
Jim

bobby grow said...

Jim,

Maybe a legitimate scriptural work that threads all the way through the OT and into the NT as Jesus highlights in Mt 25 and James picks up on as well is to minister to the orphand, widow, poor, naked, and destitute. This would definitely be an expression of the work of the Holy Spirit (Gal 5).

But is this an issue of quantity or quality, or both? In other words how does one quantify how many good works, as mentioned above, one should be involved in before he/she can be determined a truly functional follower of Christ--at least this is the way the Calvinist would approach this. At this point I would say that this is an issue of being a disciple of Christ--and while works are expected--the level of those works will depend upon an individual's yieldedness to the Holy Spirit's work in their life (i.e. moving from immaturity to maturity Heb 5:14; I Pet 2:2; Phil 3:14ff, etc.)

In Christ,

Bobby

Jim said...

Hi Bobby, nice to see you. As for the pure and undefiled religion, many catholics do a much better job at this then we evangelicals. Consider mother Teresa, she was known for her compassionate care of the orphans yet I don't recall her preaching faith through Christ alone? Perhaps she did.

My point is that there are many 'good religious' people who are doing many good works. However works alone do not merit God's favor, at His judgement there will be many who did amazing deeds and yet our Lord calls them lawless.

Rather, the obvious fruits of the Spirit must be evident in a believer's life. One who is exhibiting the attritubes of Christ's nature will automatically do works of righteousness.

Also, what are the fruits referred to in John 15?

God bless,
Jim

Kc said...

Jim I totally agree these terms are often used but never defined. I would agree with Bobby that true religion is a work by faith but I think there are numerous works done by faith and done with the sole purpose of hoping to please God. Even the excercise of our gifts I consider to be a work by faith. I would use Hebrews 11 (what else hehe) as my reference here. I am also inclined as you are to equate fruit with the fruits of the spirit.

Jim said...

Kc, thanks for stopping by. It is funny how we tend to use our 'pet verses' to explain things. I think the awesome thing about scripture is that the truth is so interwoven throughout the Bible that twisting it requires misunderstanding large segments of scripture. Conversely, correct interpretation will allow scripture to agree throughout.

Good thoughts, thanks.

Jim

bobby grow said...

Jim said:

"My point is that there are many 'good religious' people who are doing many good works. However works alone do not merit God's favor, at His judgement there will be many who did amazing deeds and yet our Lord calls them lawless."

Jim it almost seems like you, by your response, are implying that I was saying that doing works are meritorious--I think I said the opposite. Your original question was to identify what works in fact are. I think Gal 5 indeed speaks of the works of the Holy Spirit to transform our characters. The consequential expression of this changed heart (II Cor 3) allows us to care about widows/orphans/destitute with pure motives and a right heart before the Lord--the kind of sacrifice of worship God is pleased with (Heb 13).

My point presupposes that one is truly saved. Other wise a person is as Jesus says, "a whitewashed tomb with dead man's bones."

Jim said...

Bobby, merit was a bad word choice. You did a good job of explaining in your first comment, I was simply trying to poke the works issue a bit farther.

Even we as believers can do many things which seem good, in other words we can be doing good works and yet by our own efforts rather than from the Holy Spirit. Therefore to judge someone based upon their works can be somewhat misleading as even the most religious people have a form of godliness.

Anyways you make some very good points, thanks again for your input.

In Christ,
Jim

jazzycat said...

There are some really good points in these posts. I think the key is to be sure and distinguish between justification and sanctification. Justification is by grace alone, through faith alone in Chirst alone. Fruit nor works have any part in justification period. However, in sanctification fruit will be a result of a believer being a disciple. It can vary from believer to believer but fruit will result in some way as the parable of the sower points out. Some of the references to what Calvinists believe are inaccurate in some of these comments.

Jim said...

Ok Jazzycat, are you some theologian? You are starting to make more sense all the time.

I agree with your assessment of Justification vs. Sanctification, however many of the Calvinist blogs I have read would not say the same thing as you.

Perhaps there are individual misinterpretations of this point? The believer is truly responsible to allow himself to be discipled.

Good thoughts,
Jim

bobby grow said...

Jazzycat said:

"Some of the references to what Calvinists believe are inaccurate in some of these comments."

Since I'm the only one who made a comment relative to Calvinism he/she must be referring to me :)!

Ok.

What of the Calvinism of history, is their a disconnect between Jazzycat's understanding of Calvinism--and that articulated by Dort and the many "Puritan Divines"? I would say absolutely. Notice Calivinism's (I guess not Jazzycat's version) logical way of determining whether a person is indeed one of the elect or not--this is known as the "Practical Syllogism":

• Major premise: If effectual grace is manifested in me by good works, then I am elect.

• Minor premise (practical): I manifest good works.

• Conclusion: Therefore, I am one of the elect.

The TULIP, as a system, relative to assurance of salvation (Perseverance and Election)--inevitably leads one to look at self--as the syllogism illustrates.

Jazzycat keeps making these assertions, that I'm (and others) are misrepresenting his/her theological system--I think the opposite is the case.

BTW, the distinction Jazzy makes between Justification and Sanctification is not reflective of historic Calvinism--it sounds much more like Free-Grace Theology (I think Jazzy maybe has been influenced by their site over there :).

Bobby

Jim said...

Bobby, those are some of the same things I would have thought during my initial investigation into Calvinism. Perhaps he/she is still making some conclusions as to his/her personal take on this?

jazzycat said...

Bobby,
I do not know why my brand of Calvinism is not what your preception seems to be. My favorite theologian and one that I have learned under is Dr. R.C. Sproul of Ligonier Ministries. I think I have pretty much reflected his thinking and he is considered mainstream reformed in his theology. I am a member of a PCA church. I know you are well read and knowledgable and I admire that. I just do not believe your view of reformed doctrine is accurate as evidenced by your major and minor premise and conclusion. I have not changed any theological positions due to the free grace site. I admire their passion for Christ. However, I think they also paint a incorrect picture of reformed doctrine which is a view that I am not alone in sharing.

bobby grow said...

Ok Jazzy. But I don't think any Calvinist, except you, who I've come across would dispute my characterization of Calvinism--if they are being fair--and have read any Puritan theology. Where does R.C. Sproul find his roots? Or Piper? Definitely not in a theological vaccuum--there is a continuum of thought that we are all impacted by (that's sacred or secular). And there is a causal nature of the inter-relationship of ideas that throughout history is just brute reality (of course our interpretations is where differences come). This is inescapable.

I didn't make the "Practical Syllogism" or the "Divine Pactum" up--your (and amittedly mine and all Protestant believers--of whatever flavor/brand/stripe) theological forebears did. That's why I find it very troubling, when you came on my old site, and commented that I had mis-characterized the historic Calvinist position--and I had even provided a quote that backed up my assertion--you didn't (and now you have made the same "assertion" here).

I'm assuming your "Covenant" in Theology, if you follow Sproul, and a member of the PCA. Your whole framework (Cov. of Works, Grace, Redemption, etc.)is the conceptual context in which the so called Practical Syllogism took shape--this is your tradition. At this point you're not arguing with me but with the brute facts of documented history.

I was messing with you about the Free-Grace site thing--please forgive me for that :).

What is your understanding of the inter-relationship between Limited Atonement, Unconditional Election, and Perseverance. If as Beza, and following Classical Theistic theologians, argued is true; i.e. Christ died only for the elect, if so, then how do I know if I am one of the unconditionally elect "?"--well here comes perseverance :), if I am producing the required works (whatever those are--Jim's question :)then I can happily say that I am one of the elect--then the logical conclusion is the syllogism. Remember, Jazzy, there are also the concepts, within your soteriological traditon, of "prepatory faith" "temporary faith", etc.

I really did not pull this syllogism out of thin air, or a Free-Grace site--it's in Calvinist writings (and I haven't even mentioned William Perkins and his Golden Chaine).

Maybe Sproul sugar-coates the history, I don't know, I haven't listend to him for quite some time. But I did work, while in Seminary, as a TA for a Historical Theologian who has done his homework (I'm not implying that Sproul hasn't)--and everything I've communicated so far is not distinct from things I learned from him (and his PhD dissertation on Richard Sibbes [Puritan] who reacted to the Federal Theology that informs your tradition).

Mainstream Reformed Theology--needs to delve back into her historical roots, and not merely (and I'm talking about the laity, as well as some of her doctors) approach theology with this "received mentality". In other words get some historical context, and take a critical look at the lenses this tradition looks at her history through.

I don't want to offend, Jazzy, but just because you claim to be a Calvinist, and I don't, doesn't mean I don't partake of the same rich Christian heritage as you--we're just nuanced a little differently--and I hope to persuade you to take a deeper critical look at the informing factors of your theological heritage.

In Christ,

Bobby Grow <><

P.S. sorry Jim to go off topic like this--but I think it relates a little bit :).

Joe said...

"Would love, joy, and peace be considered works or fruit? What then would be a work that is an expression of our faith?"

If love is not a work, what is it? Just an emotion? Not if we read I Cor 13.

Joy, likewise, is not just a feeling, it is a behavior.

Peace, too, falls into the same categories, else we would be unable to have peace in a storm. Nor would we be able to spread peace.

The fruits are both.

Jim said...

Bobby, no apologies needed. I appreciate your historical exegesis. It is true that our views are formed by prior generations and many times we are not aware of the factors that caused us to hold certain perspectives.

God bless,
Jim

Jim said...

Hi Joe, thanks for those thoughts. Love, Joy, and peace will have tangible results most definitely.

In Christ,
Jim

jazzycat said...

Bobby,
Thanks for your interest. I certainly did not mean to imply any lack of knowledge or bad motive in my perception of your view of Calvinism. Maybe my view is somewhat different than historical Calvinism, but I don’t think it is. I have had no formal training in theology as you have and I have looked up the “Practical Syllogism” that you mentioned. It is certainly part of reformed history as you said and is a method for determining assurance. I had never heard of it and my church does not get into trying to determine who the elect are in that manner. Believing and trusting in Christ alone is what I believe is the way to tell and all who do have been regenerated. One is part of the elect when he does this. The EE ministry is one that the reformed Dr. D James Kennedy started and “elect and chosen” are not part of the gospel presentation at all.

I do believe that all five points are Biblical and logical. I do think the P refers mostly to God’s grace and what he does rather than what believers do which may be different than your view. (i.e. perseverance is from God.)

You asked: (What is your understanding of the inter-relationship between Limited Atonement, Unconditional Election, and Perseverance.) I will try to answer that over at my site later today since I have to run now. Also, over at the Jazzycat site I have a link to some Photo Meditation that I wrote which explains my thinking on these doctrines.

I in no way believe that believing in unconditional election is required for salvation and members of the PCA are not even required to believe in election. So, I do not in any way imply that you are anyone else does not participate in the Christian heritage for not being a Calvinist.

I am not offended and I hope you weren’t.

jazzycat

Todd said...

Hi Jim,
It seems, especially in Gal. 5, that works and fruit are almost interchangeable, in that they are finished(?)in the behavior of the believer, except with one big difference. Works or fruit of the Spirit would be the end result of the indwelt Spirit, in the host believer, and produce some sort of behavior that could be attributed to the Spirit, or the reliance on Him. Works or fruit of the flesh would be works originating in the flesh. Both would be show themselves as behavior in the believer, and in many cases only the believer and God would kow exactly where they originated from.
Maybe too much of a generalization, but I'm trying to develope that as a starting point for myself. Out of time, gone for the day, thanks for the stimlating question. Have a good day. Todd

Jim said...

Todd, hello again.

Can you please explain works and fruit being 'finished'?? I'm not quite sure what you mean?

I would agree with you that both the flesh and the Spirit are producing works with have polar results.

God bless,
Jim

Todd said...

Todd said...
Hi Jim,

Well now that I have to back and be clear I'm having a harder time. What I was hoping to accomplish with the word finished was probably stated wrongly.

I suppose if I could reload and start over again I would say...

I'm struggling here.

The only sensible thing I can tink to say right now is, I don't think we can know the substance of works or fruit. Having said that, it seems like on the other hand there are times when we can observe works and fruit and be sure exactly where they originated. Very shaky hit or miss proposition. So I suppose that would demand, as I'm sure you already believe, that, without God's omniscience, we are at too much of a disadvantage to know for sure regarding other peoples behavior. And that a man should 'examine his own work'Gal. 6:4 (oh, thank goodness I finally let some scripture in), and with regards to other people, a believer may be able to examine another believer in an offer to attempt to edify that believer in God's knowledge and understanding, if he can show that believer that it will be done out of love and in effort to assist in addressing some overtly harmful fleshly behavior. But that gets pretty messy doesn't it? I'm afraid there is no reliable proof, in the way of works or fruit, of salvation other than what a person 'confesses' with his mouth according to what he believes in is heart. I suppose the 'proof of works of the flesh' could be readily enough apparent so as to then, in the face of a so-called believer's destructive behavior, ask for proof of honest following after the (fruit of the )Spirit. And then proceed from there. Well good. Thanks for at least making me think Jim. See you again.

Blessing back to you,
Todd

Jim said...

Todd, I think there are probably tangible differences between works and fruit.

Fruit can be very experiential in the sense of fruits of the Spirit. I can experience love for someone but until my works demonstrate that love, the other person may be unaware of my love.

Another aspect of fruit is the result of abiding in Christ. When we are abiding we will bear much fruit. This fruit has the direct connotation of other believers being saved through the witness of Christ in our lives.

We shall know them by their fruit. In a sense they can be synonymous but not necessarily always.

God bless,
Jim

Todd said...

Hi Jim,
This has been good for me.
I'm trying to stay within the scope of your post. It's hard to refer to fruits in a general way when they are, both something we recieve, and something we can help produce. So I'll just try and stay relevant to your post.

I agree that we can experience the fruit of the Spirit internally, in a rich personal way. I think it can bring forth emmense personal gratitude. And we can enable our gift to bear fruit as well. And undemonsrated, we will bear no fruit. Christ asks us to go out and spread, and bear fruit for the gospel. And I think most would agree that it is hard to bear fruit for Christ. Easy for Him, hard for us. Therefore, it would be hard to quantify how much would be expected of a given believer because the measure of all our gifts with which to bear fruit seems to vary.

There is definately an interplay between fruit and works and they seem to be distinctly different parts of the whole. I think that to see the bearing of fruit by a believer towards others, a believer who is not just ably walking in the Spirit, or even utilizing and modeling his own gifts, but actually bearing fruit for Christ, would be a rare thing to see, and could not easily be used to discern another persons faithm or salvation.

So it's tough 'proof' criteria for salvation, no doubt. But interesting.

With you in Christ
Todd

Jim said...

Todd, I think that believers who are actively walking in the Spirit will cause two different reactions in people. For those trying to avoid conviction they will make one uncomfortable. But for the saint seeking deeper fellowship these types of believers will be a well of fresh water.

As for proving our salvation, scripture tells us that the Holy Spirit bears witness with our spirit that we are indeed the children of God. There must be a witnessing of mutual fellowship between God and man. That is the ultimate assurance of our redemption.