Fruitful or Faithless? Part 1 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #13)

The Bible says in Mark 16:16: “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.”

Allow me to share with you some commentary on this passage from the Bible Knowledge Commentary by Dr. John F. Walvoord and Dr. Roy B. Zuck:

In response to the preaching of the gospel, whoever believes and is baptized will be saved by God from spiritual death, the penalty of sin. A single Greek article governs both substantival participles, linking them together in describing the inward, efficacious reception of the gospel by faith and the outward, public expression of that faith in water baptism.

Though the New Testament writers generally assume that under normal circumstances each believer will be baptized, Mark 16:16 does not mean that baptism is a necessary requirement for personal salvation. The second half of the verse indicates by contrast that one who does not believe the gospel will be condemned by God in the day of final judgment. The basis for condemnation is unbelief, not the lack of any ritual observance. Baptism is not mentioned because unbelief precludes one’s giving a confession of faith while being baptized by water. Thus the only requirement for personally appropriating God’s salvation is faith in Him.

Today’s quote is from J.C. Ryle. He said: “Saving faith and real converting grace will always produce some conformity to the image of Jesus.”

Our topic today is titled “Fruitful or Faithless? (Part 1)” from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

Every Christian will bear spiritual fruit. Somewhere, sometime, somehow. Otherwise that person is not a believer. Every born-again individual will be fruitful. Not to be fruitful is to be faithless, without faith, and therefore without salvation.

THREE CAVEATS

Having said that, some caveats, or cautions, are in order. First, this does not mean that a believer will always be fruitful. Certainly we can admit that if there can be hours and days when a believer can be unfruitful, then why may there not also be months and even years when he can be in that same condition? Paul exhorted believers to engage in good works so they would not be unfruitful. Peter also exhorted believers to add the qualities of Christian character to their faith lest they be unfruitful. Obviously, both of those passages indicate that a true believer might be unfruitful. And the simple fact that both Paul and Peter exhort believers to be fruitful shows that believers are not always fruitful.

Second, this does not mean that a certain person’s fruit will necessarily be outwardly evident. Even if I know the person and have some regular contact with him, I still may not see his fruit. Indeed, I might even have legitimate grounds for wondering if he is a believer because I have not seen fruit. His fruit may be very private or erratic, but the fact that I do not see it does not mean it is not there.

Third, my understanding of what fruit is and therefore what I expect others to bear may be faulty and/or incomplete. It is all too easy to have a mental list of spiritual fruit and to conclude that if someone does not produce what is on my list that he or she is not a believer. But the reality is that most lists that we humans devise are too short, too selective, too prejudiced, and often extrabiblical. God likely has a much more accurate and longer list than most of us do.

Nevertheless, every Christian will bear fruit; otherwise he or she is not a true believer. In speaking about the judgment seat of Christ, Paul says unequivocally that every believer will have praise come to him from God. 1 Corinthians 4:5 says, “Therefore judge nothing before the time, until the Lord come, who both will bring to light the hidden things of darkness, and will make manifest the counsels of the hearts: and then shall every man have praise of God.”

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