Fruitful or Faithless? Part 7 (Understanding God’s Great Salvation #19)


The Bible says in Romans 1:17: “For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.”

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:

The theme of Romans is expressed in the phrase, “a righteousness from God is revealed.” The subjective genitive identifies this as a righteousness that God provides for people on the basis of and in response to faith in the gospel. Such a righteousness is totally unachievable by human efforts. This righteousness is not God’s personal attribute, however, since it comes “from God,” it is consistent with His nature and standard. A.T. Robertson happily calls it “a God kind of righteousness.” In response to faith this righteousness is imputed by God in justification and imparted progressively in regeneration and sanctification, culminating in glorification when standing and state become identical. “Righteousness” and “justify,” though seemingly unrelated in English, are related in Greek. Paul used the noun “righteousness” many times in his epistles, including 28 times in Romans. And Paul used the Greek verb “justify” 15 times in Romans. To justify a person is to declare him forensically (legally) righteous. Paul’s closing words, “The righteous will live by faith,” are a quotation from Habakkuk 2:4, also quoted in Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38. As a result of faith in Christ, a person is declared “righteous” and is given eternal life. What a marvelous work of God!

Today’s quote is from Oswald Chambers. He said: “If in preaching the gospel you substitute your knowledge of the way of salvation for confidence in the power of the gospel, you hinder people from getting to reality.”

Our topic today is titled “Fruitful or Faithless? (Part 7)” from the book, “So Great Salvation: What it Means to Believe in Jesus Christ” by Dr. Charles Ryrie.

The two things involved in making our lives more fruitful are pruning and abiding. On our last broadcast we talked about pruning. Today, we are going to talk about abiding.

What about the branches that are bearing more fruit? The Father is not finished or satisfied with them. He longs that they bear much fruit, and the path to that goal is abiding or remaining in Christ.

John 15:4-8 says: “Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, except it abide in the vine; no more can ye, except ye abide in me. I am the vine, ye are the branches: He that abideth in me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without me ye can do nothing. If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned. If ye abide in me, and my words abide in you, ye shall ask what ye will, and it shall be done unto you. Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit; so shall ye be my disciples.”

What does it mean to abide in Christ? In simplest terms, it means to keep His commandments. Such a definition makes sense, for the more we obey Him the more we remain in Him. When we disobey, we remove rather than remain. The one who keeps God’s Word will bear much fruit simply because he is doing God’s will as he comes to learn it from the Word.

Abiding brings another benefit: answered prayer. Again this makes sense, for the one who keeps God’s Word knows how best to pray in the will of God; and, of course, such prayers are answered. Abiding, asking and receiving, and bearing much fruit prove that we are His disciples. As far as this passage is concerned, disciples are those who have an intimate relationship and mature experience with the Lord in whom they abide. This discipleship is far more than simply being willing to do God’s will; it is doing it and continuing to do it.

Progression marks this passage — no fruit, fruit, more fruit, much fruit. But progression has its opposite: retrogression. Obviously, believers can retrogress from bearing fruit. Very fruitful believers might retrogress to bearing less fruit, and presumably they may even slide back to a fruitless condition for some period of time. And this without losing their salvation or being told that they never had it in the first place. Disobedience to God’s commandments would certainly result in retreat just as obedience brings advance. John 15:6 contains a strong warning against disobedience (not abiding in Christ) and the barrenness that results. Such believers lose further opportunities to bear fruit. Their branch withers, and if the barrenness continues unchanged, then at the judgment seat of Christ they will not receive rewards. (In my opinion the last part of verse 6 refers to that coming judgment.) At what point in life further opportunities are lost to the disobedient believer the Lord does not say, but clearly at some point it can happen.

Barrenness and fruitfulness may both be a believer’s experience. And fruit, the Lord said on another occasion, is produced in varying amounts: thirty-, sixty-, or one hundredfold. If the character traits of 2 Peter 1:5-7 are present, then we will not be unfruitful. If they are absent, then we are unfruitful.

And could not that condition continue for some time? Remember, even the lordship/discipleship/mastery view acknowledges that it can continue for “a moment.” If some spiritual fruits are present and some absent, then we can indeed be more fruitful at one time and less fruitful at another. Notice too, according to 2 Peter 1:5, that we supply these traits in our faith. In other words, faith is already assumed to be present; then we supply these additional characteristics. Barrenness does not have to be our experience; fruitfulness, by the grace of God, can and will be. Every Christian will bear fruit. Somewhere, sometime, somehow.


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