Good Tree = Good Fruit, Bad Tree = Bad Fruit

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pastorway

Puritan Board Senior
In a recently debated hot topic thread I posted about seeking evidence for regeneration by looking for the fruit - namely conversion. I argued that a good tree bears good fruit and a bad tree bears bad fruit. I was told that my verses did not apply to the discussion at hand since the verses in Matthew are used to identify false teachers and not refer to every day people bearing fruit.

However, upon further reflection, we find that the principle given in those verses in Matthew remain true - we tell a tree by its fruit.

And even then, if that takes the verses in Matthew out of context, then all we really need to do is flip over in our Bibles to Luke chapter 6, where we read:

43"For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. 45A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Here, with no contextual evidence of "teachers" as the subject we read that a good man out of the treasures of his heart brings forth good things and an evil man also from the treasures of his heart brings forth evil. All men speak and live from the heart.

So if we want to claim that a person is regenerate (without opening that can of worms another time) we really can say that we must look for evidence. We must examine the fruit! Because if we think a tree is good but it only bears bad fruit then we have no Biblical basis whatsoever to presume, assume, or even theorize that the tree is good!

We know them by their fruit.

Phillip

[Edited on 6-16-05 by pastorway]
 

biblelighthouse

Puritan Board Junior
Pastor Way,

I do agree with you that good-fruit / bad-fruit is one way to examine a "tree".

But I disagree with you that there is "no Biblical basis whatsoever to presume, assume, or even theorize" about a "tree" if there is an absence of fruit.

In other words, fruit is one way to examine a tree, but not the only way.

I could give many examples. But at the moment I will just give one case in point. In Luke 1:15, God said that John the Baptist would "be filled with the Holy Ghost, even from his mother's womb". (Whether or not such a thing is normative or extraordinary is irrelavant to this current discussion.)

The question is this: Based on God's promise, should John the Baptist have been considered a "good tree"? Or should no one have ever made that decision about John until he demonstrated "good fruit" instead of "bad fruit"?

Clearly, it was right for Zacharias to believe that his son John would be a "good tree", even though he wasn't even born yet, and had demonstrated no "fruit".

You can tell a tree by its fruit. But that's not the only way.

[Edited on 6-16-2005 by biblelighthouse]
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
Phillip,
As I have previously said, terms need to be defined. For instance, from the statement above, I assume you are using the term regeneration interchangebly w/ conversion. Is this assessment accurate?
 

Me Died Blue

Puritan Board Post-Graduate
Originally posted by pastorway
So if we want to claim that a person is regenerate (without opening that can of worms another time) we really can say that we must look for evidence. We must examine the fruit! Because if we think a tree is good but it only bears bad fruit then we have no Biblical basis whatsoever to presume, assume, or even theorize that the tree is good!

Agreed.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Perhaps fruit is not the only way to judge a tree. However it is a consistent and necessary way. To claim otherwise to denounce the Lordship of Jesus Christ. If He is not Lord in a person's life, then that person is not saved. If He is Lord of their life then that person will bear fruit in accordance with Christ's glory. Although we all falter from time to tim, the habitual life of a believer is testified by good fruit. No need to be soft here guys, being a fellow heir with Christ is an all or nothing proposition.



No need for me to go on though. John laid it out pretty clearly.


1Jo 1:6 If we say that we have fellowship with Him and walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.

1Jo 2:3 And by this we know that we have known Him, if we keep His commandments.
1Jo 2:4 He who says, I have known Him, and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.
1Jo 2:5 But whoever keeps His Word, truly in this one the love of God is perfected. By this we know that we are in Him.
1Jo 2:6 He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk even as He walked.

1Jo 2:9 He who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in darkness until now.
1Jo 2:10 He who loves his brother abides in the light, and there is no offense in him.
1Jo 2:11 But he who hates his brother is in darkness, and walks in darkness, and does not know where he is going, because darkness has blinded his eyes.

1Jo 2:15 Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him,
1Jo 2:16 because all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.
1Jo 2:17 And the world passes away, and the lust of it, but he who does the will of God abides forever.

1Jo 2:29 If you know that He is righteous, you know that everyone who does righteousness has been born of Him.

1Jo 3:6 Everyone who abides in Him does not sin. Everyone who sins has not seen Him nor known Him.
1Jo 3:7 Little children, let no one deceive you. He who does righteousness is righteous, even as that One is righteous.
1Jo 3:8 He who practices sin is of the Devil, for the Devil sins from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was revealed, that He might undo the works of the Devil.
1Jo 3:9 Everyone who has been born of God does not commit sin, because His seed remains in him, and he cannot sin, because he has been born of God.
1Jo 3:10 In this the children of God are revealed, and the children of the Devil: everyone not practicing righteousness is not of God, also he who does not love his brother.

1Jo 3:14 We know that we have passed from death to life, because we love the brothers. He who does not love his brother abides in death.
1Jo 3:15 Everyone hating his brother is a murderer. And you know that no murderer has everlasting life abiding in him.
1Jo 3:16 By this we have known the love of God, because He laid down His life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers.
1Jo 3:17 But whoever has this world's goods and sees his brother having need, and shuts up his bowels from him, how does the love of God dwell in him?
1Jo 3:18 My children, let us not love in word or in tongue, but in deed and in truth.
1Jo 3:19 And in this we shall know that we are of the truth, and shall assure our hearts before Him,
1Jo 3:20 that if our heart accuses us, God is greater than our heart and knows all things.
1Jo 3:21 Beloved, if our heart does not accuse us, we have confidence toward God.

1Jo 3:23 And this is His commandment, that we should believe on the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as He gave us commandment.
1Jo 3:24 And he who keeps His commandment dwells in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit which He gave to us.

1Jo 4:7 Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves has been born of God, and knows God.
1Jo 4:8 The one who does not love has not known God. For God is love.

1Jo 4:15 Whoever shall confess that Jesus is the Son of God, God dwells in him and he in God.
1Jo 4:16 And we have known and believed the love that God has in us. God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him.

1Jo 4:20 If anyone says, I love God, and hates his brother, he is a liar. For if he does not love his brother whom he has seen, how can he love God whom he has not seen?
1Jo 4:21 And we have this commandment from Him, that he who loves God should love his brother also.

1Jo 5:2 By this we know that we love the children of God, whenever we love God and keep His commandments.
1Jo 5:3 For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments, and His commandments are not burdensome.
1Jo 5:4 For everything that has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that overcomes the world, our faith.
1Jo 5:5 Who is he who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

1Jo 5:10 He who believes on the Son of God has the witness in himself. He who does not believe God has made Him a liar, because he does not believe the record that God gave of His Son.

1Jo 5:18 We know that everyone who has been born of God does not continue to sin, but the one born of God guards himself, and the evil one does not touch him.




For those who would have it otherwise

1Jo 2:19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they were of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out so that it might be revealed that they were not all of us.
 

pastorway

Puritan Board Senior
Originally posted by Scott Bushey
Phillip,
As I have previously said, terms need to be defined. For instance, from the statement above, I assume you are using the term regeneration interchangebly w/ conversion. Is this assessment accurate?

No, Scott. I have never used those two terms interchangeably. Regeneration is when we are brought from death to life. The fruit of regeneration - that which naturally follows as a result of regeneration - is conversion. We are brought to life and then repent and believe. Regeneration. Conversion.

I am saying that conversion is the fruit, the evidence of being regenerate.

As for the example of John the Baptist, what evidence did his parents have to believe, not presume, but to KNOW, that he was a "good tree"?

Well, when the angel Gabriel announced his birth, he said to John's father, "Do not be afraid, Zacharias, for your prayer is heard; and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. 14And you will have joy and gladness, and many will rejoice at his birth. 15For he will be great in the sight of the Lord, and shall drink neither wine nor strong drink. He will also be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother's womb. 16And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God. 17He will also go before Him in the spirit and power of Elijah, "to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children,' and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready a people prepared for the Lord."

Now then - this was told to him BEFORE John was even conceived. So before Elizabeth even became pregnant with John they both knew by Divine Revelation that their son would be filled with the Spirit from the womb and a man great in the sight of the Lord.

There is no presumption here and no fruit inspection needed.

Is it true that there are other ways to tell? I think Joe answered that above. Over and over the writers of the Bible repeat and reinforce what Jesus said. You know them by their fruit. I think to presume, assume, or theorize about the spiritual state of any person without evidence is not wise.

Phillip
 

pastorway

Puritan Board Senior
quotes from Matt posted in his article "Can You Really Tell a Tree by its Fruit?"

http://www.apuritansmind.com/ChristianWalk/McMahonTreeAndItsFruit.htm

Christ is saying you and I have the discernment to know whether a tree is good or bad by its externals. In other words, what the tree produces will guide us into whether or not we have a good judgment about the nature of the tree. The fruit on the tree does not make the tree good or bad. The fruit simply shows us whether the tree is a good tree or bad tree.

Now do not go and take all that had been said here out of context. Do not run around your local congregation with a notepad writing down everyone´s name and making judgmental calls on their eternal destiny. Do not presume to be the Holy Spirit, or the "œsanctification police". However, be sure, and make no mistake, you should discern whether people are good trees or bad trees. Are they Christians, false teachers, God-haters, or heretics? The well being of the church depends on knowing such things. Your well-being is on the line as well. If you were not discerning and judgmental in this way, how would you ever know if something is to be believed or not? Christians are to make good judgments based on the word of God, not rash judgments based on their own haste. Calvin says, "œThere is a wide difference between wise caution and perverse squeamishness." Christians should be wise as serpents in these things and harmless as doves.
 

Puritan Sailor

Puritan Board Doctor
Originally posted by WrittenFromUtopia
I am saying that conversion is the fruit, the evidence of being regenerate.

And ... how do we measure this? Seems like this is a fruit that cannot be discerned, tasted, eaten, seen, etc.

The law. The fruit of the Spirit. In general, they love Christ and trust and obey Him. Jesus gave us the standards for us to judge with. It's not rocket science here.
 

WrittenFromUtopia

Puritan Board Graduate
Originally posted by puritansailor
The law. The fruit of the Spirit. In general, they love Christ and trust and obey Him. Jesus gave us the standards for us to judge with. It's not rocket science here.

Still, that doesn't measure conversion. This is something we have no right or ability to measure. Am I wrong? This could just be a misunderstanding.
 

Scott Bushey

Puritanboard Commissioner
It is our standard; I agree. However, it is not fool proof, at least to the human eye. The bible also warns of: False treachers, of tares, etc.

Mat 7:15 But beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inside they are plundering wolves.

Judas was an apostle; during his tenure, his fruit was good. He performed miracles etc.

We have Demas, also an apostle; having loved the world (more), he left Paul and the faith for his homeland........

The tares are indistinguishable; if we were to pull up the tares, we would as well pull up wheat. God will remove the unbelievers. As well, the sheep and goats will be seperated in the end.

This fruit is measured over time. Time is assuredly the relavent tool here, and even then, we are presuming. We will presume until we see clearly, face to face. Some of these time frames are extensive. A man that is recently converted can still have much sanctification needed before his fruit even resembles Christianity.
 

biblelighthouse

Puritan Board Junior
Originally posted by Scott Bushey
It is our standard; I agree. However, it is not fool proof, at least to the human eye. The bible also warns of: False treachers, of tares, etc.

Mat 7:15 But beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inside they are plundering wolves.

Judas was an apostle; during his tenure, his fruit was good. He performed miracles etc.

We have Demas, also an apostle; having loved the world (more), he left Paul and the faith for his homeland........

The tares are indistinguishable; if we were to pull up the tares, we would as well pull up wheat. God will remove the unbelievers. As well, the sheep and goats will be seperated in the end.

This fruit is measured over time. Time is assuredly the relavent tool here, and even then, we are presuming. We will presume until we see clearly, face to face. Some of these time frames are extensive. A man that is recently converted can still have much sanctification needed before his fruit even resembles Christianity.

:ditto:

Amen to that, Scott! And that touches very closely on what I think is fallacious about the arguments made by baptists (including me, up until a few months ago). They fail to distinguish between "bad fruit" and "no fruit". They look at the infant child of a believer and say, "I don't see any good fruit yet" (which is true enough), but then they immediately make the giant stretch that the child must therefore be treated as if he was already bearing "bad fruit". --- Of course the "fruit checking" works for adults, just like it does for mature trees . . . if I look at the fruit on a mature olive tree, I will see olives, while if I look at the fruit of a mature hedgeapple tree, I will see hedgeapples. Olives are good fruit, while hedgeapples are bad fruit. And perhaps if I saw a newly sprouted sapling out in the middle of nowhere, I wouldn't know whether it was an olive or a hedgeapple, because the sapling has years to grow before it produces fruit.

However, if a Tree-Farmer tells me that He has planted a field full of olive seeds, and lets me know that they are just sprouting, then I have excellent reason to assume that each sapling I look at in His field is an olive shoot. Of course, the Farmer's neighbour may have sneaked in and planted some hedgeapples too, so I won't be correct 100% of the time. But it's not as if the chances are merely 50/50 for olive/hedgeapple. On the contrary, I have every right to assume that the saplings in the Farmer's field are little olive trees, long before they produce any fruit, good or bad.

God wants holy, Christian marriages, so that there will be holy seed (Malachi 2:15). Christians are part of the covenantal "olive tree", and partake of the "root and fatness of the olive tree" (Romans 11). The children of Christians are little "olive plants" (Psalm 128). God (the olive tree Farmer) planned and promised everything to work this way. So we have every right and duty to assume that the children of Christians are "little olive trees".

When they get older, we can look at their fruit. And then "by their fruits, you shall know them". Olive trees don't produce hedgeapples. And hedgeapple trees don't produce olives. But until we can determine what fruit is being produced, we have a duty to assume that the trees in the Farmer's field are olive trees.
 

ReformedWretch

Puritan Board Doctor
Nailed what? That you agree with PW or you don't? I read that other discussion and I didn't see what your final conclusion was. I believe you agree still with PW, but I just want to make certain I understand.
 

Augusta

Puritan Board Doctor
Psalm 1
1 Blessed is the man that walketh not in the counsel of the ungodly, nor standeth in the way of sinners, nor sitteth in the seat of the scornful.

2 But his delight is in the law of the LORD; and in his law doth he meditate day and night.

3 And he shall be like a tree planted by the rivers of water, that bringeth forth his fruit in his season; his leaf also shall not wither; and whatsoever he doeth shall prosper.

4 The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away.

5 Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous.

6 For the LORD knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
 

Wannabee

Obi Wan Kenobi
Psalm 1!!!

Why didn't I think of that?

Great reference. Great Psalm! Great God who demands fruitful branches. (d'oh, I think we've been here before... it was a doozy :p).
 

Larry Hughes

Puritan Board Sophomore
Yes, we do see and should have good fruit. But to translate that over to say, "This evidences regeneration (or conversion) infallibally" is going futher than allowed. Can one say, "Ah, here is fruit he/she MUST be regenerate/converted." To say, "I have evidenced fruit/effects whereby I know so and so is regenerate", is to say at least implicitly an infallibale knowledge. If I certify to someone, another or myself that "so and so" is regenerate based upon fruit - I am saying absolutely saved and I cannot be wrong (whether I admit it or not). For "regeneration" is flawless and none can flaw.

But there is a practical problem to solve also.

1. How does one discern outward "good works" that could be identified as "good fruit" - infallibly. For we all know of stories and realities in which a "godly" man completely apostazies many years later denying Christ, but during his former tenor was a vertiable angel. Many atheist come by this very path.

2. How does one discern outward "good works" when we know that all/any Christian can fall into a grevious period of horrible sin still living in this life (e.g. David, Abraham, Peter, the other 10 Apostles, Noah and etc...)

3. How does one discern an equal external good work as true fruit of the Spirit from a heart that is beholding Christ Vs. Hippocrisy from a heart very cleaverly working its way to heaven?

Then there's that little problem in, 2 Timothy 2:19, "Nevertheless, God's solid foundation stands firm, sealed with this inscription: "The Lord knows those who are his," to which John Calvin comments that God alone knows his own perfectly for it is His prerogative only - many who seem to be hopeless at last are called, while many who bear much fruit fall away forever.

It is not that we are not to see and have "good fruit". It is when we insert the idea of "regeneration" that we fall upon this slippery slope.

Ldh
 
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