The Fruits Or Results Of Conversion


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The New Testament refers to the fruits of repentance (see Matthew 3:8 and Luke 3:8), the fruit of righteousness (see Hebrews 12:11 and James 3:18) and the fruits of righteousness (see 2 Corinthians 9:10 and Philippians 1:11). We can also speak of the fruits of saving faith and the fruits of conversion. The fruits of conversion are not conversion itself, but are the results of conversion. Conversion involves turning in our hearts from sin in general, unbelief, self-reliance and known sins to faith in God and Christ.

The results or fruits of this turning in heart attitude begin to manifest in changed actions immediately from the point of conversion. For example, if at conversion we were aware that our previous stealing was sinful, we would turn from it in our heart. Then after our conversion, we would manifest the fruit of conversion by no longer stealing from shops or anywhere else. Part of our conversion involves turning in our hearts from the known sin of stealing. The later turning from sin in daily actions is not a part of conversion but is a fruit of it. Saving conversion is not a process of turning from our sins in our actions over days, months or years.

We are never saved through the fruits of conversion. Instead, we are saved at the point of conversion through turning in heart attitude from unbelief, sin and known sins to faith in God and Christ. But note a person who has no post-conversion fruits of conversion in relation to their known sins, has not been previously converted in heart or has turned away from God again. As Jesus said in Luke 6:44-45: “For 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. A 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…”

Jesus used the analogy of trees, bushes and fruit because He knew the type of fruit on a tree or bush is not the cause but is a result of the type of the tree or bush itself. A thorn bush does not produce tasty figs. Pine trees do not produce apples. You can attach a banana to a gum tree but the latter will not produce bananas. Similarly, good works are a fruit or result of our turning in our hearts from unbelief, sin and known sins to trusting faith in God. But good works are not a cause of the latter turning in our hearts.

We are saved by grace through faith (see Ephesians 2:8-9). To claim we are saved by the fruits of conversion is to fall into the bondages of legalism. But fruit is the subjective sign God’s grace is operating in our lives through the Holy Spirit and that we have a living saving faith. Those churchgoers who year after year have no fruits of conversion, of the Holy Spirit’s Presence and of a living faith show the signs of being unsaved and of having a form of man-made religion. Only God can perfectly judge fruit and who is saved and who is not. But it is wrong for church leaders to give people with absolutely no fruit year after year the subjective assurance of salvation.

Also note truly born-again saved believers will commit known and unknown sins after conversion whenever they are not in faith relying on the Holy Spirit. Such sins are not signs these believers are unsaved. But note true believers will evidence the saved, converted and non-backslidden state of their hearts by the fact they desire to turn from such sins and do God’s will.



Paul’s teaching on the fruits of conversion


The Apostle Paul used the word “fruit” in Romans 6:22, 7:4, 7:5 and Ephesians 5:9 to teach the differences between the normal lives of people prior to their conversion to Christ and the normal Christian lives of those converted to Him.

In Romans 6:21-22, Paul said: “What fruit did you have then in the things of which you are now ashamed? For the end of those things is death. But now having been set free from sin, and having become slaves to God, you have your fruit to holiness, and the end, everlasting life.” Note Paul here told all the Roman Christians they were now ashamed of the things that dominated their lives prior to conversion. In the original Greek, the expression “you are ashamed” is plural and present tense. The plural form of “you” means Paul is saying all the Roman believers are now ashamed of the sins which ruled their lives prior to conversion.

In Greek, the word “now” in Romans 6:21 is “nun” which means “now, at the present time, of the immediate present”. [1] The use of the word “now” in connection with the words “you are ashamed” reinforces Paul’s emphasis on the fact that all the Roman believers at present were ashamed of their previous sins.

The sign of a sin-ruled life before conversion is to have no shame about your sins. After the Roman believers had been converted, they began to be ashamed of the evils which ruled them prior to conversion. In the original Greek, the word “ashamed” in Romans 6:21 is a strengthened form of the word it is derived from – “aischuno”. Vine says “aischuno” means “the feeling of shame arising from something that has been done e.g. 2 Corinthians 10:8, Philippians 1:20 and 1 John 2:28”. [2]

Feeling ashamed of our past sins is different from feeling condemned because of our sins. There is now no condemnation for those in Christ (see Romans 8:1). In Greek, the word “now” in Romans 8:1 is also “nun” which means “now, at this very moment”. [3] At this moment, true believers in Christ should not think they are condemned by God. But note feeling ashamed of our past sins is a godly thing similar to having sorrow about our sins. The word “ashamed” is used in negative senses in Romans 1:16 in relation to being ashamed of the Gospel and in Mark 8:38 and Luke 9:26 in reference to being ashamed of Jesus.

Many Christians apply to themselves the now time aspect of verses such as Romans 8:1, 11:30, 1 Peter 2:10 and 1 John 3:2 which promise great blessings. But these same churchgoers do not wish to apply the Romans 6:21 now aspect of feeling ashamed of their past sins.

In Romans 6:22, Paul states that because all the Roman believers had been set free from sin by God and enslaved to Him, they all were now manifesting the fruit of this. In Greek, the expression “you have” in this verse is plural and present tense. By using the plural, Paul showed he was referring to all the Roman believers in Romans 6:22. He was not here writing to just the more spiritual believers in Rome. He was saying even the less mature believers were manifesting the fruit (obviously in an imperfect sense) of God having set them free from the rule of sin and having enslaved them to Himself.

Note also Paul uses the word “now” or “nuni” in Greek in Romans 6:22 to emphasise he was teaching believers are in an ever-present sense freed from the rule of sin and are slaves to God and show the fruit of these two things. Such fruit is imperfect. The imperfect nature of their fruit is evidenced by the fact Paul commanded them in Romans 6:12-13 and 14-15 to not let sin reign in their lives.


Differences between the fruit of the saved and the unsaved


In Ephesians 5:3-11, Paul again shows the difference between the normal fruit in the lives of the unsaved and the saved. [4] In verses 3-5, Paul reveals the normal sinful practices of those who are not part of God’s Kingdom. These are sex outside marriage, sexual uncleanness, greed, filthiness, foolish talking and dirty jokes. In verse 6, Paul calls people whose lives are dominated by such things “the sons of disobedience”. Earlier in Ephesians 2:1-3, he used the same expression to refer to the unsaved who are under God’s wrath.

In Ephesians 5:8-11, Paul shows what is normal for a person who is really converted to Jesus Christ. He starts off by saying believers once were darkness but now are light in the Lord. In the original Greek, the word “once” in verse 8 is “pote” which means “at some time or other of the past, once, formerly”. [5] The word “pote” is used in other New Testament verses to refer to what believers were prior to conversion. Believers were once far off from God (see Ephesians 2:13), once alienated from God (see Colossians 1:21) and once deceived, serving various lusts and pleasures and living in malice, envy and hatred (see Titus 3:5).

By using the words “now” and “once”, Paul is making a clear distinction between what believers are at present when compared to what they were previously as unbelievers. He is contrasting their previous Christ-less state to their present state of union with Him. In verse 8, the expression “you were” is plural and in the imperfect tense. The use of the plural means Paul is saying these things about all the Ephesian believers. The imperfect tense refers to the fact in God’s view they were darkness in the past in an ongoing sense.

In Ephesians 5:11, Paul told the Ephesian believers “And do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness” (N.A.S.B.) The expression “unfruitful deeds of darkness” is the opposite of the “fruit of the light” (N.A.S.B.) or “fruit of the Spirit” (N.K.J.V.) mentioned in verse 9. By commanding the Ephesians to have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness and in verse 8 telling them to walk as children of light, Paul is showing they can choose to do either. Paul is instructing them to live what they have become and are in union with Christ and to no longer live in agreement with what they used to be without Him.

In Romans 7:4-5, Paul drew a distinction between the normal lives of people ruled by the flesh prior to conversion and their changed (though imperfect) lives after conversion: “Therefore, my brethren, you also have become dead to the law through the body of Christ, that you may be married to another, even to Him who was raised from the dead, that we should bear fruit to God. For when we were in the flesh, the passions of sins which were aroused by the law were at work in our members to bear fruit to death.” In verse 4 here, Paul says that all the Roman believers were spiritually joined to Jesus Christ in order they may be able to bear fruit. In Greek, the expression “we should bear fruit” is plural. The use of the plural means Paul is referring to at least himself and all the Roman believers. The use of the words “we should bear fruit” shows that fruit-bearing is a normal result of being joined to Christ. [6]

In Colossians 1:10, Paul shows that when he refers to fruit, he usually at least partly means fruit in the sense of good actions. In this verse, he mentions believers “being fruitful in every good work”.

In John 15:16, Jesus says: “ You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit, and that your fruit should remain…” Note Jesus here does not say He chose us because we were bearing fruit prior to or after conversion. Instead, He emphasises He chose us to bear fruit. If we are not bearing any fruit, it is likely we are not connected to Jesus Christ – the Vine. He is the Final Judge of all fruit-bearing. But we must seriously take into account His comments in His Word about fruit.


“Converts” with absolutely no fruit for many years


Some people think that the third category of people mentioned in the parable of the sower (see Matthew 13:22 and Luke 8:14) are those who definitely will be finally saved. This is despite the fact Jesus said they have no fruit in their Christian walk. Luke 8:14, which is part of the Parable of the Sower, says: “And the ones that fell among thorns are those who, when they have heard, go out and are choked with cares, riches, and pleasures of life, and bring no fruit to maturity.” I, myself previously was sure the above verse referred to believers who had initially received Jesus as Lord and Saviour and who then fell into living totally worldly and completely flesh-ruled lives for many years while continuing to be saved. I now doubt such converts will remain saved because of Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:17-20, John 15:2 and 15:6 and John the Baptist’s words in Matthew 3:10.

In John 15:2 and 6, Jesus said: “Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit He prunes, that it may bear more fruit…If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned.” Jesus’ words here suggest that those converts who have absolutely no fruit of His Presence in their lives will be condemned to hell. Note Jesus here refers to having no fruit. People who have no fruit are different from believers who have little fruit.

Some might argue John 15:6 does not refer to being thrown into hell but instead relates to believers having their works symbolically burned by fire at Jesus’ Judgement Seat while they still remain saved. They may claim 1 Corinthians 3:14-16 proves this. But 1 Corinthians 3:14-16 does not use the expression “throw them into the fire”. Note also that those New Testament verses which mention being thrown into the fire – Matthew 3:10, 7:19, 13:42, 13:50, 18:8, 18:9, Mark 9:45, 9:47, Luke 3:9, Revelation 19:20 and 20:15 – refer to being thrown into hell. The only exception to this is Mark 9:22.

In Matthew 7:17-20, Jesus gave a similar warning: “Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by there fruits you will know them”. In Matthew 3:10 John the Baptist said: And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire”. Here John shows that those who bear no fruit in their lives will be thrown into the eternal fire. But he does not say those with little fruit will be thrown into the fire. Luke 3:9 records John the Baptist’s words about these matters also.

Jude 12 refers to people who attended church love feasts but who were “without fruit”. Jude 4-19, especially verses 4 and 13-15, show such churchgoers are ungodly people who will be eternally condemned.

In Matthew 21:42-43, Jesus warned many Jews that because they rejected Him – the Chief Cornerstone – and did not show any fruit of God being their King, they would not inherit God’s Kingdom.


These are not just two classes of believers


Some may argue Luke 8:14 refers to those Christians who do not reach spiritual maturity. They claim only the spiritually mature have real fruit of Christ in their lives. But note in Philippians 3:12, Paul said that even he was not perfected or totally matured. Paul had much fruit of Christ in his life.

There are not just two classes of Christians – babes in Christ and the totally matured. There are multitudes who are between these two states. There are “pre-teeners” in Christ, “teenagers” in Christ and so on.

Matthew 13:23 refers to different believers having varying amount of fruit: “But he who received seed on the good ground is he who hears the word and understands it, who indeed bears fruit and produces: some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty.” This verse is a part of Matthew’s account of the Parable of the Sower. Babes in Christ have the least fruit of Him. The most mature in Christ have the most fruit of Him. Matthew 13:23 refers to the fruit of the righteous holy Presence of Christ in believers by His Spirit.


A possible alternative


There is only one possible alternative to what I have said in this section. This is that the expression “bring no fruit to maturity” in Luke 8:14 refers to people who have immature fruit but not mature fruit. This would relate to plants which have fruit which do not fully ripen. Therefore such people still have fruit of Christ in their lives, but it is very immature fruit. Regardless of which interpretation of the expression “bring fruit to maturity” in Luke 8:14 is correct, the New Testament teaches that those who have absolutely no fruit of Christ for many years are unsaved.


The objective test of whether we are converted, saved and justified


The presence of fruit is only a subjective indicator of whether we are converted, saved and justified or not. It is similar to the subjective witness of the Holy Spirit (see Romans 8:16). Humans can mistake the witness of the Holy Spirit, thinking they have this when they have not and vice-versa. Also humans can imagine they have the fruit of Christ's Presence in their lives, when in fact they only have legalistic religious activities.

The opposite extreme occurs when true believers are deceived into wrongly thinking they do not have Christ's fruit and are therefore unconverted and unsaved. Some saved believers with real fruit of Christ’s Presence in their lives can be tormented for years, imagining wrongly that just because they find sin in their lives at times, they are unconverted, unsaved and condemned by God.

But despite their weaknesses, fruit and the inner witness of the Holy Spirit are two Bible-based tests of whether we are converted, saved and justified. But these two tests are open to misinterpretation and are not to be used in isolation. They must also be used with the objective test of whether we are saved and justified.

The objective test involves the fact the Scriptures promise that those with faith in Jesus as Lord and Saviour are saved and justified (see Acts 16:31, Romans 5:1 and 10:9-13). If we know we in faith have received Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, not just Saviour, the written Word of God declares we are certainly saved and justified. On the wonderful basis of His death and resurrection, the Scriptures guarantee that those with a real faith in the Lord Jesus Christ are eternally saved (see Romans 1:3-5 and 1 Corinthians 15:1-11).


God’s strong warning


Hebrews 13:5 and John 6:37 reveal that God will not abandon or forsake believers. But Hebrews 3:12-14 shows that they can harden their hearts against Him and depart from Him because of allowing sin and unbelief to rule them again: “Beware, brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil heart of unbelief in departing from the living God; but exhort one another daily, while it is called ‘Today’, lest any of you be hardened through the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ if we hold the beginning of our confidence steadfast to the end.” In the original Greek, the word “departing” here is a form of “aphistemi” – the same root word used in 1 Timothy 4:1 for some people abandoning the faith in later times.


Bible Study Questions


1.         Which New Testament verses refer to the fruits of repentance, fruit of righteousness and fruits of righteousness?

2.         Are the fruits of conversion – our changed actions – the cause or results of our being saved by God’s grace? Give reasons for your answer.

3.         What are the differences between conversion and the fruits of conversion?

4.         What did Jesus teach us in Luke 6:44-45?

5.         What is the subjective sign that God’s saving grace is operating in a person’s heart?

6.         What did Paul mean when he said in Romans 6:21 that all the Roman Christians were now ashamed of all their previous sins?

7.         What is the difference between us as believers being rightly ashamed of our sins and wrongly feeling condemned by God for our sins?

8.         What do Romans 7:4-5 and John 15:16 teach us about bearing fruit?

9.         Is it possible to be saved by God’s grace and exhibit absolutely no fruit of Jesus Christ in our lives for many years? Give Biblical reasons for your answer.

10.     Explain what each of the following verses teach in relation to fruit – Matthew 3:10, 7:17-20, 21:42-43, John 15:2, 15:6 and Jude 12.

11.     Are there just two classes of believers – the fruit-bearing mature and the fruitless immature? Give reasons for your answer.

12.     What is the objective test we are converted, saved and justified?


[1] Bauer, page 545.

[2] Vine, page 39.

[3] Perschbacher, page 286.

[4] Ephesians 5:3-11 states: “But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints; neither filthiness, nor foolish talking, nor coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know, that no fornicator, unclean person, nor covetous man, who is an idolater, has any inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God. Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them. For you once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), proving what is acceptable to the Lord. And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness, but rather expose them.”

[5] Bauer, page 695.

[6] Greek action words have various moods. These moods relate to whether the action is a fact, a possibility, a wish or a command. One of these moods is called the subjunctive. In Greek, the subjunctive “we should bear fruit” has the word “iva” meaning “in order that” before it. As Richard Young in his “Intermediate New Testament Greek” states, when the word “iva” is combined with a subjunctive, the action becomes a result of something else and is not just a possibility (page 136). The subjunctive mood normally means an action is only a possibility. But by prefacing the subjunctive “we should bear fruit” with “iva” meaning “in order that”, Paul indicates he is referring to a definite result. A similar combination of “iva” and an action in the subjunctive mood is found in 1 John 1:9 when John says “in order that he may forgive” (Marshall, page 684). The New King James Version and the New American Standard Bible translate the latter expression as “to forgive” – a definite result of our confession and His faithful just character. These two Bible versions correctly do not translate the original Greek equivalent which is literally “he may forgive” in English as just a possibility. The occasional weakness of the very literalistic New American Standard Bible’s translation of the Greek is seen in this example of Romans 7:5 when it translates the subjunctive as the indefinite possibility “we might bear fruit”. The New King James’s translation “we should bear fruit” is more accurate because of the word “iva” before it.

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