In relation to my last post, You Can’t Do Anything, But You Have To Do Something, I thought I should follow up on those thoughts with a bit more follow through. It is sometimes the case that when well intentioned Christians witness they often do not follow through. What I mean is, if a person brings you to Christ, points at his glory, and says, “There is your salvation.” You may or may not ascent to that, but if you do commit to Jesus Christ, there may be a sense of “what now?” I would like to, briefly, show from Scripture, the “what next.”
For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue, and virtue with knowledge, and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. For whoever lacks these qualities is so nearsighted that he is blind, having forgotten that he was cleansed from his former sins. Therefore, brothers, be all the more diligent to confirm your calling and election, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. (2 Peter 1:5-11 ESV)
This is an intense passage in Scripture. Peter is writing to Christians who have been Christians for a while. Maybe they have become complacent in their salvation, maybe they have lost sight of their purpose, or maybe they don’t think they can lose their salvation so they do not do anything at all. Here, Peter challenges those notions. Peter builds his argument with forward motion. He exhorts the church to practice holiness (virtue, knowledge, stead-fastness, etc.) and when Christians do this they will become effective and knowledgeable of Jesus Christ. But what if we do not do these things? Peter tells us that if we don’t, we are blind, and we have forgotten our salvation from sin. Without forward motion into holiness, Peter says we will not enter the kingdom, but with it we will never fall.
Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love. (Ephesians 4:15-16 ESV)
If you are a Christian, or claim to be a Christian…GO TO CHURCH! Being a Christian is exemplified, made manifest, in participating in the body of Christ. Christ is the head of the church and to join the head you must be part of the body, which is the church (see also Ephesians 1.22, and Colossians 1.18). What if you are not part of the body? Then you cannot be joined to the head. Another reason to join the church is because it is there where you will hear the Word of God spoken and expounded. Isaiah 66.2 reads, “…But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word.” Go to church, learn from His Word, and tremble (I think trembling before God involves much prayer). I have said it before and I will say it again: A Christian can only be a Christian in a community of Christians.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-20 ESV)
Jesus is teaching here on how to spot those who teach against the Gospel, that is they will not live a Gospel life. What is a Gospel life characterized by? Well, for one example see the passage from Peter above. Christians must do good works. Yes, you are saved through faith alone, but (as the saying goes) saving faith is never alone. Jesus tells us plainly here that we are all like trees. Some trees produce good fruit, and some produce bad fruit. If you are an unhealthy tree bearing bad fruit you will be thrown into the fire. If you are a healthy tree (“healthy” meaning, saved by the blood of Christ) you will bear good fruit. One of my favorite commentators writes this, “Disciples (good trees) repent and obey Jesus (good fruit). Others (worthless trees) turn away from God and God’s kingdom and live accordingly (worthless fruit)” (218).
If you believe that Jesus was crucified for your sins, was buried, and three days later rose from the dead to grant everlasting life then indeed you are saved. But Scripture teaches that that are characterized, that is the saved know they are saved, by forward motion. We practice holiness and humility, we worship God with all the saints by joining the body and submitting to the head, Jesus Christ, and we bear good fruit through repentance.