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Does John advocate works-righteousness?

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  • Does John advocate works-righteousness?

    7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

    That last part sure sounds John's saying we're saved by works (producing good fruit) instead of by grace. I know it's arguable that if you're a Christian you can't help but produce good fruit; but I'd say there's times that all of us aren't producing the "good fruit" we should be. I sure feel that way some times. Any thoughts on that?

  • #2
    Hi Petey,
    John (the baptist) said that, when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism. (Mat 3:7)

    Fruit in keeping with repentance is the fruit of receiving mercy and grace.
    The fruits of the Spirit: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. (Gal 5:22,23)

    The Pharisees and Sadducees were relying on their being decendants of Abraham.

    They cared little about mercy and grace - only lording it - as authorities over the people.
    They didn't see that they themselves were in need of mercy and grace.

    Richard

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    • #3
      Also correct me if I'm wrong...by Jesus wasn't crucified at the moment.

      How would he rely on the crucified Jesus? Especially since John gets murdered before Jesus.

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      • #4
        Originally posted by Petey View Post
        7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

        That last part sure sounds John's saying we're saved by works (producing good fruit) instead of by grace. I know it's arguable that if you're a Christian you can't help but produce good fruit; but I'd say there's times that all of us aren't producing the "good fruit" we should be. I sure feel that way some times. Any thoughts on that?
        John's teaching was based on the Old Testament principle of response to the covenant of grace. At Sinai God had declared that He had redeemed Israel out of bondage as an act of His grace and mercy. In response He called on them to keep His 'ten words'. Thus they were His redeemed people. John was pointing out that because they had failed to respond to His redemptive act, sealed by the offerings and sacrifices, by failing to observe His covenant and keep His words, they had demonstrated that they were not true to the covenant.

        John had come offering them the forgiveness of sins in response to repentance, but the result of having their sins forgiven was to be that they brought forth fruits 'meet for repentance'. This the Pharisees were failing to do because they had not received the forgiveness of sins.

        As with the Gospel the good fruit was to be the fruit of responding to the covenant. It was the covenant, freely accepted, which saved and offered free forgiveness ('blessed is the man whose iniquities are forgiven and whose sins are covered', 'in quietness and confidence will be your strength'), not the fruit that resulted. The fruit was to have been evidence of their loyalty to the covenant, just as our fruit is evidence of our loyalty to Christ.

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        • #5
          Originally posted by David161099 View Post
          Also correct me if I'm wrong...by Jesus wasn't crucified at the moment.

          How would he rely on the crucified Jesus? Especially since John gets murdered before Jesus.

          But John pointed ahead to the Lamb of God Who would take away the sins of the world (John 1.29). Thus he was able to rely on what would be, the perfect, complete and sufficient sacrifice for sin both in the past and in the future.

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          • #6
            Originally posted by David161099 View Post
            Also correct me if I'm wrong...by Jesus wasn't crucified at the moment.

            How would he rely on the crucified Jesus? Especially since John gets murdered before Jesus.
            He was preparing the way for the Gospel - not yet in effect.
            "Make straight the way of the Lord."

            Just as the OT saints had faith the Massiah would come, John already had faith in what Jesus, the Messiah would accomplish.
            Last edited by Richard H; Oct 18th 2008, 03:35 PM. Reason: added: "as"

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            • #7
              The pharisees and sadduceses thought they could get into heaven based on being from the seed of Abraham. And yes, the grace and which we were shown and given can't help but produce good fruit. James said faith without works is dead being alone. How can you say you love the Lord and not keep His commandments. The Law is good. It is us that's flawed. The law simply was put into place to expose us for who we are. This is where grace came in. Eventhough we were and are unable to fulfill the law, by grace we are saved not of our works. Yet and still, truly accepting this grace is going to produce great works in us through Him Who loves us, teaches us, and leads us into all truths.

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              • #8
                It seems like people here have focused on just the first half of the sentence. Read the whole sentence:

                Produce fruit in keeping with repentance.
                When we repent to Christ He gives us new life, our salvation. And "in keeping with" that repentence, we need to do good things. As James said, faith without works is dead. It's not that we're saved by works, but it's that when we're saved and we continue to live in sin and don't even try to do good things, then what was the point of claiming to be a follower of the one who is Good if we refuse to do any good in His name?

                "In keeping with repentence" we need to "produce fruits". Not to secure salvation, but "in keeping with" our salvation.

                It doesn't seem to me that John was saying "Do good works and you're saved." He was saying something along the lines of "You claim you've repented, so do good things in line with your repentence."
                To This Day

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                • #9
                  To add to what Markedward said, I should point out how the metaphor is working here.

                  An apple comes from an apple tree, a peach comes from a peach tree, and oranges come from orange trees. The kind of fruit we have depends on the kind of tree we have.

                  So then, when John exhorts the crowd to produce fruit in keeping with repentance, his metaphor invokes a picture of a "repentance tree" and the fruit that would fall from that kind of tree.

                  Not all good works come from a repentance tree. If we give our money to the poor, that fruit might come from a "love" tree, a "compassion" tree, or a "mercy" tree. But John is talking about the kinds of things that result from repentance.

                  So we ask, what does repentance produce? What logically follows from repentance? If we have truly repented of our sins, what actions might follow from repentance?

                  To repent is to feel sorry for our sins, but also it means that we repudiate sin and want to be free of it. Whenever we have a choice, whenever we slow down and think about it, we will not sin. We won't steal, lie, cheat, swear falsely against someone, loose our temper, take from our employer, gossip, falsify records, deceive our bosses, make excuses, treat another person with disrespect, etc. These are the results of sin, and the fruits of repentance are the opposite.

                  When we have truly repudiated sin, we will want to tell the truth, treat others with respect, keep accurate books, use accurate weights, be fair and honest in our deals, admit our mistakes, etc. These are the fruits of repentance.

                  In the context of the passage, I believe John gives us some examples that fit this criteria.

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                  • #10
                    Originally posted by Petey View Post
                    7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

                    That last part sure sounds John's saying we're saved by works (producing good fruit) instead of by grace. I know it's arguable that if you're a Christian you can't help but produce good fruit; but I'd say there's times that all of us aren't producing the "good fruit" we should be. I sure feel that way some times. Any thoughts on that?
                    1Corinthians 3:14-15 "If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."

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                    • #11
                      Originally posted by tgallison View Post
                      1Corinthians 3:14-15 "If any man's work abide which he hath built thereupon, he shall receive a reward. If any man's work shall be burned, he shall suffer loss: but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire."
                      I looked that verse up in context and that does help shed some additional light on things- I think. Does this mean that by burning trees that do not yield fruit the verse is not talking about condemning to Hell, but instead "setting straight" or something along those lines?

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                      • #12
                        Originally posted by markedward View Post
                        It seems like people here have focused on just the first half of the sentence. Read the whole sentence:

                        When we repent to Christ He gives us new life, our salvation. And "in keeping with" that repentence, we need to do good things. As James said, faith without works is dead. It's not that we're saved by works, but it's that when we're saved and we continue to live in sin and don't even try to do good things, then what was the point of claiming to be a follower of the one who is Good if we refuse to do any good in His name?

                        "In keeping with repentence" we need to "produce fruits". Not to secure salvation, but "in keeping with" our salvation.

                        It doesn't seem to me that John was saying "Do good works and you're saved." He was saying something along the lines of "You claim you've repented, so do good things in line with your repentence."
                        That makes sense to me. The only thing I'm confused about is what the "burning" of the trees is referring to. Sure sounds like condemnation to Hell- I can't think of what else it might be. If someone is one of the people that believes in God but fails to produce "good fruit", in other words, has faith without works, what does this mean for them?

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                        • #13
                          Originally posted by Petey View Post
                          I looked that verse up in context and that does help shed some additional light on things- I think. Does this mean that by burning trees that do not yield fruit the verse is not talking about condemning to Hell, but instead "setting straight" or something along those lines?
                          The trees represent men in the flesh. The flesh is condemned, but the soul is saved, if it is in Christ. The fruit is the souls of men. There will be no reward for those that come empty handed.

                          The time is short, and how much joy we will have for the souls we witness to.

                          The only thing that is of account in this life, the only thing that brings peace, is the things we do for God.

                          The burning of the trees is the purification of us. All that is dross will be gone.

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                          • #14
                            Originally posted by Petey View Post
                            7 John said to the crowds coming out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? 8 Produce fruit in keeping with repentance. And do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our father.' For I tell you that out of these stones God can raise up children for Abraham. 9 The ax is already at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit will be cut down and thrown into the fire."

                            That last part sure sounds John's saying we're saved by works (producing good fruit) instead of by grace. I know it's arguable that if you're a Christian you can't help but produce good fruit; but I'd say there's times that all of us aren't producing the "good fruit" we should be. I sure feel that way some times. Any thoughts on that?
                            Paul teaches the very same thing in Romans 2. On the last day, eternal life will be granted in accordance with the works that are manifested in the life of the believer.

                            And this is not a denial of grace. Why not? Because, as Paul teaches us in Romans 8, the Holy Spirit, given to us by pure grace, is the agent responsible for producing the works that will justify us at the last day.

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                            • #15
                              Originally posted by David161099 View Post
                              Also correct me if I'm wrong...by Jesus wasn't crucified at the moment.

                              How would he rely on the crucified Jesus? Especially since John gets murdered before Jesus.
                              Jesus' death retroactively saved all the saints all the way back to Adam and Eve. If Jesus hadn't died on that cross, then nobody from all of history would have been saved, including Noah, Enoch, Moses, Joshua, David, Isaiah and everybody else in the Old Testament.
                              ----------------------------------------------
                              When the plain sense of Scripture make sense, seek no other sense.

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