Jesus taught that quantity and the quality of the "fruit" produced is the divine standard for evaluating the tree (post salvation spiritual life) of the person (or ministry) that produces it.
Note that the production of divine good (symbolized as the silver, gold and precious stones of 1Cor. 3: 14) it is a post (after) salvation issue.
Accordingly, the production of this fruit has got n-o-t-h-i-n-g to do with the retaining of the salvation (eternal life) that a born again believer has already received and has permanently secured.
Salvation is a no strings attached, irrevocable (Romans 11: 29), gift from God that He bestows on born again believers.
While having n-o-t-h-i-n-g to do with either obtaining or retaining salvation, the production of divine good has e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g to do with executing the post salvation life of discipleship.
Discipleship is study and application of the Word of God. Initially discipleship is for the personal edification of the born again believer, but with the long term objective of his/her participation in the Great Commission.
This participation involves presentation of the Gospel Message to spiritually dead souls, affording them the opportunity to believe it and be saved. This participation involves sharing Bible Doctrine with fellow believers, affording them the opportunity to build and maintain an edified soul structure (Matt. 7: 24-27).
An edified soul structure is the base of operations from which a successful post salvation spiritual life functions.
The focus of attention of this article is on the impact that the production (or lack of production) of the fruit (divine good) associated with the post salvation life of discipleship. The production (if any) of divine good is the standard by which God determines what rewards (1Cor. 3: 14) and privileges (Rev. Chapters 2, 3) any given born again believer will receive or forfeit at the 1Cor. 3: 12-15 Evaluation of Deeds event to take place in Heaven.
All Christians are born again believers, but not all born again believers engage or remain in the life of discipleship that produces divine good. The devil offers many alternatives to the production of divine good. These alternatives are held in high esteem by Man, but are detestable (Luke 16: 15) in the eyes of God to whom we will all give an account (Romans 14: 12).
Among these alternatives are religious rituals, humanitarian deeds, and relatively good behavior that are the products of or that are accomplished through human effort. Its not that some of these things aren't any good, but that they are elevated to a position of equality with divine good or as the means to accomplish a divine objective that makes them detestable.
Relatively good behavior and humanitarian deeds are characteristics of a godly lifestyle, but they are NOT the means to either obtain or to retain salvation, nor are they the means through which divine good is produced. Atheists and unbelievers (in the Gospel Message) can (and often do) exhibit relatively good behavior and participate in humanitarian deeds. Such things have their own rewards and blessings here on Earth, but do NOT produce divine good, nor do they generate eternal life!
Relatively good behavior and human good are the wood, hay, and straw in the 1Cor. 3 passage. Humanitarian deeds and relatively good behavior are the results of human effort independent of God. While having their own value and reward here on Earth, deeds of human good are totally rejected ("burned up - 1Cor. 3:15 MASB") at the Evaluation of Deeds. The Evaluation of Deeds event is for born again believers only. At that event, the record of all the believers' deeds of human good are rejected "burned up (1Cor. 3:15) as far as having any credit towards receiving any reward or privileges. It is ONLY the deeds of divine good that will result in receiving the 1Cor. 3: 14 rewards and the Rev. 2 and Rev. 3 privileges.
Born again believers do NOT engage in the production of divine good in order to be rewarded, but to bring glory to God. Glorifying God is the very purpose that God created the human race in the first place. Engaging in the post salvation spiritual life is how a born again believer glorifies God in the Church Age. No wonder why the devil offers and promotes so many alternatives.
When desiring to detect the critical difference between divine good and human good, the rule of thumb is that if an unbeliever can do it, then its NOT divine good that is in view (John 5: 15). I do not know what part of the John 5: 15 nothing it is that the religious crowd don't seem to understand.
There are many unbelievers who, for a variety of health, legal, social, cultural, and familial reasons, conduct themselves in ways that do in fact comply with the general principles of relatively good behavior. There are many unbelievers who engage in all kinds of humanitarian projects. There are many souls who participate in both so-called Christian and non-Christian religious activity. But never-the-less, the eternal destiny for ALL unbelievers (in the Gospel Message) is what the Bible calls the lake of fire (Rev. 20: 15).
There is a world and an eternity of a difference between Christian religion (promoted by Man) and Christianity (promoted by the Word of God).
A synopsis of the true Gospel Message is encapsulated in just one Bible verse (John 3: 16). All the details of the why's, when's, where's, and how's are explained in the many of the Bible Doctrines that come from New Testament Scripture.
When an advancing disciple comes to develop a full and true understanding of the Gospel Message, he/she will be able to perceive the futility of engaging in Man-made religious activity..
One is saved (John 3: 16) or condemned (John 3: 18) on the basis or his/her personal belief or disbelief in the Person and the Work of the Lord Jesus Christ, as explained in the presentation of the true Gospel Message. Religion tends to blend the issue of salvation and the issues of the post salvation spiritual life into one. In the process, it often puts the cart ahead of the horse. The only connection between the two is that one must first be saved (born again) before he/she can engage in the post salvation spiritual life. All of the Man-made religious activity that one goes through (or is put through) before or after one is born again has got nothing to do with either obtaining or retaining salvation.
As of The Church Age, first time that a soul glorifies God is when he/she is born again. Until then, he/she is merely taking up space o-u-t-s-i-d-e of the Christian Community no matter how much religious and/or alternative activity he/she participates in (or is put through). Once born again, the born again believer then has the daily opportunity to glorify God by learning, refining, and putting into practice (James 1: 22) Bible Doctrine. If a born again believer is not engaged in the post salvation spiritual life , he/she is merely taking up space w-i-t-h-i-n the Christian Community.
All born again believers will receive or forfeit heavenly reward (1Cor. 3: 14) and privileges (Rev. 2/Rev. 3) based on the production or the lack of production of divine good.
Just being satisfied with the knowledge that one is Heaven bound, having been born again, is a strong indication that he/she is still heavily influenced by one's self-centered and fallen sin nature (Romans 7) that is inherently hostile toward god and the things of God.
No one wants to be labeled wicked, lazy, worthless, disobedient, or detestable, but as far as the production of divine good is concerned, that it how Scripture (Matt. 25: 26, 30/Titus 1: 16) describes a born again believer who takes up space and does not involve him/herself in the production of divine good in his/her own life, and has no genuine interest in the spiritual well-being of others (1Cor. 12: 7).
If someone was about to sin down in what you to be a defective chair, would you not feel morally obligated and compelled to warn that person? Is not the souls of others more important than their physical well-being? Yet how quick we are to rationalize our silence.
There is a difference between serving a divine purpose (Romans 13: 1, 4) and producing divine good (1Cor. 3: 12 . I can use my secular career choice as an example.
I spent 30 years of my adult life in law enforcement, dedicated to protecting life and property. Such activity is one of the many classic examples of producing human good. It is human good (wood, hay, straw) because as good as it may be, it can be accomplished by both spiritually dead and spiritually alive law enforcement offices. The same can be said of virtually ever walk of life.
The greatest thing that one can do for another human being is not to participate in the saving of their natural lives, but to participate in the saving of their
souls. The second greatest things that one can do for a fellow born again believer is to participate in the edification of the soul structure. Every advancing disciple has both the means and the opportunities to do both! In the midst of his/her secular career, is just one of many areas of his/her life that he/she can engage in discipleship and ambassadorship.
Unbelievers can serve divine purposes, but can not engage in the post salvation spiritual life. All born again believer can identify and engage in the post salvation spiritual life, but many will not.
"They profess to know God, but by their deeds (or lack thereof) they DENY Him, being detestable, and disobedient, and worthless for any good deed (Titus 1:16 NASB italics mine)."
"But whoever shall DENY Me before men, I will also DENY him before My Father who is in Heaven (Matt. 10: 33 NASB."
This denial refers to the status and rewards of discipleship, and NOT the loss of salvation (See 1Cor. 3: 15).
In the Luke 13 parable, we see the classical example of one who was born again (in the vineyard), but was who was not involved or progressing in the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship. This was evidence by the lack of producing fruit (saved/edified souls).
In the spiritual realm, if one is not progressing, he/she is regressing. The fig tree (born again believer) was in the vineyard, but was not producing any fruit. There are many souls who are in the pews on a regular basis, but are NOT producing any fruit in either their own spiritual life or in the spiritual lives of others.
In some cases, it is party due to the fact that they are not in the pews of the type of Church, local assembly, or ministry that God designed for the Church Age. The type of Church, local assembly, or ministry that God designed is engaged in promotion of the true Gospel Message for salvation, and the making of disciples (students and appliers) of the Word of God (Matt. 28: 19, 20). In other cases, they are in pews (or listening audience) where the true Gospel Message in being promoted, and where accurate Bible Doctrine is being taught, but they are not applying the information being conveyed.
In either case, there is no fruit being produced.
In the first case scenario, a change in location or source of information is in order. In the other case, it is a matter of applying what is being made available.
Just as in the case of many of the Psalms found in the Old Testament, many of the Lord's parables recorded in the New Testament not only spoke to its immediate audience, but spoke of event(s) still to take place. In the case of the Luke 13 fig tree parable, its meaning was not only clearly understood by the agricultural people that it was presented to, but also spoke of the production of divine good during the post salvation spiritual life of the Church Age still to come.
When Jesus taught these parables, the Church Age had not yet begun.
The Church Age (in which we are now living) began at the Feast of Pentecost in Jerusalem shortly after the Lord's Ascension (Acts 1: 9, 10) into Heaven. The Church Age (but not the Church) and will come to its appointed end (Matt. 24: 14) when the Rapture (1Thess. 4: 16, 17) takes place. At that time the members of the Church here here on Earth are taken away from planet Earth, meet the returning Lord and all the members of the Church who had departed over the course of the Church Age. The unified Church and the Lord, its Head, gather in the air above of the Earth (1THess. 4: 15-17). At the Second Advent, The unified Church will return with Christ and rule with Him during the millennial period that takes place after the Second Advent Rev. 20: 6). The Church, along with the Tribulation believers, and all the departed Old Testament believers will be with the Lord for all of eternity in the New Heaven and the New Earth (Rev. 21) that will be established when the present world melts away under intense heat (2Pet. 3: 10/Rev. 21: 1).
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In Luke Chapter 13 (NASB), we read"
“And He began telling this parable. “A certain man had a fig tree which had been planted in his vineyard; and he came looking for fruit on it, and did not find any (vs. 6). And he said to the vine-keeper, behold for three years I have come looking for fruit on this tree without finding any. Cut it down! Why does it even use up the ground (Vs. 7). And he (the vineyard-keeper) answered and said , "Let it alone, sir, for this year too, until I dig around it and put in fertilizer (Vs. 8); and if it does bear fruit next year, fine; but if not, cut it down (Vs. 9)."
What is Interesting is that just like the elder son in the parable of the prodigal son, we are not told what the final outcome of the fig tree was.
One can never be any more or any less saved that he/she became when he/she was born again (John 3: 5, 7)), having chosen to make a positive response to a presentation of the Gospel Message. Therefore, it is not one's salvation (eternal life) that is in jeopardy (to be cut down) if no fruit is produced.
What is in jeopardy in the glory that could have otherwise been given to God and the accompanying rewards (1Cor. 3: 14) and privileges (Rev. Chapters 2 and 3) that ONLY disciples will receive at the Evaluation of Deeds event (1Cor. 3: 12-25) in Heaven.
In the Luke 13 parable of the fig tree, it is referring to a born again believer. We know this, as in this case, we are told that the fig tree (born again believer) has been in the vineyard long enough (three years) for the owner to expect to see some fruit being produced (Heb. 5: 12). One is not "in the vineyard (the true Christian Community)" until AFTER he/she has already born again (John 3: 5, 7 NASB)."
Hebrews 5: 12 describes the same scenario, and Rev. 2: 5/ speaks of the "removal" of certain type of local assemblies that do not produce fruit. Again it is not salvation, but the status and rewards/privileges associated with discipleship that are in view.
"For though by this time you (born again believers) ought to be *teachers, you have need again for someone to teach you the elementary principles of the oracles of God, and you have come (regressed to the point ) to need milk (basic reiteration of the Gospel) and not solid food (Heb,. 5: 12 NASB) advanced doctrine." Until one can "hold down" the Gospel, he/she will not be able to digest advanced doctrines.
EVERYONE is a *teacher by what he/she says, thinks, or does on a daily basis. On a daily basis, rather one does it consciously or not, he/she is being used by either God or the devil to lead people towards or away from God, or the things of God.
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"Now in a large house (The Church) there are not only gold and silver vessels, but also vessels of wood and of earthenware, and some (used) to honor and some (used) to dishonor. Therefore, if a man (born again believer) cleanses himself from these things (false doctrine/false practices/sin) he will be (used as) a vessel of honor, sanctified (set apart for God) useful to the Master, prepared for every good work (2Tim. 2: 20, 21 NABS italics mine)."
What one must ask himself is, "Am I prepared?" "Am I useful?" "Or am I just taking up space?"
Rather or not you choose to be a chalice (vessel of honor )or a garbage pail (Vessel of dishonor) is up to each one of us.
Man-made religion (2Cor. 11: 13) with the devil's applauding endorsement, has drafted its own alternative (false) Gospels (Gal.1: 8) concerning salvation, alternative doctrines (1Tim. 4: 1) and practices in order to promote religious lifestyles in the place of the post salvation spiritual life outlined in Scripture. The devil's alternatives almost always offer what appear to be an easier and faster way to achieve or to improve what God has established. But what the devil really wants to do is to ensnare, captivate, and ultimately use those deceives to do his will (2Tim. 2: 26).
As a result, there are many religious souls that have never been born again. There are many born again believers have not identified, pursued, or remained in the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship. Religious, but spiritually dead souls, will find themselves in what the Bible calls the lake of fire for all of eternity (Rev. 20: 15).
If one has been born again, he/she has been regenerated (Titus 3: 5), and is spiritually alive. If one has not been born again, he/she is spiritually dead, no matter how much religious activity, how well behaved, or how much human good he/she may otherwise be involved.
Born again believers who do not engage in the post salvation spiritual life of discipleship and/or ambassadorship will find themselves in the general environment of Heaven, but will forfeit the 1Cor. 3: 14 rewards and the Rev. 2 and 3 privileges that they could have also received and enjoyed for all of eternity for having glorified God here on Earth.
Concerning oneself, the fruit of discipleship is one's own ongoing growth in the knowledge (2Pet. 3: 18) and the daily application (James 1: 22) of the Word of God. Concerning others, the fruit of discipleship are the saved and edified souls of others.
It is God who prepares, saves, and edifies the soul (1Cor. 3: 7). The disciples' part in the process is to communicate the information
It is a godly lifestyle of an advancing disciple that God can use to attract the attention of those He desires to save or edify.
In a torch relay race, one must first possess and have a firm grip on the torch before he can successfully pass it on to the next runner. Accordingly, one must possess and have firm grip (understanding) of the Gospel Message and on any given area of Bible Doctrine if he/she is going to successfully pass either one on to others.
In closing, every born again believer must ask him/herself (2Cor. 13: 5), "Am I one who is just taking up space, or am I one who is producing the fruit of discipleship in my own spiritual life and in the spiritual lives of others?"