Q. Could you explain the message given by John the Baptist to “bear fruit in keeping with repentance?” Is that more referring to salvation or proof of salvation? Would you explain the principle of repentance and the significance to the Christian life?
A. The Greek word translated repent means to change one’s mind. In the New Testament it’s most often used in reference to changing our mind about the need for a Savior to save us from our sins, as when John said, “Repent, for the Kingdom of Heaven is near” (Matthew 3:2). He was saying, “Change your mind and admit you need a Savior while there’s still time.”
The Jewish religious leaders believed they were saved by their own righteousness, which came from their obedience to the Law. They didn’t think they needed anyone to save them from their sins, because they didn’t see themselves as sinners.
When John told them to produce fruit in keeping with repentance (Matthew 3:8) he was telling them to change their minds and admit they could not save themselves and they did need a Savior.
Then they could begin showing others that they needed to change their minds about their salvation as well. This is what John meant by producing fruit in keeping with repentance.
We need to remember that salvation is not a fruit bearing event. It impacts no one but ourselves. Bearing fruit comes after we’re saved as we influence others to come to faith through the changes they see in us.
By changes, I’m not talking about the”holier-than-thou” attitude some Christians display. After I was saved, nobody ever came up to me marveling at how holy I had become, and asking me to help them find holiness.
But a lot of people mentioned how happy I appeared to be, and how I seemed to have found peace in my life. That’s what was missing in their lives and that’s what they wanted help finding.
Jesus said, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy laden and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).