Q. You made a comment on one of the questions about the Parable of the Sower relating to the third kind of seed sown where thorns choked out the seed making it unfruitful. You summed it up by saying we’re saved because of what we believe not because of how we behave. Though I understand in principle, saved by grace not by works, doesn’t what we believe produce how we behave? I have always understood that a true believer will always bear some fruit. Isn’t it possible that the group you referred to as “Most born again Christians in the US today fall into this category”, profess to be Christians but in actuality are not true believers?
A. In John 6:28-29 Jesus said the only work God requires of us is to believe in the one He sent. In Ephesians 1:13-14 Paul said our salvation is guaranteed from the moment we believe (before we’ve had a chance to do anything good or bad). In Ephesians 2:8-9 he said our salvation is by grace through faith and not by works. Therefore salvation and fruit bearing are two different things.
In 1 Cor. 3:10-15 Paul described the Bema judgment where the things we do as believers will be separated into two groups. One group is compared to gold, silver, and precious gems indicating things that have value. The other group is compared to wood, hay, and straw, indicating things that don’t. The second group will be burned up in the fire of judgment. Paul said even if everything the believer has to his or her credit is burned up in the fire he or she will still be saved (1 Cor. 3:15). To me that means even a believer with no fruit will be saved.
I think it was for this reason that in 1 Cor. 4:5 Paul cautioned us against judging anything before the appointed time, but to wait until the Lord comes. He said, “He will bring to light what is hidden in darkness and expose the hidden motives of the heart. At that time each will receive his praise from God.”
From this I have concluded that it’s the motive of our heart in doing something that determines its value to the Lord and not the external appearance of value that can be seen by man. Therefore, only the Lord is capable of evaluating a person’s spiritual condition. That doesn’t mean we have to approve of every kind of behavior we see, it just means that our perception of another person’s behavior does not qualify us to pass judgment on his or her spiritual condition.