From “So Great Salvation:
What It Means to Believe in Jesus Christ”
by Charles Caldwell Ryrie, 1925-2016
Every Christian will bear spiritual fruit. Somewhere, sometime, somehow. Otherwise, that person is not a believer. Every born-again individual will be fruitful. Not to be fruitful is to be faithless, without faith, and therefore without salvation.
Having said that, some caveats are in order.
One, this does not mean that a believer will always be fruitful. Certainly, we can admit that if there can be hours and days when a believer can be unfruitful, then why may there not also be months and even years when he can be in that same condition? Paul exhorted believers to engage in good works so they would not be unfruitful (Titus 3:14). Peter also exhorted believers to add the qualities of Christian character to their faith lest they be unfruitful (2 Peter 1:8). Obviously, both of those passages indicate that a true believer might be unfruitful. And the simple fact that both Paul and Peter exhort believers to be fruitful shows that believers are not always fruitful.
Two, this does not mean that a certain person’s fruit will necessarily be outwardly evident. Even if I know the person and have some regular contact with him, I still may not see his fruit. Indeed, I might even have legitimate grounds for wondering if he is a believer because I have not seen fruit. His fruit may be very private or erratic, but the fact that I do not see it does not mean it is nor there.
Three, my understanding of what fruit is and therefore what I expect others to bear may be faulty and/or incomplete. It is all too easy to have a mental list of spiritual fruits and to conclude if someone does not produce what is on my list that he or she is not a believer. But the reality is that most lists that we humans devise are too short, too selective, too prejudiced and often extra-biblical. God likely has a much more accurate and longer list than most of us do.
Nevertheless, every Christian will bear fruit; otherwise, he or she is not a true believer. In speaking about the judgment seat of Christ, Paul says unequivocally that every believer will have praise come to him from God (1 Corinthians 4:5).
What is fruit? Actually, the question ought to be phrased in the plural: What are fruits which a Christian can bear? The “New Testament” gives several answers to the question.
One, a developing Christian character is fruit. If the goal of the Christian life may be stated as Christlikeness, then surely every trait developed in us that reflects his character must be fruit that is very pleasing to him. Paul describes the fruit of the Spirit in nine terms (Galatians, 5:22-23) and Peter urges the development of seven accompaniments to faith in order that we might be fruitful (2 Peter 1:5-8). Two of these terms are common to both lists: love and self-control. The others are joy, peace, long-suffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, meekness, virtue, knowledge, endurance, piety and brotherly love. To show these character traits is to bear fruit in one’s life.
Two, right character will result in right conduct, and as we live a life of good works we produce fruit (Colossians 1:10). This goes hand in hand with increasing in the knowledge of God, for as we learn what pleases him, our fruitful works become more and more conformed to that knowledge. When Paul expressed how torn he was between the two possibilities of either dying and being with Christ or living on in this life, he said that living on would mean fruitful labour or work (Philippians 1:22). This phrase could mean that (1) his work itself was fruit, or (2) fruit would result from his work. In either case, his life and work were fruit. So may ours be.
Three, those who come to Christ through our witness are fruit. Paul longed to go to Rome to have some fruit from his ministry there (Romans 1:13) and he characterised the conversion of the household of Stephanas as the first-fruits of Achaia (1 Corinthians16:15).
Four, we may also bear fruit with our lips by giving praise to God and thankfully confessing his name (Hebrews 13:15). In other words, our lips bear fruit when we offer thankful acknowledgement to the name of God. And this is something we should do continually.
Five, we bear fruit when we give money. Paul designated the collection of money for the poorer saints in Jerusalem as fruit (Romans 15:28). Also, when he thanked the Philippians for their financial support of his ministry, he said that their act of giving brought fruit to their account (Philippians 4:17).
To sum up, fruit includes: (1) a Christlike character, (2) a life characterized by good works, (3) a faithﬁil witness, (4) a pair of lips that praise God, and (5) a generous giving of one’s money.