Bearing Fruit Deception

John 15: 1-8

A trademark of the IFB is the idea that “good Christians” bear fruit and “bad Christians” don’t bear fruit.

I heard quite a bit growing up that fruit is an indication that you’re a “good Christian”.  “You need to be a fruit bearing Christian…” the preacher would boom from behind the lectern.  The implications were a tremendous burden to me as I considered the possibility that I wasn’t bearing enough fruit.  “What if people don’t see my fruit?” I would worry to myself… “or what if I just can’t bear enough fruit, how much is enough?”  You can hear the anguish in my thoughts as a young adult, worried about pleasing God.

And yet another expectation of legalistic righteousness (works based/performance based righteousness) was crammed down my throat.  An unattainable mantra of “do this and you will be identified as a ‘good Christian’”.

And they use these ideas to judge people too.  They look at others and say “he’s bearing much fruit so he must be doing what’s right” or “she’s not bearing much fruit so she must not be walking closely with the Lord.”  This is really a shame because I don’t find anywhere in that passage where it tells Christians to use the concept of bearing fruit to judge other Christians.  Nor does it tell us what the fruit looks like.

Twisting of scriptures here is once again the problem.  First, this is a metaphor that Jesus was using during this particular time when he was teaching during his ministry.  I don’t know for sure, but I don’t think that Jesus really wants us to bear fruit.  He’s just using an analogy to help his listeners understand if they are true believers or not.

Second, Jesus never tells us that we MUST bear fruit.  He tells us that those who are true believers WILL bear fruit.  There’s a huge difference.  It’s not our responsibility to bear fruit!  We don’t ever have to worry about whether we are bearing fruit or not.  Following a list of “fruit bearing” works is legalistic righteousness.  Fruit is a natural byproduct of being connected to the vine.  All we have to do is stay connected to the vine (Jesus) and we WILL bear fruit.

Third, the distinction is never made about how much fruit a Christian will bear.  “Much fruit” is never defined.  What does “much fruit” mean anyway?  How much is “much fruit”?  Are we defining what “much fruit” means or are we allowing God to define what “much fruit” means?  To one Christian “much fruit” is bearing fruit every day, while to another Christian “much fruit” is defined by a lifetime of bearing fruit.  It’s not up to us to determine how much “much fruit” is.  That’s the Lord’s decision.

Finally, “much fruit” is God’s standard not mans.  We look at the population and see the Billy Grahams and Mother Teresas of the world and say they are bearing much fruit.  But remember the widow’s mite?  We never know what one person has to give.  Someone who shows a homeless man kindness behind the closed (and, might I add, hardly ever visited by Christians) doors of the homeless shelter with no one around to witness it may also be bearing “much fruit”, we just never know.

I think that “fruit” is a highly individualized area of our walk with Christ.  The “fruit” we bear is between the individual and God.  What is fruit to one person may not be fruit to another person.  God has created us as unique individuals and this is an area where he uses that uniqueness.  Again, this is a matter that should be between the individual and God alone!


  1. Isn’t bearing fruit… Fruits of the spirit? You will know them by their fruits… A close walk with God will produce love, joy, peace, long-suffering etc. BTW I’m out of the IFB just 4 months now. I started reading your site around a year ago. I had prayed for to see truth and I believe God showed me. I was in their teachings over 25 yrs. I
    Am attending a church now that is so different and really understands grace. I’ve grew so much since attending there.

  2. Very good article and comments. I was the epitome of the “good” girl growing up. I never got in any major trouble or rebelled against my parents too terribly. I obeyed all of my teachers, and church leaders, etc. I prayed a prayer at the age of 6 because I was told that was how to get saved. I was not a Christian, but learned how to act like one. I worked in the ministries of my church and loved doing it, but I was not truly Born Again. Anyone who has looked at me throughout my life would say that I was a good Christian girl. They were inspecting my supposed fruit, but I didn’t have Christian fruit. I just knew how to play the game. Before my conversion, Matthew 7:21-23 applied more to me than Matthew 7:15-20. I did think I was saved while I was growing up, but if I had died before I got truly saved, Jesus would have said to me, “Depart from me. I never knew you.” It doesn’t matter how much someone does for their church or for the cause of Christ.

  3. The bearing fruit issue reveals that fundamentalism is essentially a works based religion. The idea that one is saved by grace is negated by the need to prove one’s salvation by “bearing fruit”. If you don’t work hard enough or follow the preacher’s orders than you were never saved, only those who perform “enough” good works can be sure that they are saved. Fundamentalists go even further by telling their people that the only way to sustain God’s blessing is to work in the church at every given opportunity–ultimately the church/pastor can never be satisfied and so it goes until the individual is burned out and his/her family destroyed.

    1. Jesus said, by their fruits ye shall know them. And Jesus even gave an example of the fig tree. So it is biblical to preach we should be showing fruits. Now, if that convicts a person to the point they are questioning how much, am I doing enough and so on, that is their personal issues. Perfect love cast out fear.

  4. Hi Crystal – I just posted on “tithing.” I hope to hear from you about that.

    Don’t you think it’s a stretch for you to be telling me what my ex-pastor meant?

    Many things you are saying have some truths attached to them, but we must be very careful when it comes to “judging.” I might be working with the pastor building an extension on the church and he hit his thumb with a hammer, what comes out of his mouth may not “sound” very christian. Does that “negate” all of his good works?

    Yes we are new creatures in Christ, but still have a sin nature, surely your IFB teaches that!

    You are peppering your responses with “pieces” of scripture, pls use bible references when you respond, so we can actually dialogue with actual “scripture” You are doing in this comment exactly what I have seen in many IFB churches and that is use part of a verse and then simply “ramble” on about anything you think it means. Exhibit #1 is the discussion of Matthew 7:16 “By their fruit you will recogize them” Fine, but we must look at this verse in context. V-15 says “Watch out for false prophets. they come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.” ……..the context is not Joe the IFB preacher to go around judging fruit, not even close!!!! It’s warning us to watch out for “false Prophets.” …I really hope you can see that….so very many good folks listen to IFB preachers make huge mistakes in interpreting scripture…..could it be that your pastor has done the same…..from your comment it sounds like that!!

  5. Crystal, can you show me where in that passage (or even anywhere in the Bible) it says that other Christians are supposed to look at my fruit and judge me based on the fruit they see?

    There may be a “line between being saved and being just a professor” but it’s not your job to define or figure out where that line is. I don’t know what Bible you’re reading, but my Bible says that we aren’t supposed to judge other people (Matthew 7:1).

    1. Nobody is looking at your fruits. It sounds like you might have a misconception of fruits. Fruits is the spirit manifested in us. For example, if everybody you work with is talking about worldly things and you have no interest in the conversation, hey, guess what, that is a fruit of the spirit. Not being jealous of somebody is a fruit. You can find this in Galations. I encourage to read the last 2 chapters of the book of Galations, it should only take about 10 minutes and you will learn about the two types of fruits.

  6. @greg
    I don’t go to your Church, but let me say when your former Pastor said being a fruit inspector what he really meant. Just my opinion… Basically, you can tell when a TRUE BORN AGAIN BELIEVER is really saved by their ACTIONS- FRUIT! Fruit is symbolic. You can tell a professor from a real believer! I can anyway! Yes, God is the judge, but the Bible speaks about BELIEVERS being able to distinguish the difference. Here is an example…. someone claims their saved, but says God d***! That is a fruit that says to me you are just a professor! In other words, there is a line between being saved and being just a professor! Let me say, yes we all sin and will never be perfect until we get to heaven! Come on now, someone who would talk this way is not an indicator for me that they are saved if they say they are. THE BIBLE SAYS WHEN WE ARE BORN AGAIN, WE BECOME A NEW CREATURE! GOD IS NOT A LIAR, AND I CAN PROVE THAT YOU DO BECOME A NEW CREATURE IN CHRIST! You don’t act the way the world does, you don’t say the things the world does, everything changes and you have a different outlook in your new birth with Christ! One more thing I would like to add…. when you are a truly saved person, God chastens His child. Some people get away from God that are truly saved and if anyone that claims they are saved and maybe not living right or just away from God, that person will be corrected and chastened by God Almighty! The Bible even says so! If you are not being chastened by God, then I would really search my heart and seek if I were TRULY REBORN AGAIN!!!

    1. True, we do become a new person, but even though we are saved, we still may slip up because we are disgusting flesh and it is a fight every day because we are fleshly. Just because you slip up doesn’t mean that you aren’t saved. Your salvation is personal and is between you and God. You should never tell someone to search your heart . In the Bible it states that the heart is very deceitful.

  7. I have to insert my 1 3/4 cents, if that’s OK. I think you did a great job of pointing out that we are not commanded to bear fruit, we are told that we “will” bear fruit. Bearing fruit is the result of abiding in the True Vine. He gives us life, therefore we bear fruit.

    Now, the problem I have is with people who claim the name of Christ, yet are producing fruit antithetical to what is promised by the Holy Spirit (Love, Joy, Peace, Longsuffering, etc.).

  8. Shannon – Matthew 7:16-20 is more about false prophets and by extension false ministries, not so much individuals.

    But what really blew my skirt up, is equating Billy Graham and Mother Teresa with the Harlot church of Revelation. I would ask where do you get that from, but I doubt it would matter or that I would pay any attention. But what is ironic is that we were just talking about judging others and you make this huge devil’s canyon leap.

  9. ETA:

    I didn’t want to imply that the Lord is not drawing any Jews to salvation today. Of course, until the Rapture the Lord is building His ‘Church’ from Jews and Gentiles.

    Also, nowhere in Matthew 7:16-20 verses used by the IFB are we told to “judge” anyone’s fruit. We will “know” them by their fruit does not imply we are to “judge” them. This word implies that we have the right to “condemn” them. If people aren’t saved they are condemned already.

    I also note the mentions of the “Billy Graham’s” and “Mother Teresa’s” “of the world”…..They are most likely, based on false/plastic ‘fruit’, “of the world”, as they and the like are assisting in the building of the Harlot church of Revelation….the One World false ‘church’. Matthew 7:13

  10. Very good!
    The Holy Spirit is the One who produces the “Fruit” of the Spirit of God in/through those born anew of the Spirit John 1:12,13. When the IFB says we are to be ‘fruit inspectors’, they are using the verse of Matthew 7:16-20.
    Galatians 5:21,22 of course, reveal the “Fruit” of the Spirit of God.
    The flesh and the enemy can mimic the fruit. This is why it is vital to understand that the enemy infiltration into the physical church and behind the pulpit is very real. 2Corinthians 11:13-15.
    Also the sentence of “All we have to do is stay connected to the vine (Jesus) and we WILL bear fruit.” If we go back and look at John 10:28,29, we note the Jesus is keeping us, not the other way around. We needlessly worry of losing our salvation and being cut-off from the Vine.
    The unbelieving Jews have been temporarily blinded, allowing for the believing Gentiles to be grafted in. THIS now is the “Church”.

    Great subject matter that is so misunderstood and mis-taught in the ‘church’ today.


  11. Steve – This is so good! I wonder how many times I have heard my old fundy pastor say, “Bless God I know I can’t be judging people, but I’m a pretty good fruit inspector!” And I wonder from where he gets the idea that he is “supposed” to be a fruit inspector. (kinda taking the place of God, methinks) remember getting some light on this passage from Joyce Meyer, now I disagree with Ms Joyce over many things, but her teaching about this passage was dead-on, I still remember her standing on the platform, arms out, like a tree, and attempting to force fruit to grow, her point being a fruit tree doesn’t struggle to produce fruit, it remains in the vine and “naturally” produces fruit, just as you have so wisely pointed out in this comment.

    You said “fruit is a natural by-product of being connected to the vine (Jesus) and we WILL bear fruit.” Isn’t that such a much better message of grace. That type of messge makes me “want” to serve Jesus that much more, instead of hunkering down and “blaming” myself for not producing “enough” fruit as someone else, and feeling guitly about it. It frees one to be all they can be in Christ, and to do the very work that he has called me to do.

    Thank you for this grace-filled message.

    1. I love that message that Joyce preaches on bearing fruit. She is an awesome woman of God!! I also really liked this post. It gives me a renewed sense of hope.
      I’m just wondering, what else it is you disagree with Joyce Meyer about? I’ve been listening to her teachings for many years.

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