Therefore bear fruit in keeping with repentance
There is much debate in Christian circles over whether or not salvation can be revoked and under what conditions such a thing might even be possible. As one who questions his salvation from time to time, the debate is a troubling thing.
John, in this verse, is addressing Pharisees who had come out to him to be baptized. He has insulted them — called them a brood of vipers — and asked who warned them to get right with God. That is the context for this morning’s verse.
There is a saying about therefore in The Bible: When I see a “therefore”, I should ask what the “therefore” is there for. The word actually means something along the lines of “with this in mind.” John has just asked the Pharisees who warned them about the coming wrath. With that wrath in mind; with their status (brood of vipers) in mind, John warns them to bear fruit in keeping with repentance.
It might be asked, and justly, what the fruit that is in keeping with repentance is. I submit that Paul answered the question in Galatians 5 when he listed the fruit of the Spirit. The fruit that is in keeping with repentance is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, gentleness, self-control. Add to this that many who repented — like Zaccheus — chose to fulfill the obligations of The Law in making restitution for wrongs done.
What might be the fruit in keeping with repentance in my own life? That, I think, will depend on what I am repenting of. If I repent of lying, then fruit in keeping with that will definitely be honesty, but might also include going back to people and telling them the truth. Similar to the old saying about the punishment fitting the crime, the fruit should reflect the thing repented, I think.
This applies to every believer every day. We are all of us repenting of something in our lives. We may be in the process of repentance for something or we may have recently been convicted of a wrong that needs to be addressed. Some may even be nearing the place where their repentance is complete and God has granted victory over that temptation. Wherever I am this morning — and I am in the place of feeling convicted of something — let my repentance bear fruit that matches it.
And, parenthetically, it is best that I work out my salvation with fear and trembling and not worry about whether or not I can lose it.