Withered Fruit; Twice Dead
To be converted is to enter through the door of salvation, but one must continue to follow Christ and not fall away to be saved in the end. Though some teach that a moment of belief in Christ, or even one genuine moment of submission to Christ, is all that is needed to guarantee ultimate salvation, I believe the Bible clearly teaches otherwise. Consider the parable of the soils in Luke 8.
“And when much people were gathered together, and were come to him out of every city, he (the Lord Jesus) spake by a parable: A sower went out to sow his seed: and as he sowed, some fell by the way side; and it was trodden down, and the fowls of the air devoured it. And some fell upon a rock; and as soon as it was sprung up, it withered away, because it lacked moisture. And some fell among thorns; and the thorns sprang up with it, and choked it. And other fell on good ground, and sprang up, and bare fruit an hundredfold. And when he had said these things, he cried, He that hath ears to hear, let him hear. And his disciples asked him, saying, What might this parable be? And he said, Unto you it is given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God: but to others in parables; that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.
Now the parable is this: The seed is the word of God. Those by the way side are they that hear; then cometh the devil, and taketh away the word out of their hearts, lest they should believe and be saved. They on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away. And that which fell among thorns are they, which, when they have heard, go forth, and are choked with cares and riches and pleasures of this life, and bring no fruit to perfection. But that on the good ground are they, which in an honest and good heart, having heard the word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience.”
This parable addresses different responses to the gospel and the different paths that people take after first submitting to Christ. Only the first soil is described as not producing faith when the seed falls upon it. These hear the Word, but they do not believe and thus are not saved. Belief is clearly connected to salvation.
The second group receives the Word with joy, and for a while they believe, but in time of temptation, they fall away. The same word that is clearly connected to salvation is used here – they believe. No distinction is made in the meaning of belief, only that those in the first group do not believe, and those in the second group do believe. However, after believing, these fall away in times of difficulty. The Christian life is filled with tribulations, temptations, and trials. Many fall away because the road becomes too difficult, and they find it easier to go along with the ways of the world around them. The point here is, they believe, and their belief has them on the narrow way that leads to life, but later they fall away.
The third group hears the Word, and they go forth. They go forth, but they become choked with the cares, riches, and pleasures of this life and they bring no fruit to perfection. Fruit is present before it reaches perfection, or before it reaches maturity. The Lord did not say these people produce no fruit; it says they do not bring forth fruit to perfection. They start living as a believer, which results in the beginnings of fruit, but they do not reach the stage of maturity. They do not perfect holiness in the fear of God (2 Corinthians 7:1), which is required for them to see God (Hebrews 12:14).
“And you, that were sometime alienated and enemies in your mind by wicked works, yet now hath he reconciled In the body of his flesh through death, to present you holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight:”
This is the purpose and goal walking on the narrow path: for us to be holy and unblameable and unreproveable in his sight. Salvation has a beginning with a specific end in mind, just as a plant goes from seed to the beginnings of fruit and for that fruit to come to perfection until the time of harvest. When a person first believes, he is saved, because he is on the narrow path that leads to life. Walking on the narrow path leads to the beginnings of fruit, then the maturation of the fruit, then to ultimate salvation if they continue to the end. But a person can abandon the narrow path before any fruit is brought to perfection. If a man is lost in the ocean during a storm, and a ship, representing his salvation, comes along and throws him a lifesaving raft, when the man grabs the raft he is “saved.” But he is not yet in the ship and he must continue in the raft. As the raft is being pulled toward the shift, the man can let go (for various reasons) before he gets to the prize. After Paul wrote the above to the Colossians, notice the condition he sets forth:
“If ye continue in the faith (italic emphasis mine) grounded and settled, and be not moved away from the hope of the gospel, which ye have heard, and which was preached to every creature which is under heaven; whereof I Paul am made a minister;”
You must continue in the faith to perfect holiness, to be unblameable and unreproveable. You may have grabbed the lifesaving raft, but you must keep yourself in the raft, you cannot let go because you want to stop along the way for other reasons. For those who like to twist words and say we do not keep ourselves right with God, or they use the cliche "that we do not hang on to him he hangs on to us" only God does the keeping, I can only offer you what the Bible says over against those opinions. Jude wrote:
“Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”
I believe God, not the words of men. Most certainly, God's grace accompanies us as we walk in the life of faith, but we can become proud and God will resist us (James 4:6) and we can separate ourselves from his grace (Galatians 5:4). As we follow Christ, no one or anything can separate us from the love of God (Romans 8:35-39), but we can forsake Christ, we can cease to abide in him (John 15:6) and be cut off (Romans 11:22).
The final group, those with honest and good hearts, having heard the Word, keep it, and bring forth fruit with patience. These are the believers that endure the tribulations, temptations, and trials that line the path of Christ’s followers as they walk in enemy territory, and they bring fruit to perfection, some in different amounts than others. But does bringing fruit to perfection guarantee final salvation?
In the Book of Jude, Jude reminds his readers of the following:
"I will therefore put you in remembrance, though ye once knew this, how that the Lord, having saved the people out of the land of Egypt, afterward destroyed them that believed not."
Escaping Egypt through believing did not guarantee that they would continue to follow God, and God afterward destroyed those that believed not. Jude mentioned those “that separate themselves” but encouraged his readers to “keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life.”
Speaking of the ungodly, Jude said:
“These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear: clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots;”
If fruit is the evidence of salvation, does bearing fruit mean that a person is unconditionally eternally secure? Here we encounter the word the "wither" that the Lord used as recorded in John 15. Jude speaks of those whose fruit withers. They had fruit, the evidence of salvation, but the fruit withered, resulting in them having no fruit, and to emphasize the meaning, Jude calls them twice dead. How can living people be twice dead?
They are dead in trespasses in sin, then they become followers of Christ, then they die the death of apostasy and are separated from God again, this time turned over to a reprobate mind and cut off.
To read a doctrinal affirmation of conditional security, go here.