Fruits Meet for Repentance

Perhaps the endless repetitive arguments over salvation and the role of works and obedience would be more easily resolved if we focused on repentance rather than obedience and commandment keeping. Some critics think that our teachings on obedience, keeping commandments, and doing good is an expression of pride, of thinking that we can earn our way to heaven without relying on grace, of thinking that Jesus somehow is not enough. Quite the opposite. For the converted Christian, I would suggest that the desire to obey, to serve God, and to keep the commandments that God has given expresses a recognition that we are sinners, that we have fallen, that Jesus is our only hope, and that we wish to and must follow Him. Recognizing our sinful and hopeless state without Christ, we are led by the Spirit of God to repent of our sins and to begin obeying God instead.

Obedience is intimately linked to repentance. Real Christians aren’t obeying God because they think they are holier than everyone else and saving themselves through good works. They are obeying because they recognize that they are sinners and are repenting of their sins and seeking to follow God and separate themselves from their old ways. Obedience is an active expression of repentance and of accepting the gift of grace offered by Jesus Christ, “the author of eternal salvation unto all them that obey him” (Hebrews 5:9).

If there is one thing that is consistent and clear in every volume of scripture, it is the universal call for men to repent of our sins and come unto God. This is only possible because of the Redeemer, but we must repent. I hope there can be consensus on this point. Witnesses include John the Baptist in Mathew 3:

1 In those days came John the Baptist, preaching in the wilderness of Judæa,
2 And saying, Repent ye: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.

And Jesus Christ in Matthew 4:

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, and to say, Repent: for the kingdom of heaven is at hand. (See also Mark 1:15)

Christ also warned that “except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish” (Luke 13:5). And in Luke 24, the Resurrected Lord continues this theme:

45 Then opened he their understanding, that they might understand the scriptures,
46 And said unto them, Thus it is written, and thus it behoved Christ to suffer, and to rise from the dead the third day:
47 And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in his name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem.

Witnesses also include the Apostles in Mark 6:

7 And he called unto him the twelve, and began to send them forth by two and two; and gave them power over unclean spirits; . . .
12 And they went out, and preached that men should repent.

And as one of many more examples, consider Peter in Acts 2:

38 Then Peter said unto them, Repent, and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.

Repentance involves several steps, but surely one of them is a change in behavior, not only ceasing from sin, but becoming “fruitful” in the Gospel – advancing the cause of the Lord. Thus the scriptures speak of bringing forth “fruit meet for repentance.” John the Baptist used this phrase in Matt 3 (just a few verses after the call for repentance cited above):

5 Then went out to him Jerusalem, and all Judæa, and all the region round about Jordan,
6 And were baptized of him in Jordan, confessing their sins.
7 But when he saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come?
8 Bring forth therefore fruits meet for repentance. . . .
10 And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (See also Luke 3)

Paul echoes this theme in testifying to King Agrippa in Acts 26:

19 Whereupon, O king Agrippa, I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision:
20 But shewed first unto them of Damascus, and at Jerusalem, and throughout all the coasts of Judæa, and then to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, and do works meet for repentance.

Similar language is found in the Book of Mormon. In Alma 5:54 and Alma 9:10, Alma refers to bringing forth “works which are meet for repentance,” and in Alma 12, he refers to the fruits of repentance in speaking of the day of judgment:

[W]e must come forth and stand before him in his glory, and in his power, and in his might, majesty, and dominion, and acknowledge to our everlasting shame that all his judgments are just; that he is just in all his works, and that he is merciful unto the children of men, and that he has all power to save every man that believeth on his name and bringeth forth fruit meet for repentance.

And as Paul explained in Acts 17, the call to repent is universal:

30 And the times of this ignorance God winked at; but now commandeth all men every where to repent. . . .

Repentance is essential for salvation. To be forgiven of our sins, we must repent of them, turning to the Atonement of Jesus Christ to gain forgiveness and becoming a new, cleansed person that does not simply continue sinning as before. We are changed, and there are fruits that reflect our repentance, fruits that are suitable for one who has repented. It is not all automatic contrary to our own will, but involves “obedience” – a yielding of our will to God’s.

We do not earn out way to heaven by obedience and good works. We are all burdened by our bad works – our sins, whether it be sins of omission or commission. Our only hope is to repent and follow Christ, and repentance involves fruits to match, changes in behavior, obedience to the will of God, good works instead of bad.

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Author: Jeff Lindsay

218 thoughts on “Fruits Meet for Repentance

  1. Excellent post!!!! =D

    Also, look at Luke 15 and the THREE parables Jesus speaks of…and also notice who Jesus’ audience were.

    Again, this is an excellent post! Thanks Jeff =)

  2. In all three parables it shows that however hard it is for man to repent (in fact it takes a miracle for us to repent because it makes us consider that WE CANNOT DO IT, paradoxically is the HARDEST WORK), an opposite effect happens in heaven!!

    What happens? A celebration! A eureka moment! You can almost hear the angels say, “Well done! It has never been about you or your works! It’s always been about God! Woohoo!”

  3. Well, it does depend on our work, at least marginally. If we don’t make the effort to change the atonement doesn’t take affect. We may well accept the atonement but it won’t automatically change our behavior. As we change our works from bad to good we start to greater understand the atonement and we do know it is by Him that this is at all possible. I as many people know the blessings of finding God, desiring to do good instead of bad. I also know that I can still do bad, it takes more effort or work to do good but the blessings of doing good far outweigh anything received by doing dead works.

  4. NM: I added some material this morning in the first two paragraphs. Hope you’ll still be OK with that. Let me know if not – sorry about the update. Was out of time yesterday.

  5. As Peter states, God will not change us against our wills, not even if we make a verbal commitment to him but then fail to take any action. We must participate in the process. We cannot afford to spare any effort in our striving to become as he has commanded us to be.

    Our works are necessary but not sufficient.

    Sure, it’s about God. It’s also about us. We too have agency, as we are his children. He sent us here to learn and grow. If we sit on our duffs and wait for him to save us until it is “everlastingly too late”, it will be a source of great anguish for us and for him.

  6. NM,

    Let me see if I can interpret something you said.

    “”Well done! It has never been about you or your works! It’s always been about God! Woohoo!”

    Correct me if I’m wrong, but to me this sounds like, “Well done! It has never been about you or your sin (works), in that you have broken the commandments (works)! That doesn’t matter. We don’t care if you sin (works). What’s important is that you believe in God (faith)!”

    So then what’s the big deal with telling us to keep the commandments? Is that just fluff? To that I say, “If keeping the commandments is so unnecessary, then don’t tell me things like:

    Matt. 5:19, “Whosoever therefore shall break one of these least commandments, and shall teach men so, he shall be called the least in the kingdom of heaven: but whosoever shall do and teach them, the same shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.”

    John 14:15, “If ye love me, keep my commandments.”

    John 14:21, “He that hath my commandments, and keepeth them, he it is that loveth me: and he that loveth me shall be loved of my Father, and I will love him, and will manifest myself to him.”

    Romans 2:5-13, “But after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up unto thyself wrath against the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgement of God; Who will render to every man according to his deeds: To them who by patient continuance in well doing seek for glory and honour and immortality, eternal life: But unto them that are contentious, and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, indignation and wrath, Tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that doeth evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Gentile; For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish wihtout law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judges by the law; (for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the the doers of the law shall be justified.

    Here I was all this time, taking these scriptures at face value, that it was necessary to keep the commandments, and now I am to believe that they are meaningless?

    Could it also mean that it wasn’t about Adam and Eve’s transgression (works)?

    We can’t repent (works)? You mean, we can’t say, “Father forgive me. I have sinned. I am so sorry and I want to do better and follow thee.” Is that meanigless? I know that we don’t earn salvation, but aren’t we commnanded to repent, and then go and sin no more (John 8:11)?

  7. Jeff,

    Once again, this is an excellent post! =)

    Tatabug,

    BTW, I really appreciated the response you gave to me on Jeff’s previous post (Adam and the Fall: God’s Plan Thwarted?). I need, as you did, mull over your response!

    First, I need to say that you have misunderstood what I said when you rephrased my comment =) God does not take our sin lightly. And sin should NEVER be conflated with human works. The two are categorically different. When I say works – I mean, ‘human effort’. Notice that I also pointed to Luke 15? The themes covered in Luke 15 are not ‘sin’ and ‘repentance’. Rather, it is ‘human effort’ and ‘repentance’. Again, I must re-iterate I DID NOT SAY that sin means work. It was a wrong assumption of what I said on your part =)

    So, on with the show?

    All the quotes you gave to me ARE EXCELLENT! I love all of them! =D

    And I guess the trick is for us to put such words penned by the different gospel-writers and also by Paul etc. into their proper context.

    So, for this: I’ll point you to just one verse in Romans 9. Do you remember the gist of this chapter? Paul asks some unusual questions about God’s Sovereignty. He asks the unthinkable! Has God pre-ordained that for His chosen to see His glory and mercy, He also chose others for His wrath?! Not my words – they are Paul’s =)

    Furthermore, Paul (after declaring some AMAZING things in the previous chapter) become INCREDIBLY DISTRAUGHT. Why? Because his own (his fellow Jewish brothers and sisters) JUST DIDN’T GET IT. His fellow Jews just didn’t see the point of Jesus! And to make matters worse, THE GENTILES WERE! Craziness!

    So, on with the show:

    Pop your head down starting in verse 30&31. And Paul asks, “What shall we say then? That Gentiles, who did not pursue righteousness, attained righteousness, even the righteousness which is by FAITH; but Israel, pursuing a law of righteousness, did not arrive at that law.

    First of all, when did Israel first receive The Law? Through Moses, right? And what did the Israelites say when they received The Law? They effectively said, Yes God, we’ll do this!” Notice that the motivation in their hearts was that they really thought they could achieve it! Not only that, but they thought they could achieve it THROUGH THEIR OWN STRENGTH…

    How do I know this? Look at verse 32…

    What does Paul continue to say? “Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as though it were by works. They stumbled over the stumbling stone”

    EUREKA!

    The Israelites then and the Jewish nation in Paul’s life-time thought they could achieve the law BY WORKS! And look at what Paul contrasts WORKS with….FAITH!

    What the Israelites should have said when The Law was given to Moses was, “God! We can’t do this! You demand perfection! We CANNOT DO IT! We need you to do it, so we submit; we need You to do it for us….”

    God’s Law wasn’t solely made for man (as if it were to be WORKED FOR)…but The Law was put firstly to declare HIS PERFECTION and that the standards He requires for anybody to be worthy in His sight is PERFECTION. Secondly, because He demands PERFECTION, we CANNOT ACHIEVE PERFECTION…instead – we look to somebody else who has…

    The Law is there to be kept; yes, I agree. But in our keeping of them – we need to know that we CANNOT KEEP THEM – as hard as we might try. Therefore, instead of beating ourselves up over it, we look up and to Him who is the author, perfecter, and sustainer of our faith =) This Divine Law can only be kept AND FULFILLED by Divinity. =) I’ll upload another sermon on my make-shift blog entitled, ‘God Did Not Spare His Own Son’. Listen to it and tell me what you think?

  8. Confused: And sin should NEVER be conflated with human works. The two are categorically different. When I say works – I mean, ‘human effort’.

    Don’t sins of commission require human effort? Good grief, look at the lengths some people go to in order to pursue a few moments of immorality. Talk about massive and foolish human effort. And then what about sins of omission? Aren’t these about NOT putting forth effort where it is required, like failure to worship God, failure to help the sick and the needy, etc.?

    Sin is all about human works and effort – either for the wrong objectives or failing to do works for the right objectives. Either way, we offend God. Repentance must involve turning away from sin, which means that we turn toward good works. Human effort is required. If not, why would there be so many repetitive warnings telling us to avoid sin and urging us to do good and keep the commandments? In my opinion, human effort is most certainly involved.

  9. Naturally, our mortal efforts fall short and would be in vain, were it not for the reconciliation, redemption, and justification that is made available through the Atonement of Jesus Christ. But just as sin is the result of misguided human effort or failure to put forth effort, so also does repentance involve human effort as we strive to obey God and replace disobedience with obedience, knowing that it is only through relying on the merits of Christ that we can be saved, as the Book of Mormon so clearly teaches.

    Regarding the link between repentance and human effort, consider these works of Paul from 2 Corinthians 7:

    8 For though I made you sorry with a letter, I do not repent, though I did repent: for I perceive that the same epistle hath made you sorry, though it were but for a season.

    9 Now I rejoice, not that ye were made sorry, but that ye sorrowed to repentance: for ye were made sorry after a godly manner, that ye might receive damage by us in nothing.

    10 For godly sorrow worketh repentance to salvation not to be repented of: but the sorrow of the world worketh death.

    11 For behold this selfsame thing, that ye sorrowed after a godly sort, what carefulness it wrought in you, yea, what clearing of yourselves, yea, what indignation, yea, what fear, yea, what vehement desire, yea, what zeal, yea, what revenge! In all things ye have approved yourselves to be clear in this matter.

    When they sorrowed for their sins and began to repent, what desire they showed, what zeal, what — shall we say? — effort.

  10. Jeff,

    You have said things that are way too complicated for me to understand. It’ll take me a few days to comprehend what you’ve written…

    Tatabug,

    I’ve just re-read the verses from Matthew and John (not Romans 2) which you gave to me =)

    The one in Matthew 5:19 should be read in the context of verse 20 =) Don’t just stop at 19. In fact, read the whole chapter =)

    Matthew 5 (for me) is when Jesus clarifies The Law and reminds the disciples around Him the importance of keeping them! Not only does He remind them of The Law’s importance, but Jesus also adds a different dimension to it. Notice in verse 21&22 and 27&28? Not only is Jesus reminding His disciples should be kept outwardly, but also (and ALL THE MORE DIFFICULT) inwardly! How often do we (certainly as men do) look at a woman, without thinking lustful thoughts? Be honest =) If in our honesty, we say, “Probably quite a few times” then we admit that we have broken The Law =) Jesus then gives some very harsh alternatives to prevent us from sinning. What does He say? If your arm makes you to stumble – cut it off! If your eye also makes you to stumble – cut that off aswell! Jesus makes it plainly clear how not to make light of ‘sin’. =)

    Notice how chapter 5 starts. It starts with the beattitudes! And as you read them, you almost get the sense that Jesus is talking to the ‘sinners’ – the ones who are making a geniune effort to love God, yet in their geniunness, fail. And what’s worse is that people around them also know that they fail =/

    So, on to verse 19&20: “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven.
    For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven. “

    The start of verse 19 actually serves as a warning to hypocrites! The latter half of verse 19, is a stepping stone to verse 20! So in 19b, the road to attaining perfection is set (and bear in mind that Jesus in this chapter makes it ABSOLUTELY IMPOSSIBLE to keep The Law) – Jesus is simply saying, “Walk the talk”; what you say, you must also do.

    So, when you get to verse 20, Jesus, on the outset seems to be commending the Scribes and the Pharisees! But know that Jesus IS NOT commending them AT ALL! =) You’ll find as you read the gospels is that Jesus is always opposed to the religiousness of the Pharisees and the so-called teachers of The Law! It was clear to see (from Jesus’ perspective) that they are hypocrites! They say one thing and do the other. And when such Pharisees did something good, i.e. GOOD WORKS, it was always to look for the praise of man! =)

    Read the whole chapter Tatabug. You’ll find that Jesus isn’t actually saying anything about keeping the commandments as a way for salvation (through works). Jesus says a lot of things in Matthew 5, but in relation to The Law, He makes it quite clear that NO-ONE CAN ACHIEVE IT =)

    As for John 14. Again, read the whole chapter. John 14 is one of the most PROFOUND chapters in the Bible…but that’ll probably be for another day =)