Dec 9, 2008

Gene Asked

Gene Bridges asked me the other day (See entry on Steve Hays) - which comes first, the tree or the fruit? I know what he wants me to say. I used to hear this question asked all the time when I was a Hyper Calvinist Hardshell. What Gene and the Hardshells want to do is get a person to equate becoming a tree with being regenerated and bearing fruit with believing and repenting.

A person must first have a nature given to him and then that nature will bear fruit. Who denies this? No one. The real question is whether faith and repentance are fruits of this new nature. Are they? Do the scriptures speak of faith as the fruit of the new nature begotten in conversion? No. They speak of faith, with love, repentance, and other graces, as being part of the new nature, what is essentially and characteristically a part of it. The scriptures rather put faith as a fruit of the Holy Spirit in the same way it speaks of life as also being the product of the Spirit.

The oldest Baptist confessions speak of all post salvation good works and graces as being the fruits of faith, because the condition of faith is the condition of new life. To speak of faith as being the fruit of regeneration is to make faith something that chronologically comes later, and not integral to the regenerated state itself. The "fruit of faith" is equivalent to "fruit of regeneration."

To speak of faith as being a fruit of regeneration is to speak of faith as being the fruit of itself. If faith be the fruit of regeneration, and all good deeds the fruit of faith, then good deeds are an indirect, or 2nd generation fruit.

When the Holy Spirit changes a corrupt tree into a righteous one, in the transforming experience of the new birth, he changes that tree's nature, which includes changing its state of unbelief to a state of faith.

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