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It is common for Protestant doctrinal statements to say that good works are the fruits of faith. For example:

We confess that good works are necessary fruits of faith in the life of a Christian and that they proceed from a renewed heart that is thankful to God for His mercy and love. Although there is no human cooperation in the matter of one’s conversion and justification, there is a cooperation on the part of the regenerate Christian in his or her life of sanctification. Good works do not earn or contribute to one’s salvation, but they naturally flow from the living faith which is present in the hearts of those who have already been saved by God’s grace alone. ("We Believe, Teach and Confess," Evangelical Lutheran Synod, italics added)

And:

Although good works, which are the fruits of faith, and follow after justification, cannot put away our sins, and endure the severity of God's judgment; yet are they pleasing and acceptable to God in Christ, and spring out of a true and lively faith, insomuch that by them a lively faith may be as evidently known as a tree is discerned by its fruit. (The Articles of Religion of the Methodist Church, italics added)

What is the biblical basis for the belief that good works are the fruits of faith?

Please note that I am not asking whether good works are necessary for salvation, whether people of faith should do good works, and so on. Nor am I asking for the biblical basis of good works being a result of being saved, flowing from Christ, and so on.

I am asking specifically for the biblical basis of the belief that good works are the fruits of faith, the result of faith, flow from faith, and similar formulations.

Does the Bible anywhere state this clearly? If not, what Bible passages are quoted by Protestant churches and major Protestant theologians to support this belief, and how do they interpret those passages to support it?

  • Please clarify or distinguish faith from salvation. Perhaps just a simple working definition? Salvation without faith is not really salvation or certainly not a commonly accepted definition of either. – nickalh Aug 3 '16 at 6:43
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    @nickalh For the purposes of this question, I don't think it's necessary to define salvation, because the question is not whether good works flow from salvation. If an answerer wants to define salvation as part of the answer, that's fine, as long as the answer actually answers the question asked. – Lee Woofenden Aug 3 '16 at 10:04
  • How can something like "Although there is no human cooperation in the matter of one’s conversion and justification," be said when Jesus specifically tells people to "repent" etc? – Sola Gratia Jun 17 '17 at 22:22
  • @SolaGratia Though I would be happy to have that conversation with you, the comments here aren't the place to discuss doctrines and beliefs. For that we have The Upper Room chatroom. – Lee Woofenden Jun 17 '17 at 22:45
  • Cool. I wasn't aware of such a cyber-abode. I may pop in some time, hopefully I'll find you around. As for now, I can't get into a chat quite now. Meanwhile, God bless. – Sola Gratia Jun 17 '17 at 23:17
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I am asking specifically for the biblical basis of the belief that good works are the fruits of faith.

Hebrews 11 addresses this directly.

Verse 6 is instructive, for it tells us that without faith it is impossible to please God. The rest of the chapter goes on to tell us how the ancients expressed their faith. Their works were the fruits -- the outflow, the results -- of their faith. Another way to put it is that these men and women would not have acted the way they had if they did not have faith in God and what He said to them.

Noah heard God tell him about the ark and the coming judgment. He believed God, so he built it.

Moses heard God tell him about leading the exodus. He believed God, so he obeyed and led the Israelites out.

Abraham believed God and showed it by following through on what was said of him. Throughout the chapter, we see that faith motivated them to act.

If faith means "to believe without proof," then these passages don't make any sense. When you apply the biblical definition to the verses -- having a firm conviction that something is so -- then all the verses give light. This is how you know someone has a firm conviction of God's word -- she follows through on the words.

The biblical idea of faith in these verses indicate that if you really believe that what you heard or read comes from God, then you will act on what you believe. There are no armchair Christians pleasing God. As James 2:36 says, "Faith without works is dead." The faith of those in Hebrews 11 was not dead.

Note that in Galatians, the works of faith are being distinguished from ongoing religious rituals, forms, rules, and laws. The “faith that works through love” (Galatians 5:6) is a faith that responds in obedience to what God has said, and the works reflect love for the individual being helped, or one’s love for God, not routine forms of conduct. Read the works of Hebrews 11 and the works of the apostles in Acts and you won’t find faith showing itself as adherence to sets of religious rules and laws, but as obedience to God and love for neighbor.

  • This is lost on a lot of modern people, the context of what faith represents. When you apply the biblical definition to the verses -- having a firm conviction that something is so -- then all the verses give light. +1 – KorvinStarmast Aug 4 '16 at 16:33
  • Just for the record,the Catholic faith has never taught good works are meritorious—meaningful, beneficial, pleasing to God—before conversion to faith in Christ and being a justified believer. It powerfully teaches that faith precedes works. Something lost on a lot of Protestants. But to say faith itself produces good works, rather than that inthe faithful servant of God the Spirit of God imparts the grace to do good works, is an odd thing to say. – Sola Gratia Jun 17 '17 at 22:35
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Good question.

When answering some questions of a biblical nature, the questioner needs to harmonize, so to speak, a number of scriptures, much in the way readers of the four Gospels (yes, including John's Gospel) might harmonize an event in the life of Christ.

So it is with your question. Since searching for a "proof text" is likely not your MO, we need to look for a number of texts which together make a teaching clear, which in your case is the teaching that good works, or fruits, in the life of believers flow from faith. I believe they do.

First, the apostle Paul makes one thing perfectly clear:

. . . and whatever is not from faith is sin (Romans 14:23b NASB).

The verse, of course, is within the context of a chapter concerning "Principles of Conscience" (as the NASB puts it). In the chapter, Paul differentiates between two types of Christians: First, is the brother (or sister) who is "weak in faith," which is not necessarily a description of the person's Christian life in general but the person's Christian life specifically regarding what could be called "grey issues."

In Paul's day, a divisive grey issue involved the eating of meat which had been sacrificed to idols. Some believers did not have faith that eating this meat was God's will for them; consequently, they refrained from doing so. Some other believers, like Paul himself, did not have a scruple about eating this meat, since he and they knew--or had the faith that

. . . nothing in unclean in itself (14:14a).

He goes on to say in the same verse, however, that

. . . but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean (v.14b, my emphasis).

Just to be clear, thinking something is or is not clean is a matter of faith (again, see 14:1). A Christian who by faith refuses to eat meat sacrificed to idols is approved by God, as is the Christian who by faith partakes of meat sacrificed to idols is approved by God. Both actions are in the category of "good deeds" or "good works," but both are expressed in different ways.

Parenthetically, a Christian "ministry" in the area of, say, teaching or preaching the Word, is also expressed in different ways from person to person. [Actually, the same could be said of virtually any one of the "spirituals," and I say "spirituals" since most Bible versions insert the word gifts after the word spiritual, so we often refer to the "spirituals" as "spiritual gifts." In my opinion there is nothing wrong with this.]

Some believers might have a niche in teaching youngsters, or teens, or college-and-career folks, or adults with a variety of SMQs (spiritual maturity quotients). The teacher, himself or herself, is still a gift to the church (as is the apostle, prophet, and evangelist--Ephesians 4), and God expects his or her teaching to proceed from faith and to be exercised in the strength which only God can supply (1 Peter 4:11).

Second, if good deeds which do not proceed from faith are tantamount to sin (again, Romans 14:23b), then the faithless Christian is not bearing the kind of fruit which God desires for him or her and is not truly bearing fruit. To bear fruit consistently and in a manner which passes God's muster, or judgment (Romans 12:10-12 ff.), a believer must be acting in faith.

This action in faith applies not just to matters of conscience or scruples; rather, it applies to every aspect of fruit bearing. Abiding by faith in Christ the true vine is the only way to bear fruit which remains and will be judged acceptable by God (John 15:1-17, especially vv.5-8). The word faith may not be used in John Chapter 15, but it is certainly a fundamental aspect of fruit bearing.

The biblical teaching on fruit bearing and its relationship to matters of faith, then, is a concatenation of at least two (and quite likely more than two) teachings; namely, works which proceed from faith are not sin, and those works are fruits which bring glory to God, stimulate spiritual growth, and will be rewarded by God.

In conclusion, Christians who are maturing in their Christian walk and in their sanctification are exercising their faith in ways which bear much fruit, and by doing so are approved by God and rewarded handsomely in this life, as well as in the life to come (see Romans 14:10-12 and 2 Corinthians 5:6-10, where in the former reference Paul says, "for we walk by faith, not by sight," and we "will be recompensed [at the judgment seat of Christ] for [our] deeds in the body, according to what [we] have done, whether good or bad").

  • "rewarded handsomely in this life" this is a curious statement. In what way? – Marc Aug 3 '16 at 15:19
  • The rewards I'm alluding to are, for example, 1) knowing that I'm progressing in the faith, kind of like the athlete who has broken his personal best time in some athletic event; 2) seeing other people being blessed by my ministry, whether it's a ministry of teaching, helping, exhorting, admonishing, evangelizing, giving, leading, administrating, or any other kind of fruit bearing; 3) feeling the God's hand on my life--his encouragement, blessing; 4) knowing that I'm doing my part in "working out my own salvation" so that God can then provide the willing and the doing. Those are just four. – rhetorician Aug 3 '16 at 15:49
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Here's a good argument, based on biblical texts, for the idea that good works flow from faith:

  1. The law (i.e. good works defined by God) is fulfilled through love.
  2. Love is a fruit of faith.

Some biblical support for these two points:

Love satisfies God's law

i.e. good works are done by "love".

Owe no one anything, except to love each other, for the one who loves another has fulfilled the law. For the commandments, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and any other commandment, are summed up in this word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the law.-- Romans 13:8-10 (ESV)

For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” -- Galatians 5:14 (ESV)

So whatever you wish that others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets. -- Matthew 7:12 (ESV)

If you really fulfill the royal law according to scripture, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself," you do well -- James 2:8 (ESV)

So following the law, or doing good works, is composed of loving others.

Love issues from faith

i.e. love flows from, is produced by, is a fruit of faith.

Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. -- 1 John 4:7 (ESV)

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love. -- Galatians 5:6 (ESV)

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, -- Galatians 5:22

Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh? -- Galatians 3:2-3 (ESV)


I think those two points are enough to answer your questions. This is certainly not a comprehensive argument of all biblical arguments for this, but it does provide some examples.

(note: I was introduced to this argument through this resource. He goes on to conclude that even the Mosaic law was intended to be fulfilled by faith, not works)


A few other scriptures indicating that faith is necessary for good works:

For whatever does not proceed from faith is sin. -- Romans 14:23

Hebrews 11, as another answer details also points us towards this conclusion.

Most of the book of Galatians was written to address similar questions. Although most of that book is about salvation through faith, which as you've said is a slightly different question. However, reading straight through Galatians should probably help to see some of the foundation of this idea as well.

  • Thanks for your answer. Just to be clear, my personal belief is that "good works are the fruits of faith" is mistaken. Instead, I believe that good works are the fruit of God, and of God's love working in us, and that faith is the conduit through which that love produces fruit. However, having frequently heard the statement from Protestants that "good works are the fruits of faith," I was curious where they get it from. And the answers so far confirm for me that the Bible does not actually say this, but that it is the result of reading the Bible through the lens of Protestant doctrine. – Lee Woofenden Mar 9 '17 at 21:45
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    "Good works are the fruit of God, and of God's love working in us". Ya, I definitely agree with that! I think most protestants do as well. "faith is the conduit through which that love produces fruit". I think this is mixing metaphors.. I think I get what you're saying - that it's God who produces the fruit not simply our faith. I think most Christians who say "good works are the fruit of faith" would agree 100% with that. Phrasing it as "the fruit of faith" just helps to show that we have faith in God's work in us to produce good works, rather than just working on our own. – Jordan Shurmer Apr 22 '17 at 16:05
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OP: What is the biblical basis for the belief that good works are the fruits of faith?

The terminology of "fruits of faith" is correct, being that it means is first there is faith and that necessarily means or produces fruits.

The symbolism of faith-to-fruit is first found in the Tabernacle of Moses, wherein he was instructed to build the shadow of the reality (Ex. 25:40, Heb. 8:5). The high priest wore, amongst other items, an outer garment called an ephod on which at the bottom were alternating pomegranates (fruit) and bells (gifts) for 18 in all.

For the believer in Christ, we are clothed in Christ (Rom. 13:14, Gal. 3:27) and thus have fruit and gifts of the Spirit. The nine fruit of the Spirit is at Gal. 5:22-23. The nine gifts of the Spirit are found at 1 Cor. 12:8-10. These are the "fruits of faith"; these flow from faith; these result from faith in Christ Jesus.

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