Two Choices One Answer
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits, you will know them. (Matthew 7:15-20, NKJV)
Jesus just warned us of a path that leads to destruction. Now He reminds us that there are many who would try to guide us along the broad path that leads to destruction. The first step to combating these false prophets is to simply beware of them.
“Warnings against false prophets are necessarily based on the conviction that not all prophets are true, that truth can be violated, and that the gospel’s enemies usually conceal their hostility and try to pass themselves off as fellow believers.” D. A. Carson
It is in the nature of these false prophets to deceive and deny their true character. Often they deceive even themselves, believing themselves to be sheep when in fact they are ravenous wolves.
“The basic fault of the false prophet is self-interest.” – WilliamBarclay
It can be expressed by a desire for gain or an easy life, a desire for prestige, or the desire to advance one’s own ideas and not God’s ideas.
Good Fruit Versus Bad Fruit
- We guard ourselves against false prophets by taking heed to their fruits. This means paying attention to several aspects of their life and ministry.
- It is important to pay attention to the manner of living that a teacher shows. Do they show righteousness, humility, and faithfulness in the way they live?
- We should pay attention to the content of their teaching. Is it true fruit from God’s Word, or is it man-centered, appealing to ears that want to be tickled?
- We should pay attention to the effect of their teaching. Are people growing in Jesus or merely being entertained, and eventually falling away?
This fruit is the inevitable result of who we are. Eventually, though it may take a time for the harvest to come, the good or bad fruit is evident, revealing what sort of “tree” we are.
“Not to have good fruit is to have evil: there can be no innocent sterility in the invisible tree of the heart. He that brings forth no fruit, and he that brings forth bad fruit, are both only fit for the fire.” – Adam Clarke
“It is not merely the wicked, the bearer of poison berries, that will be cut down; but the neutral, the man who bears no fruit of positive virtue must also be cast into the fire.” Charles Spurgeon
Earlier in the chapter, Jesus warned us to judge ourselves first, to look for the speck in our own eye before turning our attention to the beam in our neighbor’s eye, therefore, before asking it of anyone else, we should first ask: “Do I bear fruit unto God’s glory?”
We must be wise and discern good fruit versus bad fruit in ourselves as well as others!
Father God, give us wisdom and understanding to see the false prophets among us and to avoid their teaching as well as their lifestyle. We pray to examine ourselves as well, to make sure we speak what is true in grace and love.In Jesus name, Amen.
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