You have heard the sayings … “You are what you eat” and “What you say you are” … very similarly “What you do reflects whom you are”. Generally when we were teenagers, your dress, your walk, your language told others exactly who you are. With reference to false prophets, Jesus says the Church can identify and recognize them by using stark images.
Mt 7:16 By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17 Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
1) Trees and bushes bear the fruits relevant to their type. Grapes come from grapevines and figs from fig trees … but thorn bushes don’t bear fruit. It is true that lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit trees have thorns … but none of them are grapes or figs! If you don’t get grapes you don’t have a grapevine … if you don’t get figs you don’t have a fig tree. The images Jesus uses shows the relationship between …
(1) Character and conduct. Character reveals one’s moral qualities that exposes one’s behavior (conduct) … and between …
(2) Doctrine and ethics. Doctrines are one’s beliefs that govern one’s behavior. Look at it like this … if the fruit of a tree are bad you don’t have a healthy tree. Another saying is … “like root, like fruit” … meaning bad trees produce bad fruit. 2) Right teaching produces ethical uprightness. Remember Jesus said that the Church can identify false prophets. How would the Church do this? By looking at and understanding what they teach by comparing it with what the Bible says. Remember the Church can identify false teachers. By Church we refer to two parties, namely
(a) The Church as a body of people together with their leaders … and
(b) Individual believers who are part of the body of believers.
The Federation of Churches I belong to has as its motto … “Thy Word above all things.” Yesterday I read of how one Church Grouping considers Evangelicalism as Arminian. That shocked me because we stand as Reformed Evangelicals meaning “evangelical” is belief in the inspired, inerrant and authoritative Word of God. It is a nonnegotiable position that is our yardstick for all of life … God’s out breathed Word. Our standards are Scriptures Teaching. The doctrines that flow from God’s Word are the doctrines with which we examine all other teachings, philosophies and doctrines. Should any teaching differ from authentic Biblical teaching, that would be classed as false. By “ethical uprightness” it is not meant evangelicals are sinless. Far from it … because evangelical are people who understand they are sinners saved by grace … yet still sinners who still sin … but try hard to pursue holiness. They take the Bible seriously and seek to understand its doctrines and prayerfully seek to translate the Bible’s teaching into ethical uprightness. This means that wrong (false) teaching produces unbiblical ethics and encourages rebelliousness against God. Many people sit in Churches today and drink heartily at what they hear without examining what they hear against the Word of God. The first thing they are taught is a distorted view of love. They hear love covers a multitude of sins and they reference passages like:
1 Pet 4:8 Above all, love each other deeply, because love covers over a multitude of sins
Ja 5:20 remember this: Whoever turns a sinner from the error of his way will save him from death and cover over a multitude of sins.
The problem is that they twist these to make them say what they are not saying. In neither case does it so permit sin! Their view of love permits homosexual practices and same-sex marriages. They permit murder in the shape of abortion. They overlook adultery and divorce as well as living together. They revert to the use the Old Testament office of prophets and the New Testament office of apostle … both of which have ended as we have the complete Bible. We no longer need anyone to come along saying … “Hear ye … God says …” because everything He has said is contained in the Bible.
3) No one can turn the impossible around. Jesus says:
Mt 7:18 A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
Truth is Truth and error is error. The faithful, God appointed pastor teach can only teach the Truth of God. That is his business, his calling and his love. The false teacher is not God appointed or approved. He will teach error. Because he is unspiritual and unable to discern Biblical Truth, he cannot teach Truth. True he might mingle some Truth with lots of error but the little Truth does not flavor the lot of error and make it Truth. It is error and remains error. Jesus says we can identify the false teachers by their fruits. Error teaching is their fruit and error teaching leads souls to unethical behavior.
3) The fate of the false teachers.
Mt 7:19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
We must never forget how evil, wicked and sinister the false teachers are. They are servants of their master the devil. He indwells and controls them. They do his bidding and his bidding is to keep people out of heaven. He uses his servants to teach deception, lies and confusion by presenting things the sinful desires want. Remember what he did with Eve? Note the word “crafty”
Ge 3:1 Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” 2 The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, 3 but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.’” 4 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. 5 “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” 6 When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.
Like the fruitless tree they will burn in eternal hell together with their master. Jesus used the following words twice:
Mt 7:20 Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.
You can recognize the false because you have the Bible!
Father, grant us better discernment to identify false doctrines flowing from false teachers so that we avoid them, remaining faithful to You Lord. Amen.