By Their Fruit

Matthew 7:15"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

These are the words of Jesus telling us how we would recognize which Christians leaders are true and which are false. Notice his words, "by their fruit you will recognize them." So what is the fruit we are looking for when examining a Christian teacher? Some Pentecostal and Charismatic leaders will tell you that the evidence is found in a spiritual gift. They claim that if a person does not speak in tongues then the Spirit is not within them, yet Jesus gave no such clear test as to whether or not a person was His follower or a true prophet of God. In fact in this very passage He continues on and says the following:

Matthew 7:21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'

The Bible tells us there are going to many people who claim to be prophets of God who will be able to cast out demons and even perform miracles yet Jesus calls these people evil doers! He denies ever knowing such men. In this passage Jesus tells us quite clearly that doing miracles, which includes speaking in tongues, is not proof that anyone is speaking for God. In fact, it warns us that false prophets can and will do such things.

Since there is no miracle or deed good enough to "prove" that a person is a true prophet, then how can we tell? Well, Jesus told us it was by their fruit that we would recognize them. So just what fruit are we looking for? The Scriptures have answered that question for us.

Galatians 5:22But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness and self-control.

When you are following any leader of any church, these are the qualities you must look for. Not whether or not they have a certain speaking style, or whether or not they get excited and worked up and certainly not whether or not they have a certain gift or ability to do some miraculous thing. To recognize a true leader the Scripture says their doctrine must be sound (Titus 2:1) and they must have these qualities, which reveal true spiritual fruit.

Yet all too often, it is the people who claim to have the ability to speak in tongues or perform some miracle that seem to lack many of these qualities, especially those of love, kindness, and goodness. They may seem to have these attributes at times, but once you question their doctrine and the claims they are making they quickly reveal their true fruit. As a ministry who spends their time and resources pointing out false teachings, we understand how frustrating it can be to listen to people tell lies and lead people astray, but that does not give us the right to ignore the Scripture which tells us to speak the truth in love (Eph 4:15) and to correct others with gentleness (2 Tim 2:5). Yet listen to the responses of a couple of well known men addressing those of us who point out the errors in their doctrine.

Paul Crouch - "I think God's given up on a lot of that old rotten Sanhedrin religious crowd, twice dead, plucked up by the roots. I think they're damned and on their way to hell and I don't think there's any redemption for them...the heresy hunters that want to find a little mote of illegal doctrine in some Christian's eye and pluck that little mote out of their eye when they've got the whole forest in their own lives and in their own eyes. I say to hell with you! Oh hallelujah. Get out of God's way, quit blocking God's bridges or God's gonna shoot you if I don't! I refuse to argue any longer with any of you out there. Don't even call me. If you want to argue doctrine, if you want to straighten out somebody over here, if you want to criticize Ken Copeland for his preaching on faith, or Dad Hagin. Get out of my life! I don't even want to talk to you or hear you. I don't want to see your ugly face! Get out of my face in Jesus' name."

Benny Hinn - "You know, I've looked for one verse in the Bible. I just can't seem to find it, one verse that says, 'If you don't like'em, kill'em." I really wish I could find it! ... Sometimes I wish God would give me a Holy Ghost machine gun. I'd blow your head off"

These men obviously lack the fruit of Spirit. Here at Guided By Truth we often get feedback and comments that are just as mean spirited. It certainly is yet another indicator that these people are not speaking for the Lord.

We do understand that although a person has the Spirit, they will still struggle with the flesh and sometimes give into it. We are not expecting perfection. We will all, at times, not walk in the Spirit and show signs of impatience or fail to be gentle. However, there is a difference between a moment of weakness and a lifestyle of living. The men quoted above have never shown regret over their statements and have continued that same attitude year after year. We are told specifically to look at the overall outcome of their faith, not just one incident.

Hebrews 13:7Remember your leaders, who spoke the word of God to you. Consider the outcome of their way of life and imitate their faith.

Men who constantly lack love, gentleness, goodness, peace and self-control are revealing that they do not have the Spirit of God. Even if they claim they are only upset because men are opposing them, we must not forget that the Bible instructs us to always speak with gentleness.

1 Peter 3:15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, 16keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander. 17It is better, if it is God's will, to suffer for doing good than for doing evil.

In fact, the very definition of love, according the bible reveals that to show love is to be gentle and respectful.

1 Corinthians 13:4Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. 5It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.

There are still some people that will seem to have the fruit on the surface. That is why we must consider the "outcome" of their way of life. We can not make a judgment about their behavior when we only see them at certain times and places when they are purposely trying to be on their best behavior. It is a lifestyle that they live out each and every day that tells us where their heart is.

There are also people who are not Christian at all who appear to be gentle, loving and peaceful. But we must remember that real Spiritual love speaks only the truth, it does not teach false doctrine.

1 Corinthians 13:6Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.

That is why we are not only told to look for their fruit but also to watch out for false teachers. No one who teaches things contrary to Scripture will be showing real love, no matter how gentle and kind they "appear" to be. That was the point Jesus was making in this passage, it was a warning, not just about what to look for in a Christian, but what to look out for in false leaders. Jesus warned us that there would be many who would "appear" to be fellow Christians (the sheep) so we know there are many false teachers out there. We must look carefully at their fruit and remember that teaching something contrary to God's Word is the exact opposite of love, which is the basis for true Spiritual fruit.

Matthew 7:15"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. 16By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? 17Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. 18A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. 19Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.

21"Not everyone who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22Many will say to me on that day, 'Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?' 23Then I will tell them plainly, 'I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'


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