In Christian circles, it is easy to get caught up in outward appearances. False prophets and teachers are everywhere in these last days. If there’s a sucker born every minute who will fall for them, we must pray not to become their prey. Our Lord said:
15 Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
16 Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?
17 Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
18 A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
19 Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
20 Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Matthew 7
The prevailing thought behind this passage is that we must make judgment calls, judging between good and evil. For it to be possible to fulfill that command to judge, there has to be universal objective truth on what is good versus what is evil. In order to avoid being duped, our judgments must be based on God’s word with his grace through faith in Christ alongside relying on the Holy Spirit.
Evil may not always be blatant, so at times judgments cannot be made hastily. First impressions can be inaccurate. In the same way fruit takes a season to reveal what manner of fruit it is, the same may apply to spiritual fruit sometimes. Someone may be attractive, dress nice, speak with perfect diction, and have a huge following, but can still be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. John the Baptist wore camel’s hair and ate locusts and wild honey–totally uncouth by our civilized standards. Yet he was God’s man while the nicely dressed, well-educated Jewish leaders were rejected by God.
Discerning good fruit from bad must not rely on emotions or perceived results either. This is why after talking about good fruit versus bad fruit, Jesus stated the following in Matthew 7:
21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Pharaoh’s men did some of the same miracles as Aaron and Moses. Balaam prophesied God’s blessings over Israel. King Saul prophesied among God’s prophets. Judas Iscariot performed the same works as the other disciples. In the end they were all exposed as spiritual fakes. Ultimately, false teachers and prophets will contradict themselves and God with their confused doctrines, conflicted lifestyles, and impure personal habits.
A good tree bears the good fruit of the Holy Spirit as the motives behind their spiritual gifts, namely: love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, meekness, and temperance (Galatians 5:22-23). When we surrender to God’s grace, these will grow in our own lives first so we can know how to avoid bad fruit and those who bear it.
In contrast, those who promote the effeminate (male prostitutes, men who act like women in bed), abusers of themselves with mankind (men who sleep with men), thieves, covetous, drunkards, revilers (those who slander, defame, or curse at or about others), extortioners, adultery, fornication, uncleanness (immoral behavior), lasciviousness (hedonism), idolatry, witchcraft, hatred, variance (stirring up quarrels), emulations (jealous rivalry), wrath, strife, seditions, heresies, envyings, murders, drunkenness, and revellings (wild, riotous partying with intoxication) are pure evil and worthy of rejection since God does not even let them into his kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9-10; Galatians 5:19-21).