Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?Matthew 7:16
We have before us yet another verse that I believe is yanked out of context and misapplied all the time. Many take this verse and suddenly become fruit inspectors by judging the lives of everyone around them. They think that they can tell who a child of God is and who is not based upon actions or words when they view them.
Jesus just taught at the beginning of chapter 7 to not do this. So, don’t do it! And, that means that this verse must mean something else.
The previous verse, as well as the verses immediately following this one are dealing with false prophets. This means that Jesus is teaching us how to recognize a false prophet. And… nothing else.
One of the most common ways of interpreting this is that we should not just listen to the words of a preacher, we should also see how he lives his life. This certainly fits when we look at the requirements of a preacher listed in 1st Timothy chapter 3. If a man’s walk does not match what he is teaching we should not listen to him. And here is something else to think about: If the church we attend is so large that we cannot get to know the pastor personally, can we truly know that he is leading by example and not just in words?
While I think this application is a correct one, I fear that we may accidentally label a truly called man of God as a false prophet if he commits a sin and we see it. We should expect our preachers to live what they preach and lead us by example just like the Apostle Paul.
Be ye followers of me, even as I also am of Christ.1st Corinthians 11:1
But I think Jesus may actually be teaching something more specific.
The doctrine that a man teaches should be from the Bible. As we saw in the previous article, we need to put the words of every prophet on trial by comparing them to the word of God.
The words of a false prophet may sound good to our ears but they are either lacking in Biblical truth, the teacher’s personal experience, or both. The person may be the one of the most popular motivational speakers but that does not make them a God-called preacher.
When the child of God needs to be fed, he needs to be fed from the Bible with proper interpretation that gives all the glory to God not man.
If you want to eat grapes, do you go to a thorn bush? Certainly not.
If you want to eat figs, do you go to the thistle? No.
So, why then would we expect to find good spiritual food coming from someone that has no spiritual source?
In the next article, we will see that Jesus teaches us the doctrine (fruit)of a false prophet teaches shows what kind of man (tree) he truly is.