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Fruit Inspectors

September 27, 2018
Dr. J.B. Hixson
Fruit Inspectors blog

FRUIT INSPECTORS

“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…” (Matthew 7:15-20)

Many well-meaning but misinformed Bible students use this passage as a license to judge others.  These “fruit inspectors” point a finger at the outward behavior of others and quickly draw conclusions about the genuineness of their salvation.  But is that really what Jesus is saying in this passage?  Let us take a closer look.

The context of the passage makes it clear that Jesus is not suggesting that we judge the genuineness of one’s salvation by looking at his outward behavior.  In fact, He expressly forbids such judgment earlier in this same chapter (Matt. 7:1).  The fruit to which Jesus refers cannot be outward behavior because the outward appearance of these false prophets is actually very moral and appealing.  Jesus says that they come looking like sheep on the outside.  Do not miss this point: the fruit of the false prophets is not their behavior!  That is precisely Jesus' warning.  “Watch out!  Do not let their behavior fool you.  Just because they are doing good works and acting like believers, does not necessarily mean they are.”

So, if fruit is not behavior, what is it?  In Matthew 12:33 Jesus says, “. . .a tree is known by its fruit.”  In the very next verse He explains what fruit is: “. . .out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.  A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good things, and an evil man out of the evil treasures brings forth evil things.”  (Matt. 12:34-35)  There you have it!  Fruit refers to what we say, not what we do!  So when Jesus says, “You will know them by their fruits” what He means is that false prophets are exposed by what they say, not what they do.  They may look like sheep, but when you hear them howl it becomes clear that they are really wolves.  This should be obvious from the context of the passage.  After all, the natural way to determine the accuracy of a teacher is by examining what he says.

The Bible never tells us to look at works to determine the genuineness of one’s salvation.  Our salvation is not based on good works (Eph. 2:8-9).  If we are relying on our behavior to give us assurance of eternal life, we will doubt our salvation every day because we sin every day.  Salvation is a free gift obtained simply by faith in Jesus Christ who died in our place at Calvary and rose from the dead.  Only by trusting Him for the forgiveness of sins and eternal life can one be saved.

Do not be swayed by well-dressed, articulate “sheep” who are propagating a false gospel of works.  The Gospel is “good news.”  But any presentation of the gospel that includes elements of works is not good news…it is bad information.



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