15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:15–17, NKJV)
Christ’s warning against false prophets is centered upon their teachings, not the nature of their motives or the sincerity of their personal character. They are false because the fruit they bear is corrupt (false). No false prophet (or false teacher, 2 Peter 2:1) walks around with a signboard that says, “Beware, I am a false prophet.” We know them by the fruit they bear, that is, we know the false prophet (teacher) by what he teaches – that is his fruit. When we “try the spirits” to see whether a teacher is from God, it is the message that we test, not the heart of the one teaching the message (1 John 4:1, 6). We are fruit-testers, not heart-testers. This is what Jesus said in verse 16 of today’s passage (see also, Matthew 7:20). Test what you hear by the word of God. The true teacher of God teaches the true gospel, but the false teacher proclaims and advances error God’s name (2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:2-4). The false prophet (false teacher) speaks from his own heart and not from God’s revelation (Deuteronomy 18:20-22; Ezekiel 13:1-3).
22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law. (Galatians 5:22–23, NKJV)
Christians are called by the gospel to “walk in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:16, 25), to be “led by the Spirit” (Galatians 5:18), to “live in the Spirit” (Galatians 5:25), and to bear the “fruit of the Spirit” (Galatians 5:22-23). This is not a mystical, magical, miraculous control of one’s life by the Holy Spirit. It results from the deliberate choice to live under the control of the Spirit of God – to live by faith – by obeying the gospel we have heard from Him (Galatians 2:20; 3:1-2). Note that we are to bear the “fruit” of the Spirit, not the “fruits” of the Spirit. This fruit, while singular, is collective, with each part of the fruit bearing distinct attributes of God. Each part of this fruit must be carefully understood to develop properly. The fruit of the Spirit does not grow accidentally. Is it present in your life? His fruit will only grow and ripen in us with regular watering, nurturing, pruning and shaping of our lives by the Spirit-given word (Ephesians 5:18; Colossians 3:16).
5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing. 6 If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned. 7 If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, you will ask what you desire, and it shall be done for you.” (John 15:5–7, NKJV)
Jesus is the source of all spiritual life. By abiding in Christ, we are a “branch” that bears much fruit. But, we are spiritually barren and dead – lost – when we do not abide in Him. Obviously, Jesus did not teach universal salvation. Verse 6 clearly states the condition upon which one will be cast into the fire and burned; “if anyone does not abide in Me.” Therefore, we must abide in Christ to avoid being lost. What does it mean to abide in Christ? Verse 7 helps our understanding. “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you” – one who lives according to the words of Christ is the disciple who abides in Christ (see John 14:21, 23). Christians put the word of Christ into their hearts and by obeying Him, bear much fruit. If you do not follow His word, then you are not a fruitful branch. Your spiritual life depends upon abiding in Christ, the Giver of Life. Without abiding in Christ – following His word – you will be gathered up and burned like a lifeless, barren branch.
“But these are the ones sown on good ground, those who hear the word, accept it, and bear fruit: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” (Mark 4:20, NKJV)
Good seed, planted in good soil, produces good fruit. This simple principle is used by Jesus to illustrate the type of heart that listens to the word of God, accepts it and bears abundant fruit. According to the parallel verse in Luke 8:15, this is the “noble and good heart” that also patiently keeps the word of God. We must be honest with ourselves when we hear the word of God. Otherwise, God’s word will not convict us (of our sins), correct us and save us. Notice that Jesus does not assume the heart is filled with total depravity and therefore incapable of hearing, receiving and keeping the word of God. The “noble and good heart” bears fruit when it hears God’s word, and so obtains divine approval and blessings. Such were the hearts of the Bereans in Acts 17:11-12. Our hearts must be good soil that receives and keeps the word of God. Let us refuse to have a hardened heart (like the wayside soil), or the rocky soil (shallow and ungrounded), or the thorny soil (choking out God’s word due to other cares and concerns). What is the condition of your heart?
43 For a good tree does not bear bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. 44 For every tree is known by its own fruit. For men do not gather figs from thorns, nor do they gather grapes from a bramble bush. 45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth evil. For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks. (Luke 6:43–45, NKJV)
A good tree is free of defects that would cause it to produce bad fruit. Likewise, a good person has a treasure of good things in his or her heart that produce good things. Just as surely as a bad tree cannot bear good fruit, a heart with a treasure of bad (evil) things will not produce what is good. These are the words of Jesus, whose heart was only and always a treasure house of good things. He gives us a basis by which to know our hearts. Bad words out of the mouth shows bad (evil) things in your heart. If your words and actions are good in God’s sight, your good heart is being revealed. Test your words and actions today by what Jesus said. And, should you find bad things, then repent so your heart will have a treasure of good things from which to speak and act (Acts 17:30; 8:22).
4 “Abide in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me. 5 “I am the vine, you are the branches. He who abides in Me, and I in him, bears much fruit; for without Me you can do nothing.” (John 15:4–5, NKJV)
Abiding in Christ day by day requires a deliberate faith that keeps the word of Christ. Jesus had just explained, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him” (Jno. 14:23). By an obedient faith you will have a fruitful relationship with Jesus, the “true vine” (Jno. 15:1). But, if you choose to disobey Christ you will not abide in Him. A faithless, fruitless life leads to eternal ruin: “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is cast out as a branch and is withered; and they gather them and throw them into the fire, and they are burned” (Jno. 15:6). Having a relationship with Jesus means more than saying you have one; it means bearing the fruit of that relationship by your daily, obedient faith.