1. How does 'beware of false prophets' in Matthew 7:15-19 compare with the idea of either 'make a tree good and his fruit good, or make the tree bad' in Matthew 12:33-37?
2. Is there any variance between the 'fruits' in the two passages in Matthew and in Galatians 5:22-23?
UK Apologetics Reply:
Okay, let us look at these Scriptures:
The Scriptures say this:
"Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire." (Matthew 7:15-19, NIV throughout).
"Make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be bad, for a tree is recognized by its fruit. You brood of vipers, how can you who are evil say anything good? For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in him, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in him. But I tell you that everyone will have to give account on the day of judgment for every empty word they have spoken. For by your words you will be acquitted, and by your words you will be condemned." (Matthew 12:33-37).
In both Scriptures, Jesus was talking about false prophets (and mainly those who would come in His Name, since the Elect would quickly recognise any who were plainly representing other 'gods' of other religions). False prophets are symbolised by a tree bearing no fruit, or corrupt fruit. Figs are not picked from a thornbush or from thistles! So, first of all, the plant must be correct, but then it must be fruit-bearing. A bad tree cannot produce quality fruit, there might be some semblance of 'fruit' but it will be poor in quality, unharvestable. False teachers who use the name of Jesus - often for personal gain - do not produce quality fruit among their followers. Oh, some true Christians might indeed follow such men (or women) for a while but - in time - they always seem to see through their falseness and artificiality. It might even take years but false teachers are eventually 'rumbled' by a true, Elect Christian.
Numbers, by the way, must never be confused with fruit! Some prosperity teachers (who often seem to love yelling, for some strange reason), are always boasting about numbers - that is absolutely nothing to do with bearing quality fruit. It does not matter how many people follow a biblically-flawed teacher, but what fruits are being produced? - now, that is the question! We will look at the fruits of the Spirit more closely when tackling question two.
In Matthew 12:33-37 Jesus is on the same subject as in Matthew 7:15-19. He is talking about the desirability of a tree making itself plain - rather than causing confusion - when He states, 'make a tree good and its fruit will be good, or make a tree bad and its fruit will be good.' Again, His subject is those who claim to represent the truth of God; in this case, He is speaking specifically of the Jewish religious leaders of His day.
Overall, I have noted that false prophets seem to primarily fall into one of two differing groups:
1. Those who use the Name of Jesus for personal financial gain and personal prestige. Apart from often being money-obssessed this group also just love perverting prophecy, coming up with regular sensationalist claims (which always fail to be realised).
2. Those who use the Name of Jesus in order to lead a quiet, comfortable and easy life but who have no intention of backing up the authority of Jesus nor Holy Scripture. These people are fatally compromised by modern society which they fully support, insisting that Scripture must be made to fit in with modern values so as not to offend 'moderns.' Their only concern appears to be to keep their heads below the parapet and to avoid controversy. Are they prepared to boldly stand up for Jesus and His Gospel? You must be joking!
Is there any variance between the fruits in the two passages in Matthew and the Galatians 5:22-23 reference to the fruits of the Spirit ?
No, it is generally the same subject. The only difference being that the fruits in the Matthew texts are more concerned with the fruits of many changed lives as the result of any particular ministry/teacher, as well as the fruits evident in such a leader's life. Does this or that teacher have outstanding spiritual results? Again, this is nothing to do with how many followers one may have; cults and sects also have many thousands of followers, but the people are deceived.
Good fruit represents true Christian conversion and a changed life. Good, sound spiritual teachers may help facilitate this, although, of course, it is the work of the Holy Spirit within the humble and meek individual which we speak of. So let us check out Galatians 5:
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. (Galatians 5:22-23).
Galatians 5 is looking at the fruits within an individual Christian believer's life. It again concerns spiritual fruit, but the text asks us all to look inside at ourselves rather than to check out if any claimed 'Christian ministry' can claim spiritual fruits as the result of its work, (although, in truth, the Holy Spirit alone would be responsible for that). We should see harvestable spiritual fruit within true disciples of Christ. Oh, for sure, there will be variation, some are stronger on some fruits than others, but we should be able to look at somebody who became a Christian, say, 5, 10 or 25 years ago and say, 'Wow, Jim/Julie is unrecognisable from the person he/she used to be.'
Robin A. Brace. November 1st, 2011.