By Their Fruit You Shall Know Them
The often quoted phrase from Matthew 7:16 tells us that "by their fruits we shall know them." Who shall we know by their fruits? What are their fruits? Find the surprising answer to these two important questions as Christendom rushes blindly and recklessly down the road to apostasy.
Over the last couple of years I have been called upon to justify my criticism of the 'Toronto Blessing' and 'Pensacola' movements, being challenged with the 'evidence' of the great number of 'genuine' and beneficial things that are taking place in the lives of people who attend these meetings. This is in spite of the outlandish and grotesque manifestations that are also taking place. A growing number of Toronto and Pensacola supporters agree that there are some weird things going on that we don't understand, but, they contend, that should not detract from the obvious benefits and 'good fruit' resulting in the meetings of the multitude of ministries who now support and propagate the teachings and manifestations of the movements.
It is reported, and videos can be viewed that visually endorse their claims, that God is doing a great work in the world at the moment through the current new moves that have their contemporary roots in Toronto and Pensacola. Testimonies of salvations, healed marriages, family relationships restored, drug addicts, alcoholics and cigarette smokers instantly kicking their habits of bondage, prostitutes and homosexuals set back on the 'straight and narrow', adulterers confessing their secret deeds, all types of criminals convicted of their crimes by the Holy Spirit and brought to their knees in repentance and the many other wonderful reports of healings and restorations that are taking place.
In the face of the overwhelming 'proof' of the many amazing testimonies being broadcast around the world via books, tapes and the Internet, pressure comes to bear upon us who are bringing forth a word of warning, pressure that demands that we sit down quietly and accept that the new moves are genuinely a work of the Holy Spirit and ordained by God.
The Word Of God Is Our Standard
But as I have elsewhere stated before and will now state again, 'good fruit' are never a criteria by which we judge something to be of God or not. The Word of God is our only Standard. Once we depart from the Word of God as the only standard by which we discern the validity of the great host of movements that are professing to uphold truth and promote godly principles, we have moved off a foundation of solid rock and onto a foundation of shifting sand. The Word of God is our only standard. I will say it again and stress that it cannot be emphasized enough - the Word of God is our only standard.
In a book that I recently read I found the following report of the ministry of a early missionary in the city of New York. The ministry of this man eventually grew to such an extent that he was conducting baptismal services almost every day.
What would be your response to people who would come along and denounce the above ministry as some ungodly work of the Devil? Surely the 'good fruit' coming from the ministry of this man is evidence enough to validate the call of God upon his life and convince even the most hardened cynic? What right would the self-righteous, pharisaical critics have in sounding an alarm and attempting to 'tear down' such a mighty work of the Holy Spirit?
However, be convinced of this, if the 'good fruit' is the criteria by which we judge something to be of God or not, we would soon be moving over into gross deception, being cursed by God for accepting the ministry of this man, because the above account is a report of one of the early pioneers of the Mormon Church as recorded in 'The Story Of The Church' by Inez Smith Davis [Herald Publishing House p. 230-232]. The Mormon Church now has world wide influence but they preach another gospel, another Jesus, and are under condemnation by Scripture which says they are accursed (Galatians 18-9).
Fruit - A Biblical Interpretation
In their defence of the 'Toronto' and 'Pensacola' movements, promoters and supporters invariably quote the words from Scripture telling us that it is "by their fruit we shall know them."
We who have mostly sat under the ministry of Charismatic and Pentecostal pastors and teachers have come to believe that if healings, deliverances and provision are taking place then it must be God who is at work, because it is 'by their fruit that we shall know them', the fruit, of course, being either the signs and wonders performed by the ministers, the transformed lives of a host of converts or the great 'blessings' that are being experienced by the delighted church members.
Even people whose eyes have been opened to recognise that error is being promoted by these movements, are perplexed by the contradiction that there is gross heresy bringing forth 'good fruit'. They experience an inner struggle as they try to reconcile the warnings that we are sounding about the various contemporary ministries with the reports of 'good fruit' coming forth from those same ministries. How can leaders who are accused of preaching wrong doctrine bring forth good fruit? Surely, something is wrong?
As usual, the 'something' that is wrong is that Scripture has been taken out of context or twisted by doctrinally unstable and ignorant teachers to suit some agenda that they are promoting.
It may come as a shock to some Christians that the Bible never tells us that it is by their fruit, meaning good and beneficial results, shall we know that a ministry is under the 'anointing' and blessing of God. Nor does the Bible tell us that we shall know with full assurance whether someone is genuine Christian or not by their display of 'good' fruit. I know that this will sound like I have departed from the 'sound way' but bear with me as we see what Scripture really says about fruit and at the same time discover why it is that a multitude of ministries that are currently promoting gross heresy seem to be exempt from the Scriptural instruction to test all things and immune from much needed Biblical correction.
The Fruit Of False Teachers
When quoting the words from Scripture, "by their fruit you shall know them" people are referring to either Matthew 7:16 & 20, or to Luke 6:44. These are the only references in the whole of Scripture that tell us "by their fruit you shall know (or recognise) them". Let us read Matthew 7:13-27 in context, to discover who it is that the Bible encourages us to recognise by their fruit and also what the fruit actually is. The account recorded in the Book of Luke is speaking of the same event as that recorded in the Book of Matthew so both should be read to gain a better insight into what Jesus was promoting, however I have only included the Scriptures from Matthew here.
Matthew 7:13-27 (KJV)
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.
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.
24 "Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock: 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock. 26 And every one that heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them not, shall be likened unto a foolish man, which built his house upon the sand: 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell: and great was the fall of it."
Watch Out For False Prophets
As we have just discovered above, Matthew 7:15 tells us to "beware of false prophets. They will come to us looking and sounding like sheep but in actual fact they will be ravening or ferocious wolves." Verse 16 continues on to warn us that "we shall know them by their fruits."
So, by reading the passage of Scripture in context, we find that the Bible clearly warns us that it is false prophets and false teachers that we will recognise, or know, by their fruit and not Christians who are walking in the light of God's Word. This is the exact opposite of what is consistently and erroneously taught in the churches today. These people who will look like sheep to the undiscerning will actually be wolves in among the flock of God's pasture. Wolves unmercifully kill sheep targeting especially little lambs and older ones that display some weakness or are not walking strong. They prey upon them and rip them to pieces and devour them.
What is the 'fruit' by which we will discern these wolves, these false prophets? What instruction do we get from God's Word as to how we shall identify them? It is by what they teach - it is their doctrine! It is not by their deeds, either good or bad, that we will recognize them, but as always with those who profess to be called as teachers and prophets to the body of Christ, it is by checking to see that what they preach agrees absolutely with the written Word of God. It will not be by how they look, but rather, by how they sound. Listen to the bleating. The above Scriptures warn that people who profess to be teachers to the body of Christ will be leading undiscerning members of the church to certain death by false prophecies and false teachings. It will be the things that they say! Wolves among the sheep! Sheep being led to the slaughter following after false shepherds.
Paul, in Acts 20:28-30, identifies and reinforces that doctrine, and not apparent good results in peoples lives, is the fruit that we shall recognize. During his final warning to the church leadership of Ephesus, he exhorted them,
The wolves will be speaking perverse things, that is false doctrine, that will not align with the Word of God and many undiscerning Christians will foolishly follow after them. However, right doctrine will expose them for what they are. The elders have been told that they are responsible to feed the church of God. Take heed to feed the sheep with good food. For their own protection instruct them and ground them in the Word of God so that they will recognize perversity and discern the difference between the holy and profane, the clean and the unclean. This has to do with doctrine, not with results from ministry or displays of virtuous conduct.
Uh, oh! There's nothing new under the Sun.
A Bad Tree Cannot Bear Good Fruit
In Matthew 7:17-18 above we are informed,
Promoters of the 'new moves' of the Spirit profess that even though some wrong teaching does take place, never the less, 'good fruit' is being produced. They are obviously appealing to their presumption that peoples lives are being changed for the better and bringing glory to God. However, because of wrongly interpreting the symbolism of what the fruit represents in the above Scriptures the people are disarmed and lulled into a false sense of safety, not bothering to discern and test all things, but rather, blindly accepting the ministries of false teachers and prophets. "How can you accuse him of being a false teacher when such good fruit is being produced?" is the normal, indignant response. However, as has been shown above, and will be reinforced below, the fruit that we are to discern is doctrinal. It has to do with right or wrong teaching and not with positive results in the lives of converts (or the teachers).
Verses 17 & 18 of Matthew 7 above are actually saying that a teacher who is already under deception, who is either knowingly or unknowingly promoting wrong doctrine, can not, by what he preaches, produce a convert who, in turn, will be sound in his doctrine. Somewhere, in the walk of this new believer, the bad fruit will ultimately come forth and show the person's faith to be faulty, however genuine he may be in his desire to know and serve God. Somewhere, unless he is re-established with correct doctrine, his flawed understanding and perception of the things of God and his salvation, will reveal that he is not travelling upon the narrow path that leads to life but upon the wide path that leads to destruction. As Paul warned in 1 Timothy 1:19, "Some have rejected these [the doctrine of faith] and so have shipwrecked their faith."
Speaking Perverse Things
Tampering with the purity of the Word of God always has terrible consequences, according to that same Word - which is why there are so many solemn warnings coming forth from Scripture. The New Testament warnings concerning wrong doctrine prevailing in Christendom in the 'last days' and our responsibility as stewards of the Word to be vigilant in defending its purity, are largely being ignored by the very 'shepherds' who claim that they have been commissioned by the Lord to feed His sheep. Even in these passages in Matthew 7 where, by a minimum of study, it is plain that doctrine is the focus, the Scriptures have been twisted and misconstrued to mean that performing 'miracles' and gaining many converts is the means by which we judge something to be of God - despite whether or not sound doctrine is preached.
After giving the instruction on how to see through the disguise of false prophets and teachers in verse 16 of Matthew 7 and then continuing on to teach about trees and their fruit, Jesus reiterates the warning once again in verse 20 that it is by their fruit that we will recognize false prophets and teachers. It is by what they say, that is, by what they teach, that we will perceive whether they be of God or of the deceiver who desires to shipwreck our salvation.
As pointed out above, the record of Paul's grave warning to the leaders of the church at Ephesus in Acts 20:28-30 describes what it is that the 'grievous wolves' will inflict upon the sheep of God's pasture. In verse 30 he states that "...of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them."
The Greek word translated as 'perverse' in the above Scripture is 'diastrepho' which also has the following meanings. To twist; turn around or reverse; to distort; to misinterpret; to corrupt; to turn away.
In plain English, the Bible is warning us that from our own congregations teachers will come forth with distorted, misinterpreted and corrupt theology, turning many away from the sound doctrine as found in the Word of God, and they will gain many followers. Although they may appear harmless and worthy of our trust, these teachers are likened to ravenous wolves and are, in actuality, a great peril to the body of believers. In fact, to put it bluntly, they will lead their followers to eternal damnation rather than Heaven.
How can we be so sure that it is as serious a picture as I am painting?
In Matthew 15:14 we find Jesus speaking to His disciples about the Pharisees who were accused of teaching for doctrine the commandments of men. He said,
Because they were teaching wrong doctrine, they and their followers were destined to fall into the ditch. I ask the serious question, "Where is the ditch?" "What does the ditch represent?" Surely these followers of the blind, who in all good faith are unwittingly being led astray by these false teachers, are not really destined for the same fate, are they? Perhaps another Scripture will help us to understand the seriousness of the matter. In Isaiah 9:16, we read,
Disciples Of False Teachers
The church will be under the teaching of men who will appear and sound like the most genuine and sincere of leaders, however, they will be unlearned in sound exegesis and proper exposition of the Holy Scriptures. They will misinterpret and distort the Scriptures to 'draw away' followers of Christ to be disciples unto themselves. Multitudes of sincere people in Christendom are becoming followers of popular movements and their false teachers rather than followers of God.
Is this an empty allegation devoid of substance? Can I possibly substantiate that, today, this Scripture is being fulfilled before our very eyes? Let me elaborate.
In the ministry that God has called me to, that of being a watchman to the body of Christ, I regularly come across sincere people who say that they love the Lord Jesus Christ with all their hearts. They are zealous for God and it is quite an insult to them to suggest otherwise. However, when confronted with the documented evidence of false teaching coming forth from their favourite ministry, they become defensive, agitated and abusive and proceed to attack me as a person, accusing me of being judgemental, unloving and even lying.
For example, when questioning church leadership about supporting and endorsing 'Word of Faith' ministries that teach that Jesus did not complete our redemption upon the Cross of Calvary, I was accused of tearing down the ministries of honourable men of God. I was quite angrily accused of slandering wonderful Christian ministries who have the runs on the board (presumably referring to converts) to substantiate their authority as a valid work of God. Even when presented with the proof that these particular ministries falsely teach that Jesus was dragged into Hell by the Devil and his demons to suffer spiritual death and torture, whereupon after three days of this indescribable abuse He was born-again as the first born-again man, they still defended the perpetrators of this heresy to the extent that they expelled me from their fellowship. I was portrayed from the pulpit, before the congregation, as the wolf and the false teachers were held up in the highest esteem as the defenceless sheep that I was ripping to shreads.
Amazingly, the entire leadership of nine people, including four pastors of this particular church, unanimously defended the false teachers rather than the doctrine of the Scriptures. They failed to contend earnestly for the faith which has been delivered into their care and protection, yet they all profess to love God with all of their hearts. However, it is an emotional love based upon the feelings of the heart and not the love described in the Bible which is based upon the truth of God's Word.
John 14:15 tells us how we should prove that we love God. Jesus said,
1 John 5:2-3 bears witness to this by informing us,
2 John 1:6 also tells us how to prove to ourselves and others that we really love the Lord.
In other words, if one professes to love God he should at least demonstrate it in the way that God has expressed in His Word. He should be obeying and defending God's Word rather than the false teachers.
1 John 2:3-5 tells us,
Unfortunately, this example of defending false teachers rather than the truth of God's Word is not an isolated example. I can recount a considerable number of such personal experiences where despite professing to love the Lord with all their heart people have chosen to defend the proven false teacher rather than Jesus and His Word. Through my contact with ministries on a world wide basis I have found that this is not just a local problem but a global phenomenon that is sweeping Christendom as it blindly stumbles ever forward into apostasy.
This is the Word of God for the Last Days that we carelessly overlook or casually pass by as if it were of no consequence to us upon whom the ends of the age have come. Shouldn't we, just for a fleeting moment, attempt to hear the heart of Paul as he gave this warning to the church leaders of his day? This warning was so serious and of such importance to Paul that he actually declares in verse 31,
Paul, unless he was lying, which I wouldn't even begin to contemplate, said to the leaders that for three years, day and night with tears, he continually troubled everyone with this most serious warning. Day and night with tears, at every opportunity, for three years, he brought this warning to the church. And we gloss over it in our indifference and false security as if it were of no consequence to us. We do so at our own peril!
A Flood Of Wrong Doctrine
In verse 24 of Matthew 7 we again find that it is the doctrine of the Bible that is being referred to and not good results in peoples lives or the amount of converts gained by some ministry. The well know parable of the house built upon the rock is part of the context of Jesus' warning that it is by their fruit that we shall recognize false teachers and false prophets.
The word translated as 'sayings' in this verse is actually the Greek word logos. The logos is the doctrine of Christ.
Hebrews 4:12 tells us that
This Scripture is also speaking of the logos of God, the divinely inspired written Word of God which is sharper than a two edged sword - a sword which is able to cut in pieces the lies and deceptions of the enemy. It is speaking of the doctrine of Christ. "By their fruit you shall know them" is doctrinal, not lives transformed under the ministry of some teacher as is mistakenly believed by a whole generation of Christians and zealously promoted and defended by the champions of the Toronto and Pensacola movements. Nor does it refer to the number of followers or converts a particular ministry accumulates, for we are warned that false teachers will arise and draw a multitude of disciples to themselves.
Jesus continues on in verses 25 to show that the context of this parable is doctrinal by saying,
When reading this verse in context with the adjacent Scriptures in which Jesus warns of false prophets coming as ferocious wolves among the flock of God's pasture, it describes a shower of rain descending upon the earth in the last days that will cause a flood. The rain in this verse, if read in context with the rest of the surrounding Scriptures, describes a shower of wrong doctrine descending upon the believer. It will come in such magnitude as to cause a flood. A flood of wrong doctrine, or heresy, will come upon Christendom in Satan's attempt to shake us off the Rock of our Salvation.
Water is symbolic of the Word of God. We are told in Ephesians 5:25-27,
The spots and wrinkles in the above Scripture are symbolic of wrong teachings, the doctrines of false teachers. We will return to this in a moment.
Deuteronomy 32:1-2 shows that rain is also symbolic of the Word of God.
And again in Isaiah 55:10-11 we read,
In Psalm 1 we read that a man who delights in and studies the Word of God is like a tree growing beside a river, bringing forth good fruit. The ungodly, however, as we are told in Matthew 7:27, are blown away in the storm.
The ungodly are not so: but are like the chaff which the wind driveth away. Therefore the ungodly shall not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous. For the Lord knoweth the way of the righteous: but the way of the ungodly shall perish.
As God's Word can wash and cleanse wrong teachings from our minds and prepare us as a bride for Christ and as His Word also comes forth as rain so also do the counterfeit doctrines of the evil one.
The water that will come as a flood in an attempt to smash our house from its foundation originates from the showers of wrong teaching that are descending upon the church of God in increasing volumes in these very days in which we presently live. Matthew 7 is talking about doctrinal matters and not difficult circumstances or the general pressures of life, as we have been led to believe.
Matthew 7:25 also shows the winds of the storm blowing and beating upon the house. This likewise is speaking of doctrine! Wrong doctrine will come as rain and a flood of water accompanied by cyclonic winds that will beat against the house that we have established upon the foundation of the purity and truth of the Word of God. In Ephesians 4:11-16 we read,
The flood of wrong teaching and the winds of false doctrine are beating upon the structure of our house that has its foundation upon the solid Rock of Christ - the Word of God. Verses 26 and 27 graphically portray the consequences of listening to man and not checking that what he says aligns with God's written Word to His people.
Jesus is warning us that if we depart from His Word - His doctrine - if we move from the solid foundation of truth and purity of His Word over onto the shifting sands of error we will fall with a mighty crash and shipwreck our Salvation. If we allow ourselves to be influenced by the teachings of the numerous false shepherds, who it is prophesied will come in the last days, we will suffer the same dreadful fate as them. Read Isaiah 9:16 again.
Spots, Wrinkles And Blemishes
In Ephesians 5:25-27 we read,
As we have already discovered above, the Word of God is symbolised by water that can wash and cleanse wrong thinking and concepts from our minds. Paul tells us in 2 Corinthians 10:4-5,
As we study the Word of God there is a changing process that takes place in our thoughts and imaginations and as we progress through this sanctifying action we are conformed more to the image of Christ. But, even so, we know that we will never attain to the ideal of what we perceive as the image of Christ and we struggle in our vain attempts to be more righteous before God. How will we ever be righteous enough to be presented to Christ as spotless and without blemish? We know we have a problem when we imagine that Christ will not return until we are perfect. I know in my heart that if He is waiting for me to be perfect then I can confidently proclaim that Christ will not return in my lifetime. And I know I have a lot of good and Godly friends in this category.
However, God does not look to us for our righteousness. We are seen as righteous through the Blood of Christ. Righteousness has been imputed to us by faith through our acceptance of what God accomplished through Christ upon the cross. God sees us individually through the Blood of Christ as having neither spot, wrinkle or blemish!
Again, our traditional teaching has led us astray in our understanding of Ephesians 5:25-27 and we have been frustrated in our personal attempts to be spotless before God. However these verses of Scripture are not speaking to individual Christians but to the Church, the collective believers, the Bride of Christ. Look at verse 27. He is going to present to Himself a glorious Church without blemish.
This Is Doctrinal Again
According to this Scripture there are spots and wrinkles presently in the professing Church that will not be there when Christ presents His Bride to Himself. There are blemishes at present which will have to be removed. These spots and blemishes are not the imperfections of individual believers, as we have so confidently been taught by those in leadership, but they are wolves in sheep's clothing, false teachers and false prophets who are among the flock devouring the Lord's sheep.
In 2 Peter 2:1-3 we read,
These false teachers are identified as the spots and blemishes that will not be present when Jusus comes for His glorious church. In verse 13 we read,
To further establish that the spots and wrinkles are not your personal shortcomings before the Lord but are false teachers who are established within the congregations of the professing church, we read in Jude 3-4
Verses 12 and 13 identify them as spots in the Church.
These spots and wrinkles are described as rain clouds without water. They appear to bear the Word of God but their mouths are empty speaking great swelling words, having men's persons in admiration because of advantage. (verse 16).
The above Scripture tells us that they are carried about by the winds. They are tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine. They are not grounded in the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God and so, therefore, are unstable.
We also see from the above Scripture that they are trees with withered fruit. They are drawing their water from the wrong fountain. Wrong teaching brings forth bad fruit. By their fruit we shall know them. They will be obvious when illuminated and exposed by the light of God's Word.
Raging waves creating a lot of froth and bubble. Making a lot of noise and demonstrating activity but without substance. Wandering stars without relationship or association to the rest of the universe.
The teachers of wrong doctrine, and their deceived followers, will not be included when Christ presents His holy bride to Himself.
The Fruit Of The Spirit
In Galatians 5:22-23 we read,
The nine characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit become a part of our personality through the sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit and the Word of God. As we are cleansed by the washing of the Word of God and we separate from our past and the world we become more Christ-like and the fruit begins to form. This is not a transformation that immediately takes place at salvation but is a process that takes time. Like natural fruit, it grows and matures over time. Therefore, we are unable to appeal to the Galatian fruit of the Spirit to substantiate that it is the Holy Spirit who is at work in a person who has just responded to an altar call at either Toronto or Pensacola. Sanctification is a process and the fruit develops over time.
However, while all Christians should be growing in sanctification and displaying some degree of the fruit of the Spirit, not all who display the virtuous characteristics of the fruit of the Spirit are Christians. It is important to grasp this truth for your spiritual safety and for your capacity to discern false teachers and false prophets. Many false teachers and their disciples display a counterfeit of the Christian fruit as listed in Galatians 5:22.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 warns us,
In the light of such warnings it is folly for the promoters of Toronto and Pensacola to try and justify their support of the movements by appealing to the Scripture that tells us that "...by their fruit you shall know them." Nor can they appeal to the fruit of the Spirit as listed in Galatians 5, because leaders who appear as servants of righteousness but who are, in fact, servants of Satan, will of necessity, have to be displaying a certain degree of love, joy, peace, etc.
In John 15:1-8 we read,
Remain in me, and I will remain in you. No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine. Neither can you bear fruit unless you remain in me. "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned. If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you. This is to my Father's glory, that you bear much fruit, showing yourselves to be my disciples."
There is debate as to whether the fruit mentioned in the above passage of Scripture is figurative of Christian character developing in the disciple's life, as it does in Matthew 21:43 and Ephesians 5:9, or whether it depicts converts won to the Gospel, as it does in Romans 1:13 and 1 Corinthians 16:15. The orthodox teaching is that the fruit in John 15 represents the former - that is, Christian character maturing through the disciple's submission to the Word of God. Jesus' own words in verses 2 and 3 show that the pruning and cleansing is because of the Word He had spoken to the disciples. Once again, this is showing that the fruit is based upon right doctrine. This is the logos again as discussed above. It is the logos, the Word of God, sanctifying the believer and bringing forth the fruit of righteousness.
However, whether the fruit is representative of Christian character or Christian converts it does not alter the fact that we do not validate a conversion by apparent 'good fruit' manifesting in the convert's life, nor do we confirm that a ministry is moving in the Spirit of God by the amount of converts or followers the ministry gains.
It is by their fruit that you will know them - whether or not they speak in agreement with the doctrine as found in the pages of the Holy Bible.
Workers Of Iniquity
In Matthew 7, verses 21 to 23 we read the frightening words of Jesus,
How can it possibly be that a great many people who genuinely think that they are serving God, people who could not possibly imagine that they have got it wrong somewhere, will be cast off from the Lord and assigned to Hell? What could possibly be wrong with these people when the Scriptures actually confirm that they are proclaiming the name of Jesus, prophesying (speaking in tongues?), casting out demons and performing many miracles in Jesus' name? How could it be that a great number of people (who sound like Charismatics and Pentecostals to me) who profess to love God and who proclaim Jesus as "Lord" can be told by the Lord Himself that He never, ever, even knew them. This scenario is almost too horrible to contemplate.
To be rejected by the Lord in this manner, without the added horror of being consigned to Hell, would be distressing enough, but nevertheless they are told to depart from His presence because they have not been doing the will of the Father but have been working iniquity.
In the very next breath, in verse 24, Jesus says,
The Greek word translated as 'iniquity' in verse 23 is 'anomia', which can also be translated as 'to transgress the law'. To contravene, infringe, disobey or violate the law. If read in context with the surrounding passages of Scripture, it becomes obvious that Jesus was rebuking these people because they disobeyed His sayings - His doctrine.
Psalm 119 And The Word Of God
The Word of God is continually being denigrated in this evil time leading up to the return of our Lord. How many times have you heard of genuine scholars of the Scriptures being insulted from the pulpits of Charismatic and Pentecostal churches? We hear it repeatedly. Bible scholars and theologians are full of head knowledge but devoid of the Spirit, we are told.
How many times have you heard 2 Corinthians 3:6 quoted which says that the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life? This Scripture is misquoted as suggesting that too much of the Word of God will dry you up and lead you away from your salvation. It will kill you spiritually. We are told that it is the Spirit that brings life, not the Word of God. However. Philippians 2:16 informs us that Christ's doctrine, the Logos, is the very Word of life.
The church has been progressively conditioned to see the Word as less important than moving in the Spirit. We are warned by our leaders that we must be careful not to make an idol of the book, but worship the author, God. Too much Biblical teaching will give us spiritual indigestion. And on it goes. Subtle and not so subtle phrases dropped here and there to lull us into accepting subjective spiritual experiences as our authority on all things pertaining to faith and doctrine.
However, the Bible paints a different picture altogether regarding God's view and attitude towards His Word. Psalm 119 has apparently been missed by these people who warn us about elevating the Word of God to too lofty a position. The Psalm is too lengthy to copy here, but read it sometime and discover the supreme importance that God places upon His Word to us. Take a pen and underline every reference to the Word of God. You will be amazed at what you will find.
Just a couple of statistics to get you started. Psalm 119 is the longest chapter in the Bible. It contains 176 verses. In every verse, except for five, there is a reference to the Word that God delivered to His people. His precepts, His commandments, His ways, His decrees, His Statutes, etc., etc., are extolled over and over again. For the five verses that do not have a direct reference to His decrees and statutes there are a number of other verses that have at least two references each.
The Bible tells us that without the Word we are as a leaf tossed in the breeze, clouds without water carried about by every wind of doctrine. We would be nothing more than houses built upon foundations of ever shifting sands.
Psalm 138 also informs us as to how much importance God places upon His Word and that we should never be put off by the accusation that we place too much emphasis upon the written Word of God. Verse 2 tells us,
This is quoted from the King James version of the Holy Bible. Some other translations have watered down the impact of this critically important piece of Scripture. Consider the following examples.
NASB "...For Thou hast magnified Thy word according to all Thy name."
NRSV "...For you have exalted your name and your word above everything."
NLT "...because your promises are backed by all the honor of your name."
They don't quite say what it is that God is attempting to convey to us. He is saying that he has magnified His Word, His doctrine, the Holy Scriptures even above His own name. Why would God want to do that? What is the point and reasoning behind magnifying His Word even above His own name?
Lord, Lord, In Your Name
We have great multitudes of people in this day who are proclaiming the name of Jesus. Jesus is the buzz word of our time. Many sincere Christians are accepting all manner of ministries based simply upon their proclamation of the name of Jesus. The new moves of the 'spirit' that are currently sweeping the world all name the name of Jesus. So do the Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, Word of Faith Movement, Catholics, Protestants, Pentecostals, Evangelicals, New Age, Eastern Religions, and even the Masonic Lodge, but to name but a few.
But God has said in His Word that there is something that has been magnified even above His name. Even above the name that is above every name. There is something that God has given us which we must appeal to when discriminating between the holy and the profane, the right and the wrong and who is doing the will of the father and who is not.
By Their Fruit You Shall Know Them
We have come around full circle. We are back to where we started at the beginning of this study. Matthew 7:15-16 tells us,
By their doctrine we shall know exactly who is promoting the Jesus of the Bible and who is promoting some other 'jesus'. If their message does not line up with the Word of God, then we should attempt to correct them and their followers. If they persist in their propagation of false teaching, we are to separate from them for our own Spiritual safety.
Many will say to Jesus in that day, "Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out devils? and in your name done many wonderful works?" But He never knew them because they didn't come in His Word. They came with another gospel and sadly, they were cast off and accursed.
1. The Scriptures, "By their fruit you shall know them" have been wrongly accepted to mean that if a ministry is gaining converts, or if the converts are displaying favourable changes in their lives then that ministry is under the anointing and favour of God.
2. While those who call themselves Christians should be growing in sanctification and displaying some degree of the fruit of the Spirit, not all who display the character traits of the fruit of the Spirit are Christians. The Catholic, Jehovah's Witness and Mormon religions, to name a few, have a vast number of members who display a counterfeit of the fruit of the Spirit.
3. We who live in the New Testament era, and particularly we who live in the closing of that era, have been warned repeatedly that false prophets, false apostles and false teachers will come in vast numbers with the express purpose to deceive the elect and trick them into shipwrecking their salvation. Non-discerning Christians will end up going to Hell instead of Heaven.
4. The Bible is the final criteria by which we judge something to be of God or the Devil. God's Word is clear that we are to look to no other standard for our discernment. To look to any other authority, whether it be to some extra-Biblical writing, some prophecy, or some sign or wonder for validation or proof that the Holy Spirit is at work is gross disobedience to God and will cause God to give you over to deception. Look only to the Word of God to differentiate between the holy and the profane.
5. The rain, the flood of water and the howling winds that will destroy the building of a multitude of Christians in the last days are symbols of wrong teaching - false doctrine coming from a multitude of false prophets and teachers who, according to God's Word, will arise among His people in the closing of the Church Age.
6. A bad tree can not bring forth good fruit. Wrong teaching will produce a convert who will in turn bring forth a wrong understanding of his Salvation and his perception of God. What are the implications of this? The blind lead the blind and they both fall into the ditch!
7. Spots, wrinkles and blemishes in the Church are symbolic of false teachers and prophets.
8. God says in His Word that He has magnified His Word even above His own name.
9. Many ministries will come in the name of Jesus but not with His Word, wherefore we shall know them.
Verse 9 Wherewithal shall a young man cleanse his way? By taking heed thereto according to thy word.
Verse 11 Thy word have I hid in mine heart, that I might not sin against thee.
Verse 36 Incline my heart unto thy testimonies, and not to covetousness.
Verse 53 Horror hath taken hold upon me because of the wicked that forsake thy law.
Verse 63 I am a companion of all them that fear thee, and of them that keep thy precepts.
Verse 105 Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path.
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