You Will Know Them By Their Fruits
Jesus made the statement: “You will know them by their fruits.” It’s often used by people today as being able to recognize Christians who are producing good fruit in their daily lives. However, in the context from which Jesus was speaking, we’ll see he was referring to false prophets, and warning of their deceptions. They would appear outwardly as one of us, dressed in the clothing that look like all the other sheep, but they were really identified as wolves at heart.
He said they would be known by their fruits. This isn’t in reference to being able to spot the good guys, but rather to weed out the bad apples who strive to be justified by their own works. There is good fruit and bad fruit, depending on which tree it is coming from. Jesus continues with this:
“Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness’ ” (Matthew 7:21-23).
Jesus has been addressing the subject of false prophets, people found guilty of bragging about all of the good things they did in his name, but would refuse to enter through the narrow gate of Christ alone. Notice they were boasting about some really impressive activities, yet Jesus said that “on that day” he would declare that he never knew them. The reason he never knew them is because they never stopped trusting in themselves. You will know them by their fruits; this is in contrast to the fruit of the Spirit which is not triggered by our good works but by God who produces his fruit through us.
This can be connected to the hypocrites Jesus spoke of in the middle of the sermon at the beginning of the sixth chapter of Matthew. While working to establish their own righteousness, their main focus was on the externals, to be seen by others. It’s the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, not the tree of life. For us who are in Christ, we should recognize we can’t perform in a way that will add one jot or tittle to what Jesus did. You’ve already been perfected! Regardless of how hard we strive, you and I are not the producer of good fruit. We simply rely upon him and his life in us, and by grace we bear the fruit that the Spirit produces through us. Thank God, we have nothing left to boast.
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