“Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”
Today’s powerful verse passage is preceded by instructions on prayer and the necessity of finding eternal life through the “narrow” and “difficult” way. In context, the lesson learned here is that genuine, heartfelt prayer is essential to a right relationship with God. It is, in fact, the key to the narrow gate that leads to life. Of course, given our past experiences with fallen, unregenerate men and the testimony of Scripture regarding them, we can anticipate the resistance to these revealed truths. There are many who dislike the Bible’s narrow, exclusive, intolerant doctrines; they despise and reject the notion of a narrow gate. Because man has both a God-given religious hunger and an in-built hostility to God and His revealed will, those who teach religious doctrine contrary to Christ are almost guaranteed to gain a following. Whereas the Bible’s claims are narrow and restrictive, the claims of the false teachers are often wide and welcoming. Their doctrines diminish the righteous requirements of God and provide an artificial salve on the guilty conscience of man. Their doctrines, easily accepted by the fallen, unregernate mind, are typified here as fruits. Whereas true doctrine nourishes our souls as food that nourishes our bodies (Matthew 4:4; John 21; 1 Corinthians 3:1-2; Hebrews 5:11-14; 1 Peter 2:2), false doctrines are a poison deadly to the soul, though their taste may be sweet and enjoyable. Because discerning between the two is absolutely critical, the Lord has given us a “litmus test” with which we can ascertain which religious claims are true and which are false. The Scriptures contain the apostolic witness, the testimonies of those who walked with Jesus, which together form the doctrinal foundation of the church. All religious claims must come to the bar of their testimony for evaluation. The beloved disciple John instructed us not to believe “every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world . . . We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error” (1 John 4:1, 6). Praise God, He has given us the word of the apostolic witness, the very Spirit of prophecy itself (Revelation 19:10). This is for us the doctrinal standard to which every religious claim must either conform or be rejected. Our Lord has not left us to struggle in ignorance, but has enlightened us with His precious word.
God bless you as you study and apply that word today,