Jesus warns us in the Jesus Manifesto (Matthew 5 – 7) where we hear Him say “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing”.
Jesus is serious. There won’t be just a few. There are many of them. Their goal is to mislead us. And they are. It is sad.
The issue here is fruit. Am I producing fruit? I can’t recognize what bad fruit is first I don’t produce good fruit.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.” | Matthew 7:15-20 (NASB)
There are two trees here. These show that true faith in the Messiah changes the life and produces fruit for God’s glory. Everything in nature reproduces after its kind, and this is also true in the spiritual realm. Good fruit comes from a good tree, but bad fruit comes from a bad tree. The tree that produces rotten fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. “Wherefore, by their fruits you shall know them” (Matt. 7:20).
I must start with did my decision for Jesus change my life? False prophets who teach false doctrine can produce only a false righteousness. Their fruit (the results of their ministry) is false and cannot last.
The prophets themselves are false; the closer we get to them, the more we see the falsity of their lives and doctrines. They magnify themselves, not Jesus the Messiah; and their purpose is to exploit people, not to edify them. The person who believes false doctrine, or who follows a false prophet, will never experience a changed life and produce good fruit. Unfortunately, some people do not realize this until it is too late.
While the emphasis here is on prophets, the meaning is about those who claim to speak for God and Jesus.
The donning of sheep’s clothing stands for the false prophets’ claim to discipleship. The wolf-like ravenousness of these prophets exposes their falsity and represents the luxuriousness of their lifestyle, bought at the expense of their duped followers, and their heavy-handedness in exercising authority over them.
“From within [inwardly]” indicates that such behavior originates in their nature, comparable to that of ravenous wolves. Jesus isn’t telling his disciples why to take precaution—rather, how to do so, which is by recognizing the false prophets according to their behavior.
So what is the “fruit of the Spirit”?
But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. | Galatians 5:22-23
I need to focus on growing fruit. Is my tree healthy? Do I have thistles and thorns surrounding me?
Jesus is challenging me.
Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 1, p. 31). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
Gundry, R. H. (2010). Commentary on the New Testament: Verse-by-Verse Explanations with a Literal Translation (pp. 27–28). Peabody, MA: Hendrickson Publishers.