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Why this is important: Jesus said, “a tree is recognized by its fruit”. When looking for “fruit,” here are specific tests to apply to any teacher to decide the accuracy of his or her teaching:

What does this teacher say about Jesus? In Matthew 16:15-16, Jesus asks, “Who do you say I am?” Peter answers, “You are the Messiah [Christ], the Son of the living God,” and for this answer Peter is called “blessed.”

  • In 2 John 9, we read, “Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of the Messiah does not have God; whoever continues in the teaching has both the Father and the Son.”
  • In other words, Jesus and His work of redemption is of utmost importance; beware of anyone who denies that Jesus is equal with God, who downplays Jesus’ sacrificial death, or who rejects Jesus’ humanity.
  • First John 2:22 says, “Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Messiah. Such a man is the antichrist—he denies the Father and the Son.”

Does this teacher preach the good news [gospel]? The gospel is defined as the good news concerning Jesus’ death, burial, and resurrection, according to the Scriptures.

  • As nice as they sound, the statements “God loves you,” “God wants us to feed the hungry,” and “God wants you to be wealthy” are not the complete message of the good news.
  • As Paul warns in Galatians 1:7, “Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the good news of Christ.”
  • No one, not even a great preacher, has the right to change the message that God gave us.
  • “If anybody is preaching to you a good news [gospel] other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned!” (Galatians 1:9).

Does this teacher exhibit character qualities that glorify the Master Jesus? Speaking of false teachers, Jude 11 says, “They have taken the way of Cain; they have rushed for profit into Balaam’s error; they have been destroyed in Korah’s rebellion.”

In other words, a false teacher can be known

  • By his pride (Cain’s rejection of God’s plan)
  • Greed (Balaam’s prophesying for money)
  • Rebellion (Korah’s promotion of himself over Moses)

God’s goal: Jesus said to beware of such people and that we would know them by their fruits. God wants us to know the truth and has given us people of God to show us the way. We must be careful though.

  • Matthew 7:15–20 (CSB) — 15 “Be on your guard against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 In the same way, every good tree produces good fruit, but a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that doesn’t produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So you’ll recognize them by their fruit.
  • Isaiah 28:7 (CSB) — 7 Even these stagger because of wine and stumble under the influence of beer: priest and prophet stagger because of beer, they are confused by wine. They stumble because of beer, they are muddled in their visions, they stumble in their judgments.
  • Jeremiah 23:10–11 (CSB) — 10 For the land is full of adulterers; the land mourns because of the curse, and the grazing lands in the wilderness have dried up. Their way of life has become evil, and their power is not rightly used 11 because both prophet and priest are ungodly, even in my house I have found their evil. This is the Lord’s declaration.
  • Jeremiah 23:14 (CSB) — 14 Among the prophets of Jerusalem also I saw a horrible thing: They commit adultery and walk in lies. They strengthen the hands of evildoers, and none turns his back on evil. They are all like Sodom to me; Jerusalem’s residents are like Gomorrah.
  • Zephaniah 3:4 (CSB) — 4 Her prophets are reckless— treacherous men. Her priests profane the sanctuary; they do violence to instruction.