Matthew 7:18 reads, “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit” (NKJV). The Lord Jesus often taught spiritual truths by using “pictures” from the natural world and in verses 15-20 He was drawing a picture for His disciples so they would be able to discern a false prophet from a true one. The passage says: “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them.”

There were many men in that day who professed to speak for God, yet all along they were “false prophets.” Through this simple “object lesson” the Lord was teaching His disciples that though they couldn’t “judge their hearts,” they would “know them by their fruits.” This means that their “teachings” and their “behavior” would expose them for what they were. Did they teach sound doctrine and live godly lives? If not, they were false prophets. Remember a tree produces fruit according to its own character. Just as a thornbush can’t produce grapes and a thistle can’t bear figs, a false prophet will not speak the truth according to God’s Word nor will they produce godliness in their lives. They are as worthless as a bad tree and when the Lord likened them unto a tree that “is cut down and thrown into the fire,” so the false prophet will one day be “cast into the lake of fire” (see Revelation 20:15).

This same object lesson holds true today, for we have the responsibility to judge who is saved and who is not. I once asked a Bible teacher how he could know if someone was truly saved and he replied, “I’m a FRUIT INSPECTOR. I judge them by what they teach and by what they do.” This is the only way that we can know if a person who confesses Christ as their Savior is saved or not. Do they teach that Jesus Christ is the Son of God who became a Man in order to die for our sins on the cross? If not, then they are “bearing bad fruit” and we know they are not really saved. 2nd John 7 & 9 speaks of this: “For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist…Whoever transgresses and does not abide in the doctrine of Christ does not have God.” Jehovah’s Witnesses, Mormons and others fall into this category, for they come to our door peddling their false doctrines about Christ. When they do come, John goes on in verse 10 to instruct us as to what to do: “If anyone comes to you and does not bring this doctrine, do not receive him into your house nor greet him.” Like the false prophets in Jesus’s day, they are false teachers who are exposed by “their fruits,” which in this case is “their false teaching.” We also judge those who profess to be saved by “their lives,” for if one is genuinely saved there will be “good works” that follow. We all know that we are not saved by good works, for Ephesians 2:8-9 declare: “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God, NOT OF WORKS, lest anyone should boast.” But the next verse reads, “For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus FOR GOOD WORKS.” Good works WILL be done by those who have been saved! James 2:14 teaches the same thing: “What does it profit, my brethren, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him?” The obvious answer is NO, for that faith is a DEAD FAITH, as seen in verse 17, “Faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.”  If their faith is a LIVING FAITH there will be good works in their life. When we see a professing Christian with sound doctrine and producing good works, we have inspected “their fruit” and found it to be “good fruit” and thus we know they are saved. “By their fruits you will know them.”  (225.3)  (DO)