“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits.”
– Matthew 7:15-20 (Jesus speaking; our 24th segment of the Sermon on the Mount)
There is real money…and there is counterfeit. There are brand name goods…and there are fakes. There are true prophets…and there are false ones. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus explains His kingdom – that is, how He will rule us as our king. Since He is going to be reigning from heaven, He feels compelled to warn us that there are those who will speak falsely in His name.
Once Jesus ascended into heaven, how would those who wanted to be His disciples know who was telling them the truth about Jesus and who was not? Jesus here gives the standard by which prophets were to be judged: not by their appearance, but rather by their results.
As to a false prophet’s ability to appear righteous, consider what Jesus would say directly to the religious leaders of His day:
“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs which on the outside appear beautiful, but inside they are full of dead men’s bones and all uncleanness. So you, too, outwardly appear righteous to men, but inwardly you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness.”
– Matthew 23:27-28
These religious leaders looked righteous but transmitted bitter fruit – in their own lives and in the lives of those who followed them. Jesus took no pleasure in exposing them; on the contrary, He begged them to repent.
By contrast, the true spokesmen that Jesus sent – apostles like Peter, James, John, and Paul – bore good fruit.
…the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…
– Galatians 5:22-23
(Remember that prayer is more about listening than talking. Use the words below to start yourself, but then allow time to reflect more on the Scripture above before you say the “Amen.” During that time of quiet reflection, let God shape your thoughts and wait for a sense of peace to come. That’s your signal to say “Amen” and go forth to the day.)
Lord, I have learned that when I live by Your teaching, it bears good fruit in my heart and life. Give me discernment to quickly recognize the difference between good fruit and bad…(this is where you remain quiet to let Him work in your thoughts)… Amen.
(All scriptures, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the NASB.)