Yesterday I wrote about the wind, meaning, the Spirit, blowing where it will. I wrote of how we can’t see the wind at the time but we can see its effects. One of the effects of the wind’s (Spirit’s) effect is fruit. The changed heart will be producing good fruit. A bad heart produces only bad fruit. The unsaved who profess but do not possess Christ will produce bad fruit at some point. False teachers will produce bad fruit also.
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 NASB)
Please notice the certainty in the lesson. Jesus said ‘You WILL know them’. Not that it will be uncertain, or foggy, or maybe, or perhaps. But you WILL.
Not all fruit is produced quickly. Different fruit trees bear fruit at different lengths of time. After planting, fig trees bear figs after 1-2 years. Apple trees take 3-5 years to produce fruit. Pear trees take about 4-6 years. The point is, not all false teachers will quickly show their true nature, but at some point, no matter how long it takes, they will produce the bad fruit Jesus spoke of. And then you will know them.
They wear sheep’s clothing. This means that outwardly false teachers will appear on the surface to be like the true sheep. Barnes’ Notes explains here,
Who come in sheep’s clothing – The sheep is an emblem of innocence, sincerity, and harmlessness. To come in sheep’s clothing is to assume the appearance of sanctity and innocence, when the heart is evil.
Ravening wolves – Rapacious; voraciously devouring; hungry even to rage. Applied to the false teachers, it means that they assumed the appearance of holiness in order that they might the more readily get the property of the people. They were full of extortion and excess. See Matthew 23:25.
I remember watching an art interpretation show some years back. I like Renaissance art and this episode featured Caravaggio and his famous painting of the Bacchus. I have seen the actual painting in the Uffizi Gallery in Florence. Here it is.
I wish I could go back and really appreciate the art now that my spiritual eyes have been opened. I remember standing in front of it at the Uffizi for a short moment, and saying to myself, “Pretty! I like fruit.” And then moving on. Outwardly the painting looked good.
Let’s not move on. Let’s look at this scene for a moment.
Bacchus is a god of wine and ecstasy. Starting at the top, Bacchus’ cheeks. His cheeks are ruddy, but not a healthy ruddy like David, from being out in the air and working hard. (1 Samuel 16:12). No, Bacchus’ cheeks are red from dissipation, from drunkenness and licentiousness and debauchery and overindulgence. His eyes are glazed and drowsy. He is half dressed, exposing skin, indicating sensuousness, but the mattress he is laying on is dirty. He is offering the viewer wine, a beverage that will make one take leave of senses. But his near nakedness is also indicating he is offering something more. His fingernails are dirty.
Now the fruit. Looking hard at the fruit, you notice that despite the lushness and the voluminous quantity, the fruit is overripe. It’s rotting. It’s bad. The apple has a worm. The pomegranate has burst open. The nectarine is rotten.
If you want an technical description of this bowl of disease, here it is
Exact in detail they include precise representations of disease symptoms, insect damage, and various abiotic defects. … The fruits include black, red, and white clusters of grapes; a bursting pomegranate; figs; a large green pear; three apples—one greenish and one red with a codling moth (Carpocapsa pomonella) entrance hole, a small, golden russet crab with two areas of rot, likely a form of Botrysphaeria; and a half-rotten quince. The basket contains two fig leaves both with a dorsal (abaxial) view and a grape leaf yellowing at the edge suggestive of potassium deficiency. The head of Bacchus is crowned with clusters of black and white grapes and senescing leaves, one of which is turning red, probably an indication of crown gall, induced by Agrobacterium tumefaciens. Source: Purdue Department of Landscape and Horticulture
Eww. The fruit of debauchery is rotten. The fruit is BAD. False teachers only offer bad fruit.
Do you want to eat the bad fruit? Bite into an apple with a moth worm inside? Consume sickly peaches dripping with its own rotted pus?
People often try to be charitable with false teachers. I understand wanting to be charitable, but there is a time and a place for charity. False teachers are evil. They are against Jesus. They are against you. They are against me.
Jesus said that there is good fruit and bad fruit. He didn’t say that there was fence fruit or sort of OK fruit or any fruit in the middle. The fruit teachers offer is either one or the other.
I learned my lesson with the art. Art takes a while to look at, examine, notice, and ponder. It’s the same with what teachers teach us. Good teachers and bad teachers offer us things. It takes time to look at, examine, notice, and ponder what they are offering. Once we discern the bad from the good, we are told to hold on to the good and leave off the bad.
but test everything; hold fast what is good. (1 Thessalonians 5:21).
Love must be sincere. Detest what is evil; cling to what is good. (Romans 12:9)
So there is no excuse for listening to someone generally and widely acknowledged to be a false teacher. A false teacher does not offer anything good. Their fruit is bad. You can’t follow them and expect them to produce one good fruit on the tree. Jesus said the tree is either all good or all bad.
Don’t eat of their fruit. Don’t quote them. Don’t buy their books. Don’t eat the meat and spit out the bones, which doesn’t even make sense because we are talking about fruit. When you are tempted to peek at a false teacher’s site/tweets/stream/Facebook/books, picture the debauched Bacchus with dirty fingernails on a dirty mattress offering you wormy rotted fruit.
Instead, we can imbibe of the sweet waters from the fountain of life and the pure bread from heaven.
How precious is your steadfast love, O God!
The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings.
They feast on the abundance of your house,
and you give them drink from the river of your delights.
For with you is the fountain of life;
in your light do we see light.
Ligonier: False Prophets and their Fruits