17 “So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. 18 A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” (Matthew 7:17–19 (ESV)
This week, we are focusing on the importance of holding to biblical truth and being aware of false teachers. It would be pleasant to think that false teachers are outside the local church. Unfortunately, that is not the case. False teachers exist within the church; always have and always will until the Lord’s return.
By their fruits we can know the true nature of false teachers. Believers in Christ must be on guard today by taking each thought captive to the obedience of Christ through Scripture (2 Cor. 10:4-6).
Jesus taught that one may distinguish between good and false prophets (teachers) not only by the content of their teaching but also by the fruit of their lives. Healthy prophets of God bear good fruit. This would refer to the fruit of the Spirit. “22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.” (Galatians 5:22–23 (ESV)
Conversely, a false prophet bears bad fruit. They gratify the desires of the flesh. 16 “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the desires of the flesh are against the Spirit, and the desires of the Spirit are against the flesh, for these are opposed to each other, to keep you from doing the things you want to do. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law. 19 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, 21 envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.” (Galatians 5:16–21 (ESV)
Recently, in the aftermath of the violent death of a young man by five police officers, one local pastor stated from the pulpit that the solution to such violence was for the church to understand the gospel “is justification by faith and social justice.” At best, this is error. At worst, it is heresy, which is a deviation from the true gospel of Jesus Christ. The Gospel is justification by faith alone.
Justification is a legal declaration. God declares the sinner just on the basis of grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone (Romans 3:21-26; 4:1-5; 5:1-5; Philippians 3:3-9).
“This legal or forensic term (justification) comes from the Greek word for “righteous” and means “to declare righteous.” This verdict includes: pardon from the guilt and penalty of sin, and the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to the believer’s account, which provides for the positive righteousness man needs to be accepted by God. God declares a sinner righteous solely on the basis of the merits of Christ’s righteousness. God imputed a believer’s sin to Christ’s account in his sacrificial death (Isa. 53:4–5; 1 Pet. 2:24), and he imputes Christ’s perfect obedience to God’s law to Christians (cf. Rom. 5:19; 1 Cor. 1:30; 2 Cor. 5:21; Phil. 3:9). The sinner receives this gift of God’s grace by faith alone (Rom. 3:22, 25; 4:1–25),” explains Dr. John MacArthur.
“The most crucial question facing anyone is ‘How can I be right with God?’ The answer to that question is the central issue that keeps the various professing expressions of Christianity apart; it is justification by grace alone, received through faith alone, mediated to believing sinners through Christ alone, and recorded as final authority in the Scriptures alone,” states Dr. Bruce Bickel.
False prophets and teachers will always seek to add something, anything, to justification by faith alone. Be on your guard against the bad fruit of false prophets.
Soli deo Gloria!