The New Testament often refers to Jesus as a vine, us as His branches, and what we do for Him as our fruit. But, one passage, in particular, is often misinterpreted, which is a good example of why we shouldn’t try to interpret the word of God at all. The passage is Matthew 7:16, “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” I have heard so many pastors say that we shouldn’t judge others, we should just be “fruit Inspectors”. That, if they are a true believer, their fruit will show. While it is a true statement that our fruit will show if we are a true believer, that is not what this passage is talking about, and we aren’t here to judge anyone else’s salvation.
If we take this passage in context, we see that, in this passage, Christ is giving a lot of instructions. In fact, the first six verses of this passage are telling us not to judge others, Matthew 7:1, “Do not judge others, and you will not be judged.” In verses 7 – 11 Christ is teaching us about effective prayer, telling us to keep on asking, keep on seeking, keep on knocking…be persistent in your prayers. Verse 12 is what we call “The Golden Rule”, “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets.” Verses 13 – 14 are talking about the narrow gate that leads to everlasting life and the broad gate that leads to destruction.
Then we come to verses 15 – 20 where Christ is telling them, verse 15, “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves.” Then he goes on in verse 16, “You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?” You see, he isn’t saying that we’ll know if they are Christians or not by their fruit, he says we can tell false prophets by their fruit. There’s a big difference. Now, there are several verses that tell us how the world will know we are Christians, John 13:35 says, “Your love for one another will prove to the world that you are my disciples.” I believe this is the message we need to hear. There is so much fighting and feuding among people that claim the name of Christ, but the Bible tells us that the fighting and feuding proves that they are not of God.
Most of the book of 1 John is dedicated to love. He starts talking about it in 1 John 2:7 where he says, “Dear friends, I am not writing a new commandment for you; rather it is an old one you have had from the very beginning. This old commandment—to love one another—is the same message you heard before.” Next, he goes on to tell us not to love the world and then tells us how to identify an antichrist. Then he goes right back to love. He talks about living as a child of God, in chapter 3, verse 1 he says, “See how very much our Father loves us, for he calls us his children, and that is what we are!” In chapter 3, verse 11 he starts talking about loving each other again, “This is the message you have heard from the beginning: We should love one another.” In chapter 4 he takes a minute to tell us how to discern a false prophet, then he goes right back to loving one another. In verses 7 – 8 of chapter 4 he says, “7 Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. 8 But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.” The Greek word used for love in verse 7 is agapao, which means “to welcome, to entertain, to be fond of, to love dearly”. So, he is saying that we need to dearly love each other, is that what your church looks like? Does your local body love each other dearly? I hope so, but if not, we need to pull together to help them get back to their first love, Christ.
But, did you catch what is said in verse 8? Anyone who does not love does not know God! And, why is that? Because God Is Love! We could add that to the names of God, God Is Love. Friends, as I said earlier, we are not here to judge people. I’ve mentioned in previous blogs the parable of the Great Feast. When the master told his servants to go into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in, he didn’t say to clean them up first, he said to beg them to come! It’s His job to judge their hearts. We must discern false teachers, but our job as Christ followers is to love each other and glorify our Father.
So, what is our fruit as believers? Galatians 5:22 – 23, “22But the Holy Spirit produces this kind of fruit in our lives: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23gentleness, and self-control. There is no law against these things!” What was the first fruit that Paul lists here? Love!
You see, the point all of this is getting at is that the only one we need to judge is ourselves. In fact, going back to Matthew 7 where Christ is saying not to judge others, He says in verse 2, “For you will be treated as you treat others. The standard you use in judging is the standard by which you will be judged.” Let’s start inspecting our own fruit. Let’s look at our own lives and ask ourselves; is there love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in my life? If I’m being honest with you, and with myself, I fall short in many of these areas. If we all inspect our own fruit and start changing our own lives, then the world will see our lives and glorify our Father in Heaven. Earnest Humphries, the pastor I grew up under, used to say, “Your life may be the only Bible that some people ever open.” So, inspect your fruit, and let your light shine!