"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 7:16-20 NASB)
Recognizing the false prophet and casting judgment upon a false prophet are two different things. We are commanded by Christ to beware of false prophets, and at the same time we are commanded not to judge in Matthew 7:1. Again one of the primary issues that handcuffs believers is that we have come to a point where we do not make any distinction between discernment and judgment, and they are two very different things. We must be very careful. First we must recognize the propensity in our own flesh to be a false prophet and to realize that before our redemption the vast majority of us were false prophets. When that is recognized it becomes much easier to discern a false prophet without standing in judgment over them, because you know you too were a false prophet apart from God’s saving work. One might think ‘I was never a false prophet’ however most people prior to conversion have some belief about God and are typically willing to share that belief. People, believers or not, often make statements about God, they make prophetic proclamations all the time. Even saying ‘God is love’ is a prophetic proclamation. Moreover, the false prophet is known by their fruit, not by their prophetic statements, in other words a false prophet can speak the truth and yet still be false. Confusing? It should not be. The point is that nearly everyone has something to say about God, beware of those who do not bear the good fruit of a truly converted soul.
So why ought we be on guard for the false prophet? Go back to Matthew 7:15, the answer is pretty obvious there. How can we be on our guard? Watch the fruit, if your fundamentalist buddy is always angry, never broken or contrite, impatient, rarely repentant, not exhibiting the genuine fruit of the spirit from Galatians 5, you can know him by his fruit. At the same time, and this may get me in trouble, the more liberal Christian who holds to some doctrines you know to be false but continually exhibits the fruit of the spirit, genuine compassion, concern for Christ’s glory, and loving their neighbor, well there is a good chance that though you may have some theological difference, that person is a genuine brother or sister in Christ. We will know them by their fruit.
This idea of fruit being the evidence of salvation was the topic back in an earlier post as well. Recall John the Baptist reminding us that the axe is at the root of the tree and the outcome of that tree is determined by the fruit it produces. Do not run too far with this, or you will end up believing in a works based salvation, but at the same time do not write off the importance of works, because they give the evidence of genuine conversion.