Discerning False Prophets and Wicked Ministries
We often say we are to judge a tree by it’s fruit.
Their are three places in Matthew where we find Jesus talking about trees and fruit. The first instance is in the preaching of John the Baptist:
Matt 3:7-10 But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming for baptism, he said to them, “You brood of vipers!… Bear fruit worthy of repentance. Do not presume to say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our ancestor’; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Jesus towards the end of the Sermon on the Mount:
Matt 7:15-20 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorns, or figs from thistles? In the same way, every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will know them by their fruits.
Jesus response to Pharisees who ascribed his healings to Beelzebul:
Matt 12:33-35 Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. You brood of vipers! How can you speak good things, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person brings good things out of a good treasure, and the evil person brings evil things out of an evil treasure.
Can we still use these analogies to help give us discernment on individuals or churches today? I have this really peculiar feeling that we don’t know what is being spoken of in these passages. I will look into this.
In the meantime, I think it’s worth discussing if there is any better way of discerning false prophets or ministries other than by their fruit. Fruit seems to suggest time plays a role to determine prophets or ministries to be true or false. In my understanding, by the time you are drawn into a cult, it’s too late to examine the fruit if you’re apart of the tree.
Is there a better way to discern? I would say yes.
* what you think the Spirit is saying or making you feel.
* measure what is taught or practiced by returning to your first love and Salvation experience.
* measure what is taught or practiced by what you know of the gospel.
* measure what is taught or practiced by loving the Lord with all heart, mind, soul and strength.
* measure what is taught or practiced by knowing the bible and what it says in context of issues or topics.
* understanding basic human motives and group dynamics.
* pray without ceasing. Ask God to reveal what is right or wrong. Be open to His words and what He gives you.
* ask what others in the church think. ask outside churches what they think about your church.
* be open to information and other opinion, being humble in approach.
To me, this is how one should move in discernment. So what’s the purpose of the tree and it’s fruit analogy? Does ‘fruit’ in these parables means motives or outcomes and manifestations? What are your thoughts on ‘fruit and trees’ in scripture?