Should we be “fruit inspectors?”


by Shawn Brasseaux

Should we be “fruit inspectors?” This question stems from the Lord Jesus Christ’s words in Matthew 7:20: “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” In religion, the practice of “fruit inspecting” means going around and looking (read that, snooping) to find fault with and criticize others after evaluating their alleged “Christian” service/works. If there is little to no performance, little to no spirituality, we are supposed to conclude that the person is not saved. Unfortunately, Matthew 7:20 is then brought in to justify such a practice. Some people, mainly preachers, have taken this concept so far as to “lord over” or bully church members, supervising them to make sure they are living right. Is Matthew 7:20 being correctly applied?

It is always helpful to look at the context of any verse with which we are struggling. We start with verse 15 and move through to verse 20: “[15] Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. [16] Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? [17] Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. [18] A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. [19] Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. [20] Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.”

Who is the “them” of verse 16? Of verse 20? Why, it is the “false prophets” of verse 15! The “fruit” here, as the context demands, is not deeds or actions (as in sins of the flesh) but rather doctrine or teaching (information taught). False prophets appear good but the content of their message exposes them as evil. A corrupt tree, or a false teacher, manufactures wrong information; a good tree, or a godly teacher, brings forth good information. Specifically, these are false preachers in Israel who are deceiving the nation so as to lead her people away from the Lord Jesus Christ. They have an outward form of religion, but it is false religion. While claiming to be serving God, students of the Word, they are about to put His Son to death. They love quoting Moses but have staunchly rejected the Messiah whom Moses predicted would come to them. After all, remember it was these—Israel’s religious leaders—who conspired to bring about, and later demanded, Christ’s crucifixion! They even joined in mocking Him as He hung there!

“Now the feast of unleavened bread drew nigh, which is called the Passover. And the chief priests and scribes sought how they might kill him; for they feared the people” (Luke 22:1-2). “And the chief priests and all the council sought for witness against Jesus to put him to death; and found none” (Mark 14:55). “When the chief priests therefore and officers saw him, they cried out, saying, Crucify him, crucify him. Pilate saith unto them, Take ye him, and crucify him: for I find no fault in him. The Jews answered him, We have a law, and by our law he ought to die, because he made himself the Son of God” (John 19:6-7).

“And they that passed by reviled him, wagging their heads, And saying, Thou that destroyest the temple, and buildest it in three days, save thyself. If thou be the Son of God, come down from the cross. Likewise also the chief priests mocking him, with the scribes and elders, said, He saved others; himself he cannot save. If he be the King of Israel, let him now come down from the cross, and we will believe him. He trusted in God; let him deliver him now, if he will have him: for he said, I am the Son of God” (Matthew 27:39-43).

False teachers deceived national Israel, which ultimately lead to two particular unfortunate events found in the Bible—Christ’s rejection and death on Calvary, and the rise of Antichrist (counterfeit Messiah). Since Israel did not want the true Christ, God says He will judge her by giving her the false one! This is yet future.

Notice Jesus’ words in John 5:43: “I am come in my Father’s name, and ye receive me not: if another shall come in his own name, him ye will receive.” The Antichrist is predicted in that latter clause! Now, read the parallel passage, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12: “And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie: That they all might be damned who believed not the truth, but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” Romans 1:18-32 shows us that the God of the Bible gives people over to what they want. If they prefer the lie as opposed to the truth, then He will let them have the lie… and they will not be spared the awful consequences that come with it!


It is Biblical to inspect fruit, but “fruit” in Matthew 7:15-20 is in the sense of doctrine being taught. Even today, we should evaluate what we hear in church, at Bible study, prayer service, et cetera. A careful examination of messages/sermons will reveal to us who are the false (flesh-led, Satan-led) Bible teachers and who are true (Spirit-led, God-led) Bible teachers. It is our responsibility—not to tell everyone every little thing that he or she is doing wrong in life—but rather recognize and uncover incorrect teaching (whatever idea, whichever denomination, whoever is involved, and so on).

While millions of church members are currently scrutinizing the lives of others, condemning them for this “sinful” behavior and that “sinful” behavior, they themselves believe and teach denominational lies. God pity these “goody-goodies” who look down their nose on others when they have less obvious—and yet more serious—problems. They believe every word their preacher or priest says, but they do not engage in personal Bible reading and study to see what God’s Word says. Unfortunately for them, they do not know have good spiritual sense (discernment) to notice they are feasting on unhealthy, rotten fruit!

May they (and we) follow the wise examples below of people not blindly listening to spiritual leaders but carefully comparing the message preached with the Bible written!

“And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so” (Acts 17:10-11).

“Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple” (Romans 16:17-18).

“If any man teach otherwise, and consent not to wholesome words, even the words of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to the doctrine which is according to godliness; he is proud, knowing nothing, but doting about questions and strifes of words, whereof cometh envy, strife, railings, evil surmisings, perverse disputings of men of corrupt minds, and destitute of the truth, supposing that gain is godliness: from such withdraw thyself” (1 Timothy 6:3-5).

Also see:
» How do we identify false teachers?
» Should we read denominational literature?
» “But what if they read the Bible at my church…?!”

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