If a pastor is caught in adultery, what do we say? “Well, he’s not a man of God. After all, ‘you shall know them by their fruits.’” If a person is caught in sin routinely, what do we say? “You shall know them by their fruits.“
We use this term to say that Christians are known by their actions. The funny thing is though, that verse doesn’t say that at all. This verse has been taken out of context so long, it’s been completely distorted.
“You shall know them by their fruits“ has nothing to do with judging a Christian by how much they sin or don’t sin. Due to an un-renewed mind, Christians can sin. Yes. But that does not invalidate them as a born-again, brand new, clean, and righteous believer. You cannot judge whether someone is a Christian or not, by how much they sin in your opinion.
“You shall know them by their fruits“ is actually talking about how you know a false teacher, by their words. When He says, “them,“ He is referring to false teachers. When He says, “fruit,“ He is referring to their words. You’ve probably never heard that before.
Matthew 7:15-17 (KJV) Beware of FALSE PROPHETS, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know THEM [false prophets] by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
You can clearly see that the people He is speaking about are false prophets. And as to the fruit Jesus is speaking about, He never, ever says He is speaking about someone’s actions. We’ve made that up. We’ve literally inserted that ourselves. In fact, Jesus speaks about the same thing in the book of Luke. Look at Luke’s account of what the “fruit“ is:
Luke 6:44-45 (KJV) For every tree is known by his own FRUIT… A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart HIS MOUTH SPEAKETH.
The fruit being produced is words, not actions. Jesus is simply saying, “You shall know them by their words.“ That’s how you tell a false prophet from a good one. A pastor committing adultery is certainly not according to a Christian’s new nature, and nothing that we should approve of, but it does not disprove him as a man of God. That might shock you, but if we judged God’s prophets in the Bible by their actions, we would judge most of them false prophets by our standards.
Even “righteous Lot“ offered his daughters up to be raped by evil men in Genesis. His behavior is certainly nothing any of us should condone, and yet the Bible still calls him “righteous Lot.“ This is no advocacy for sin. What Lot did was a terrible wrong. But if you were judging Lot by his “fruits” (as we say) do you think you would have judged him a righteous man as he was offering his daughters to be raped? Well, God did. In fact, it was during this time that God was withholding judgment from Sodom and Gomorrah, all for Lot’s sake!
For that matter, Abraham, God’s friend, gave his wife to another man to save his own life, Samson was empowered by God straight out of a prostitute’s house, Rahab herself was a prostitute when she believed in the Lord, Peter denied ever even knowing the Lord, and the list could go on and on. And you see, if you were to judge these people by their actions, you would not judge any of them righteous. Yet God does.
This is absolutely no advocacy for sin or for disorder. I’m not saying their actions were godly. All the contrary. In fact, that’s my very point! Their actions were not godly and yet they were all righteous saints through Jesus! Clearly, judging a Christian by how much they sin is not an accurate metric!
“You shall know them by their fruits“ has absolutely nothing to do with judging a Christian by his morality or behavior. “You shall know them by their fruits“ is a verse about how to tell a good teacher from a bad teacher — “You shall know teachers by their WORDS.”
Evidence Of A Believer
There are two evidences of a believer (and this will go hand-in-hand with the “Obedience Is Faith “ audio article for those that have listened.)
- They continue in the word of God
- They love their brothers and sisters in Christ
There’s one new covenant command to all people and that is to believe in Jesus (John 6:29, Rom. 16:26). That’s it. So, if someone turns away from seeking the word of God altogether, that person can’t be saved, because they are not keeping the one commandment that God has given them to do. You need to continue seeking the word of God.
John 8:31 (KJV) Then said Jesus to those Jews which believed on him, If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed;
And the second evidence of a believer is that they love their brothers and sisters in Christ. Here’s why:
1 John 5:1 (NKJV) Whoever believes that Jesus is the Christ is born of God, and everyone who loves Him [God] who begot also loves him [believers] who is begotten of Him.
Believers are those who have been born of God and made just like God. So, you can’t say you love God and hate Christians as a whole. How can a person say that they love God, if they hate the group of people that represent God on the earth? That just wouldn’t make sense. It would be contradictory.
This verse is not saying that you are known to be a disciple of Christ because you live morally. Morality is vital and an important thing that God wants to produce in our lives, but it’s not how you tell a Christian from a non-Christian. This verse is simply saying that if you love God, obviously you will love the people that represent Him on earth.
All in all, it’s true that as we believe, our faith produces good works. That couldn’t be truer! As you renew your mind, you will be transformed from glory to glory! And this is the will of God! But if our mind is not fully renewed yet, it is possible for Christians to do things that are wrong — and sometimes frequently. And as wrong as some of those things might be, it does not invalidate a person as a born-again believer. “You shall know them by their fruits“ is not referring to judging a Christian by how moral their behavior is. It is a verse about how to tell a good teacher from a bad teacher. “You shall know them by their words.”