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Amy is co-host and blogger for both Stand Up for the Truth and Naomi's Table, two ministries that give her the opportunity to write and talk about Jesus all day long. She has written, produced and broadcast in the realm of television and radio news, magazine business journals and marketing materials. She continues her freelance work as a writer and social media consultant.

Can false teachers bear good fruit?

What is “good fruit,” anyway?

We often think of fruit as our good deeds that accompany our words, or perhaps we think of it as “the fruit of the spirit” (as in love, joy, peace, patience, etc., from Galatians 5:22).

But if you are discerning pastors, teachers, authors or leaders, what if they appear to have these good fruits of the Spirit and more? What if they are kind and gentle, and appear holy and pepper their messages with scripture verses? What if they are known for running a homeless shelter or giving to a charity that feeds the hungry in Africa?

Consider that false teachers and prophets do all of the above and more, which makes them particularly dangerous and so convincing to the ears of the sheep. What do we make of their credentials?  

Jesus calls them “sheep’s clothing,” and that we must not discern simply by outward appearances. No, Jesus said that false prophets can be detected by their fruits. Simply judging by external forms is risky; judging (if you prefer, discerning) on the basis of fruits is absolutely necessary and part of our responsibility. as Bible.org puts it,  ‘The proof of the root is in the fruit.’ Good trees produce good fruit, and rotten trees, bad fruit. A dependable assessment of those who would be guides is that of their fruits (Matthew7:20):

But, what are these fruits? One must be very careful here, for false prophets are not without religious activities. A false prophet is often accompanied by deceptive signs and by seeming wonders. Some of these are suggested in Matthew 7:22: “Many will say to Me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophecy in Your name, and in your name cast out demons, and in Your name perform many miracles?”’

We should expect false prophets to engage in acts of kindness and charity. We should expect them to perform deeds which suggest miraculous power. And we should expect that these deeds be performed under the pretext of being done by God’s power and to His glory.

  • “For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).

Common culinary fruits.

That means that we ought to expect false prophets to be accompanied by religious works, often unusual and spectacular, done ostensibly in the name of God. Satan willingly gives the glory to God in such cases, so long as ultimately he is able to deceive people and cause them to their allegiance and obedience him.

But are these religious activities the fruits of which the Master spoke? If not, what are they? The Scriptures frequently describe the fruits of the false prophets, so that we are left with little doubt as to what we should look for. I believe we can see the fruits of the false prophets falling into three categories.

(1) The first category of the fruits of the false prophet is their doctrine. False prophets speak from their own delusion, not by divine command (Jeremiah 23:16,21,25; Ezekiel 13:2). They do not proclaim or defend God’s word, but deny it (Jeremiah 23:17). In particular they deny unpleasant subjects such as impending judgment (Jeremiah 6:14; 28:17; Ezekiel 13:10). They offer temporary and partial relief to pressing problems (Jeremiah 8:11). Mainly, they tell people precisely what they want to hear (1 Kings 22:8, 13; 2 Timothy 4:3-4). Concerning the way of salvation they deny the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ and they reject the work of Christ on the cross (2 Peter 2:1; 1 John 4:2-3).

(2) The second category of the fruits of the false prophets is the effect of their teaching in the lives of men. Invariably it leads to a rejection of God’s word, a rejection of biblical authority, a division among the saints (Jeremiah 23:2,14) and a life of sensuality (2 Peter 2:2). They attempt to lead men away from the truth of the gospel (Acts 13:8), and to deceive genuine Christians with false doctrine (Mark 13:22). This is also evident from the pastoral epistles (1 and 2Timothy and Titus) where Paul speaks of the need of sound or healthy doctrine (1 Tim. 4:6; 2 Tim. 4:3; Tit. 1:9; 2:1).

(3) Finally, there is the fruit of the false teachers as evidenced in their own moral character. They are easily distinguished by their pride (2 Peter 2:10), their greed (Jeremiah 8:10; Titus 1:11; 2 Peter 2:3,14) and immorality (Jeremiah 23:11,14; 2 Peter 2:14). They are men dominated by the flesh (2 Peter 2:10,12; 3:3). They prey upon the weak and the guilt-ridden (2 Timothy 3:6-7; 2 Peter 2:14,13). While they profess to know God, by their deeds they deny Him (Matthew 7:22-23; 2 Timothy 3:5; Titus 1:16). While they delight in authority, they refuse to submit to it (2 Peter 2:10).

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3 Responses to “Can false teachers bear good fruit?”

  1. Well written and thoughtful article. Finding those whose teachings are not extra-Bibilcal, unscriptural, and/or heretical requires discernment and (dare I say it) the gift of discerning of spirits.

    September 10, 2012 at 6:23 AM Reply
  2. Dick Winter #

    How can a pastor preach a sermon, but then say your are misinterpreting it when you call him on something in that sermon? "To speak of a problem but to not act is to not care." How can one misinterpret that statement? I would not call that good fruit! Or when this same pastor is removed from the A.G. for embezzling funds from a previous church, but still allowed to perform his "pastoral" duties at another church in another state?! Is that good fruit? Sure doesn't sound like it to me. Someone in his family got him out of this situation, only because he had power and money. That doesn't sound like good fruit, does it?! Doesn't to me!

    September 11, 2012 at 1:45 PM Reply
  3. Mr Davis #

    The test in James I'm afraid not many would be pastors would pass. Instead of garments of praise we cloth ourselves in pride arrogance envy and malice. Yet we are prone to thinking ourselves wise and beyond correction, beyond mere man.

    1:22 But be ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. 23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: 24 For he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way , and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was . 25 But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. 26 If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain.

    2:8 If ye fulfil the royal law according to the scripture (That is the Law of Love in Romans 12-13), Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself, ye do well: 9 But if ye have respect to persons, ye commit sin, and are convinced of the law as transgressors. 10 For whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all.

    James 3:10 Out of the same mouth proceedeth blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not so to be . 11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter? 12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

    13 Who is a wise man and endued with knowledge among you? let him shew out of a good conversation his works with meekness of wisdom.

    14 But if ye have bitter envying and strife in your hearts, glory not, and lie not against the truth.

    15 This wisdom descendeth not from above, but is earthly, sensual, devilish. 16 For where envying and strife is, there is confusion and every evil work.

    17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be intreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy. 18 And the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace of them that make peace.

    It seems we are more about justifying our own existence THROUGH TRIVIAL pursuits and programs than we are in disciplining followers, teaching them to obey the Law of Love in Christ Jesus.

    October 4, 2012 at 11:28 AM Reply

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