Allen Raynor Weblog: “Knowing Others By Their Fruits” (Pt. 2)
(Mar. 20, 2019)
You have probably sang the Christian song that goes “And they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love; yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.” The meaning behind that chorus is that the fruit produced by being a “true” Christian/believer is love. Christians bear good fruit, whereas pretenders either produce bad fruit or are simply barren. True believers differ in significant ways from false teachers who try and catch the latest wave or are blown about by every wind of doctrine. Sadly, in this day and time, many preachers with substantial platforms have succumbed to the spirit of the age and have compromised on many key issues where the Bible is clear.
It would be impossible to try and cover all the types and specific examples of false teachers in our age. We could study them and critique them one by one, but there is not tremendous value in doing so. When people who handle money are taught how to spot counterfeit money, they do not try to learn about every possible type/way of counterfeiting. Instead they study very closely the real thing – real money! They know it inside and out. That is what leads them to not get taken easily. If you have been a believer for any length of time, you should not have to wonder if a certain preacher/teacher is a false preacher/teacher or not. But, sadly many are being manipulated and fooled.
What are false teachers? Where do we draw the line? Are Methodists, Presbyterians, Nazarenes, and others false teachers because, perhaps we as Baptist see things differently? We can vary on numerous points and it is ok. Maybe they are wrong. Maybe we are wrong. The false teachers discussed in the New Testament go well beyond the majority of mere “denominational” differences. These would deny, to greater and lesser degrees, such fundamentals as the inerrancy of Scripture, the virgin birth of Christ, the substitutionary atonement of Christ, the literal bodily Resurrection of Christ, the literal bodily return of Christ, salvation by faith in Christ alone (not universalism), etc. Today it most certainly would include those who advocate wrong, unbiblical positions regarding practices such as same-sex marriage, practice of homosexuality, advocate abortion, allow sex outside of marriage, etc. Teaching a “this worldly” approach to Christianity such as the “name it and claim it” or “health and wealth” (prosperity gospel) which paints a false picture of the Gospel. In fact, it is more than misleading; it is another “gospel” entirely. Sadly, it can also include silence where raising a voice is called for. One prominent preacher at a very large Houston church said in an interview that he just did not like to mention “sin” because people have enough bad stuff and negativity going on in their lives and they know what sin is. There was just no need for him to talk about it. He believed his job was to help people feel good about themselves.
We see plenty of examples of television preachers flaunting their wealth with luxury cars, multi-million dollar homes, gold fixtures in the bathroom, their own private jets, air-conditioned dog houses, extravagant jewelry, expensive tailor-made suits, and on and on. What are they teaching when they live this way? They are conveying that their living that way is more important than missions, the homeless, the poor, the diseased, the oppressed, the suffering, and much more. Would Jesus really live that way if He were to come back today? Ten million dollars will purchase one jet plane for a televangelist or could do extraordinary amounts of evangelistic work in the hands of missionaries. Commentator Douglas Sean O’Donnell writes “To contemporize our Lord’s teaching, it’s as if Jesus says, ‘I teach self-denial; they teach look great, feel great. I teach the dangers of materialism; they teach live your best life now. I teach that there is only one way to God; they teach love wins – that the wideness of God’s mercy is so wide that everyone is eventually included in his kingdom. I teach humility and dependence upon God; they teach if it’s to be, it’s up to me.’” (Douglas Sean O’Donnell; Matthew: All Authority in Heaven and on Earth; PTWC; 198)
A tree is known by its fruit. When I was growing up, we would not say, “that tree out by the barn,” we would say “The walnut tree.” We would not say, “those trees at the end of the garden,” we would instead say “The peach trees and the apple trees.” Many can deceive for a time/season but eventually, it becomes known that they are by what kind of fruit they are producing. In Matthew 7:18 Jesus says “A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.” A prophet’s fruit includes both words and deeds. True prophets teach doctrine that is sound and live holy lives. False prophets may have great speaking skills and social graces but their doctrine and their ethics are gravely flawed.
During his long reign of terror, Saddam Hussein claimed to be a bold fighter and brilliant leader. But his deeds and words when he was captured revealed who and what he really was. He had a loaded pistol at his side, but chose not to fight. Instead he showed his cowardice. He said, “I am willing to negotiate” when he was captured, as if he was in a position to bargain! His words showed that he was vain and deluded not brilliant. Every tree, Jesus says that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire, signifying punishment for the false teachers who bear bad fruit. By the fruit they produce, you will know them. Some will say, I know this person is a good teacher because look at how many followers they have; listeners they have; books they sell; some may say “I personally know people they have helped.” We should never judge by that standard. Only God’s Word can be the standard. You can justify almost anything if you follow the numbers, or find people who like something, or think they have benefitted from something.
God’s Word is “living and powerful” and it conveys God’s agenda for this world. It needs no mixture of selfishness, individualism, or worldly-oriented false teachers with their lies, self-promotions, and distortions. What we need now is what we have always needed –Truth! By a person’s fruit, you will know them.
Dr. Allen Raynor, Pastor