How often do we hear Christians say “test the fruit” or “you will know them by the fruit”, quoting the words of Jesus as found in Matthew 7.
Let’s look at the portion of scripture in context. It starts with the heading – False prophets – and carries on from there. Let’s pick it up from verse 5… 5 “Constantly be on your guard against phony prophets. They come disguised as lambs, appearing to be genuine, but on the inside they are like wild, ravenous wolves! 16 You can spot them by their actions, for the fruits of their character will be obvious. You won’t find sweet grapes hanging on a thorn bush, and you’ll never pick good fruit from a tumbleweed. 17–19 So if the tree is good, it will produce good fruit; but if the tree is bad, it will bear only rotten fruit and it deserves to be cut down and burned. 20 Look at the obvious fruit of their lives and ministries, and then you’ll know whether they are true or false.” (TPT)
It seems to me though, that “testing the fruit” has come to mean “look at the accomplishment, the fame, the profile, the gifts, the manifestations or the following and decide whether someone is of God”.
What really strikes me from the quoted passage is that the fruit of someone’s character is what distinguishes them as a true prophet of God, not the level of anointing, the proliferation of signs and wonders or the gifts operating in their lives. Romans 11:29 teaches us that the gifts and calling of the Lord are ours, regardless of our actions.
For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable [for He does not withdraw what He has given, nor does He change His mind about those to whom He gives His grace or to whom He sends His call]. (AMP)
This can lead us down a path of destruction if we judge a minister according to the gifts and anointing manifesting through them, or if we look at ourselves and decide that the Lord is okay with our flawed character because He is using us to perform signs, wonders and miracles. How often are we devastated when we learn of a minister of the gospel who are exposed and grievous sin is brought to the light. Have they not been demonstrating good fruit by the signs, miracles and wonders that they performed? Have they not been praying for the sick and see them healed? Raised the dead even?
Further on in Matthew 7 are some troubling verses… 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the realm of heaven’s kingdom. It is only those who persist in doing the will of my heavenly Father. 22 On the day of judgment many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, don’t you remember us? Didn’t we prophesy in your name? Didn’t we cast out demons and do many miracles for the sake of your name?’ 23 But I will have to say to them, ‘Go away from me, you lawless rebels! I’ve never been joined to you!’ (TPT) These verses should put the fear of God in us!
What fruit do we judge then? I believe the answer lies in Galatians 5: 22 to 26.
22–23 But the fruit[ produced by the Holy Spirit within you is divine love in all its varied expressions:
joy that overflows,
peace that subdues,
patience that endures,
kindness in action,
a life full of virtue,
faith that prevails,
gentleness of heart, and
strength of spirit.
Never set the law above these qualities, for they are meant to be limitless.
24 Keep in mind that we who belong to Jesus, the Anointed One, have already experienced crucifixion. For everything connected with our self – life was put to death on the cross and crucified with Messiah. 25 We must live in the Holy Spirit and follow after him. 26 So may we never be arrogant, or look down on another, for each of us is an original. We must forsake all jealousy that diminishes the value of others. (TPT)
Therefor, by the grace of God, let us examine ourselves and allow Holy Spirit to have free access to our hearts and minds, so that He can produce and cultivate in us the fruit of a godly and Christlike character, so that we will be known for our sweet fruit.
I pray with great faith for you, because I’m fully convinced that the One who began this glorious work in you will faithfully continue the process of maturing you and will put his finishing touches to it until the unveiling of our Lord Jesus Christ! Philippians 1:6 (TPT)