15 "Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 "You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 "So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 "A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 "Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 "So then, you will know them by their fruits.
Jesus describes a type of human being here, where the outwardly and the inwardly completely contradict. Can you imagine natures further apart from each other, than the sheep and the wolf’s! But the outwardly is only a sheep’s clothing, He says: "- but inwardly are.."(v.15b).
They do not split in a way that they are equal parts at the same time, like two sides with the same nature/personality. But is one of them completely while the other is only a role they play.
How the human being is on the inside, is how he really is. Not what he at all times achieves outwardly. And then, when your real inwardly self is the wolfs, it will soon demand its right and satisfaction. Simply it is just not normal for a wolf to act like a sheep.
This is also what Jesus points to here - their inwardly will soon be visible in the outwardly.
What kind of fruit does Jesus speak about here?
It may be several types of utterances here and we will try to get to it. Jesus has immediately before this, spoken about the narrow path, something he also points at in Luke 14:33, where He says: “So then, none of you can be My disciple who does not give up all his own possessions.”
There is hardly anything which is so against the wolf’s/predators nature than to give up anything of his own. It has on the contrary his ferocity as his particular mark. And it is possibly first and foremost by this the false prophets reveal themselves.
It is pretty significant that they appear just as prophets, teachers and leaders. They would never be content to just be ordinary Christians. They will push and force themselves up and forth by the help of seductive and flattering speech and pure misuse of power - just considering what is easiest for them at the moment, with the intention of achieving their goal. Always having their eyes fixed on the best seats, where they themselves can get the greatest profit on behalf of the congregation. All in all, they will aim at the best and most highly esteemed seats.
Their glare can be big and shiny and they will even be able to do mighty works in the name of Jesus, speak prophetic (to comfort and to edification), and to exorcise evil spirits (set the tormented free) (Mat. 7:22).
It is worth noticing that Jesus says this in connection with our text, and it is worth noticing that He starts by saying: “Beware…!” exactly because of the sheep fur, the glare that so easily blinds us.
These proceed as strong Christian leaders, who always knows where the road leads at all time. And when they - next to having a particular spiritual authority - also do a lot of good deeds, it is not easy to reveale who they in reality really are.
It will also be a difficult task for the members of the congregation to reveal them, when most of them probably will not understand it. Having this said, it is important to mention the Word of Jesus in Luke 14:33, and for example John the baptizer’s index finger who pointed away from himself, to Jesus: “Look, the Lamb of God who carries all the sin of the world.”
This will be impossible for the fake Christian, totally against his nature, without as a move in a game of strategy.
But the greedy nature will not really be able to hide, but will push itself forth in all sorts of contexts, because a bad tree cannot bear good fruit, as Jesus says?. Also notice the opposite, you who struggle yourself with bearing good fruit for God: ”A good tree cannot produce bad fruit.” (v.18a).
Your old nature is the way it is and will have its manifestations in you, but what Jesus have laid down in you by His Word and His Spirit, will bear the exactly kind of fruit that he intended.
But the bad tree has to - according to its bad nature - bear bad fruit. It will occur a restlessness and discord around these people; people will get hurt, wounded, put outside, made suspicious, put up against each other, split apart and spread around. A sign that Jesus also points to in John 10:12b, as a visible evidence that the wolf makes havoc in the flock: “- and the wolf snatches them and scatters them.”
There are two things mentioned here that the wolf does: He robs them, which means that by bringing something on the side or in addition to what is already given them in Jesus - something that is given an over exaggerated meaning - he weakens and robs them bit by bit, what they have in common, the real foundation, the word of Jesus, the word about the Cross. And by this “significant” he himself brings inn, he divides them and they are chased from one another.
The “significant” he brings in, is in reality a tool to create space for himself and his own, something that does not show easily in the beginning, because it is probably disguised by his compassion for the different sides of the Word of God. Need for the unsaved and so on.., but he takes Jesus place with the believers, and therefore reveals himself as an antichrist.
That they in reality take Jesus place with the believers they often try to disguise under something like the ministry of a “pastor” or the ministry of a “prophet” and so on.
There is always something hidden and covered by the servants of Satan, as it is by Satan himself. Therefore Jesus also says “Beware!” in this context, exactly when they will perceive as something else than what they really are (v.15).
There is one more thing which will do this hard for us; namely the fact that every true Christian are going to create a division, as Jesus Himself did.
The difference is that he will never create division and difficulties, to accomplish something for himself, but he does it to expose the honor of Jesus in the congregation. Because he presents the righteousness of faith alone, the honor of Jesus alone, on the expense of the human being’s self - what needs to be stated to be His disciple - both regarding the salvation and the sanctification and so on.
This will meet opposition to anyone who has not had a confrontation with the self righteous spirit and is satisfied with God’s indescribable gift (2 Cor. 9:15), Jesus Christ, alone.
Nor will he want to (and especially not in our time), achieve an advanced place in the congregation, but will rather be where the persecuted are, and especially the disregarded. But He is a branch on the good tree, Jesus, and therefore he bears good fruit. First and foremost that He presents the Word of Life (Phil. 2:16a), and by this will shine among them (the gentiles) as a light in the world (Phil. 2:15b).
The false prophet on the contrary is a very (false/seductive) light.
Both of these have existed in the world since Kain and Abel walked on earth. And it will according to the Word of Jesus appear a lot of the bad kind in the last days, just before the end of this world in its present condition. It is the devils last furious thrust when he knows that he only has limited time left (Rev. 12:12).
“Beware!” Let the difficulty to see through this - as it is the cunning snake who is swiftly moving about - undress all faith in your own and be driven towards Jesus as helpless and little as you in reality are in this context, so He can give you eyes to see with - and above all to see who and how He is. Then you will not follow the strangers (devils) voice so quickly (John 10:5).