Matthew 7:20
Why by their fruits you shall know them.
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EXPOSITORY (ENGLISH BIBLE)
(20) Ye shall know them.—As before, in Matthew 7:16, the word is one which implies knowledge that is full, clear, decisive—such as that to which St. Paul looks forward in the life to come (1Corinthians 13:12).

7:15-20 Nothing so much prevents men from entering the strait gate, and becoming true followers of Christ, as the carnal, soothing, flattering doctrines of those who oppose the truth. They may be known by the drift and effects of their doctrines. Some part of their temper and conduct is contrary to the mind of Christ. Those opinions come not from God that lead to sin.A corrupt tree - The word "corrupt" here does not signify, as our translation would seem to indicate, that the tree "had been" good, but had become "vitiated;" but that it was a tree of a useless character, of a nature that produced nothing beneficial. 20. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them—that is, But the point I now press is not so much the end of such, as the means of detecting them; and this, as already said, is their fruits. The hypocrisy of teachers now leads to a solemn warning against religious hypocrisy in general.Ver. 16-20. A proper effect discovereth the cause. Lest his disciples should ask, How shall we distinguish true from false teachers? Our Saviour tells them, By their fruits ye shall know them. Our Saviour sends not his disciples to inquire into the truth of their mission, whether that more internal from God, of which they could not judge, or more external from men, who may err, and send out those whom God never sent; but you shall know them (saith our Saviour) by their faithful or unfaithful discharge of their duty: if they be true teachers, by their discharging the ministry in a faithful revelation of the mind and will of God, or by their holy life, living as ensamples to the flock; by their fruits of true doctrine and a holy life, by the discharge of their ministry in good conscience; for it is with men as it is with the trees, good trees bring forth good fruit, corrupt trees bring forth evil fruit. If men have the root of the matter; the seed of God abiding in them, they will in every relation bring forth the fruits of truth and holiness: if they have not, they will bring forth error and wickedness. From whence we may learn, that our Lord expecteth from his people such a knowledge of the Scriptures, as that they may be able to discern truth from falsehood; and such a diligence, as to search the Scriptures, whether those things which their teachers deliver to them be according to them or not, Acts 17:11; not taking divine truths upon trust, nor believing any thing because dictated by teachers, using their teachers not as dictators, but only as helpers of their faith. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. This is the conclusion of the whole, and a repetition of what is before said, the more to fix the rule of judgment upon their minds, and engage them to try men by their doctrines, and their doctrines by the standard of the Scriptures, and not believe every spirit; for with some care and diligence such persons may be detected, and the malignant influence of their ministry be prevented. The sum of the whole is, that ordinarily, and generally speaking, as men are, so are the doctrines they preach, and by them they may be known, and judged to be what they are. Christ here, and in the preceding verses, is speaking not of men of bad lives and conversations, who take upon them to teach others; for there is not so much reason to caution good men against these; they are easily detected, and generally discarded; but of men that put on sheep's clothing, who pretended to much holiness of life and conversation, and strictness of religion; and under that disguise delivered out the most corrupt and unwholesome doctrines; which tended greatly to depreciate him and his grace, and to do damage to the souls of men. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
EXEGETICAL (ORIGINAL LANGUAGES)
Matthew 7:20. Ἄραγε] itaque (Matthew 17:26; Acts 11:18), pointing to the inference from Matthew 7:17-18, and, by way of emphasis, introducing once more that which was already stated in Matthew 7:16 as the theme of discourse.Matthew 7:20. ἄραγε: final inference, a very lively and forcible composite particle; again with similar effect in Matthew 17:26. The γε should have its full force as singling out for special attention; “at least from their fruits, if by no other means”. It implies that to know the false prophet is hard. Matthew 7:22 explains why. He has so much to say, and show, for himself: devils cast out, souls saved, spiritual if not physical miracles done. What other or better “fruit” would you have? What in short is the test? Doctrine, good moral life? Is the false prophet necessarily a false teacher or an immoral man? Not necessarily though not unfrequently. But he is always a self-seeking man. The true prophet is Christ-like, i.e., cares supremely for truth, righteousness, humanity; not at all for himself, his pocket, his position, his life. None but such can effectively preach Christ. This repetition of the thought in Matthew 7:16 is not for mere poetical effect, as Carr (Camb. G. T.), following Jebb (Sacred Literature, p. 195), seems to think.Verse 20. - (Ver. 16, note.) Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them. Wherefore (ἄραγε). Ver. 16a is restated, but now in "rigorous logical inference" (Winer, § 53:8. a) from vers. 16b - 18. Since it is a certainty that fruit is the result of inner nature, you shall from these men's fruits fully learn their true character.
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