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God’s Word for You

Luke 6:43 Good tree, good fruit

by Pastor Timothy Smith on Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Listen and Do
(Matthew 7:15-27)

43 “Certainly a good tree does not produce bad fruit, and a bad tree does not produce good fruit.

In Matthew (7:17-19), this statement and the verses that follow are spoken by Jesus about false prophets. Here, Luke tells us that Jesus has been speaking about the blind false teachers of Israel (see 6:39-40). The difference between a false prophet and an ordinary religious teacher is debatable since they have a certain amount of overlap, but the point is that they are both a danger to God’s people. Yet what Jesus says can also be applied to all people; not just to teachers.

Think about the two kinds of trees, one good and the other bad. Jesus only uses two adjectives: kalon (καλόν, good, proper, honorable) and sapron (σαπρόν, bad, worthless, harmful). Although sapron can also mean “rotten” (cp. Job 41:19, “rotten wood”), no one would expect to find any fruit at all in a rotten or dry tree. The bad tree producing fruit won’t produce good fruit because it is a bad tree. With respect to my dad who lives the flowering crabapple tree, you can’t expect apples to hang from a crabapple tree. If we substitute the word “poisoned,” the illustration is clearer: A good tree doesn’t produce poisoned fruit, and a poisoned tree doesn’t produce good fruit.

Many Christians, especially in this age of radio, television and internet preachers, are willing to listen to false doctrine because they no longer recognize false doctrine when they hear it. They think that a message that mentions Christ is always a pure, Christian message. Jesus’ illustration about good and bad trees leads us to an old illustration about false doctrine. If someone offered you two glasses of water, telling you that this one is fresh from the spring, and the other one has some poison in it, which glass would you drink? Would you care whether the one with poison had a little or a lot of poison? Wouldn’t you avoid even one drop of the stuff? And yet so many people gulp down false doctrine as they listen to the endless stream of teaching that puts the listener first and Christ second in the salvation of their soul. It’s poison to put anything ahead of Christ, even if that something is me. If any part of me is more important to my salvation than Jesus Christ, whether it’s my reason, my choices, my decision—anything—then Christ is set aside, and I’m completely and utterly on my own. And left to myself, I’m damned.

When Jesus forgave the sins of the sinful woman who anointed his feet (Luke 7:48) he told her, “Your faith has saved you” (vs. 50). Paul taught the Ephesians: “It is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God” (Ephesians 2:8). The early Christians trusted this doctrine: “We too are called by God’s will in Christ Jesus—not justified through ourselves, nor our own wisdom or understanding or works we have achieved with a pious heart, but by faith. Through it, God has justified all men from the beginning” (1 Clement 32:4). And although this teaching was set aside by some over the years, the teaching of the Bible was restored in the Reformation (indeed, this was the whole point of the Lutheran Reformation): “We begin by teaching that our works cannot reconcile God or merit forgiveness of sins and grace but that we obtain forgiveness and favor for Christ’s sake, who alone has been ordained to be the mediator and propitiation through whom the Father is reconciled. Consequently whoever trusts that he merits grace by works despises the merit and grace of Christ and seeks a way to God without Christ, by human strength, although Christ has said of himself, ‘I am the way, and the truth, and the life’ (John 14:6)” (Augsburg Confession, Article XX). And Jesus continued: “No one comes to Father except through me” (John 14:6). By these words he excluded every other path to heaven offered by mistake by the Josephs and Joyces and Mary Angelicas on our screens today.

Keep reading your Bible, and keep remembering your Catechism. A paragraph of the Catechism before supper every night is one of the best family devotions you can have, and it’s so simple that anyone can do it. Read, pray and be filled—and then eat. God’s holy word is a good tree that will never produce bad fruit.

In Christ,
Pastor Timothy Smith

Pastor Tim SmithAbout Pastor Timothy Smith
Pastor Smith serves St. Paul’s Lutheran Church in New Ulm, Minnesota. His wife, Kathryn, attended the Chapel from 1987-1990 while studying Secondary Education (Theater and Math) at UW-Madison. Kathryn’s father, John Meyer, was also the first man to serve as a Vicar at Chapel.

To receive God’s Word for You via e-mail, please contact Pastor Smith.

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