Testing the Teacher’s Life and the Doctrine He Teaches
A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. A good tree canâ€™t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree canâ€™t produce good fruit. So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
Matt. 7:17-20 (NLT)
Jesus tells His disciples to test preachers and teachers by their fruit. There are two testsâ€”one is the fruit in the life of the preacher, and the other is the fruit of the doctrine. The fruit of a manâ€™s own life may be perfectly beautiful, and at the same time he may be teaching a doctrine which, if logically worked out, would produce the devilâ€™s fruit in other lives. It is easy to be captivated by a beautiful life and to argue that therefore what that he teaches must be right. Jesus says, â€œï»¿Be careful, test your teacher by his fruit.ï»¿â€
The other side is just as true, a man may be teaching beautiful truths and have magnificent doctrine while the fruit in his own life is rotten. We say that if a man lives a beautiful life, his doctrine must be right; not necessarily so, says Jesus. Then again we say because a man teaches the right thing, therefore his life must be right; not necessarily so, says Jesus. Test the doctrine by its fruit, and test the teacher by his fruit.
Oswald Chambers, Studies in the Sermon on the Mount (Hants UK: Marshall, Morgan & Scott, 1996, c1960), 95.