“Enter by the narrow gate. For the gate is wide and the way is easy that leads to destruction, and those who enter by it are many. For the gate is narrow and the way is hard that leads to life, and those who find it are few. Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:12-20).
The uninspired title headings our English translations give us can sometimes create in our minds a break that was never intended to be present by the original authors. After Jesus says that those who find the narrow gate and hard way are few in Matthew 7:14, the ESV then puts the heading, “A Tree and Its Fruit.” While there may be a slight change in what Jesus is teaching in Matthew 7, I personally believe that Jesus didn’t skip a beat teaching what he did between v. 14 and v. 15.
Jesus is implying that in the world there are more people who think they know the way that leads to salvation than those that actually do know the way. He is implying that there are more people deceived who are in fact false prophets. They come in sheep’s clothing, but are ravenous wolves. They are not healthy trees who bear good fruit. Instead they are the ones who show bad fruit and will one day be “cut down and thrown into the fire.”
The world looks in from the outside and sees a bunch of hypocrites in the church. Conflict and division and judgmentalism are oftentimes present in the church. Pastors joke about ministry, saying that ministry would be so easy if it weren’t for people. People say if you ever find a church that is perfect, don’t go there because you’ll immediately make it imperfect. Could it be that all of these statements and ideas are unfortunately true because those attending church and claiming to be in relationship with Christ are actually false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing, who are inwardly ravenous wolves? Could it be that a large number of people attending Christian churches don’t truly know Christ and therefore bring their sinful flesh in all its force to the church community?
The Church in our nation largely preaches a gospel that is easy to believe, easy to live out, and without cost. It preaches a gospel that is preached by preachers looking to build up the number of so-called professions of faith from those listening to their preaching. Instead of preaching the true gospel that is costly, they preach one that is attractive, yet incomplete. They prostitute the gospel, deceiving thousands of people. They then welcome them into membership because they one day “asked Jesus into their heart” or “prayed the prayer” leading the church to be made up of those who are not genuinely saved.
Is it any surprise then that the very next verse you read in Matthew 7, is v.21 where Jesus said: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many might works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”
Do you know Christ intimately? Have you been changed by the gospel? Do you find yourself longing and desiring more and more of the Lord? Do you find yourself growing in godliness and holiness? Do you find yourself becoming more and more like Christ? Or could it be that your relationship with Christ would be better summarized as apathetic, complacent, plateaued, and even declining? If the latter is true of you, repent of your sin and turn to Christ for salvation! Surrender to his work in you!