Chapter # 6 Paragraph # 5 Study # 31
June 1, 2008
43 For a good tree bringeth not forth corrupt fruit; neither doth a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
44 For every tree is known by his own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.
45 A good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and an evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is evil: for of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
1901 ASV Translation:
43 For there is no good tree that bringeth forth corrupt fruit; nor again a corrupt tree that bringeth forth good fruit.
44 For each tree is known by its own fruit. For of thorns men do not gather figs, nor of a bramble bush gather they grapes.
45 The good man out of the good treasure of his heart bringeth forth that which is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure bringeth forth that which is evil: for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaketh.
- I. Jesus' "Tree" Analogy.
- A. The movement of meaning in the statements.
- 1. Jesus initially simply says "good" trees produce "good" fruit and "unsuitable" trees produce "unsuitable" fruit.
- a. This follows immediately upon the heels of His three-fold attack upon those who seek status in the eyes of men -- blind guides, "superior" disciples, and "speck removers". The implication of "thought-flow" is that the issue of status seeking is a "root" problem. Paul's "definition" of a "genuine Jew" in Romans 2:29 is not only in agreement with this, but puts the fundamental issue of status seeking into the question of "genuine" conversion. This, though being enormously problematical, is inescapable. He is not a "Jew" whose praise is "of men".
- b. What do we do, then, with the reality that Jesus' own disciples (most notably Peter) were status-seekers? What do we do with the Acts story of Ananias and Sapphira whose deaths were brought on by status seeking? What do we do with the declarations regarding Simon (Acts 8:13) that he "believed", was "baptized", and came "nigh to perishing" (8:20) for status-seeking? This fact exists: none of the "extreme exclusion" declarations of the Scriptures live up to their billing. The teaching of the Scriptures themselves, the examples of known believers, and the universal experience of believers all establish the fact that "conversion" does not "solve the problems" of misguided thinking or evil behavior. So, how do we put the "extreme exclusion" statements together with the realities of on-going sinfulness and weakness? This is addressed more fully in B. and C. below, but let it suffice at this point to simply say that what is absolutely true within (conversion does create both a new heart and a new nature) is invariably compromised by what is without. In other words, the "inner truth" of conversion, being mixed with the "inner truth" of on-going depravity, produces a mixed record by the time the actions exit the body.
- 2. Then He links that thought with "for" to the idea that trees are "known" by their fruit.
- 3. Pursuing that thought, He adds "they" do not gather figs from a thorn bush, nor do "they" gather in grapes from a bramble bush.
- 4. Then He transfers the analogies to men: "good" men bring "good" forth out of the "good" treasure of the heart; and the worthless brings forth the "worthless" out of the "worthless".
- 5. There is a second "for" that introduces the concluding statement: out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks.
- B. As clearly as possible, Jesus argues for a "good treasure" as the basis for the production of "the good". But, there are "problems".
- 1. In what sense is a man "good" according to Jesus' terminology? Paul's argument in Romans is that unregenerated men are "not good". But, he also taught that, by means of regeneration, men were "constituted" good and, in some ways, both he and John (in 1 John) taught that the impact of the regeneration made it impossible for the "new man" to sin in any sense. Sin by a "believer" is the outcome of the presence of the dominating principle of "Sin in my members" (Romans 7:17 and 20) and sin by a "born one of God" is impossible (1 John 5:18). Thus, a "good" man is a "regenerated" entity that is "housed" in a body that is already occupied by an "old man" that does nothing but sin.
- 2. Given the impact of "regeneration" (it turns a "generation" of vipers into the people of God), what Jesus is actually calling for is a "purification" of the value-system and belief-system in the "heart" by means of settling the question of "treasure" -- its true identity and value. Nothing will alter the values/beliefs of the "old man" and there is no need of the alteration of the values/beliefs of the "new man". The "need" is for the "wife" (who has died to the "old man" and been married again to the "new man") to settle into her new "marriage" in specific terms of being "wifely" -- i.e., absolutely loyal. Thus, it is not the values/beliefs of the old or new men that are involved; it is the values/beliefs of the "wife".
- 3. Matthew 12:34 reveals a great deal regarding this issue: how can ye (the brood of vipers), being evil, speak what is good?
- C. At the very end of this "good tree/evil tree" application to a "good man/evil man" is the final statement: out of the abundance of the heart, his mouth speaks. This at least implies that the "good/evil" issues are going to be, at root, spoken words -- i.e., "doctrinal formulations" regarding the ways and means of "Life".
- 1. The "problem" of attempting to be a "fruit inspector" is that every person dwells in a body that has an "old man" within that is yet capable of producing (by adultery with the "wife" of the New Man) evil. Thus, because of hypocrisy, no one can be sure that the "good-appearing" is genuinely "good" and that the "obviously evil" is proceeding from an unregenerated person. The issue Jesus addresses here is not "my" inspection of "your" fruit, but "my" inspection of "my own" fruit. If I listen to what is coming out of my mouth, I will know if I am being a faithful wife, or an adulteress.
- 2. The issue, then, of "fruit inspection" is the truthfulness of the words coming out of the mouth. This is not just specific words (because of hypocrisy), but includes the over-all general doctrinal position.