21st March 2023
Read (Matthew 12v33-37)
Message (Scott Woodburn)
John Owen once said "The rule and method of the gospel is, that the tree be first made good, and then the fruit will be so also." He was right. There is no possibility of you being saved by trying to produce "good fruit" in your life. First your heart needs to be transformed by the grace of God and from that "good root" follows "good fruit".
This teaching doesn't belong to John Owen but was given to us by Christ. He said "Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit." (v33). A good tree produces good fruit and a bad tree produces bad fruit. This is a simple but clear picture of the difference between a Christian and the unbeliever. Both individuals deserve nothing but God's wrath but the Christian has understood their spiritual poverty, trusted in Christ and has been made alive in Jesus. The once dead tree has sprung into life as it has been watered by the Gospel and cultivated by the Spirit.
Christ turned to His opponents (probably the Pharisees) and called them a "brood of vipers" (v34). They had no ability to say anything good because their hearts were evil. This sounds like an incredibly harsh attack but please understand that it applies to all of us before our hearts are transformed by the Gospel. Jesus said that the words that flow from the mouth display the condition of the heart (v34b). The Pharisees were filled with venom towards Christ even stating that He was Satanic - their root was rotten and so was their fruit.
However the one who has been transformed by the Gospel is someone who brings forward good things out of his good treasure (v35). The new heart of a Christian is a great treasure indeed. The Lord has graciously raised us to spiritual life and now we no longer speak as His enemy but as His friend. It is not so for the one who is evil as from his heart only flows evil. The Christian has been enabled to cry "Jesus is Lord" whilst Christ's enemies often declare Him to be irrelevant or worse still an ally of Satan. The difference is extraordinary and it all stems from the condition of the root which is the human heart.
All of this will become apparent at the last day. Jesus said "I tell you, on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak, for by your words you will be justified, and by your words you will be condemned." (v36-37) It is important to understand the gravity of these words without misrepresenting their meaning. What do I mean? Well what is a careless or idle word? Perhaps it is the joke we shared with a friend? Perhaps it's the idle chit-chat we have every single day with our next door neighbour?
If so does the Christian have to be a humourless and virtually wordless individual? No. In this passage the Pharisees have declared Jesus to be in league with Satan and it is in this context that Christ urges caution over the words we speak. The words we speak against Christ will see us condemned on the last day. But thanks be to God, for the lips that declare "Jesus is Lord" will meet with His approval when the end finally comes.
The good heart produces good fruit and good words about our good shepherd. This is God's work and it is glorious indeed.
Q106 What do we pray for in the sixth petition? In the sixth petition, which is, And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil,” we pray, that God would either keep us from being tempted to sin, or support and deliver us when we are tempted.