The fruit of the Spirit as a form of legalism

In Matthew 7:16-20 Jesus teaches his disciples to watch out for false prophets, “you will recognise them by their fruits” says Jesus. Many Christians, including myself at one time, turn this verse back on themselves and they ask “what are my fruits like?” This question will lead people to legalism or condemnation.


The legalist will say “look at my fruit, God, it is shiny, sweet, juicy and ripe, surely you accept me”. Others will say “my fruit is not as shiny as it could be, not as sweet, not as juicy and it needs to ripen, God you can’t possibly accept me, I’ll try harder.” The genuine believer, however, does not look at the fruit of his life but at whether he is a good tree or a bad tree. He knows that by nature he is a bad tree but by the grace of God in the death of Christ for his sins through faith he is now a good tree. The more he thinks about this the more his desire to be good increases and so the fruit grows and is visible to others.

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 cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. [Matthew 7:16-20]

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