Comments on Matthew 7:18

Matthew 7:18  •  8 min. read  •  grade level: 8
The writer was privileged to be conducted through some experimental plots belonging to the College of Agriculture of the University of California by a member of its faculty who is a devout Christian. (Contrary to many scientists who shut God out of His own creation, here is one who definitely does not. This man, like others here and there, distinguishes between true scientific knowledge and the false speculations of science which are produced by men whose wish is parent to the thought that God is not the creator, but that all things came into being through so-called natural processes. The basic aim of all those who in the enemy's service propound these theories is to prove that man is not God's creature, and consequently does not have to give account to Him who will judge according to every man's work.)
The trip was very interesting and supplied examples of some well-known truths of Scripture which opened up material for thoughtful consideration.
One plot was a row of large, fully-developed pear trees. They gave evidence of being well cared for and their foliage was a good green color. At one end of the row the trees were loaded with beautiful, almost perfect fruit. Such healthy pear trees would have been an asset in any man's pear orchard. Their fruit was delectable. At the other end of the row the pear trees appeared to be healthy and vigorous, but here the Christian plant pathologist paused and plucked some fruit; it was worthless. The fruit was shriveled and knotty. It was astounding that trees so near to each other, and of the same outward appearance as to foliage and vigor should bear such vastly different fruit. What was the explanation? Could there be a simple answer for the seeming mystery?
The scientist explained the reason for the bad fruit. We will quote his words: "Those trees are bad, and there is nothing that can be done for them; they have a virus disease that pervades them from the roots to every extremity They cannot produce good fruit." Together we then spoke of the Lord's words: "A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit." Matt. 7:1818A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. (Matthew 7:18). A tree is judged according to the quality of its fruit; and so with men. John the Baptist searched the hearts of his would-be followers by saying, "The ax is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire." Matt. 3:1010And now also the axe is laid unto the root of the trees: therefore every tree which bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. (Matthew 3:10). Mere religion or profession will not correct the root cause. Adam fell and pulled down his whole posterity; and every man from that day onward has been born with an evil nature which can only bring forth evil fruit. What man needs is a complete change, a new birth, a new life, so he can bring forth fruit for God. Otherwise he will be cut down and cast into the lake of fire.
Another comment by the scientist gave emphasis to a picture of man's hopeless condition apart from a complete rebirth. Referring to the bad trees he said, "No amount of pruning, watering, spraying, or fertilizing will improve those trees or their fruit. To give them special culture would only increase the bad fruit they would bear." Here was food for meditation; could not man be improved by education? by environment? or by any of the means so often tried? No! Man by nature is as hopelessly bad as those diseased trees. He may indeed present an outward appearance which compares favorably with those who have a new life from God, and yet his heart be unchanged-it is enmity toward God. This led us to reflect on all that had been done to improve man, apart from God and new birth. Many and varied are the means that have been tried to give the world a moral uplift-to stop vice, crime, blasphemy, murder, war, etc., etc. Have they changed man? No. In fact it might be said that educated man has only become more prolific in the production of bad fruit. Wars, for instance, were bad enough before men became so civilized; now they are frightfully worse. Men used to kill one another by club or sword in hand-to-hand combat; now with a higher degree of civilization men have discovered how to wipe out the inhabitants of a whole city with one blast, or to destroy all the crops of another country with chemicals and so bring famine upon the populace, or to spread the worst plagues by bacteriological warfare and thus wipe out a people by disease. It is just as true of the highly civilized people of the mid-twentieth century as it was of the heathen world before Christ came- "The way of peace have they not known," and "destruction and misery are in their ways."
The disease pervading those bad pear trees is like sin, the root and nature in fallen mankind, which in activity produces wicked acts-sins. "For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness." Mark 7:21, 2221For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, 22Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: (Mark 7:21‑22). The epistle to the Romans carefully distinguishes between sins (the acts committed) and sin (the nature which bears bad fruit). Rom. 5:1111And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement. (Romans 5:11) concludes that portion of the epistle dealing with the subject of sins, and the next verse begins the subject of sin. For sins, God has forgiveness for all who believe in the Lord Jesus, and He has been proved righteous in forgiving their sins because of the work of Christ; for sin, God has only condemnation-He "condemned sin in the flesh." He treats the old nature as beyond improvement, and passes sentence on it. The seventh chapter of the epistle shows the struggles of one trying to mend what is unmendable, and then the struggling one finds full deliverance in the last verse of that chapter and the first verse of the eighth: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus." He is now in a new position entirely-"in Christ Jesus"-and has power to walk after the Spirit (Rom. 8:44That the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit. (Romans 8:4)).
There was another comment of interest on the bad pear trees, and that was that they could not produce progeny that would be any better. No young trees derived from those bad ones would be better than the parent stock. How true that is of the human pattern we have been considering! The offspring of fallen man is also fallen. The innocent babe has within it the bad stock that will in maturity bring forth the same evil fruit.
The plant pathologist's final comment on the pear trees pointed up another likeness to the human family. He said, "Even grafting in a branch from a good tree will not improve the condition of a bad tree." In like manner, "That which is born of the flesh is flesh"; it can never be anything else. And when a man repents and believes the gospel, and consequently receives a new life from God which can bring forth good fruit, that does not improve his old nature one particle. It is a lie of the devil to say either that the old nature can be improved, or that because one is saved the old nature can be burned out. We Christians have a wholly new life, but we also carry the flesh with us, and if it is not judged and kept in the place of death it will bear the ugly fruit which is all it is capable of bearing.
In another experimental station we saw good tomato plants which had been transplanted into soil that was bad, and oh, how sickly they looked. The plants had been good, but they were having great difficulty growing in diseased, unhealthy soil. Here, we thought, was another lesson for us. We as Christians have a life that belongs to heaven, and there is nothing in this poor world that will nourish that life which is from above. Our lives as children of God must draw all their sustenance from another source or we shall be as sickly as those tomato plants. The very climate of earth tends to blight our spiritual lives. The new life of the Christian is not indigenous to this world and must grow here in an adverse climate against many ill winds; the secret of a healthy Christian with robust spiritual energy is to be drawing fresh resources from above, and feeding on Christ, the Bread which came down from heaven.
Finally, the plant pathologist called attention to some plants that had been transplanted into sterilized soil. All the evil contamination had been killed or rendered ineffective by the process, but still the plants drooped, for there were not sufficient nutriments in that particular soil to sustain them in vigor. Thus the mere absence of evil is not enough to promote spiritual health; there must be the positive source of good. Nutrition must be furnished for our souls or we cannot grow. May we see to it that we get a sufficient quota of that which will feed us, and draw freely from those rich streams of the water of life for refreshment as we travel a barren wilderness. Our blessed Lord and Shepherd is engaged in ministering sustenance to us.
"Our Shepherd is the Lord,
The living Lord who died;
With all His fullness can afford,
We are supplied.
He richly feeds our souls
With blessings from above,
And leads us where the river rolls
Of endless love.
"Our souls He doth restore,
And keeps us in His way;
He makes our cup of joy run o'er,
From day to day.
Through love so full, so deep,
Anointed is our head;
Mercy and goodness us shall keep,
Where'er we tread."