What does Matthew 7:18 mean?
ESV: A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit.
NIV: A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit.
NASB: A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
CSB: A good tree can't produce bad fruit; neither can a bad tree produce good fruit.
NLT: A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit.
KJV: A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit.
NKJV: A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.
Verse Commentary:
This statement complements the teaching given in the previous verse (Matthew 7:17). Jesus is making it abundantly clear that false teachers can always be known by their fruit: what comes out of their lives. He has said that healthy trees bear good fruit and diseased trees bear bad fruit. Now He adds that healthy trees cannot bear bad fruit and sick trees can't bear good fruit. It just doesn't happen.

Jesus wants His followers to pay attention not just to the words of self-proclaimed prophets or even of Israel's religious leaders. He wants them to look at a religious leader's life to see how they live and behave. This is the only way to judge whether a supposed prophet brings messages from God or not. This is part of correctly judging (John 7:24), and an important aspect of the Christian faith (1 John 4:1; Acts 17:11).
Verse Context:
Matthew 7:15–23 contains a two-sided warning about false believers. A religious leader may appear respectable and wise, but you must look at the fruit of his life in order to know if he truly represents God. In the same way, it's possible for a person to claim to follow Jesus, referring to Him as "Lord," when they are not true believers. Only those who do the will of the Father will be allowed into the kingdom of heaven—which Jesus defines as beginning with true belief (John 6:28–29). Our good works might fool other people, and might even fool ourselves, but they cannot fool God.
Chapter Summary:
Matthew 7 is the last of three chapters that record what is now known as the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus commands His hearers not to pronounce shallow or hypocritical judgment. He describes God as a generous Father eager to give good things to His children when they ask. He commands His followers to enter the narrow gate and walk the hard road to life. False prophets can be recognized by their fruit, meaning their actions and choices. At the same time, good deeds are not absolute proof that someone has true faith. To live by Jesus' teaching is like building the house of your life on a solid foundation instead of shifting sand.
Chapter Context:
Jesus began the Sermon on the Mount in chapter 5, discussing the Beatitudes and the idea that inner thoughts are very much part of sin and righteousness. Chapter 6 denounced hypocrisy, modeled prayer, and opposed anxiety. Chapter 7 discusses the proper manner of judgment, including how to gauge the teachings of others. Jesus also warns against spiritual self-deception. He concludes with an analogy about foundations and storms. The crowd's amazement at Christ's teachings leads into the miracles and encounters of chapters 8 and 9.
Book Summary:
The Gospel of Matthew clearly shows the influence of its writer's background, and his effort to reach a specific audience. Matthew was one of Jesus' twelve disciples, a Jewish man, and a former tax collector. This profession would have required literacy, and Matthew may have transcribed some of Jesus' words as they were spoken. This book is filled with references to the Old Testament, demonstrating to Israel that Jesus is the Promised One. Matthew also includes many references to coins, likely due to his former profession. Matthew records extensive accounts of Jesus' teaching, more than the other three Gospels.
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