What does Matthew 7:19 mean?
ESV: Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
NIV: Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
NASB: Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
CSB: Every tree that doesn't produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
NLT: So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire.
KJV: Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire.
NKJV: Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.
Verse Commentary:
Jesus is warning His listeners, followers, and disciples to beware of false prophets. The term "false prophet" most literally applies to anyone who claims to speak on behalf of God, when they do not. The warnings against false prophets also apply, in broad terms, to anyone who promotes deceptive or errant spiritual claims. In part—and certainly for His original audience—Jesus is warning against the teaching of the Pharisees and Israel's other religious leaders (Matthew 5:20). They are the ones who lead their followers on the wide path that leads to destruction. Jesus' path is hard, but it leads to life (Matthew 7:13–14).

Now Jesus directly echoes what John the Baptist said to a group of religious leaders, Pharisees and Sadducees, who came to see him in the wilderness. After calling them a "brood of vipers," John commanded them to "Bear fruit in keeping with repentance." Then he warned them: "Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire" (Matthew 3:7–10).

Diseased trees, Jesus has said, bear bad fruit. The only thing they are good for is to become fuel for fire. Jesus' mention of fire is meant to refer to the eternal fires of hell and separation from God. False prophets and false religious leaders that do not live what they teach and lead others in the wrong direction are like sick trees. They will be burned (John 15:1–6).
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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