Session #058 Where Wolf?
Scripture Matthew 7:15-20
Summary What exactly did Jesus say about false prophets? Read and understood in context, Matt 7:15-20 becomes much clearer. The believer will find proper markers and benchmarks to process and evaluate prophets and the prophetic ministry. Finally, more than a focus on false prophets, Henson directs the believer’s attention to his or her own walk. Follow Jesus, the Shepherd.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Matthew 7:15–20
Jesus gives us two reasons in this passage why we should watch out for false prophets. They are dangerous, and they are deceptive. They are dangerous because they can lead you away from the truth. They are deceptive because they can seem like the real thing. They play the part well, but they are really wolves in sheep’s clothing.
The King Issues a Caution & Warning about False Prophets
Prosecho is Greek for ‘beware’ which means to pay attention, to be careful, to take heed. As a nautical term, it means to hold a ship in a direction, to sail towards. It means to hold on to one’s course toward a place.
Immediately after Matthew 7:13-14, where we are to choose which gate to enter, we now have the Caution. If you are choosing the narrow gate and way, Be Careful. There will be false prophets who will entice you to get off this way. You have to keep on the way towards the destination of Life and Kingdom.
False Prophets: pseudo-prophetes
These wolves are not out there but are amongst the sheep. Outwardly, they look and talk like Christians. Inwardly, they are of a different nature. The only way to identify and expose these are “by their fruits”.
How can we tell who is telling the truth? The only way is if we ourselves first know what the truth is.
What is a Prophet? What is the Function of the Prophet?
A Prophet in Greek can be nabi or prophetes, and is a spokesperson for a deity or a seer. He speaks under divine influence and inspiration. He can be a Foreteller who sees into the future, to foretell events and occurrences; or a Forthteller who speaks forth and decrees the Word of the Kingdom and the Will and Ways of the King.
Purpose of Prophecy
The purpose is to direct God’s people back onto God’s ways and into God’s will. The revelation of future events is not for crystal ball gazing, but to comfort and encourage God’s people to stay the course even though every difficult time and season. Future scenes of judgment were not to condemn people but to lovingly and graciously warn people to make godly choices because there will be consequences.
It is not for condemnation, but to make clear how God’s people have been misaligned and disobedient. The prophecy is always based on the Law, on the Word of God. It is empowered by God’s Spirit, hence never ministering out of the letter of the law but the Spirit of the law.
The prophets’ hearts were often broken as they cried and wept for the people and their conditions. Yet, they never compromised but clearly presented the choices and consequences, often at their own peril.
In the New Testament, prophets were ministering largely through Edification, Exhortation and Comfort (1 Corinthians 14:1-4). Edification means building up. You cannot build on wrong foundations, and there may be a need to point out what’s wrong before you can build upon what’s right.
False Prophets: Old Testament Examples
Jesus did not have to explain false prophets for the Jews would have heard stories or read accounts of false prophets through the history of Israel as in 1 Kings 22 and Jeremiah 22-29.
False Prophets: New Testament References
Once again, remember that New Testament writers only had the Hebrew Scriptures as their “bible”. Hence, the concerns are the same.
Jesus warns in Matthew 24:24 that false prophets will arise. Paul warns in Acts 20:28–31 that savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Peter too writes that there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you in 2 Peter 2:1–3.
False Prophets come in different forms. They may be False Apostles or False Evangelists as in 2 Corinthians 11:1-15, claiming to be another Jesus with a different spirit and gospel. They may be False Shepherds or Pastors or Hirelings as John writes in John 10:12–13. Lastly, they may be False Teachers who are destructive heresies (2 Peter 2:1) who twist Scriptures (2 Peter 3:16). Not surprisingly, these correspond to the functions of apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher in Ephesians 4:11. Beware, as God’s truth will always have counterfeits.
The False Prophets will have the same characteristics and motives. They presumed to speak for God, and for their personal gain. They are prideful and covetous, drawing people to themselves, away from God and His ways. They are not concerned about things and ways of God; nor the state or welfare of God’s people but exploits people. They may have questionable interpretations and twisting of scripture as well. They are man-pleasers and not seeking to please God. Sometimes their teaching may be accompanied by signs and wonders (Matthew 24:24 & 2 Thessalonians 2:9).
You Will Know Them By Their Fruits (Matthew 7:16-20)
Jesus cautions and teaches us to know their fruits (Matthew 7:16-20). Check their spiritual maturity and character first. Remember, these wolves are dressed in sheep’s clothing. They can be very nice, charming and convincing.
Check their ministry influence and impact. A large following does not mean a right following, just as big does not mean healthy.
Fruit of Prophetic Fulfilment is detailed in Deuteronomy 18:17-22. The prophet needs to be tested. Did the Prophecy come to pass? Today, prophecies are given in broad strokes and general prophetic words. There is also very little accountability, thus it is difficult to verify false or true prophets.
There are False Prophecy and Wrong Prophecy. Nathan was God’s prophet but got it wrong with David. We can make mistakes too but be prepared to acknowledge and apologize. Our part is Not To Reject but to Test prophecy for ourselves. However too many are too lazy to read the word and to seek the Lord for themselves, preferring to be prophetic parasites (1 Thessalonians 5:19; 1 John 4:1).
Scripture is used to check if the Prophecy is rightly aligned with the Word of God. God-led prophets will always be consistent with God’s Word. Not everyone agrees with every interpretation but the fundamentals cannot be compromised. Is it cherry-picking or is it the full counsel of God? (Acts 20:27) God’s prophets will always call people back to God’s ways.
Staying in Context: Do their words line up with words of the King?
Jesus said, “Blessed are the poor in spirit.” but they say, “Blessed are the rich.”
Jesus said, “Blessed are the persecuted” but they say, “You have believed wrongly.”
Jesus said, “The Law must be interpreted correctly.” but they say, “No need for Law anymore.”
Jesus said, “Deal with lust and anger.” but they say, “It’s ok. God’s grace overlooks that.”
Jesus said, “Forgive and you will be forgiven.” but they say, “This was before Jesus died.”
Jesus said, “Don’t be covetous.” but they say, “Ask God for more!”
Jesus said, “Learn how to judge correctly.” but they say, “Never, never, never judge at all.”
Jesus said, “Ask for the Holy Spirit.” but they say, “Ask for anything you want.”
Jesus said, “The way of the kingdom is difficult.” but they say, “Jesus did the difficult part so you can have it easy.”
Beware of False Prophets. Take Heed to Yourself (Ezekiel 14:3-7)
False Prophets are not the only ones to blame. We still have idols in our hearts, for our agendas and desires are still selfish. Jesus is not ruling and reigning as King. These cause us to be misaligned with the King and His kingdom.
We seek out what we want to hear, to justify how we want to live (2 Timothy 4:3-4)
When prophets or teachers tell us we can continue without changing, and we will still be blessed and prosperous, that sounds really good and we love it (Jeremiah 5:30–31).
We are answered according to our idols but we are judged by our choice. Jesus has already stated everything very clearly and precisely. You have a Choice. He even Cautions that some will draw you away from the right choice. False prophets will always appeal to our flesh. They are a test to us if we would choose wisely and rightly. If we still choose according to our fleshly desires, we will receive according to how we have chosen and asked. The broad gate leads to the broadway which leads to destruction.
Repent. Return. Realign. Do not blame the prophets, you are responsible as well. They are accountable for how they prophesy, and you are accountable for how you live or not live for the King.
Measure every prophet and prophetic word against the words of King Jesus. Not all wolves look fierce and scary. They sound good. Their teaching is attractive. They seem to have it all together. But they are really wolves in sheep’s clothing.
Jesus has given the Caution. A Choice still needs to be made. The gate to enter by is narrow. The way to walk by is narrow. But Jesus tells us it leads to life. Beware of wolves. Learn to follow the Shepherd.