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Beware Of False Prophets


Matthew 7:15-20

Some of the things that Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount are so encouraging and uplifting…and some of the things He teaches are difficult. Today’s text is just unpleasant.

I think it is interesting that Jesus speaks this warning here at this time because in the two verses just before this He has talked to us about the “narrow gate” and the “narrow way” and proceeding on the path that leads to life…but now he warns of those that can mislead us from that  narrow path.

Jesus says, “Beware of the false prophets who come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

The term “false prophet” in the Greek is “pseudo –  which is the Greek word for “lie” – profetos” and it refers to an imposter…a pretender…someone who pretends to be a prophet of God.

One other thing to note is Jesus in warning about the “false prophet” tells us that there is such a thing as a standard of truth from which the falsehood of the false prophets is to be distinguished.

And notice, “they come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”

And notice what makes them so dangerous…”they come in sheep’s clothing.”

So, how do you recognize them?

So, what kind of fruits will they produce?

Gal 5:19-21 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you just as I have forewarned you that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God.

But a false prophet’s fruits are not only revealed in his character and manner of life…but also in his teaching.  Look at what Jesus says in Matthew 12: 33 – 37:

“Either make the tree good, and its fruit good; or make the tree bad, and its fruit bad; for the tree is known by its fruit. 34 “You brood of vipers, how can you, being evil, speak what is good? For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. 35 “The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of his evil treasure brings forth what is evil. 36 “And I say to you, that every careless word that men shall speak, they shall render account for it in the day of judgment. 37 “For by your words you shall be justified, and by your words you shall be condemned.” 

Let me give you some ideas or concepts you might hear from one who is a “false prophet.”

If they intentionally and maliciously teach and preach what they know is contrary to the word of God…and in 1 John 4 if they deny that Jesus is the Messiah, man, and deity….and Deut. 18:20ff if they speak something that God has not spoken…or if they speak in the name of a different god…or if they fore-tell something and it does not come to pass…they are false prophets.

And then a third realm in which a false prophet reveals his fruits is his influence on others.

Look at this passage in 2 Timothy 2: 16:

16 But avoid worldly and empty chatter, for it will lead to further ungodliness, 17 and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, 18 men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and thus they upset the faith of some.

 And remember what Jesus said the Pharisees and scribes in Matthew 23:15: “Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites, because you travel about on sea and land to make one proselyte; and when he becomes one, you make him twice as much a son of hell as yourselves.

Let me give you a list of individuals that through their conduct and character, through their teachings, and through their influence that have shown themselves to be false prophets…

Now, look at verse 19. As unpleasant as it might be…Jesus says in verse 19, that they are “to be cut down and thrown into the fire.”

Now, let me give you just a few personal thoughts about false prophets:

We need to watch out for ourselves. Who is it that is trying to manipulate, or use us, or abuse us? Who is it that uses flattery, or attention, or who whispers in our ears? Who is it that wants to take us to coffee and who wants to sit and visit and begins to steer the conversation toward things they don’t like about the church, or about the leaders…and pretty soon you are caught up in it.

We have got to watch out for our families. Did you notice that when Jesus started teaching about “watching out for false prophets”, notice that He didn’t say “in the church.” He just says, “watch out!”

We certainly need to watch out for our church.

In the same way that you wouldn’t pick up a cobra and play with it….in the same way you would pick up a rabid, vicious dog and pet it, it is the same way that we cannot allow wolves in sheep’s clothing to come in…we have to be on our guard and make every effort to protect the body of Christ. We have to make every effort to maintain the unity of the Spirit of the bond of peace.

The false prophet is not always someone who is new. The false prophet isn’t always male. And the false prophet isn’t always someone else.