Passage: Matthew 7:15-20 [NKJV]
Mat 7:15 "Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. Mat 7:16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Mat 7:17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. Mat 7:18 A good tree can't produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can't produce good fruit. Mat 7:19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. Mat 7:20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions.
The repetition of “know them by their fruits” (Mat_7:17, Mat_7:20) brackets this illustration; such bracketing was commonly used as a literary device (called inclusio) to mark off a paragraph. Prophets were known to be false if they led people away from the true God (Deut 13) or their words did not come to pass (Deu_18:21-22). The *rabbis allowed that prophets might temporarily suspend a teaching of the law the way rabbis themselves would, but if they denied the law itself or advocated idolatry, they were false prophets. Jesus teaches that if they do not live right, they are false (Mat_7:21-23). Cf. Luk_6:43-45. IVP Bible Background CommentaryMat 7:15 Beware of false prophets - Who in their preaching describe a broad way to heaven: it is their prophesying, their teaching the broad way, rather than their walking in it themselves, that is here chiefly spoken of. All those are false prophets, who teach any other way than that our Lord hath here marked out. In sheep's clothing - With outside religion and fair professions of love: Wolves - Not feeding, but destroying souls. John Wesley's Explanatory Notes
How can we know when we are dealing with a false prophet?
Prophecy, as I understand, can also be defined simply as teaching. We allow ourselves to be taught by so many things; television, movies, books, other people and pastors. Jesus is warning us to beware and use caution.
What is He asking us to do when He says "beware"?
Use caution. Don't take any man's word for it...study it for yourself. Search the Word of God for proof and prove it also by their actions. If a man speaks of something but does not follow his own teaching, you can be sure that he is a false teacher. Test them by the fruit that they produce. Do they practice what they preach?
Anyone can "say" pretty words and use flowery impressive language. Many are skilled at the art of argument and making you feel as though they know exactly what they are talking about; but, if their actions do not match their words...then you should dismiss their teaching.
How can I apply this to what is happening today?
Think of the number of religious scandals that are plaguing Christianity today. Mere men are setting themselves up as great leaders of massive churches, thousands of people, and budgets in the millions. They live off of those people in a luxurious manner and sometimes are even caught in moral scandal. Do the people leave them? No, they are simply called to "forgiveness" and allow these false teachers to continue to influence them. Jesus is very clear. We should NOT allow false teachers to have influence over us.
What if someone is a teacher and they say something that is wrong; do I just quit listening to them altogether?
No, you should confront them, no matter how "influential" they are and test them with the Word. Show them their mistake and if they do not turn from it or do not show from the Word how they were right, you must not continue to allow them to teach. Forgiveness does not mean that you must remove all sense.
There are many examples of big church pastors who have fallen in a big way, only to be allowed by some to come back into a position of influence and power. Have you ever asked yourself why? You are responsible for what or who you allow to teach you. In this specific teaching Christ puts the onus on us to protect ourselves. We are not viewed as without blame for allowing someone to falsely teach us.
Just because they use the words, "God says" or "Jesus says" or they quote a few scriptures to help them make THEIR point doesn't mean they are anything more than a wolf in sheep's clothing. Here's the question I would like answered..."Why are so many Christians today so willing to allow themselves to be led by men who are corrupt of heart, prideful, self aggrandizing, boastful, seekers of riches rather than seekers of truth?" That, my friends, is the "million dollar" question. If you are a part of one of these big churches, consider your leaders, consider who you are allowing to teach you and turn to the Bible first. Sola scriptura = The Bible and the Bible alone
Please, I simply pray, do not allow me to be or be influenced by false teachings. The enemy is strong and deceptive...and I need your guidance to keep me from straying into false doctrine. Help me to always teach Your way and only give the understanding that You would have me give. Help me to not be a hypocrite. Help me to have true love for others in my heart that would make me fear that thought of teaching something falsely.
Help me with pride Lord. Keep me from glorifying self and help me to speak and do only those things which glorify You.
Thank you for being the Great Provider. I love You Lord and ask that you guide me today. Amen.