"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)
In the previous passage, Jesus just warned us of a path that leads
to destruction. Now with the words, "Beware of false prophets" He
reminds us that there are many who would try to guide us along the
broad path that leads to destruction. The first step to combating
these false prophets is to simply beware of them.
- We need to beware because not all who claim to speak for God
- We need to beware because there is truth and there is falsehood,
and the difference is important.
- We need to beware because false prophets never tell us they are
- We need to beware because many false prophets are convinced
they are true prophets.
- We need to beware because the price of following a false prophet
is very high.
Jesus explained one of the great dangers of false prophets: "Who
come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are
ravenous wolves." It is in the nature of these false prophets to
deceive and deny their true character. Often they deceive even
themselves, believing themselves to be sheep when in fact they are
Wolves are not interested in helping sheep; to say it gently, they
are interested in what they can get from the sheep. We could say
that the fundamental problem of the false prophet is self-interest.
That self-interest can be expressed by a desire for gain or an easy
life; or by a desire for prestige; or even the desire to advance one's
own ideas and not God's.
Then Jesus gave us one way to know a false prophet: "You will
know them by their fruits." We guard ourselves against false
prophets by taking heed to their fruits. This means paying attention
to several aspects of their life and ministry.
We should pay attention to the manner of living a teacher shows.
Do they show righteousness, humility and faithfulness in the way
We should pay attention to the content of their teaching. Is it true
fruit from God's Word, or is it man-centered, appealing to ears that
want to be tickled or amused?
We should pay attention to the effect of their teaching. Are people
growing in Jesus or merely being entertained, and eventually falling
That is what Jesus drew attention to when He said: "Even so,
every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad
fruit." This fruit is the inevitable result of who we are. Eventually -
though it may take a time for the harvest to come - the good or bad
fruit is evident, revealing what sort of "tree" we are.
Notice also that Jesus said that the choices are not only to bear
good fruit or bad fruit. There is a third category, also bad: "Every
tree that does not bear good fruit." This means that to not have
good fruit is in fact to be wrong. Both the one who bears bad fruit
and the one who bears no fruit are judged.
Earlier in the chapter Jesus warned us to judge ourselves first, to
look for the speck in our own eye before turning our attention to the
beam in our neighbor's eye. Therefore before asking it of anyone
else, we should first ask: "Do I bear fruit unto God's glory?" Jesus
brings us to the place of decision.
By David Guzik
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