In Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount, he warned men of the danger of false prophets. “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they, are ravening wolves. You shall know them by their fruits” (Mt 7:15,16). What are the dangers of false teachers and how shall we know them? Let the bible answer.
The Danger of False Prophets
Why do false teachers pose a threat to man’s soul? Because they teach that so long as a Christian is good, honest, and sincere, his sins do not separate him from God. The trouble with this doctrine is that it not only misleads those who are already lost, but those who are saved as well.
Jesus warned of “blind guides” of “blind men.” He said, “They be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch” (Matt. 15:14). Therefore, Jesus warned that false teachers (even good, honest, and sincere unintentional false teachers) lead men into the pits of hell.
He wears the clothing of the sheep, and does so that he might deceive the righteous . Most false teachers are not even aware they are false teachers. The false teachers discussed by Jesus in this text apparently were good, honest, and sincere. They called Jesus “Lord” (Matt. 7:21), prophesied, cast out devils, and did many wonderful works in Jesus’ name (Matt. 7:22). The text indicates that these false teachers expected to enter heaven. However, their iniquities or lawlessness caused Jesus to reject them. A false teacher can be the blind guide of the blind (Matt. 15:14); the term is not reserved to describe dishonest and insincere men.
One may be tempted to think that a false teacher is going to walk in the doors of a church building and announce, “I am a false teacher. I am here to lead men to hell. I want to announce my intentions beforehand so that I will be honorable.” That is not the manner in which false teachers operate. False teachers appear in sheep’s clothing. Hence, they will transform themselves into apostles of light (2 Cor. 11: 13-15). They will look like good, righteous men. They preach only positive lessons which are easy to the ears, and always contrary to the sound doctrine of Jesus and his apostles (Rom 16:17,18 f; Tit 1:9-11). They are as cunning as a snake, and just as venomous.
Jesus told us how to test false teachers – by their fruit. The “fruits” of “false prophets,” are those which appear in their evil work. The false prophet often denounces himself in the utter incoherence of his doctrines, and in the inconsistency and impurity of his life. He is also a “ravening wolf,” causing dissensions, divisions, malice, and schisms by alterations and contradictions to God’s Word.
He will claim to receive revelation from God. Prophets are men who receive divine revelations from God; false prophets claim to receive revelations which they never received from God. They will say, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name?” How many times have you heard tele-evangelists claim to have received revelations from God? When men begin claiming to receive messages from God, especially in an age when revelation has ceased (1 Cor. 13:8-10 ff; Jude 3; 2 Pet. 1:34), you can know of an assurance that he is a false prophet.
He will preach a “wide gate. ” Jesus stated, “Enter in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leads to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat. Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leads unto life, and few there be that find it” (Matt. 7:13,14). When men begin preaching a “wide gate,” that is, all are going to heaven as long as they believe in Jesus, they are false prophets.
When men preach manners of entering the kingdom which Jesus did not reveal, they are false teachers. The conditions for entrance in the kingdom of heaven are revealed by Jesus: HEAR (Rom 10:17), BELIEVE and CONFESS (Rom 10:9,10), REPENT and be BAPTIZED (Acts 2:38); when men start teaching that men are saved who have never complied with these conditions, they are false teachers.
The false teacher will teach a “broad way.” The “broad way” implies that a man can live any manner he so chooses and still be approved of God. When men start releasing men from obligation to any of God’s law, they are false teachers. False teachers disrespect human life (abortion), sober-mindedness (social drinking), marriage (condoning adultery and homosexual marriages), etc.
False teachers may lead an immoral life. He may be full of covetousness, preaching what he preaches as a means of obtaining financial gain (2 Pet. 2). Some have perceived godliness as a means of gain (1 Tim. 6:5-6), having become teachers who tickle the ears of those who pay them. Some have become involved with “silly women laden with sins, led away with divers lusts” (1 Tim. 6:6). This fruit exposes them as false teachers.
False teachers will leave a path of destruction in the churches with which he labors. Paul wrote of the Judaizers in Galatia who “trouble you” (1:7). False teachers will have that impact. They will raise questions which undermine faith, leading disciples away from the truth. When they are opposed by those who stand fast for the gospel, schism, dissension, and division will result. False teachers will leave a trail of churches torn apart by their false teaching. This is a “fruit” which men can judge.
Remember, a man is not to be deemed a false teacher because we or a mass of people disagree with him. No! A false teacher is one who disagrees with the gospel and doctrine of Christ and his apostles (Acts 2:42 f; 2 Jn 9). He worships not God in spirit and in truth (Jn 4:23,24). He does not practice what he preaches (Rom 2:21,22). “Beware of false prophets.” Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world (1 Jn 4:1). Your soul may depend upon knowing, who is and who is not, a false prophet or teacher.