Matt 7:15-23 False Prophets CLICK TITLE FOR AUDIO
In this passage, Jesus taught his Jewish disciples about false prophets. His admonition was: “Beware.” That means to be on guard, to be alert. Why? For one thing, false prophets are everywhere. There is a lot of information on them in the Bible.
Deut 13:1-3 – they use signs and worship false gods
Deut 18:10-11 – they use various means of divination
1 Ki 13:18 – they lie (Jer 23:25)
Jer 23:14 – they commit adultery (Jer 29:23)
2 Pet 2:1 – they bring in damnable heresies
2 Pet 2:2 – they get up a big following
In our lesson, we want to see exactly what Jesus said about false prophets so that we can learn what the disciples learned about how to spot them. They had to watch out because false prophets can be hard to spot and by the time they get in close, they can destroy sheep.
1. They are camouflaged, v.15 – they dress in sheep’s clothing
They aren’t going to come in like the big bad boogie man. They come in like one of the flock. The Pharisees were prime candidates (Matt 23:28). Paul said, “Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them,” (Acts 20:30). These perverse things sound good because they are taught “by good words and fair speeches,” (Rom 16:18). But when the wolf tangles with God’s man, his speech gives him away; he speaks with “malicious words,” (3 Jn 9-10).
2. They are deadly, v.15 – they are ravening wolves (raven = prey on, hunt for, eat greedily)
Caiaphas, the high priest, prophesied (Jn 11:49-51) and yet he, along with others, delivered up Jesus to be crucified (Matt 26:3-4). He was a killer. As flocks of sheep with a shepherd are protected from deadly attacks by wolves, so churches with Bible believing pastors are protected from deadly attacks by false prophets (Acts 20:28-29). Wolves attack young lambs (converts) right after their new birth. But young lambs which start out in good churches generally survive an attack without getting devoured.
3. They are influential, v.22 – prophesy, cast out devils and do wonderful works
What makes these camouflaged wolves so dangerous is that some of them can do miraculous looking things that make them appear to have supernatural power. Thus, they convince people to follow them and turn away from the truth. Jannes and Jambres, by magic, convinced Pharaoh to follow them and reject Moses (2 Tim 3:8; Ex 7:19-23). Simon used sorcery (divination by the assistance of evil spirits) in Samaria to get the attention of the people and earned the reputation as “the great power of God,” (Acts 8:9-11). The beast will cause the world to worship him by his power (Rev 13:3-5).
4. They are cursed, v.23 – “depart from me, ye that work iniquity”
The surprise will be when people see how many of these guys wind up in hell. The false prophets Jesus warned them about were never saved because Jesus said, “I never knew you.” Unfortunately, their followers get the same judgment they do (Jer 27:9-10).
Conclusion: So, how do you know them? You know them by their fruits, v.16-20
In the same way that you can tell a corrupt tree from a good one by its fruit, so you can tell the difference between a false prophet and the real McCoy by their fruit. A corrupt tree, like a mesquite or a huisache, is known by its thorns. A good tree, like a fruit tree, is known by its fruit.
We roller chop, chain, root plow and stack corrupt trees in piles to be burned (v.19). We nurture and care for fruit trees so that we can eat the fruit of them. A fruit tree won’t produce the thorns of a huisache and a huisache will never produce the fruit of an orange tree.
In the context of this passage, a true prophet would point the Jews to Jesus Christ, their Messiah, and a false prophet wouldn’t. Thus the false prophet couldn’t enter the kingdom of heaven because it is a literal, earthly kingdom over which Jesus Christ will rule when he returns.
Likewise, in a spiritual sense, a false preacher today preaching works salvation through religion can’t produce a child of God, because he isn’t saved himself. And a man preaching the simplicity of salvation in Jesus Christ and the absolute truth of God’s word can’t produce religious hypocrites.