False Prophets and Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing-
Establishing their presence
1st Baptist Church,
Des Moines, NM
In this series of messages, I’ve been teaching on the topic “What is a Christian” and “How can I recognize a Christian”. Today I’d like to switch gears and look at “False Prophets and Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing”. May Almighty God bless this message, open ears to hear and eyes to see, to His glory, through the name of Jesus the Christ.
As I’ve previously stated, we’re studying this not so much so that you identify true Christians, but so that you can protect yourself against the wolves. It was important to first identify and define “What is a Christian” so that we’d know precisely what we’re talking about and what we’re looking for. If you’re going deer hunting, for instance, you should first know what a deer looks like. Then, you educate yourself on what a deer does not look like- they don’t look like cows, they don’t look like horses- those are obvious. But they also don’t look like elk or pronghorns- those can be a little trickier to identify for some people. And in some states, like New Mexico, a legal deer must have at least 3 points on each side, so you’d better be able to identify legal bucks from illegal ones. There is more exclusion going on here- things you can’t hunt- than there is inclusion- things you can hunt. Likewise, there may be more false prophets and wolves than there are true teachers. We need to develop our powers of exclusion.
Unfortunately, many people are not aware of this and assume that because a person is teaching in a church or has been ordained by a seminary or calls themselves a “Christian” that they are what they claim to be. The Bible tells us otherwise. Let’s start with this passage:
1 John 4:1-3 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
This is our justification for this study. John tells us to “test the spirits, whether they are of God” and says “because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” We are not merely to accept things at face value, but test them to see if they are of God. I have quite a few other passages here and I think it would be best at this point if we read through them so that you can get a feel for just how common these false prophets are. After we’ve read through the passages, we’ll come back and discuss some of them.
Here are some passages from Matthew and all of them are Jesus speaking:
Matthew 7:15-16 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. (16) You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles?
Matthew 24:4-5 And Jesus answered and said to them: "Take heed that no one deceives you. (5) For many will come in My name, saying, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.
Matthew 24:11-12 Then many false prophets will rise up and deceive many. (12) And because lawlessness will abound, the love of many will grow cold.
Matthew 24:23-25 "Then if anyone says to you, 'Look, here is the Christ!' or 'There!' do not believe it. (24) For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. (25) See, I have told you beforehand.
Here’s Paul giving a farewell speech to the elders of the churches, whom have gathered together. Note what he says about from where the wolves come.
Acts 20:28-30 Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. (29) For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. (30) Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.
In this passage, watch how deceptive Satan can be:
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. (14) And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. (15) Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works.
Notice here that false messages are taught. These are messages which appear to be the gospel, but are not:
Galatians 1:6-9 I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, (7) which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. (8) But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. (9) As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed.
Now we have a longer passage from Peter. Again, note from where the false teachers arise and note their characteristics:
2 Peter 2:1-22 But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction. (2) And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed. (3) By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words… those who walk according to the flesh in the lust of uncleanness and despise authority. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignitaries, But these, like natural brute beasts made to be caught and destroyed, speak evil of the things they do not understand, and will utterly perish in their own corruption, (13) and will receive the wages of unrighteousness, as those who count it pleasure to carouse in the daytime. They are spots and blemishes, carousing in their own deceptions while they feast with you, (14) having eyes full of adultery and that cannot cease from sin, enticing unstable souls. They have a heart trained in covetous practices, and are accursed children. (15) They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness; (16) but he was rebuked for his iniquity: a dumb donkey speaking with a man's voice restrained the madness of the prophet. (17) These are wells without water, clouds carried by a tempest, for whom is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. (18) For when they speak great swelling words of emptiness, they allure through the lusts of the flesh, through lewdness, the ones who have actually escaped from those who live in error. (19) While they promise them liberty, they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by whom a person is overcome, by him also he is brought into bondage. (20) For if, after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of the Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled in them and overcome, the latter end is worse for them than the beginning. (21) For it would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than having known it, to turn from the holy commandment delivered to them. (22) But it has happened to them according to the true proverb: "A DOG RETURNS TO HIS OWN VOMIT," and, "a sow, having washed, to her wallowing in the mire."
John says some very similar things:
1 John 4:1-3 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world. (2) By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, (3) and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
The entire letter of Jude concerns false teachers. Here are some excerpts:
Jude 1:3-4 Beloved, while I was very diligent to write to you concerning our common salvation, I found it necessary to write to you exhorting you to contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints. (4) For certain men have crept in unnoticed, who long ago were marked out for this condemnation, ungodly men, who turn the grace of our God into lewdness and deny the only Lord God and our Lord Jesus Christ.
Jude 1:8 Likewise also these dreamers defile the flesh, reject authority, and speak evil of dignitaries.
Jude 1:16-19 These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage. (17) But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ: (18) how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts. (19) These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.
Finally, we move to Revelation. The first two passages are Jesus speaking. Note that He is not speaking to the unsaved world, but to the churches.
Revelation 2:12-16 "And to the angel of the church in Pergamos write… (14) But I have a few things against you, because you have there those who hold the doctrine of Balaam, who taught Balak to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality. (15) Thus you also have those who hold the doctrine of the Nicolaitans, which thing I hate. (16) Repent, or else I will come to you quickly and will fight against them with the sword of My mouth.
Revelation 2:18-20 "And to the angel of the church in Thyatira write,… (20) Nevertheless I have a few things against you, because you allow that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, to teach and seduce My servants to commit sexual immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.
Well, I think it should be abundantly clear to you now that there are false teachers in the churches. There are men and women who call themselves Christians but are not, but are in fact quite the opposite. Some of them are very clever and appear as an angel of light. They speak great swelling words which flatter so that they may gain advantage. They preach something that resembles the gospel (and resembles it very closely, otherwise it would not be much of a deception). As we see from the Revelation passages, these false teachers remain in the church right to the end.
These wolves are among us and we should exercise caution but we shouldn’t lose hope. The same Bible that warns us about these false teachers- and we should be thankful that it does indeed warn us!- also gives us instructions in how to deal with them. The Bible tells us what to watch for in these wolves and it gives us a license to test their teachings to see if they are of God. The irony of this doesn’t escape me! After all, here I am teaching you. Go right ahead and test my teachings, in fact, I encourage you to do so because it will drive you to the Bible and that’s precisely where you should go to test the spirits. Don’t stop with the things I say- be like the Bereans and search the Scriptures for yourself.
Well, we are out of time today. Tomorrow we will go back over some of today’s passages and take a close look at the characteristics of false teachers. Then we’ll end up this week some Biblical instructions on how to deal with wolves and false prophets.
May God be praised for His abundant grace and mercy in reconciling us to Him through the atoning sacrifice of His only begotten son, Jesus of Nazareth, the Christ in the flesh. Amen.