False Prophets and Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing-
How to identify them
1st Baptist Church,
Des Moines, NM
Good morning and welcome to our program today. This week I’ve been teaching a little on the characteristics of true Christians and a lot on the characteristics of false prophets and wolves in sheep’s clothing. Yesterday, I read quite a few passages of Scripture which showed without question that there are false prophets and teachers well-established in the churches. Today, I’d like to take a closer look at the characteristics of these imposters so that we might identify them and their teachings. And, remember, our warrant for doing this comes from:
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.
May God bless this message and may it glorify Him. All praise to Him.
Let’s start with the 3 passages from Matthew that I used yesterday:
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.
Note the characteristics of these false prophets:
They are dressed like sheep. That is, they will look like Christians and they are trying to look like Christians.
They will use the name of Christ and they will use it well, as far as their purposes go.
They will show great signs and wonders. These are not miracles, by the way, but only things which appear to be miracles. Nevertheless, because many want to believe in such things, they will believe that these great signs and wonders are indeed miracles.
Their purpose is to deceive. They want to lead people away from the true gospel, not closer to it.
At the same time, we see some things which help us identify these people:
We will know them by their fruits. We discussed fruits a little bit on Monday but for now, know that their fruits are not Christian-like and will eventually be recognized.
We see that they will claim to be the Christ. There is no need for Christ to make this claim again- when comes again, it will be to gather the wheat in the barn and you will either be gathered or tossed in the fire to burn.
We see that people are led away because of “lawlessness” and because their “love has grown cold.” In this context, we’re talking about disobedience to God’s commands- this is lawlessness- and as a result love for God and love for one another have grown cold. Those who are deceived are self-serving individuals who are focusing on themselves.
It is not possible for the elect to be deceived. Jesus says “if it were possible” to deceive the elect and the implication is that it’s not possible. From John 10:3-5, we know that the shepherd brings out his sheep, the sheep recognize his voice, and they will not follow the voice of a stranger.
These should be comforting words. You should take heed, but if you’re a true believer, you don’t have to live in fear of false prophets. Although these wolves are great deceivers, your Shepherd is greater still.
From Acts 20 we saw:
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.
Here we see clearly that these wolves will rise up from among believers. They will be in the church and they will rise up from within the church. It’s not like the 3 little pigs where you can barricade the door against the wolf outside…no, in this case, the wolf is inside and he looks like a pig! Therefore, as Paul says, take heed. But here again, we have some characteristics:
They will speak perverse things- these might be things against the gospel, they might be things causing division (as we’ll see later), or they might be teaching you that “everyone sins and God is a God of love, therefore it’s okay if you sin.”
We see that these wolves seek to draw away disciples after themselves. They will say “Follow ME!” instead of “Follow CHRIST!”.
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.
In this passage we see how much these deceivers can look like Christians. They literally “transform” themselves into apostles of Christ. I find the work “themselves” to be important. A true believer is converted and it is God who does this conversion, not the believer. Yet, in the case of the false apostle, it is “themselves” who do the transforming. We see this choice of words three times in the passage. And again, from the words “whose end will be according to their works”, we can have confidence that they will eventually be revealed.
From Galatians 1:6-9, we see that these false teachers “pervert the gospel of Christ” and seek to lead believers astray. This is why it is so important to set aside your doctrine and your religion and your church and many of the things you’ve been taught and go straight to the Bible. There is nothing wrong with learning from teachers because there are true teachers- we can see that from:
Ephesians 4:11-12 And He Himself gave some to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, and some pastors and teachers, (12) for the equipping of the saints for the work of ministry, for the edifying of the body of Christ,
Contrast between this and previous verse
He Himself gave some…
They transformed themselves
Purpose is given and they are not self-serving:
Equipping of the saints for the work of ministry
Edifying of the body of Christ
But a good teacher should send you to the Bible for your lessons. A false teacher wants you to believe his/her own teachings. And again, from the line in Galatians that says “if we, or an angel from Heaven…” we should see how absolutely deceptive this false teaching can be. A false teacher can appear as an angel from Heaven, but if that angel teaches something other than what is set down in the Bible, beware!
The passages from 1 Peter and Jude that I quoted yesterday are long and I can’t repeat them today, but from them, we see that
· false prophets bring in destructive heresies and seek to cause division. Rather than seeking to join the body of Christ, they seek to split it.
· They speak great swelling words, have a covetous heart, one that is adulterous, they cannot cease from sin but walk in the flesh.
· They are grumblers, complainers, and speak evil of those in authority.
· They promise liberty but are themselves slaves of corruption.
· And the whole time they do this, they look like Christians to those who don’t know any better and don’t know how to, or are not willing to, distinguish between true and false teachers.
· But, remember what I read earlier- those who are the elect, and who are sheep of the Good Shepherd will not heed the voice of the stranger. So, really, this message is speaking to those of you who are non-believers and those of you who are sheep gone astray.
o Listen to that voice- is it the voice of the Shepherd? Does it line up with God’s word as revealed in the Bible? Or is it a strange voice? One that preaches itself instead of Jesus? Take heed!
Now, if you find someone who is a false prophet or if you find yourself in error, there is hope. As we see in Revelation 2, Jesus finds fault in the churches at the end of the age and orders them to repent. He has pointed out their specific flaws for them and gives them the opportunity to confess their sins, be sorrowful for them, and turn away to seek forgiveness.
To give you a real-life example, over the past several years we at First Baptist Des Moines have examined ourselves against Scripture and, as a result, changed many of the things we formerly held. It became an issue of following the official statement of faith or following the Bible and we chose the latter. It was a painful process and many members left us as a result, but I think we are a stronger and, hopefully, a more Biblical church as a result. And no we’re not by any means perfect- there is still much work to be done and no church will ever be perfect in this age. But the point here is that a church- whether it is an independent congregation or a huge denomination or even the universal church itself- should periodically seek correction and, when applicable, repent. And since a church is made up of members, each individual member should do the same in seeking correction and repenting.
Speaking for myself, I don’t want to be a false teacher. I can read the Bible and I see what happens to false prophets- from the passages we’ve read, they bring upon themselves swift destruction, they will receive the wages of unrighteousness, they are marked out for condemnation, and for them is reserved the blackness of darkness forever. Yikes!!! If I’m a false teacher, may God zip my mouth and seal my typing fingers right now and save me from my fate! And if our church teaches false doctrines, may God send us a mighty correction, immediately! But, so far, God seems to be blessing our ministry and blessing our church and so, as long as I have breath to speak or fingers to type, may God grant me the ability to urge you to turn your eyes unto Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith. In His name, may the glory of God be seen. Amen.
Tomorrow, we’ll look at how we should respond to false prophets and what purpose they serve in the world. Come back and join us at 9:45 here on KLMX radio. And if you missed any of these messages and would like to read them, visit our website at www.fbcdesmoines.org or call us at 575.278.2421. We’d be happy to send you a CD of these messages, at no charge. Have a blessed day in the Lord and if you don’t know Him as your Lord and Savior, take care of that problem right away!
False Prophets (3)- Establishing their presence
False Prophets (5)- Their purpose in God's plan