Summary: Satan seeks to do all he can to hinder and defeat the church. One of the tools he likes to use is deception. If he can distort the truth, causing people to believe a lie, then he has succeeded in his efforts.
The Peril of False Prophets (Part 2)
Matthew 7: 15-20
In our last study we began to consider Jesus’ teaching concerning false prophets, those who come in among the church in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. I remain convinced that this passage needs to be preached and taught in every Bible believing church in the world. We may choose to ignore the dangers, but that will never change the fact that those who seek to spread their false doctrine are prevalent, even in our day.
Really this should come as no surprise to any of us. Satan seeks to do all he can to hinder and defeat the church. One of the tools that he likes to use is deception. If he can distort the truth, causing people to believe a lie, then he has succeeded in his efforts. He used the tactic of deception in the Garden, seeking to distort God’s Word in deceiving Eve. Gen.3:1 – Now the serpent was more subtil than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? Gen.3:4 – And the serpent said unto the woman, Ye shall not surely die: Satan seeks to cause doubt in the minds of believers, as well as, presenting doctrine that contradicts the pure doctrine of God.
I want to conclude our study as we continue considering the dangers concerning false doctrine raised in the text dealing with: The Peril of False Prophets. Last week we noticed:
I. The Exposure of False Prophets (15)
A. Their Danger – Beware
B. Their Description – Beware of false prophets.
C. Their Dispersion – Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing.
D. Their Disguise – Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing.
E. Their Depravity – but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
II. The Evidence of False Prophets (16-18) – Here Jesus reveals several ways one can identify false prophets. They will often seek to be subtle and deceptive, but a close examination will always reveal truth. Consider:
A. The Recognition of Fruit (16) – Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Jesus provides a simple and yet effective means of detecting false doctrine. We simply consider the fruit that is born of men. We can know and discern their motives, and many times, their doctrine by the fruit they bear. Grapes do not grow on thorn bushes and figs are not produced among thistles.
This test will work without fail. The word know in the text has the idea of “complete and full knowledge.” Allow me to illustrate. There are some who have the ability to properly recognize a tree by its bark or the leaves it bears. However, not everyone has that ability. I think it is safe to say that all can properly identify a tree when it is bearing fruit. If you see apples hanging on a tree, you can know with confidence that it is in fact an apple tree. Rev.2:2 – (Church at Ephesus) I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars.
There is something we need to consider before we move on. Depending on the time of year, it may be difficult to properly identify a tree. In the dead of winter or when a tree begins to bloom, it is possible to misidentify a tree. However, when the fruit begins to show, it is unmistakable. It may take time and prayer, but eventually you will know one’s motives by the fruit they bear. Many times, the false prophet will work slowly among people. Often, they don’t want to reveal their true motives too quickly. But, if you give it time, eventually the fruit will appear.
B. The Production of Fruit (17) – Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. Jesus also reveals another significant fact. Eventually every tree, spiritually speaking, will bear some manner of fruit. I am aware that all trees are not fruit trees, but when we consider the spiritual nature of man, eventually fruit will show.
Man has a spiritual nature. He either seeks to identify with and promote the Lord Jesus Christ or he will seek to promote the desires of the flesh, led by the devil and his evil influences. Many may not like to admit it, but we are all servants to our master. Rom.6:16 – Know ye not, that to whom ye yield yourselves servants to obey, his servants ye are to whom ye obey; whether of sin unto death, or of obedience unto righteousness? The fruit we bear will be in direct correlation to the master we serve, but we will bear fruit that reveals the inner desires of our heart.