Text: Matthew 7:15-23
15 “Beware of false prophets who come disguised as harmless sheep but are really vicious wolves. 16 You can identify them by their fruit, that is, by the way they act. Can you pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? 17 A good tree produces good fruit, and a bad tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree can’t produce bad fruit, and a bad tree can’t produce good fruit. 19 So every tree that does not produce good fruit is chopped down and thrown into the fire. 20 Yes, just as you can identify a tree by its fruit, so you can identify people by their actions. 21 “Not everyone who calls out to me, ‘Lord! Lord!’ will enter the Kingdom of Heaven. Only those who actually do the will of my Father in heaven will enter.22 On judgment day many will say to me, ‘Lord! Lord! We prophesied in your name and cast out demons in your name and performed many miracles in your name.’23 But I will reply, ‘I never knew you. Get away from me, you who break God’s laws.
1st, a question: what is a false prophet? A false prophet is one who falsely claims the gift of prophecy or divine inspiration, or who uses that gift for evil ends. The Old Testament proscribed death for such a person although, now in the Age of Grace, that penalty is no longer carried out.
There are a number of people, today, who claim to speak for God; they fill pulpits every Sunday and preach to tens of thousands of people who blindly follow their lead, in effect they are the wolf in the house. There are many wolves in the house, these alleged teachers who intentionally teach heresy which attempts to rob Christ of the glory due Him.
There are a number of terms that we can use: false prophet, apostate, false teacher. As we explore the truth of Scripture, it is important to recognize the marks of an apostate, a person who at one time knew and maybe even taught the truths of the Bible but walked away. Jude, the Lord’s youngest human brother, points out several signs of an apostate.
I would like to add one sign to what Jude provides; a false prophet does not teach the Bible. They may teach things that sound like the Bible and they might even use passages of Scripture, but, relying on people’s ignorance of the Bible they teach strange doctrines.
Ungodly (v. 4)
When the New Testament writers say that a person is ungodly, it does not simply mean that the person does not know God, it also means that the do not have character that is consistent with the revealed Person and Nature of God.
Morally perverted (v. 4)
In the NIV, promiscuity is translated as license to commit immorality. Among other things these apostates teach that there is no need to struggle to overcome sin. The Greek word rendered as contend, or contend earnestly (NKV, NASB) is agonizomai from which we derive the word agonize. Because our sinful nature will not easily be transformed into Christlikeness, it can seem agonizing, at times to give up that sin in order to be more like Christ.
Many, many apostates teach instead that God will give you all the things you want: health, wealth, posessions, influence, etc and all you have to do is “sow the best offering that you can” without any call to true repentence or humility. These ignore the command of Jesus to deny yourself, take up your cross and follow Him (Matthew 16:24). One of these so called teachers has even gone so far as to say that anyone who tells you to deny yourself is a messenger of Satan.
In truth, you do not even have to teach grace as license to sin however you please to turn grace into license, all you have to do is refuse to teach the truth of God’s grace, that it saves you from sin and its power not simply that it saves you from hell. And just in case you were going to object and say that such things are not perverted, the definition of perverse is something that is contrary to the generally accepted standard or practice. Since the Bible is our standard, anything contradicting the Bible or anything taught in the pulpit that does not match Scripture is, by definition, perverted.
Deny Christ (v. 4)
Ultimately, this leads to a denial of Christ; the Jesus taught and embraced by the apostates simply is not the Jesus of the Bible.
Defile the flesh (v.7& 8)
As we are seeing today, apostates defile the flesh in ungodly and unbiblical ways. Some of my evangelical brethren will immediately point to homosexuality but what about other sins: drunkenness, gluttony (I think I have only heard one sermon on gluttony in 25 years), fornication, domestic violence (yes the Bible actually addresses this topic which I have never in my life heard addressed in the pulpit).
Defiling the flesh refers primarily to sexual sin (1 Corinthians 6:18) which is a sin against one’s own body. Remember that Jude’s oldest half-brother, the Lord Jesus Himself, even went so far as to equate contemplating the sin with the actual sin itself (Matthew 5:27-28). When is the last time you heard a sermon about sexual lust (lust of the flesh), greed (lust of the eyes), or counteracting the boastful pride of life by being poor in spirit.
Rebellious (v. 8)
By not teaching what the Bible actually says, these apostates live in and encourage rebellion in others. A pastor once told me that 1% out of submission is equal to being 100% in rebellion against God. To deny a doctrine, the reality of hell for example (Rob Bell) and to teach that denial to others is absolute rebellion against God. To refuse to yield to the Authority of Scripture is to refuse to yield to the Author. They go hand in hand; authority entails submission.
Revile angels (v. 8)
This is a mark against many Pentecostals if I ever saw one. Growing up Pentecostal, I cannot tell you how many times I have seen pastors “bind” satan or command him to do this or that; both of which are patently absurd. If Michael, the highest angel (archangel means chief angel) dares not speak against the devil, what in the world possesses a “Christian” to do so?
Ignorant (v. 8)
The behavior we have discussed so far demonstrates and absolute willful ignorance of both the Things of God and His Person. To know Him as He is is to submit to Him.
Having vain ideas (vs. 8-10)
Continuing with the idea of ignorance, apostates have vain/foolish ideas. Word of Faith teachers, for example, tell you that you can name and claim your promise from Scripture and activate a response from God based on your faith. This is hubris and is no different than the idea of “binding satan.” I have heard them justify this nonsense by saying all the promises of God are yea and amen. That is only half the truth and is therefore not the truth. All of God’s promises are yea and amen but only in so far as to the person(s) they apply to. I will bless them that bless you and curse them that curse you is a very true promise but it only applies to the Nation of Israel for that is whom God made the promise to.
It is utter vanity and foolishness to presume anything upon Him Who sits upon the Throne
Self-destruction (v. 10)
What is the natural end result of apostasy? Self-destruction. God does not have to directly do anything to these, all He has to do is say to them, “thy will be done” and step aside. How many ministries have been damaged and even destroyed by ministers who thought they could get away with this or that? I would list names but that is impractical.
I can say from personal experience, getting your own way can be deadly, to your soul as well as your body. After all there is a way which seems right unto a man and the end thereof is destruction. (Proverbs 14:12 & 16:25)
Grumblers (v. 16) Fault finders (v. 16) Self seeking (v. 16) Arrogant speakers (v. 16) Flatterers (v. 16)
I will deal with all of these together: they are person centric and reflect the oldest sin in the book, pride. Pride is that sin which caused Lucifer to lose his place in heaven and it will do you the same favor. Pride looks at another, finds his/her deficiency and then exalts self because you don’t have that particular deficiency. It causes one to puff up and think of oneself more than he/she really is. Pride, the oldest known sin, is the truest and surest mark of the apostate. No matter what other signs you see, the Christian that demonstrates pride is on treacherous ground and in real danger of going where one does not want to be, apostasy.
Mockers (v. 18)
2 Peter 3:4, They will say where is the promise of His coming. I would add to that, they will say things like no serious Christian believes in Hell or, no loving, tolerant Christian rejects gays, or they will dismiss the creation account as a myth/a metaphor. Mark it out, every single apostate has some passage or doctrine that he does not like and by dismissing it, they make a mockery of God…for now. What they forget it that even if they don’t believe in a Great White Throne Judgment, they have an appointment there and the works that will judge them worthy of condemnation are being written daily.
Cause division (v. 19) Worldly minded, Without the Spirit (v. 19)
Apostates cause division in the church because they are worldly minded and they are worldly minded because they do not have the Holy Spirit and they do not have the Holy Spirit because they are worldly minded.
It’s a vicious cycle once you walk away from the truth of Scripture and only the Holy Spirit can bring you back.
I promised I would name names, and here they are. These are just a few of the False Teachers that no Christian should listen to (in no particular order): Andy Stanley, Christine Cain, Steven Furtick, Paula White, Juanita Bynum, TD Jakes, Kenneth Copeland, Kenneth Hagin, Priscilla Shirer, Jory Micah, Rick Warren, Benny Hinn, Jesse Duplantis, Beth Moore, Andrew Wommack, Creflo Dollar, Joseph Prince, Paul & Jan Crouch, . There are a host of others. I would recommend this site: http://www.so4j.com/false-teachers
Now that we know what to look for in a false teacher, next week we will look at the marks of genuine faith, specifically with a recap of the Beatitudes.