“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Understanding And Applying the Text
False prophets have always been a problem. There were many false prophets in the Old Testament. They would tell people what they wanted to hear. And the people kill the true prophets.
False prophets or teachers are something the church should expect. And they will mislead many. And their hypocrisy will cause many to slander Christ. We must be on guard.
Men have a strong propensity to false religion. We are masters at deceiving ourselves. And Satan is the deceiver of the whole world. (Revelation 12:9)
Christ’s words still apply today. The apostolic age has ended. But there are those claiming apostleship today. There are those who claim to be prophets. We have false teachers. So how do we test them and their message?
Christ gives a simple test. We recognize them by their fruit. The problem is many cannot tell the difference between good fruit and bad.
First, what is that fruit? And what is the difference between good fruit and bad? The fruit Christ speaks of is not what works or outcomes. “Is the church growing?” “How many did they baptize?” “Are the crowds large?” “How much money do they raise?”
Another way is we look at their demeanor. “Are they kind?” “Do they avoid controversy?” “Do they bring tranquility?” That too is not the fruit Christ speaks of. If it were Buddist monks would be true prophets.
All prophecies must conform to God’s word. This was at the center of the reformation. Who had the ultimate authority? Rome said it was the church and the reformers said it was scripture.
The first question is, are we even allowed to judge or test a prophet? If we are to heed Christ’s warning, we must test anyone claiming to speak for God. 1 John 4:1 tells us to test the prophets. “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
Scripture is the standard. We must test all prophetic utterances by scripture. Is the prophecy in harmony with Scripture? Any prophecy that contradicts what God has already said is false. Anyone who claims such a statement comes from God is a false prophet. Even if they are an angel from heaven. (Galatians 1:6-8) The problem is most do not know scripture. They know bits and pieces. The know devotional type verse. They do not know all of the scripture because claim it is too hard or difficult.
The next test of the fruit of the prophet his prophecy/teaching must be about the person and work of Jesus. (Revelation 19:10)
And of course, there is the test God gives in Deuteronomy 18:21-22. “And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the Lord has not spoken?’ when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.”
There are many in the church today who claim to be apostles or prophets. They predicted things that have not come to pass. So according to scripture, they are false prophets. They have tried to defend themselves by claiming a high percentage of accuracy. But the biblical standard is 100%. Anything less is a false prophet. They are wolves in sheep’s clothing.
The message of false prophets may be attractive and even seem orthodox. The only way to know for sure is to allow time to show “their fruits”