March 27 PM, 1994

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Against False Prophets

Matthew 7:15-20

V. 15, Beware of false prophets...

This 6 verse section refers to the false prophets, wolves in sheep's clothing. The Lord gave 5 BEWARES: Beware of false prophets; beware of men; beware of leaven; beware of those who ware clothing to attract attention to themselves, Mr 12:38, and beware of covetousness. Thus 2 out of the 5 deal with false prophets. Therefore, the Lord shows us the seriousness of the problem of false prophets.

Our Lord's words here, directed to His disciples, are not something to be passed over lightly. The strength of our Lord's words shows us that false prophets are extremely difficult to recognize: they look, act, smell and sound exactly like the true prophets, but inside they are ravening wolves. ravening... the word refers to a robber; it is translatedextortioner elsewhere:

1 Co 5:10 Yet not altogether with the fornicators of this world, or with the covetous, or extortioners, or with idolaters; for then must ye needs go out of the world. 1 Co 5:11 But now I have written unto you not to keep company, if any man that is called a brother be a fornicator, or covetous, or an idolater, or a railer, or a drunkard, or an extortioner; with such an one no not to eat. 1 Co 6:10 Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners,shall inherit the kingdom of God.

They use religious words to deceive their hearers, so they can gain what they desire.

Zech 13:4, 5 And it shall come to pass in that day, [that] the prophets shall be ashamed every one of his vision, when he hath prophesied; neither shall they wear a rough garment to deceive: But he shall say, I [am] no prophet, I [am] an husbandman; for man taught me to keep cattle from my youth.

Zechariah tells of the period of time after Christ. He tells us that speaking in the name of the Lord will become quite expensive, so those who have in the past dressed like a true man of God to deceive the people will stop professing to be a prophet.

Throughout Scripture, the false prophets claimed to speak for God. Therefore, someone just speaking from what he could see from a situation would not be considered a false prophet.

The Lord Jesus says Beware of false prophets... Though Christ expands a little on His statement, vv. 15-20, we find the true weight and significance of His statement in the Law as He gave it to Moses, Deut 13:1-5.

1) the Lord is the one who raises up the false prophet. 2) the Lord is the one who causes the false prophet to prosper. 3) the Lord's purpose in allowing the false prophet to prosper is to see if His people will follow the word of God over experience &/or the nice sounding message of the false prophet.

Thus we can be assured that those who profess to love the world of God and who profess to exalt the word of God over everything else will be tested. They profess to have faith in the word of God, so the Lord tries that faith.

The Lord will send along good men with good stories and experiences. The Lord will allow these men to prosper. The false prophets recognize and address the problems of the day, but there will be something sadly lacking in their message of hope: it will fail to emphasize the word of God, faith and repentance as the only answer for man's ills.

In Jer 23:16, the false prophets assured the people that everything wasO-K, and the people had nothing to worry about. In Rom 16:17, the false prophets taught a doctrine contrary to what Paul taught. In Eph 5:6, the false prophets presented a salvation that required no repentance and turning from sin. In Col 2:8, Paul warns against worldly philosophy.

2 Pe 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. 1 Jo 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

Try the spirits... How do we know whether they are of God? The answer is clearly given through Moses: Is the message based in the word of God or in human experience and wisdom? Does the message confront the individual with the total of God's Word and man's responsibility to God and His Word for the answer to his ills

The false prophets basically present two menages: Salvation by works &salvation without works.

What do we mean? Example:

1. salvation by works is seen in the Romanist's offer of salvation apart from total faith and dependance upon the work of Christ. They offer salvation through baptism, church rites and rituals.

2. salvation-without-works offers salvation to all who will pray this prayer. They offer salvation without hearing and understanding the substitutionary work of Christ for the sinner, without genuine repentance from dead works and the heart turning to the word of God for their every rule of action.

The work of Christ in the heart makes a new creature in Him,

2 Cor 5:17 Therefore if any man [be] in Christ, [he is] a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new.

That new creature in Christ gladly and faithfully walks the path of true holiness to heaven.

false <5578> prophets <5578>... the two words are used together:

Mt 24:11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.Mr 13:22 For false Christs and false prophets shall rise, and shall shew signs and wonders, to seduce, if [it were] possible, even the elect.

Though the Lord's warnings above refer primarily to the false prophetsthat would arise during the siege before the final destruction of Jerusalem by Titus, 67-70 AD, His warning applies for all time.

The Lord tells us that the false prophets have power to show great signs and do great wonders. Everything about their persons say they are genuine, sincere prophets of God, BUT they are wolves in sheep's clothing! Mat 7:22, tells us that the false prophets themselves were convinced of their genuineness based upon their love for God and their ability to do great signs and wonders.

wolves... is a term used for cruel, greedy, rapacious, destructive men.

Mt 10:16 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. Lu 10:3 Go your ways: behold, I send you forth as lambs among wolves. Joh 10:12But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. Ac 20:29 For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock.

There are so many points worth pursuing about the false prophets that we could do a whole series on this subject, but we will not. I will have a mailing in the future dealing with this more in detail.

So lets just give some general points concerning the false prophet, and I will try not to develop them too much.

1) false prophets in Scripture seem to arise in their greatest number and influence just before a time God's judgment against the sins of His people.

The OT makes it clear that the false prophet's purpose is to keep God's sinful people happy in their sin so God can judge that sin.

The false prophet offers salvation on cheeper terms; he makes the gate wider and the way to heaven broader than did Christ and His apostles. Thefalse prophets spoke primarily to the Lord's people.

2) There is a very close connection between sorcery and false prophets.Every NT use of the term false prophet is in the context of perverting God's Word in the name of "God" for the advantage of the prophet.

Acts 13:6-11 shows us that sorcery and perversion of the right ways of the Lord go hand in hand, even though the perversion takes place under the guise of preaching the Bible. Thus as we see and hear the right ways of the Lord perverted in the pulpit, we see the modern rise of open demonic activity: "We preach the Bible," but how many are practicing sorcery by perverting the right ways of the Lord?

3) The false prophets will not do their dastardly work openly. In fact,they will vehemently deny their actual leaning.

Mt 7:22, many are good, sincere men, totally convinced they are right, but their goodness does not spare them from destruction.

2 Pe 2:1 But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction.

4) The false prophets are so effective, convincing and true appearing that only the Divine Word and supernatural Spirit of God can separate their lies from the truth,

Heb 4:12 For the word of God [is] quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and [is] a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Neither is there any creature that is not manifest in his sight: but all things [are] naked and opened unto the eyes of him with whom we have to do.

The effectiveness of the false prophets is seen in the fact that only the "elect" are spared by God from their false doctrine,

Mt 24:24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if [it were] possible, they shall deceive the very elect. 1 Jo 4:1 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.

5) the final abode of the false prophets is separation from God: Mat 7:23; Re 16:13; 19:20; 20:10.

6) The motives of the false prophets are to obtain for themselves something under false pretence.

They may pretend to be from God because of the power, prestige and/or money they can obtain. On the other hand, they may well be sincere, but deceived, men doing their best. We see from the OT that they are raised up by God for a purpose.

7) Though the "Church Age" will be characterized by the rise and prominence of false prophets, they really are no more prevalent than they were in OT Israel.

8) The Lord connects NT false prophets with OT false prophets.

Lu 6:26 Woe unto you, when all men shall speak well of you! for so did their fathers to the false prophets.

In other words, when the Gospel of Christ, the Prince of Peace, is unoffensive to all, it is a sign that the speaker is a false prophet. (The context of Luke 6:24 is almost identical to Matthew's record of the Sermon on the Mount.)

The most dangerous false prophets are found within the church. The Lord tells us that they are wolves in sheep's clothing. Their message is one that undermines the most basic Christian doctrine: all men are sinners and the only hope for fallen man is repentance, faith, conversion and turning from sin.

the following is not in the false prophet document as such.

Five concluding points from the passage:

1) Mt 7:15, they look like the genuine "sheep" of His pasture. Wolvesrefers to "teachers" who are in the ministry for the funds that they can raise. There would be many degrees of wolves: from those who openly press for money to those who are very subtle about money.

2) V. 20, By their fruits... Though the Lord tells us that we can know the false teachers by their fruit, He deals with the basic plant that bears the fruit: thorns, thistles, good trees and corrupt trees. Thus their fruit may appear good, but if the tree is corrupt, the fruit must therefore be corrupt.

3) V. 19, cast into the fire... The Lord is the one that must do the casting, not man. We can only judge the fruit or the obvious, outward appearance. The Lord sees the heart.

4) we should keep in mind that just as the truths of the word of God have been developed over the past 2000 years, so have the lies of the false prophets. From what I can gather from reading about Marcion, Darby, Freud, and others, when many of the initial premises of the false prophets about the Scriptures were presented, they were immediately dismissed by the church as heresies.

But as the false doctrines were presented over and over, the church grew to accept them. The wolves stayed, and the sheep became accustom to their presence. Now the wolves are common among the sheep in varying degrees ofsheep's clothing. They may be openly ravening wolves, or they may be very subtle wolves. Their false doctrines may be obvious from their outward words and works (fruit), or they may be very well concealed.

Mat 13:30 the Lord tells His servants to let the false and true mix together because most of the time their difference cannot be discerned to the human eye. Heb 4:12 tells us that the word of God can make the discernment.

Therefore, we must be very careful:

1) in naming false prophets. Their departure from God's word must be very clear, or we may be found on the wrong side of the fence 2) to teach the whole of God's word. It is the word of God that marks the wolves and sheep, not man.

Last of all:

5) The Lord's message flows together so well that it is difficult to tell where the breaks are. The warning about wolves in sheep's clothing probably starts in v. 13 and runs through v. 27.

Regardless of its beginning & ending, the warning is quite lengthy. If we only take vv. 13-23, that gives 11 warning verses out of a total of 109. The Lord's warning concerning the danger of earthly treasure covered 16 verses. Therefore, we can conclude that the danger of the false prophets to the church is second only to the danger of an inordinate love for money and worldly wealth.

As the wolves increase, the need for serious study and development of the Word of God increases. Though our modern age of "Christianity" calls for increased vigilance from God's Word, the vast majority of Christians have not the time nor inclination to study so they can recognize the wolves in sheep's clothing. They let others study for them, and the results are disastrous.

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