15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 “A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 “So then, you will know them by their fruits.
False teachers and prophets are dangerous elements to our spiritual growth. Jesus is warning us to not fall into the trap of these teachers. But how do we do this? How can we know if we are being led away from the truth of God? Jesus tells us we will know people by their actions. If one is a prophet or a teacher of the Word (prophesy never contradicts God’s Word), then we can know them by their fruit. While we all struggle with sins of the flesh, a Godly man or woman does not live a life full of sinfulness. We have a good list of these things in Galatians 5 where Paul is writing about the opposite of the fruit of the Spirit:
19 Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality, 20 idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, 21 envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.
It doesn’t matter if they are standing on the corner preaching. It doesn’t matter if they are the lead pastor in a 5,000+ seat church, it doesn’t matter if they are a professional missionary; if they are continually given over to one or more of these sins, they are not given over to God. They do not walk in the Kingdom and should not be respected as such. Now, read over that list and see if any of these things are something you feel you are continually trapped in. It isn’t to say God doesn’t have reserved for you the gift of teaching or prophesy. You might already have it! But your testimony is contradictory and what you teach and prophesy is null and void by God’s standard because you have focused more on being a “somebody” instead of a child of God. This is where sanctification must have its way with you so you may be the person God has designed you to be. Jesus warns us in Luke 6:
26 “Woe to you when all men speak well of you, for their fathers used to treat the false prophets in the same way.
It’s not about what others say of us, but what God says of us. We are subject to His Word regardless of what He has called us to do or gifted us with. Usually we look at these passages outward, using it to judge others but really we must use them to examine ourselves and make sure we are not the false teachers or prophets. This is a huge problem with the Christian society today. We are first to examine others and never stop to examine ourselves. No wonder the world thinks we are a big gang of hypocrites! We must also, however, be careful not to be led astray by false teachers. After we examine ourselves, it will be easier to examine our own teachers and prophets. In 2 Timothy 4, Paul explains how deceptive they can be:
3 For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, 4 and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths. 5 But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
Part of our humanness is that we love to hear what we want to hear, even if it isn’t the truth. We must be on guard about this. The majority of us admit that “we aren’t perfect,” so if whoever we are listening to as far as teaching God’s word doesn’t at least occasionally pierce our hearts or hurt our feelings because they reveal something we have been doing wrong, then you very well might be following a false teacher or prophet. If we aren’t perfect, that means that God’s Word (which is perfect) should reveal those imperfections. That is the point of listening to sermons and attending bible studies: so we can learn where we are falling short and how to fix it. We must recognize that the majority of false teachers and prophets don’t come in from the outside of the church congregation, but rise up from amongst the people. They might not even be aware of their falsehood because of the aforementioned lack of examining themselves. Paul mentioned this to the church at Ephesus upon his departure in Acts 20:
29 “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; 30 and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 31 “Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.
We must continue to admonish and correct one another as we see people straying from the truth of God. This is how we prevent false teachers from rising up in our congregations and prevent ourselves from following them. We must test our teachers before approving them as authorities and leaders in the church and in our lives, just as John wrote in 1 John 4:
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.
If people are not teaching and prophesying about the truth of Jesus Christ and is misleading others about it, then they are being controlled by the spirit of the antichrist. If they are not for Christ, they are against Christ, whether they know it or not. If they do not know it, then it is our duty to reveal to them the truth. If they do know it, then we must stay far away from them so as not to be enticed and have our ears tickled by their false doctrine. To learn more about this spirit of the antichrist and more specifically the actions of false teachers and prophets, I encourage you to read 2 Peter 2, where Peter explains how false prophets grow and what God does with them. After reading that, you will definitely want to make sure you don’t become one and that you stay away from them!