Lesson 111—April 24, 2016
Audio commentary by David Daniel
False Prophets—Ravenous Wolves
Scripture: Matthew 7:15
Lesson Goal: To understanding the reality of false prophets and teachers.
Introduction: Please read these Scriptures: 2 Kings 3:13; Isaiah 44:25; Jeremiah 23:16; Ezekiel 13:2-3; Micah 3:5; Zechariah 13:2.
What do these Old Testament passages have in common?
False prophets claimed to receive messages from God, but they prophesized only what the king and the people wanted to hear. False teachers are just as common today. Jesus says to watch out for those whose words sound religious but who are motivated by money, fame or power. These false prophets will come in among the believers like wolves covered in sheep pelts, pretending to be sheep, hoping to go unnoticed as they do their damage. But Jesus described these people as ferocious wolves. Just as the false prophets arose from God’s people, Israel, so false prophets and false teachers would later
come out from among the believers and from the church. Jesus warned his followers that false prophets would come (Matthew 24:11; Mark 13:22-23). False teachers infiltrated
the early churches just as the gospel message was spreading (Acts 20:29; 2 Corinthians 11:11-15; 2 Timothy 2:14-19; 2 Peter 2:1-3, 17-22; 1 John 2:18, 22; 4:1-6). Jesus’ followers would need the ability to discern true sheep from wolves in sheep’s clothing (Barton).
Webster offers these definitions for “wolf:
1) a large wild animal that is similar to a dog that often hunts in groups
2) any of several large predatory canids (genus Canis) that live and hunt in packs and resemble the related dogs.
“Wolf in sheep’s clothing” is defined by Webster as “one who cloaks a hostile intention in a friendly manner.
(V15) “Beware”—Greek “proschette,” “to be on guard, to give heed to” (Rienecker).
We (followers of Jesus) are instructed by the literal original language that we are not to turn our minds to, not to pay or give attention to these false prophets.
In your own words, how would you describe a false prophet?
(V15) “false prophets”
False prophets are those who deviate from the truth and who advocate the wide gate and the easy way (read Matthew 7:13-14).
In the words of Charles H. Spurgeon: “They deviated from the truth so much there is not enough left to make soup for a sick grasshopper” (MacDonald).
False prophets claim to be, and give the appearance of, true believers, but they have their own selfish motives, often preying upon unsuspecting believers. Many times these false prophets seek a platform or venue by infiltrating with a religious appearance or façade. They often appear sincere and genuine as they prey upon the hearts of trusting individuals, often choosing to prey upon the weak or wounded.
John Phillips explains:
False prophets are satan’s emissaries to lure people along the broad road that leads to destruction. They come wearing the outward garb of the genuine. They say the right things and do the right things. They do all they can to resemble the sheep in order to gain admittance and win acceptance by the true people of God. The ultimate test of a false prophet is not the attractiveness of his personality, the persuasiveness of his
eloquence, or the size of his following, but his doctrine and manner of life.
Warren Wiersbe writes concerning false prophets: “The closer we get to them, the more we see the falsity of their lives and doctrine. They magnify themselves, not Jesus Christ; and their purpose is to exploit people, not to edify them.”
What makes a false prophet so dangerous?
According to John R.W. Stott:
Jesus held that truth and falsehood excluded one another, and that those who propagate lies in God’s name are false prophets, of whom His followers must beware. In reality they (false prophets) are wolves. In first-century Palestine, the wolf was the natural enemy of sheep. Hence a good-shepherd, as Jesus was to teach later, was always on the look-out for wolves in order to protect his sheep. False prophets are more than dangerous; they are also deceptive. The wolves sneak into the flock in the disguise of sheep. As a result, the unwary actually mistake them for sheep and give them an unsuspecting welcome. Their true character is not discovered until too late and the damage has been done. The false teacher (prophet) claims to be a teacher of truth. He conceals his dark purpose beneath the cloak of Christian piety. He also hides behind the cover of high-sounding titles and impressive academic degrees. So, ‘Beware,’ Jesus warns. We must be on our guard, pray for discernment, use our critical facilities and never relax our vigilance. We must not be dazzled by a person’s outward clothing-his charm, learning, doctorates, and ecclesiastical honors. We must look beneath the appearance to the reality. What lives under the fleece: a sheep or a wolf?
Jesus warns us (true believers, the church) to be both on alert and on guard for these false teachers (prophets). The danger of these false prophets (ravenous wolves) cannot be overstated or over emphasized. Just as the wolves of Jesus’ day were the most common and most natural enemy of sheep, the false prophet (teacher) is an enemy of the believer and the cause of Christ. As wolves seek out their victims, so does the false prophet.
The sheep most vulnerable to the wolves’ attack is that sheep who has strayed away from the flock. The sheep that is a straggler or has lagged behind is an easy target for the wolf.
In Old Testament as well as New Testament days, shepherds wore woolen clothing obviously made from the wool of the sheep they were entrusted with. This clothing, made from the wool of sheep, was “sheep’s clothing.” False prophets or teachers disguise themselves as true shepherds, teachers, and prophets. They (false prophets) try to look, sound and appear to be just like the true shepherd, but while claiming to be
pure and true, they seek to deceive, mislead, hurt, harm and destroy the sheep.
The false shepherd (the deceiver) gives the appearance of orthodoxy, frequently with great declarations and fanfare. He speaks favorable of Christ, the cross, the Bible, the Holy Spirit and so on, and who associates with true believers. From his looks, vocabulary, and associations, he gives considerable evidence of genuine belief. But he is not genuine; he is a fake and a deceiver. He has the speech of orthodoxy, but is a living lie. False prophets are almost always pleasant and positive. They like to be with Christians, to talk like Christians, and to be identified as Christians. They know and use biblical terminology and often appear highly knowledgeable about Scripture. Many false prophets also appear to be sincere, and because of that sincerity they can more easily mislead others (MacArthur).
Next week we will study how we, true believers, can recognize these false prophets.