“Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15).
The text of Matthew 7:15-27 was spoken by Jesus. He was a Jewish teacher speaking to a Jewish audience and warning all the listeners to be on guard for false prophets. Being Jewish they all, teacher and listener, had commonly understood definitions for the term “false prophet.” In Deuteronomy 13:1-5 a false prophet was one who made true predictions but led their followers to false gods. In Deuteronomy 18:20-22 the definition was one who made 1 false prophecy. In the Old Testament, living in a Theocracy, false prophets were to be stoned to death. In the New Testament (no longer a Theocracy) they were to be publicly exposed and avoided.
False prophets would look like true believers (come to you in sheep’s clothing). However, what they taught on the nature of God is false. Their fruit in Matthew 7:16-20 is the prophetic utterances and core teachings on the nature of God. In 21-23 He goes on to point out that simply because they use His name and even do seemingly miraculous stuff, they are still false prophets. He might even be regarded as an Anti–fill in the blank as He tells them:
“And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, You who practice lawlessness.'”
Jesus goes on to state that those who hears and acts on His words are wise and on a solid foundation and those who don’t are foolish and have a foundation of sand.
I am reminded of this passage from time to time as I talk with or write about groups that claim to be Christian but deny essential biblical teachings. Invariably they fall back to an emotional plea that I am a “hater,” “religious bigot,” “Anti-” something or other. I, like others who are missionaries to false religious groups hear this quite often and cannot really take it personally. In fact, to some degree we must find the humor in it. For example, I point out that my wife Joy has been called “The Whore of Babylon” so often we call her floozy for short. Most of the groups who make these claims seem to be of the opinion that we are on a personal mission aimed exclusively at them.
This issue was recently raised again by Gwen Shamblin’s attorney, Samuel J. Harris. The unfortunate part is that if I met Samuel Harris under other circumstances we would probably like each other. Like followers of Bill Gothard, Mormons, Jehovah’s Witnesses and so many others, he has resorted to name calling with accusations of “religious bigotry,” “Anti-Remnant crowd,” “blinded by his hatred,” “vitriolic accusations ,” among others. He provides us with his definition of “religious bigotry” in Comment 8 of Gwen Shamblin “Suits” Up:
3. You asked me to define “religious bigotry” and I do so as follows:
Religious Bigotry is the obstinate devotion to one’s prejudices against others who have different religious doctrine and practices.
The dilemma here is that our devotion is to be to Jesus Christ and His teachings. He is the one Who in Matthew 7:15-27 held His doctrines to be the standard by which all others were to be tested. This theme continues after He resurrected Himself ascended in to heaven and then communicated communicated further to and through the Apostle Paul. We find this in the Romans, 1 and 2 Corinthians, Galatians, Colossians, 1 & 2 Timothy, Titus. We also find it in Peter’s & John’s writings as well as Jude. Evaluation, contrasting and comparing the teachings of anyone who rises up and proclaims that what they are saying is from God are to be scrutinized in this way. Samuel also draws on the ever popular “…self-appointed groups who devote themselves to labeling other groups…” in Comment 8 of Gwen Shamblin “Suits” Up.
This is at the very least a mischaracterization. I say this because we are not self appointed. Rather, all believers are “appointed” to “Beware of false prophets.” Jesus Himself said that those who do are “wise” and those who don’t are “foolish.” There is more written in the New Testament on the issue of false teachers and false teachings than nearly any other subject.
In Acts 20:28-31 the Apostle Paul during his meeting with the Ephesian Elders states to them:
Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. 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.
In 1 Timothy 1:3 Paul writes to the young pastor:
As I urged you upon my departure for Macedonia, remain on at Ephesus so that you may instruct certain men not to teach strange doctrines,
As he moves through his letter to the young pastor he comes to chapter 4 where he gives the reasons for all that precedes:
But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons, by means of the hypocrisy of liars seared in their own conscience as with a branding iron, men who forbid marriage and advocate abstaining from foods which God has created to be gratefully shared in by those who believe and know the truth. For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with gratitude; for it is sanctified by means of the word of God and prayer.
Jude writes on false teachers in verse 12 & 13:
These are the men who are hidden reefs in your love feasts when they feast with you without fear, caring for themselves; clouds without water, carried along by winds; autumn trees without fruit, doubly dead, uprooted; wild waves of the sea, casting up their own shame like foam; wandering stars, for whom the black darkness has been reserved forever.
Listen to the descriptions, “false prophets”, “savage wolves,” “speaking perverse things,” ” hypocrisy of liars,” ” seared in their own conscience,” “hidden reefs.” Would Jesus, Paul, the Ephesian Elders, Timothy or Jude be considered “Anti-_____” or practicing “religious bigotry”? Of course they would, but only by false teachers and their followers.