“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance: against such there is no law.” —Galatians 5:22-23
Scripture Reading: Matthew 7:15-20; Deuteronomy 13:1-5
Throughout history, false prophets have risen up to deceive the people of God. It happened in the time of Elijah, it happened in the time of John, and it’s happening today. God’s children are being led from the truth of God not only by those outside the body of Christ, but even by those inside the body of Christ (Acts 20:28-31). We’re to be continually watching for false prophets and false doctrine which will lead God’s sheep into the mouth of ravenous wolves.
How do we know who to look out for? First, we must determine what foundation someone uses. If it isn’t the Word of God completely for every aspect of life, faith, and conduct, then he/she isn’t to be trusted. Second, their salvation must be tested. Have they truly committed their life to Christ? Third, it must be determined if they’re in subjection to other leaders in the body of Christ. Many leaders have fallen because they weren’t accountable to others. These three criteria are foundational fruits. If these aren’t in place, then it’s a sure bet that members of Christ’s body will be somehow deceived or led astray.
Other fruit needs to be considered also. Does he/she display a sacrificial attitude in protecting the flock of God? Does he/she truly have a desire to know more of God’s Word? Is there ample opportunity to see his/her character in the midst of trials? If people can’t be tested and their fruit isn’t evident, chances are that they’re wolves.
Discerning who is a false prophet and who isn’t is no small task. The Word says they’ll come in sheep’s clothing—disguised by something which appears to the light. In this day and age, the disguise can be anything. Whatever it may be, the church is called to expose darkness and protect itself from the wolves of this world.
- Who specifically should be watching for false prophets? Acts 17:10-12; 20:17, 28-30; 1 Thessalonians 5:12-13.
- How can a false prophet be known? Galatians 1:6-9; Matthew 7:15-20; 24:24; 1 Corinthians 14:37; 1 John 4:1-3; 2 John 1:7; 2 Corinthians 11:9-15; Deuteronomy 13:1-5.
- What could be considered modern-day sheep’s clothing?
- What fruit should be evident in the life of a “good tree” (Matthew 7:17)? Galatians 5:22-23; James 3:17; Philippians 1:11; Colossians 1:10; 1 John 4:7-8; 5:3. Is it possible for a Christian to produce evil fruit? Explain.
Note: “…the normal and consistent production of fruit, whether good or evil, in a person’s life will bear evidence whether or not that life is of God.” —Liberty Bible Commentary, Jerry Falwell
- Are there conditions which must be met so that Christians can bear fruit? John 12:24; 15:1-8; Luke 8:15; Romans 6:22; Psalm 1:1-3.
- Will our fruit have a bearing upon our eternal destiny? Psalm 62:12; Jeremiah 17:10; 1 Peter 1:17; 2 Corinthians 5:10-11.
- What does it mean to be “hewn down, and cast into the fire” (Matthew 7:19)? Matthew 13:41-42; 16:27; Jude 1:14-15; 2 Peter 3:7.
This week, examine the Christian sources you use for personal growth, study, and ministry to determine if their teaching is consistent with the Word. Ask yourself three questions: Does their teaching rely on Scripture or man’s philosophy? Do they encourage selflessness and living solely unto Christ? Do they teach Jesus Christ is the only means of salvation and spiritual transformation?