The Book of Matthew

Tuesday: False Prophets

Matthew 7:15-20 In this week’s lessons, we learn from Jesus how to recognize false teachers and their teachings.
Theme
False Prophets

Now someone will ask, “Do you mean to tell me that God will allow men who are influenced by Satan to become church members?” The answer is “Yes, indeed.” And not only that, He will also allow them to become ministers and speak from the pulpit. This is the real meaning of 2 Corinthians 11:14-15 which says, “For Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore, it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness, whose end shall be according to their works.”

What is a prophet? Today the word usually means one who is able to tell what is coming in the future. However, in biblical times it had a much broader meaning. A prophet was one who spoke for another and particularly one who spoke for God. The true sense of the word is seen most clearly in a story from the fourth chapter of Exodus involving Moses. God had told Moses that He was going to send him to Egypt to lead the people out of that country into Palestine. Moses complained that he was not eloquent. Then “the anger of the LORD was kindled against Moses, and He said, ‘Is not Aaron, the Levite, thy brother? I know that he can speak well. And also, behold he cometh forth to meet thee. Thou shalt speak unto him, and put words in his mouth; and I will be with thy mouth, and with his mouth, and will teach you what ye shall do. And he shall be thy spokesman unto the people’” (Ex. 4:14-16). In this account Aaron is placed in the role of prophet. And thus, we find God saying three chapters later, “See, I have made thee a god to Pharaoh; and Aaron, thy brother, shall be the prophet” (Ex. 7:1).

Now when we take this understanding of the word and carry it over into Christ’s teaching, we see that Jesus is actually warning against men who will appear in the churches and pretend to be speaking for God when their teaching is really the teaching of the devil. These are the men spoken of in Jeremiah: “I have not sent these prophets, yet they ran; I have not spoken to them, yet they prophesied. But if they stood in my counsel, and had caused people to hear my voice, then they should have turned from their evil ways, and from the evil of their doings” (Jer. 23:21- 22).

Do we have false prophets today? Do we have wolves in sheep’s clothing? Certainly we do. And we have them, not only in the pews and the pulpits, but also in the denominational structures, in the seminaries, and in the church-related colleges. I find it very amusing in the light of our text that we in our day call an academic degree or diploma a sheepskin. For there is no doubt that some professors and ministers cover their intentions with the sheepskins of higher learning while using their knowledge of the Bible and Church history to damage the faith of those who listen to them. We are warned against such teachers.

Study Questions
  1. How would people generally define a prophet today? What does the Bible emphasize concerning a prophet?
  2. How might a false prophet appear as an “angel of light” and deceive people?
Application

Prayer: Ask the Lord for discernment to be able to recognize false teaching.

For Further Study: To learn more about what Jesus had to say about false religion, download and listen for free to James Boice’s message, “Seven Woes on False Religion.” (Discount will be applied at checkout.)

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