The Book of Matthew

Wednesday: No Strait Gate

Matthew 7:15-20 In this week’s lessons, we learn from Jesus how to recognize false teachers and their teachings.
Theme
No Strait Gate

All of this brings us to the main point of Christ’s teaching, of course. For at this point we should correctly ask: How can we recognize false teaching? How can we detect a wolf in sheep’s clothing? There are several answers.

First, there is no “strait gate” in his teaching. There is no “narrow way.” This point really comes from verses 13 and 14, the two verses that immediately precede Christ’s warnings about the false prophets. The verses of the Sermon on the Mount are not arranged as they are by accident. Thus, we are right to see a connection between the two sentences when Jesus says, “Enter in at the narrow gate,” and then follows that by saying, “Beware of false prophets, who shall come to you in sheep’s clothing.” He is saying that one of the ways you can detect the false prophet is by noticing that, although he says many things that seem probable, nevertheless he does not set forth the Lord Jesus Christ Himself as the only solution to man’s need and the only door to salvation. Learn to apply this. When you hear preaching or teaching or read about religion in books, learn to ask, “Does this system of thought have the Lord Jesus Christ as its center?” If it does, well and good. If not, then you must be warned against it.

Moreover, if you do this, then you will not be led away by appearances. You will not be taken in by a polished but false proclamation. Likewise, you will not be turned off by a view that is true but may be presented merely in an unusual fashion.

One example that I know of an unusual approach to Christian work is the one provided by some youth workers of our day. They have the outward appearance and manners of the hippie community, but their purpose is to win such people for Christ. Several years ago, when there was a general student strike on the University of California Berkeley campus, Campus Crusade immediately poured several hundred of their staff into the Berkeley area. Hippie-style workers entered into groups that were chanting protest statements such as, “Hell no, we won’t go!” or “Out of Vietnam!” and who were also making the two-fingered peace sign. As the Christian workers mixed in with the general crowd, the Campus Crusade staff held up only their index fingers and chanted, “One way, one way, one way,” meaning Jesus. That is Christianity. The first test of what is false or true teaching is whether or not Jesus Christ is proclaimed as the one way to God.

Study Questions
  1. Explain the first way we can recognize false teaching.
  2. How might a false teacher operate today and gain an audience among Christians while at the same time fail to have Christ at the center of his message?
  3. Can you think of an example of faithful Christian teaching or witness, but is presented in an unusual manner?
Application

Application: How can you encourage Christian workers in their ministries, even if their approach is different from yours?

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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