July 8th, 2021
In the sinful times in which we live, deception is a fact of life. Sin takes on many forms and deception is just one of them. In our verse for today, Jesus, looking to the times He lived in and beyond to the advent of the church age, warned His disciples about the deceptions that would inevitably come.
His warning was that they should watch out for false prophets. Jesus’ disciples would have some understanding about this warning as the Old Testament speaks often of false prophets. Jesus, however, probably had something more comprehensive in mind than people who give false prophecies about the future. He probably had in mind anyone who claims to be a genuine herald of religious truth, but is actually in the service of evil motives.
A false prophet is someone who comes to the disciples of Jesus in sheep’s clothing. On the outside, they have the appearance of someone who is sincere, helpful, and benign. Like sheep, they appear to be innocent. They appear to be loving and godly people. Based on appearances, the disciples would be inclined to receive them into the fold. False prophets gain entrance by claiming a divine call, by claiming to teach God’s will and ways, but who are actually energized by more sinister motives. What they teach and preach is a distortion of the truth, a mere pretense designed to get them what they really want.
What does the false prophet really want? Although outwardly false prophets look like sheep, inwardly they are ravenous wolves. Wolves feed on sheep. The false prophet is in the ministry to use disciples for nefarious purposes, to gain their wealth, to exploit their time and effort, and to live a life of excess. Jesus, for example, accused the scribes and Pharisees of His own day of being hypocrites who outwardly looked righteous and holy, but who inwardly were “full of greed and self-indulgence” (Matthew 23:25).
How can we avoid the deception of the false prophets? The Apostle John says we should “test the spirits to see whether they are from God” (1 John 4:1). Naivety has no place in the church of Jesus Christ. We must accept the fact that there are false prophets in the world.
We must test to see if the lives and teaching of those who come to us line up with the Word of God.
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