DUNCAN/The call to enter the kingdom, Part 2: False prophets
Please turn in your Bible to Matthew 7:15-23. In this passage, we are going to see where Jesus warns us that there will be people who claim to be preaching about His kingdom, but who in fact are preaching falsehood. And He warns us to be on guard for them. He says that just as we must be warned to enter into the kingdom the right way, through the narrow way, the way of faith and repentance, the way of trusting in Christ alone for our salvation, resting on Him, and walking on that narrow way, that way that requires us to walk in holiness and obedience by the grace of God, so also, we must be careful not to listen to the influence of those who would pull us away from the truth. We will see three things from this passage. First, we must be on guard against false teachers. Second, false prophets may be discerned by their fruits. And third, Christians must take care that we do not deceive ourselves.
I. We Must Be on Guard Against False Teachers.
The Lord Jesus Christ tells us that we must enter the kingdom or destruction awaits. But He also tells us that we must be on guard for those who claim to be showing us the right way to the kingdom and yet who are sending us the way of the broad gate and the broad way. And so we learn in this passage, first of all, that we must be on guard for those who profess to be true teachers and yet who contort the truth in their teaching. The Lord Jesus calls us here to be on guard against false teachers. He says in verse 15, “Beware of the false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” The Lord Jesus’ warning against false teachers is based on two realities. The first reality is that truth matters. The Lord Jesus wouldn’t be wasting His time telling you to be aware, be on guard against those who distort the truth if the truth itself didn’t matter.
The second thing that is behind the Lord’s warning here is that false prophets exist. Truth matters, and false prophets exist. The Lord Jesus wouldn’t be telling you about false prophets if that wasn’t a real problem. Jesus in this passage warns us that false prophets are dangerous, and He calls them ravenous wolves precisely because they are dangerous, and He warns us that they are deceptive. They are ravenous wolves, but they are in sheep’s clothing. They appear to be what they are not.
II. False Prophets May Be Discerned by Their Fruits.
Jesus tells us in verses 16-20 that the way we may see a false prophet is through fruits. He says you will know them by their fruits in verse 16, “Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes, nor figs from thistles, are they?” Notice first of all that He says the type of tree will determine the kind of fruit that it produces. Grapes do not grow on apple trees. Apples do not grow on grape vines. So, the type of fruit will tell you the character of the tree. He goes on to say in verse 17, “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit.” There again, He notes that the condition of the fruit is another sign of a true or of a false prophet. And finally, He says in verse 19, that “every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire.” He warns that fruitlessness in righteousness will lead to judgment and condemnation. So, Jesus speaks of the kind of the fruit and He speaks of the condition of the fruit as ways that we can see a true and a false prophet.
And that brings us to the application of this great truth. The Lord Jesus calls His people to be zealous for the truth. Every one of us needs to care about sound teaching. Every one of us needs to care that we are under the sound preaching of the Word. And so the first thing we learn from this passage is that we Christians must be passionate about the truth itself. We must also remember that false prophets are deceivers. The Lord Jesus knows that there are people who are self-deceived, who are also leading His people into deception. With pure motives, the road to destruction is paved with good intentions. Sincerity means nothing if it is not accompanied by the truth of God.
III. Christians Must Take Care That We Do Not Deceive Ourselves.
The Lord Jesus in this passage also teaches that we must be on guard that we don’t deceive ourselves. Not only must we be on guard against those who would lead us into deception, we must take care that we do not deceive ourselves. He teaches in verses 21-23 that we must take care that our verbal profession of faith is accompanied by practical obedience in our lives. Notice His words in verse 21, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but He who does the will of My Father who is heaven will enter.” Jesus is warning against a merely verbal profession of faith in Christ. For the Lord Jesus is saying that those who truly profess Him are not simply those who profess Him verbally but professed Him in their lives. Our saying and our doing must go together because grace changes our hearts and lives. Grace not only saves us from the penalty of sin, it changes our hearts and lives.
Jesus, in verses 22 and 23, issues a terrifying promise. He says that there are going to be people in the last day who claim to have prophesied in His name, who have cast out demons in His name, to perform miracles in His name, and they are going to say, “Lord, Lord, we did all these things in Your name,” and He is going to say to them these terrifying words: “I never knew you. Depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness.” See what Jesus is saying? He is saying the reason that He will reject them is because their lives did not reflect the reality of the grace of the gospel. They did extraordinary things. He doesn’t argue with them about that. Maybe they did, but their lives weren’t changed by the grace of the gospel. We are saved by grace alone by Christ alone. We receive it by faith alone, but that grace reigns in righteousness and so grace and obedience go together. Our profession and our life go together. Grace brings transformation. And so true faith is always accompanied by a change of life. And so I ask you to answer His call to come into the kingdom and to reject the false prophets.