The Sermon on the Mount started out with a smorgasbord of blessings, but as it draws to a close Jesus begins to leave some warnings.
Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. ~ Matthew 7:15-16
Let’s just take a couple minutes and think about this phrase ‘false prophet.’ Who is Jesus talking about here?
Growing up in very conservative Christian circles, I was led to believe that prophecy didn’t really exist in Christianity, and anyone engaging in looking into the future, or speaking directly into your life in a personal way was suspect.
In this mode it was really easy to judge ‘false prophets’ because – if it was not in scripture, it was false – Survey Says – X
Next there was a phase when my understanding of the ‘gift of prophecy’ was ‘forth telling’ not ‘fore telling.’ In other words – prophecy was preaching the gospel. So again it was easy to judge that too – getting too personal – messing with the future – Survey Says – XX
Then there was the line of thought that we should determine if a prophet was a false prophet using the Old Testament method. If every word they speak does not come to pass – stone them! – Survey Says – XXX
But Jesus tells us to judge a prophet by his fruit.
Hmmm… What do you make of that?
Let’s pick at this idea a bit.
First – how is the prophet dressed (I am not talking about suit and tie – vs - camel’s hair toga – but is he masquerading as a sheep. A false prophet is not a sheep. Let me say that one more time – a false prophet is not part of God’s flock.
When you enter a covenant relationship with Jesus Christ, you are a new species. You become a member of the flock – your wool begins to grow, and you do not have fangs.
Next, false prophets bear fruit.
Get this – Jesus does not actually tell us (not here anyway) to judge the words that are spoken to determine whether a prophet is a false prophet. This is really important. In the New Testament economy, a prophet, yes a true prophet, could be mistaken. That is why Paul tell us:
And let two or three prophets speak, and let the others pass judgment. ~ 1 Corinthians 14:29
So what kind of fruit are we looking for?
Jude, Jesus’ half brother, gives us a few things to look for when perusing the fruit bowl in the false prophet’s kitchen, in his stern warning to the church. I am not going to endeavor to do a full study of Jude here (maybe someday, but not right now) but over the next couple of days, I want see if we can figure out what bad fruit looks (or smells) like.
See you tomorrow.