After Jesus tells us to go through the narrow gate that leads to salvation, he gives us a warning.
Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. (15)
People often associate prophets as those who issue out predictions of the future. But true prophets of God did much more than that. They confronted people with the words of God. You see this throughout the Old Testament. People like Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Daniel.
You also see in the Old Testament many of the types of people Jesus warns against here. People who looked good. Who sounded good. Who seemed spiritual. But who spoke words straight from hell, leading people down the broad road that leads to destruction.
Unfortunately, there are people like this in the church today. People who claim to speak the words of God but corrupt the very words he says.
The question then becomes, how do we tell the true prophet from the false prophet when they look so alike.
Jesus tells us the answer.
By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them. (17-20)
In short, we need to test the fruit that they produce. There are two types of fruit that prophets and teachers produce.
The fruit of their lives is one. Are they living the things they teach? Or are they mere hypocrites. This is not to say that they must be perfect in order to teach. But they should be continually growing and maturing in their faith. And hopefully, as they speak, they are honest about what their areas of struggle are.
But there’s another kind of fruit. The fruit of what they teach. What is coming out of their mouths? Is it consistent with the Word of God? Or is it not?
As teachers, they are responsible to to teach the Word accurately. To study to show themselves approved, workmen who don’t need to be ashamed, accurately interpreting the Word of truth. (II Timothy 2:15).
But as hearers of the Word, we are to test what they teach. That is what the Bereans did in the book of Acts. They did not simply listen to the words of Paul. They tested it by what scripture said when they went home. And when they found that what Paul said matched up with scripture, they believed. (Acts 17:11-12)
We ought to do the same. Test what the teachers and pastors say. And if their teaching matches what scripture teaches, accept it, and obey. If not, reject it.
Many teachers today claim Jesus as their Lord. And most do. But some will come before Christ someday saying,
Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ (22)
But Jesus will reply,
I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers! (23)
And unfortunately, those who blindly followed these teachers will be swept right along into hell with them. Why? Because they never tested what they were taught.
How about you? Do you test what you hear? Do you test what you read? Or do you just blindly follow?