Tonight, we’re going to look at false prophets in the Sermon on the Mount. Jesus gives quite a strong warning and I think when we look at this, we’re going to have to keep in mind the passages in Deuteronomy that relate to this. Jesus says these prophets will come like sheep in appearance, but they are really ravenous wolves.
So note this before we even get to the passages. Those that are false could be mistaken for the real things easily. I say this because I’ve been thinking about this text and I’m going to give an interpretation of the fruit aspect of this that I don’t think is usually given probably because we’ve grown up so much with a certain understanding that we’ve never come to consider it.
The passages I have in mind are Deuteronomy 18 and Deuteronomy 13. I put the later one first since it deals with the first criteria I want to deal with. In verses 19-22, we are given a test on how to recognize a false prophet. One way is that if the prophet prophecies something and it does not come true, then that is a false prophet.
Note this does take into consideration the conditional nature of some prophecies, such as Jonah’s preaching to the Ninevites. Some prophecy is given with the hopes that people will respond and if they do, then God does not give the judgment that he would give. This is, in fact, what he tells Ezekiel about prophecy. Ezekiel 33 is an example of such a passage.
This is one reason I have for rejecting the Watchtower as an organization that claims to be a prophet. They have predicted the end of the world too many times and been wrong every single time for me to believe that they have the guidance of God. Now some of you might be wondering if that’s my only criteria? It’s not, but that criteria is good enough.
The other passage is in Deuteronomy 13. In this case, the prophet comes and what he says does come true and then he says “Let’s go and worship other gods.” That is not a prophet from God. This is another way that I reject the Watchtower in that the God of Arianism is a far cry from the God of Christianity.
This is also a reason I have for rejecting Mormonism. (One among many.) Their doctrine of God is not rationally consistent. It’s a polytheistic concept of a god who is not eternal and cannot then have the omni-attributes that the God of Christianity has. This is a more complex argument that can be fleshed out elsewhere and if I need to do another blog on that, I will gladly do so another time.
So now we get to the passage about knowing them by their fruit. What kind of fruit are we talking about? Too often, we might turn to Galatians 5 and look at the fruit of the Spirit. I don’t think that’s what Jesus is talking about. If one has the Spirit, one should see the fruit that the Spirit produces. Instead, this is talking about the fruit of a prophet. What will be the fruit of a true prophet?
Notice also then what the false prophets on that day say they have done? Can anyone point to a bad deed listed in there? I can’t. Jesus says though that not only do those not matter, but that those people are lawbreakers and he never knew them. They claimed to do many acts in his name, but as Deuteronomy 18 says, someone can act presumptuously in the name of God or be out and right lying even.
We’ve too often said it’s about morality. Now I believe a true belief will produce good morality, but because something produces good morality, that doesn’t mean it’s true. I think many atheists are good people. I think many Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses are. Many Christians are also of course. On the other hand, I sadly think many Christians are people that can be quite unChristlike in their demeanor.
That doesn’t mean all of those beliefs are true or that Christianity is even partly true just because some Christians are jerks. It also doesn’t seem to be what Jesus is talking about because if he was talking about “True prophets will produce good actions,” then why does he go and condemn all those prophets who have good actions?
In our day and age, we ought to be moral people, but we also ought to be on guard. When someone shows up with a different gospel, be cautious. The sad thing is we don’t recognize a different gospel often. Paul warned about this in 2 Cor. 11 where he even said that those who are false do come and seem to have goodness all about them. Their source is not good though.
What’s the antidote to this? Proper study and good Christian living. We need to be in our Bibles, in our books, and on our knees.