"Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. (Matthew 7:15 NASB)
Immediately after warning of a narrow gate, and a narrow way Jesus introduces this idea of false prophets. This is critical and He will continue on this topic for the remainder of this concluding section of the Sermon on the Mount. In the previous text Jesus speaks of entering in the narrow gate, going on the narrow way, and makes it utterly clear that few people will find their way through that gate and onto that way. It would be easy at this point to believe the narrow gate/way to be a pretty safe place to be. Clearly if it is so difficult to find few others would be present to dissuade you from entering, and once you are in it would seem that even fewer would be present to detract you from that narrow way. It is not this simple though. The remainder of the sermon on the mount shows us with clarity that many people abound who are not on the narrow path, but have access to those who are, and moreover seek to destroy the true sheep on the path.
Jesus says “beware of false prophets...” This is elementary, but the simple fact that Jesus gives the warning should place every believer on guard. Unfortunately in Christendom today to even be on your guard against false prophets is to be considered a judgmental fundamentalist. The idea that prevails today is that we should welcome all... then empower all... even give a degree of authority to all to vote on matters that concern the sheep... and before any discernment has happened wolves have creeped in dressed as sheep and have the authority to rend the flock into pieces. Again, be careful not to run away with this, Matthew 7:1-5 is clear, and we are not to stand in judgment of people, nonetheless it is Christ who says ‘beware’.
The other thing to recognize is that they will come in sheep’s clothing as deceivers. This is not an obvious wolf coming in with a little white fur taped to his head. With a little makeup, some plastic, and a number of computer enhancements I could look like a world class body builder. In fact, with the proper deceptions I could look more world class than an actual body builder. A wolf dressed in a beautiful sheep outfit could be far more attractive and ‘sheepish’ than a real sheep that has been out to pasture in a real field with real mud and grime. The point is that deception is real, and while this is not a call to be paranoid, it is a call to not simply give the benefit of the doubt. Those who may appear to be the most Godly may merely have veneer of godliness, while at the same time those whose have been stuck in the mire and mud of sin the pasture of the world may still be the very true sheep though sometimes unrecognizable.
Finally recognize the nature of the false prophet “...inwardly are ravenous wolves.” The goal of the false prophet is self seeking, and it is self seeking at the cost of the sheep. Again realize that this is deception, if it were easy to tell who was seeking their own gain at your expense, well, you would never be fooled. If deception were easy to avoid, you never would waste money on a worthless product, you would never buy into a lie, and you would never have been used in any way, but the reality is that we fall into deception frequently and ought to ‘beware’ especially when it comes to those whom we enter into the bonds of Christian brotherhood with.
The next few passages will give insight into how to discern the false prophet as well as some solemn warnings that even include the very possibility of you or I being a false prophet.