How can we distinguish between true and false teachers? Jesus provides us with a test in Matthew 7:15-20. He says,
Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Beware of Sheep in Wolves Clothing
Jesus tells us there will be those who come as wolves in sheep’s clothing. They will act like Christians, sound like Christians, but they are not Christians. Instead they are wolves in sheep’s clothing, who want to do nothing but deceive those they are teaching.
Jesus tells us to “Beware” or “Watch out” for these teachers, which means we can’t accept everyone’s teaching before examining it and them. Just because they claim to preach the Word, doesn’t mean they do. Just because they claim to live by the Word, doesn’t mean they do. It is up to us to discern their fruit, which is their message and life.
Examine Their Message and Life
Given Jesus’ teaching in the Sermon on the Mount, we are looking for those who live by the narrow way and preach the narrow way. The narrow way involves all of what Jesus teaches in the Sermon on the Mount. Some of which are a requirement to be:
- Poor in spirit – We see a necessity to depend on God.
- Act as Salt and Light – A witness for the gospel.
- Deal with our anger, lust, and marriage problems.
- Have speech that is true.
- Don’t retaliate, honor others, and don’t seek self glory.
If a teacher is not willing to teach the narrow way, he is a false teacher. If a teacher is not willing to live by the narrow way, he is a false teacher.
True teachers live and teach the narrow way.
If the person we are listening to does not live by and teach the narrow way, no matter how entertaining, we are not to listen to them because they are a false teacher.
We Have Work To Do
Given Jesus’ command and warning, when we come to attending a church service, listening to a podcast, or watching a preacher on T.V. we have work to do. We can’t be a passive listener seeking entertainment. We have to be active.
Being active involves listening attentively to the message. Taking note of what is being said. Checking the Scripture as the preacher speaks. And finally, examining the message afterward.
When it comes to listening to a sermon, we have work to do. We can’t sit by idle soaking in the message because the person speaking to us might be a false teacher.
The Reason We Should Make This Distinction
It is important we make this distinction because those who follow false prophets are headed down the broad road to destruction. Those, however, who follow true prophets are headed down the narrow road to eternal life.
You see, those on the broad road don’t want a narrow road message. Instead, they want their ears tickled. While, those on the narrow road don’t want a broad road message, they want to hear the true teaching of the Word.
So then, depending on who you are drawn to listen to, depends on what road you are following.
Question for Reflection
- What preachers are you drawn to – narrow road preachers or broad road preachers?
Post adapted from my most recent sermon