Immediately after saying that the way to heaven is narrow, Jesus spoke of some who will hinder those who seek to walk the heavenly way. He identifies them as false prophets (Matthew 7:15), and uses two images to speak about them; the first speaks of their methods (Matthew 7:15), the second speaks of their manner of life (Matthew 7:16-20).
In Sheep’s Clothing
False teachers are labeled by the Lord as ravenous wolves in sheep’s clothing. The word arpax, ravenous in our text, is found in four other texts (Luke 18:11; 1 Corinthians 5:10-11; 6:10), rendered as extortioners each time. False teachers are predators!
This is further emphasized, for they are not identified as sheep, shepherds, rams or any other that we should expect to be with the sheep. They are wolves. They have no business being with the sheep, except to do harm.
What shepherd will allow wolves to walk freely among the sheep, or what sheep will knowingly rub shoulders with a wolf? And so they disguise themselves. False teachers do not wear signs identifying them as such. Remember, Jesus said the Pharisees were whitewashed tombs, appearing on the outside, but filthy on the inside (Matthew 23:27). The false teacher is a deceiver, both in how he looks and what he does (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
Do not miss the urgency of Jesus’ analogy. Wolves are deadly to sheep! Equally, false teachers will destroy the faith of some. As the shepherd will not tolerate a wolf among his sheep, we must not put up with a false teacher in our midst.
By Their Fruits
Jesus continues to discuss the false teacher, revealing how to identify him. What fruit does he bear? Quite simply, good produce does not come from a bad tree. If the fruit is bad, then the tree from which it came is bad also.
But what is included in this fruit that Jesus speaks of? In one respect, it entails productivity. As the Lord explained the parable of the sower, he spoke of the fruit produced on the good soil—some a hundredfold, some sixty, some thirty (Matthew 13:23). There is an expectation by the Lord that His people will not be fruitless. Fruitlessness in Christ is measured both in productivity and quality.
Can a false teacher be productive? Yes, but they are not productive in the things of God. They may have all kinds of works that are impressive to men but such things are of no value. The problem is that false teachers set aside the things of God, preferring the things of man instead (often their own things). Thus, the quality of what they do is void, for the quality of it is worthless, being from man.
The fruit of every man and woman will tell us what manner of person they are. What does the individual do? How does the person speak? Where does he go? Who does she spend her time with? All of these are important questions when considering our fruit.
These are also important when looking at a false teacher, but beyond these, it is important to look at the fruit of the teachings he brings.. I am confident that most denominational preachers are moral individuals. We likely won’t find them out drinking, smoking, fornicating, etc.. But if a man teaches that one can be saved by faith only, that Jesus is not Jehovah, that man is born in sin, etc., he is a false teacher and brings doctrines that blaspheme the God of heaven.
Do not be deceived by false teachers. Know the truth and defend it. Realize that false teachers do not come with labels. We must be diligent students so that we know what God’s word says and do not fall to the deceptions put before us.