Wolves in sheeps clothing -
In Matthew 7:15 Jesus said, Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.
Unfortunately, it cannot be said that every person claiming to be a preacher of the gospel is either sent by God or a minister of righteousness. Some are false prophets that come to us ...disguised as sheep (Goodspeed translation); pretending to be of the household of faith. Jesus called them ravening wolves that seek to devour the true children of God.
The phrase false prophets is the Greek #5578 pseudoprophetes which comes from the Greek words #5571 pseudes (to be deceitful, false, lying) and #4396 prophetes (which literally means a person that is inspired by God to speak His word). A false prophet is a person who pretends to be divinely inspired, but in reality utters lies and falsehoods in the Name of God.
Jesus warned us in Matthew 24:11 that in the last days, ...many false prophets (#5578 pseudoprophetes) shall rise, and shall deceive many. Deception is the inevitable result of every false gospel message. The word translated deceive is the Greek #4105 planao which means to be led astray, to wander or roam off, to be lead away from the truth and into error and sin.
Any preacher that tries to lead you away from your faith in the Lord Jesus Christ and the Word of God is a tool of the devil designed to destroy your life. If you involve yourself with their message, you will be deceived. If you open your mind to their doctrine, you will be led astray.
The warning to beware of false prophets is the Greek phrase de prosecho apo which comes from the Greek #4337 prosecho (to turn the mind towards, to become attentive to, to devote ones thoughts and efforts towards) and #575 apo (a Greek preposition denoting a state of separation in both distance, place and time).
In other words, Jesus instructed us to separate ourselves (our mind, our thoughts, and our attention) away from the ministry of false prophets and the erroneous message they preach.
Seducing spirits -
This same word is used in I Timothy 4:1, Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed (#4337 prosecho) to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils. The NEB says they, ...give their minds to subversive doctrines inspired by devils.
The Bible teaches that there are seducing spirits roaming the earth, who are commissioned by the kingdom of darkness to lead the body of Christ astray. When you listen to false preachers and their erroneous doctrine, you have actually opened up your mind to the seducing spirits that inspire them and the destructive message they conceived. Their main objective is to lure you away from God and away from His Word.
I Timothy 4:2 adds that these ministers are, Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron...
The phrase speaking lies is the Greek #5573 pseudologos which comes from #5571 pseudes (lying, deceitful, false) and #3004 lego which means to speak, to say, to tell. Spiros Zodhiates says lego is the product of ones own mind, ones own thought; and therefore, not inspired by God. Strong's Concordance defines #5573 as the promulgating of erroneous Christian doctrine.
In other words, pseudologos is a false message that originates with seducing spirits, but the actual utterances come through their human agents, whose conscience has been seared and rendered insensitive to the genuine leading of the Holy Spirit.
You must not allow yourself to be easily influenced or adversely affected by every wind of doctrine. Much of what is being preached in the world today has no basis or foundation in the Word of God and must be rejected.
There is a way for you to safeguard your mind from being deceived. In Matthew 22:29, Jesus said, ...Ye do err (#4105 planao - you are deceived), not knowing the scriptures, nor the power of God. When you do not possess a personal knowledge of the scriptures, you will be susceptible to deception.
A comprehensive, personal knowledge of the scriptures is your best defense against being duped or exploited by erroneous Christian doctrines. We must judge everything we hear by the Word of God. If it does not line up with the scriptures, then we must reject it.
Ravening Wolves -
Jesus gave us the true motivation of a false prophets heart by saying, ...inwardly they are ravening wolves. The word translated ravening is the Greek #727 harpax which is translated extortioner four times and ravening only once in the New Testament. Extortion, according to the dictionary, is the illegal use of ones official position or powers to obtain property, money, or patronage.
In other words, a ravening wolf is a minister whose motivation is covetousness and greed, and who use their ministry to extort money from the vulnerable and from those that are uneducated in Biblical truth.
In II Peter 2:1-3 the Apostle Peter wrote, But there were false prophets (#5578 pseudoprophetes) also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you....(who) through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you...
False prophets and false teachers seek new ways to make money off of the Body of Christ. The word merchandise is the Greek #1710 emporeuomai from which we get our English word emporium and means to travel for business, to traffic, to trade, to use a person or a thing for gain.
Covetousness is the Greek #4124 pleonexia which means the greedy desire to have more, to be motivated by avarice and greed. Ministers who have an excessive desire for riches and gain, will preach messages that stir up those same desires in the hearts of their followers.
In Matthew 12:15, Jesus said, ...take heed, and beware of covetousness... You do not want to be someone who is excessively fixated on money, riches and possessions. To do so will rob the effectiveness of Gods Word from your heart.
Money is necessary for every ministry to function in this world. But there is a right way and a wrong way for preachers to receive the contributions they need to operate their ministry. When money is the main focus of a ministers message, and if you feel that they are seeking to make merchandise of you, then watch out. They may be one of the ravening (extortion minded) wolves that Jesus warned us not to follow.
Do they know that they are a wolf? -
One question that comes to mind is do false prophets and false teachers know that they are being controlled by seducing spirits?
Obviously, there are some preachers who have set out from the beginning of their ministry to deceive and extort money from the people. They use lies, deceit, and trickery to dupe those that are naive and easily exploited. This kind of preacher is usually easy to recognize.
However, there is another group of preachers that truly love God but are just as deceived as the people that follow their ministries. They are fully convinced that they preach a true message from God.
II Timothy 3:13 says, But evil men and seducers shall wax worse and worse, deceiving (#4105 planao), and being deceived (#4105 planao). The Philipps translation says, ...deluding others and deluding themselves.
Ministers can deceive themselves by their own teaching and revelation if they base their beliefs on anything other than a strict interpretation of the Word of God.
Satan is the father of lies and the true master of deception. The seducing spirits that he controls are just as capable of deceiving ministers as they are the rest of the Body of Christ.
Also, the pressure to perform and to entertain those that gather to hear them every week compels some ministers to dream up new and exciting ways to stir the minds of their followers. They have created a situation where every week they must top what they preached and performed the previous week.
But God does not anoint His ministers for the purpose of entertaining or taking money from the Body of Christ. He raised them up to teach His Word and to mature the saints of God.
You shall know them by their fruits -
Jesus continues His teaching about false prophets and gives us the correct procedure to judge all ministries in Matthew 7:16, Ye shall know them by their fruits.... every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. We must examine the fruit or the results that each ministry produces.
Does their preaching draw people closer to the Lord Jesus, or does it pull them away? Does their ministry set people free, or does it keep them bound to that preachers specific doctrine? Does their teaching accurately line up with the scriptures, or do they have a unique and special revelation that cant be confirmed in the Word of God. Are their testimonies similar to the experiences portrayed in the Bible, or do they tell spectacular and fantastic stories that violate or go beyond what is written in the Word?
All of us enjoy listening to exciting testimonies that stir our emotions and titillate our minds. We are predisposed to readily accept the stories that inspire us to believe that all things are possible through our faith in God. But are these stories factually based? Are they authentic and verifiable? Or, do they sound exaggerated and made up?
Listen to the words of Jesus a few verses later in Matthew 7:21-23, Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
These are frightening and sobering words that must be considered by all.
Jesus taught that there are people in the Body of Christ who truly believe that they are anointed by God to prophecy and to cast out devils in His name. But on the day of judgment, He will tell them that they were deceived. They were not being led by the Spirit of God when they did their works; instead, they were listening to seducing spirits.
Jesus will say to them, I never knew you. In other words, they were never born again. They were never inspired by God to speak what they spoke or do what they did. They were deceived.
In fact, the Amplified says, ...I never knew you, depart from Me, you who are wickedly [disregarding My commands]. The NEB says, ...I will tell them to their face... Knox says, ...you that traffic in wrong-doing... The Philipps translation says, ...you have worked on the side of evil...
The only way that you can correctly discern if the voice that you are hearing is from God is to judge it by the scriptures. The Spirit of God will never lead you to do something that contradicts the teachings found in the Bible. He will not lead you to draw attention to yourself or to promote and lift up any man other than the Lord Jesus Christ.
Believe not every spirit -
I John 4:1 says, Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets (#5578 pseudoprophetes) are gone out into the world. We must not allow ourselves to be gullible or easily duped by false preachers and their deceptive sermons. Weve got to discern the message that we are hearing and determine if it lines up with the Word of God.
I John 4:2-4 says, Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world. Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
The Spirit of God that resides within your heart is greater than the false prophets and the false teachers that are trafficking in the world. The same Holy Spirit that inspired the Word of God lives within your heart, and He will inspire you to either receive or reject the authenticity of every sermon and every voice that you hear.
In Matthew 10:16 Jesus said, Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves. The Amplified says, ...be wary and wise as serpents, and be innocent (harmless, guileless, and without falsity) as doves.
We need to constantly be wary, on guard, and watchful.
In John 8:31,32 Jesus said, ...If ye continue in my word, then are ye my disciples indeed; And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
(See Notes: False Prophets, Deceived)