Speaking against the threat of false prophets in Matthew 7:15-20, Jesus makes this statement, “By their fruit you will recognize them.” So what kind of “fruit” is supposed to tip us off to the presence of false prophets in our midst?

Perhaps Jeremiah 14:14 offers help—it’s a passage where God himself describes five activities of false prophets. Let’s break down that verse into bullet points to help us see it more clearly:

  • Then the Lord said to me, “The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them…
  • They are prophesying to you false visions
  • “…divinations
  • “…idolatries
  • “…and the delusions of their own minds.”

With Jeremiah 14:14 in view, we can make the following assumptions: 1. Anyone who presents untruth as God’s truth (i.e., “prophesying lies in my name”) should be considered a false prophet. This would apply to preachers and teachers who distort or disavow the Bible’s teachings in order to accommodate their own preferences or current societal norms. 2. Likewise, claiming to have new, personal revelation of God’s plans that conflicts or contradicts God’s truth in Scripture (i.e. “prophesying false visions”) would be considered “bad fruit” from a false prophet.

3. People who attempt to predict the future by supernatural means, even misusing Scripture to support their predictions (such as when preachers predict the date of Christ’s return) would be guilty of “false divinations”—and that’s bad fruit which is evidence of a false prophet. 4. Also, teachers who allow any other thing—such as piety, money, prestige, other prophets, social concerns, and so on—to be placed in higher authority than Christ himself (i.e., “idolatries”) would be guilty of producing bad fruit.

5. Last but not least, church leaders who begin to invent new standards of truth and behavior for themselves, who assume that their ideas somehow supersede the truth of Scripture, or that they are somehow not subject to the same standards as other Christians, are guilty of prophesying “the delusions of their own minds.” That’s bad fruit, and is more evidence of a false prophet.

Now the question arises: Do you follow any church leaders who are producing this kind of bad fruit? If so, what will you do about it?

 

Works Cited:

[BKB, 145]

 

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