“Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15)
Having just admonished His disciples to enter by the narrow way to heaven (:13-14) Jesus now warns against false prophets. These are those who are calling people to follow them in “the broad way that leads to destruction”. God’s people must understand the significance of His warning.
The significance of this warning could hardly be greater. The Sermon on the Mount is arguably Jesus’ most important message. It proclaims His goal for the character of all who would follow Him, and sets forth the great principles of His kingdom. Can we minimize the importance then, when near the end of the message, Jesus takes several verses to warn His followers against false teachers?
At this crucial juncture: the conclusion of His first sermon in the first book of the New Testament, Jesus speaks of the necessity of avoiding false prophets. His disciples were to make sure that they did not just casually believe everyone who claims to be a godly teacher. And it is not only here that such a warning is found. The New Testament is replete with admonishments to avoid false teachings: Paul warned the elders in Acts 20 that “savage wolves” would arise against the flock; John warned in his first epistle: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, to see whether they are from God”, (I John 4:1) etc.
Despite these repeated warnings, many Christians today have a tendency to unquestioningly accept preachers and teachers, as long as they claim to follow Jesus. Rare is the person who hesitates to “jump on the bandwagon” of the latest “spiritual fad” or popular preacher or author, regardless of how little support these might have from the word of God. Nowhere do we find this kind of naive attitude commended in scripture. God’s people are repeatedly commanded in His word to use discernment regarding teachers and their messages. Passive acceptance of false prophets and their teachings is no virtue.
We must understand: when Jesus took a significant portion near the end of arguably His most important sermon, to warn against false prophets, He wasn’t just “crying wolf!” He was warning His people to be on guard against a clear and present danger they were sure to face.