Ravenous Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

by Mike Ratliff

15 Προσέχετε ἀπὸ τῶν ψευδοπροφητῶν, οἵτινες ἔρχονται πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐν ἐνδύμασιν προβάτων, ἔσωθεν δέ εἰσιν λύκοι ἅρπαγες. (Matthew 7:15 NA28)

15 “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but within are ravenous wolves.”  (Matthew 7:15 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

With the ever increasing move away from Orthodox Christianity into various forms of experiential religion that we are witnesses of here and now, it seems that the bottom is falling out of Christianity, at least in the USA. It’s bad enough that we have all of these “wolves in sheep’s clothing” drawing the unaware into false religions while pretending to be Christian, but there are seemingly endless numbers of our “Christian” leaders falling all over themselves embracing these heretics. For example, it was not that long ago that someone like Robert Schuller was known for the heretic he is. When John MacArthur spoke about Mr. Schuller’s heresies none of our “Christian” leaders objected. Now, we see some of them shaking hands and buddying up with Mr. Schuller as if they have been best friends forever. No one seems to mind either. It’s not that we have heretics among us, we always have them, but there are now many of our leaders either falling in bed with these people or revealing their fleshly side in some of the grossest sins imaginable. What is going on?

I do not believe that God has removed the restrainer…yet. However, it seems that there is a clarification going on. There are tests being presented to all professing believers in our time that reveals their genuineness. Those who fail these tests find themselves either in bondage to horrible sin or lining up theologically with complete heretics or completely falling away. Those who pass these tests find themselves cast off and away by the “mainstream” because they took a stand and refused to give in to the temptation as they fell on God’s mercy and grace in order to make those hard choices to not be popular or to fill up their heart’s desire from fleshly pursuits. Instead, they agreed with God and submitted to His will. It is always costly to do this, but Jesus’ disciples have counted the cost and know that possessing the treasure of eternal life in Christ is worth more than anything that can be had in this world.

Those being used by Satan to attack the church, church leaders and the flock are the ravenous wolves Jesus spoke of in Matthew 7:15. Let’s look at the context of this passage.

15 Προσέχετε ἀπὸ τῶν ψευδοπροφητῶν, οἵτινες ἔρχονται πρὸς ὑμᾶς ἐν ἐνδύμασιν προβάτων, ἔσωθεν δέ εἰσιν λύκοι ἅρπαγες. 16 ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν αὐτῶν ἐπιγνώσεσθε αὐτούς. μήτι συλλέγουσιν ἀπὸ ἀκανθῶν σταφυλὰς ἢ ἀπὸ τριβόλων σῦκα; 17 οὕτως πᾶν δένδρον ἀγαθὸν καρποὺς καλοὺς ποιεῖ, τὸ δὲ σαπρὸν δένδρον καρποὺς πονηροὺς ποιεῖ. 18 οὐ δύναται δένδρον ἀγαθὸν καρποὺς πονηροὺς ποιεῖν οὐδὲ δένδρον σαπρὸν καρποὺς καλοὺς ποιεῖν. 19 πᾶν δένδρον μὴ ποιοῦν καρπὸν καλὸν ἐκκόπτεται καὶ εἰς πῦρ βάλλεται. 20 ἄρα γε ἀπὸ τῶν καρπῶν αὐτῶν ἐπιγνώσεσθε αὐτούς. 21 Οὐ πᾶς ὁ λέγων μοι· κύριε κύριε, εἰσελεύσεται εἰς τὴν βασιλείαν τῶν οὐρανῶν, ἀλλ᾽ ὁ ποιῶν τὸ θέλημα τοῦ πατρός μου τοῦ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς. 22 πολλοὶ ἐροῦσίν μοι ἐν ἐκείνῃ τῇ ἡμέρᾳ· κύριε κύριε, οὐ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι ἐπροφητεύσαμεν, καὶ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι δαιμόνια ἐξεβάλομεν, καὶ τῷ σῷ ὀνόματι δυνάμεις πολλὰς ἐποιήσαμεν; 23 καὶ τότε ὁμολογήσω αὐτοῖς ὅτι οὐδέποτε ἔγνων ὑμᾶς· ἀποχωρεῖτε ἀπ᾽ ἐμοῦ οἱ ἐργαζόμενοι τὴν ἀνομίαν. (Matthew 7:15-23 NA28)

15 “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but within are ravenous wolves. 16 By their fruits you will know them. Are grapes  gathered from thorns or figs from thistles? 17 So every good tree produces good fruit, but the rotten tree produces bad fruit. 18 A good tree is not able to produce bad fruit nor is a rotten tree able to produce good fruit.  19 Every tree not producing good fruit is cut off and is thrown into the fire.  20 Therefore, by their fruits you will know them.” 21 “Not all the ones saying to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven, but the one doing the will of my Father who is in heaven.  22 Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord did we not prophesy in your name and cast out demons in your name, and perform many mighty works in your name?’ 23 And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you! Depart from me you who work lawlessness.” (Matthew 7:15-23 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

Those who do not fall for the deceptions of these false prophets do so by using their godly discernment to look closely at these people rather than just listening to them. How do they really live? What happens to those who follow them? Does what they say and do match up with how Jesus’ disciples are supposed to speak and act? They look at their fruit. When they see the bad fruit they not only don’t follow them, but they also warn others. Also, never forget, these ravenous wolves will be seen by most people as “right on” Christian leaders who call Jesus Lord. They even appear to do “good works” that make them very popular. I submit that Christian leaders such as Rick Warren fit this description very well. He is now a political activist who is so popular with the media and most people that he seems to have taken on a messianic aura. However, we must obey our Lord and look at the fruit. What fruit do we look at?

24 Πᾶς οὖν ὅστις ἀκούει μου τοὺς λόγους τούτους καὶ ποιεῖ αὐτούς, ὁμοιωθήσεται ἀνδρὶ φρονίμῳ, ὅστις ᾠκοδόμησεν αὐτοῦ τὴν οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν· 25 καὶ κατέβη ἡ βροχὴ καὶ ἦλθον οἱ ποταμοὶ καὶ ἔπνευσαν οἱ ἄνεμοι καὶ προσέπεσαν τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἐκείνῃ, καὶ οὐκ ἔπεσεν, τεθεμελίωτο γὰρ ἐπὶ τὴν πέτραν. 26 καὶ πᾶς ὁ ἀκούων μου τοὺς λόγους τούτους καὶ μὴ ποιῶν αὐτοὺς ὁμοιωθήσεται ἀνδρὶ μωρῷ, ὅστις ᾠκοδόμησεν αὐτοῦ τὴν οἰκίαν ἐπὶ τὴν ἄμμον· 27 καὶ κατέβη ἡ βροχὴ καὶ ἦλθον οἱ ποταμοὶ καὶ ἔπνευσαν οἱ ἄνεμοι καὶ προσέκοψαν τῇ οἰκίᾳ ἐκείνῃ, καὶ ἔπεσεν καὶ ἦν ἡ πτῶσις αὐτῆς μεγάλη. (Matthew 7:24-27 NA28)

24 “Therefore, everyone who hears my words and does them will be compared to a wise man who built his house upon the rock. 25 And the rain came down and the rivers came and the winds blew and beat against that house and it did not fall for it had been founded upon the rock. 26 And everyone hearing these my words and does not do them will be compared to a foolish man who built his house upon the sand. 27 And the rain came down and the rivers came and the winds blew and beat against that house and it fell and the fall of it was great.”  (Matthew 7:24-27 translated from the NA28 Greek text)

The test is very simple. We must compare what they do and say with what an obedient servant of the Lord is supposed to do and say. If they are found saying and doing what Jesus would say and do then they pass the test. However, if they say the right things, but they do things contrary to Jesus’ teachings then they fail. If they preach heresy they fail. If they are caught in gross sin they fail. If they are unrepentant about what they do and say when confronted with the truth, they fail. Those who fail have built their “house” on the sand. Those who take the costly route and in obedience to Christ have built their house on the rock and even if they are persecuted, ostracized, or ridiculed by the majority, it does not matter because God is being glorified in their suffering and the second death has no power over them. As for those who fail, Jesus will tell them, “I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.”

Soli Deo Gloria!

14 thoughts on “Ravenous Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

  1. Mike what you have written here is extremely crucial. Many, many people think that good fruit means “niceness.” If someone has a big toothy smile, if they say kind things, if they are polite and look nice then we surmise that they have good fruit! We are like children who are not mature and cannot distinguish between someone who smiles and speaks heresy and someone who may not smile but who tells us the truth. Jesus told us not to judge externally. He said, “Do not judge according to appearance, but judge with righteous judgment.” John 7:24

    Good fruit is not niceness. It is not mere politeness on the human level. Ariel Castro recently pleaded guilty on 937 counts for victimizing 3 women and a child, whom he kept locked in his basement for 10 years, raping them and killing their unborn children. Yet, according to people he was “nice”! He had family and friends over for meals during that 10 years. Many in his community considered him a friend! His neighbors saw nothing amiss. It is frightening how undiscerning people have become. And sadly even in the church.

    Good fruit is doctrinal soundness. It is teaching and preaching that accords with the Bible. If it does not match up with the Bible, then it is to be rejected, niceness or not.
    Good fruit is also moral uprightness, holiness and good deeds. But it is not “niceness.” It is not merely friendliness, or generosity, or even hospitality. It is Christ-likeness. And let us not forget how Christ treated the money-changers in the temple, and what He said to the false teachers of HIs day. By today’s standards Jesus Christ was anything but “nice”! We have no record of Him either smiling or laughing. I hear Christians wringing their hands and asking in fear, what about the imprecatory Psalms? Is it o.k. to pray like that? This is what Paul the Apostle wrote:
    Alexander the coppersmith did me much harm. May the Lord repay him according to his works. 2 Timothy 4:14

    Yes, that’s right Paul said may the Lord repay him for his deeds! Men of the church rise up! Read your bibles like men and stop wringing your hands! Be men, for heaven’s sake. No longer be children. The only way to do this is to be a consistent, diligent student of the word and to pray for wisdom and discernment.

  2. Amen Rick and Julie :)
    Those who have been regenerated by His Spirit will bear fruit. What is His fruit? Galatians 5:22-23 all characteristics of His Spirit, His love, His peace, His joy, His faith, His longsuffering.
    Love rejoices in Truth 1 Corinthians 13:6
    Agape love in the believer seeks the Truth by putting all things to the test.

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