by Mike Ratliff
The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons, by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions. Now we know that the law is good, if one uses it lawfully, understanding this, that the law is not laid down for the just but for the lawless and disobedient, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who strike their fathers and mothers, for murderers, the sexually immoral, men who practice homosexuality, enslavers, liars, perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound doctrine, in accordance with the gospel of the glory of the blessed God with which I have been entrusted. (1 Timothy 1:5-11 ESV)
Carefully read the passage I placed at the top of this post. What is the aim of the charge of a true discipler? It is to produce the good fruit of of love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. That is the good fruit of genuine prophet of the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. On the other hand, our Lord Himself told us in His Sermon on the Mount how to discern whether a prophet was false or not.
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits. (Matthew 7:15-20 ESV)
First, we are to beware of false prophets. This is said in such a way by our Lord that He makes it clear that we will be able to know the difference between a false prophet and one who is a good prophet. The false prophets come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. This tells us that their appearance will be that of a proper shepherd. They will look the role. They will probably be dynamic and well spoken. However, our Lord says that even so, inwardly they are ravenous wolves. How are we to discern their disingenuousness? He tells us that we will recognize them by their fruits. Good and proper prophets of the Word of God bear good fruit, but these false prophets bear bad fruit. What does this mean?
Look again at 1 Timothy 1:5-11 (above). False prophets take what is good and distort it or change it so that their message is no longer consistent with the message of the Kingdom of God. The true message of the Kingdom of God is able to pierce the heart and cause believers to mature, grow, and learn to walk in repentance, to crucify the flesh. However, the message of the false prophet, even though it contains elements of the truth like the Law of God or perhaps focuses on Jesus Christ in some way, is distorted or incomplete so that it is no longer the message of the Kingdom of God. It is something else and it does not have the power to change its hearer’s lives by conforming them to the Kingdom. This is bad fruit. This is how we recognize a false prophet from good prophet. The good prophet of the Kingdom of God preaches sound doctrine, but the false prophet doesn’t.
In our day, the false prophets are all around us. They may preach about “Jesus,” but they don’t preach Jesus, which is the whole Gospel of the Holiness of God and His Law and the truth of our utter lostness in light of that. Then the preacher of righteousness tells of the coming of Jesus as the Good News of the Gospel and how all who believe and repent are saved and will live from that moment on by faith. This is the preaching of Jesus, but the nonsense that passes for preaching in most churches today is not the Gospel. It is about making a religious act to make ones life better or to become part of a movement to “make the world a better place” for instance. This is not the preaching of sound doctrine! In order for us to know what is sound doctrine and what isn’t, we must first know what is holy. This is how we begin, but as we serve our Lord more and more we learn that those who live by faith are the ones who do what pleases God.
But as for you, teach what accords with sound doctrine. Older men are to be sober-minded, dignified, self-controlled, sound in faith, in love, and in steadfastness. Older women likewise are to be reverent in behavior, not slanderers or slaves to much wine. They are to teach what is good, and so train the young women to love their husbands and children, to be self-controlled, pure, working at home, kind, and submissive to their own husbands, that the word of God may not be reviled. Likewise, urge the younger men to be self-controlled. Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us. Slaves are to be submissive to their own masters in everything; they are to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, not pilfering, but showing all good faith, so that in everything they may adorn the doctrine of God our Savior. For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, waiting for our blessed hope, the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior Jesus Christ, who gave himself for us to redeem us from all lawlessness and to purify for himself a people for his own possession who are zealous for good works. Declare these things; exhort and rebuke with all authority. Let no one disregard you. (Titus 2:1-15 ESV)
The 2nd Chapter in the book of Titus (above) is a beautiful explanation of how we are to minister in the teaching of sound doctrine. In this way we are to preach and teach all that Paul gives us here. We are to declare these thing, and with them, exhort and rebuke with all authority. John Calvin describes the preaching of sound doctrine as “wholesome, that which actually feeds souls.” In vv1-15 we have the integration of both Christian ethics (vv1-10) and instructions about the person of God and the work of Christ (vv11-15). This reminds us that God’s Word is the source of everything we are to say as well as what we think and what we do. This dynamic melding of the receiving and practicing of God’s Truth in both areas accomplishes the nourishment of our souls. Matthew Henry said, “The true doctrines of the gospel are sound doctrines, they are in themselves good and holy, and make the believers so.” My friends this is the very definition of the good fruit of a genuine prophet of the Kingdom.
Therefore, when the doctrines, such as they are, of certain denominations or preachers or teachers affirm things as being unimportant or something to ignore that the Word of God condemns as sin then we actually are witnessing wolves in sheep’s clothing teaching their flocks to be sinful instead of being repentant. They are not nourishing those souls, but are feeding them poison. Their fruits are evil and the tragedy is that the Church has been dummied down to the point that it is by-and-large ignorant of the Word of God and so are easily duped and lead even further into darkness. This is apostasy and is the fruits of false prophets.
Soli Deo Gloria!