by Mike Ratliff
5 But the goal of our instruction is love from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. 6 For some men, straying from these things, have turned aside to fruitless discussion, 7 wanting to be teachers of the Law, even though they do not understand either what they are saying or the matters about which they make confident assertions.
8 But we know that the Law is good, if one uses it lawfully, 9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted. 1 Timothy 1:5-11 (NASB)
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 love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. That is the good fruit of a 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.
15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits. Matthew 7:15-20 (NASB)
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, it 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 one’s life better or to become part of a movement to “make the world a better place.” 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.
1 But as for you, speak the things which are fitting for sound doctrine. 2 Older men are to be temperate, dignified, sensible, sound in faith, in love, in perseverance.
3 Older women likewise are to be reverent in their behavior, not malicious gossips nor enslaved to much wine, teaching what is good, 4 so that they may encourage the young women to love their husbands, to love their children, 5 to be sensible, pure, workers at home, kind, being subject to their own husbands, so that the word of God will not be dishonored.
6 Likewise urge the young men to be sensible; 7 in all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, 8 sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us.
9 Urge bondslaves to be subject to their own masters in everything, to be well-pleasing, not argumentative, 10 not pilfering, but showing all good faith so that they will adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in every respect.
11 For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, 12 instructing us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age, 13 looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, 14 who gave Himself for us to redeem us from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.
15 These things speak and exhort and reprove with all authority. Let no one disregard you. Titus 2 (NASB)
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 things, 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 dumbed down to the point that it is by-and-large ignorant of the Word of God and so are easily duped and led even further into darkness. This is apostasy and is the fruits of false prophets.
Soli Deo Gloria!