You all know this verse where Yeshua (Jesus) is speaking to his very own followers and disciples and says this:
Matthew 7:15-16 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?”
“Beware of wolves IN SHEEP’s clothing”. We’ve all heard that verse, but many have missed it. Christ is NOT telling us to just beware of false ministers, false prophets, or false SHEPHERDS who come to us AS ministers, prophets, or shepherds. That applies too but notice what he actually says. But here at least, Messiah doesn’t say “beware of false prophets who come to you in Shepherd’s (ministers) clothing.” We have to be aware of that too. There are a lot of false teachers out there. We must be on guard against that too.
But who are the “sheep”? We brethren are the sheep of His pasture (Psalm 100:3). Sheep are regular members of the congregation. That’s why Messiah told Peter to “Feed my lambs and my sheep” in John 21:15-17.
By saying “who come to you in SHEEP’S clothing”, Yeshua is saying “beware of false teachers who come to you like a regular brother or sister in the congregation. They look, act and speak like a regular church member.”
Especially in these last days, deception can come from any direction – including from beloved Sheep of God – the brethren. In this passage Christ is urging to have our guard up because even regular brethren can actually be wolves or false teachers.
The Supreme Being, God Almighty, selects and appoints leaders - or shepherds -- over the flock to guide and lead the sheep. We know them as “watchmen, pastors” – which is related to being in the pasture with the sheep. Hence, we have “shepherds, teachers and ministers”. Many prophets and teachers were actual shepherds like David, Amos, Jacob, and his sons and many more.
There certainly are many warnings to teachers and shepherds. We teachers will be judged more strictly (James 3:1). Read Ezekiel 34:1-10 on your own. And in Acts 20, we have Paul’s warnings to the leaders of Ephesus – and it really applies to any who are leaders in the congregation.
Acts 20:28-29 “Therefore take heed to yourselves AND to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”
We belong to Christ, as he purchased you and me with his own life blood. We do not belong to any other shepherd. Christ is our Chief Shepherd and you and I can follow pastors only as long as they follow Christ. As Paul said, “Follow or imitate me, as I imitate Christ” (1 Cor. 11:1).
So the ultimate shepherd over the flock of God is the Son of God, Yeshua. HE’S the head of the church. David said “YHVH, the LORD, is my shepherd”. God the Father is, by hierarchy, also our shepherd, but Yeshua was explicitly clear that HE is the good shepherd. John 10:11 – “I am the good shepherd…”
But now let’s get back to wolves/false teachers who talk to you as a brother or sister in the church. Your guard may be down, for he/she is – after all – someone you know so well. SO you talk, so you listen, so you get influenced.
ARE there wolves masquerading as shepherds and ministers? Of course.
But don’t miss what our Messiah is actually saying: You and I can just as easily be led astray by brethren we hold in high esteem who are not pastors or shepherds but like to share their new idea with others and lead them away from the flock. This could be anybody. It could be me. It could be you. It could be our friends. We must be vigilant even with those we thought we could trust as good friends in the congregation. This is why we must speak up more often than we do when someone is leading others astray.
How would YOU feel, if you had been one of the 12 disciples of Christ – and Jesus the son of God called you “Satan”?
Yeshua was being super aware not to let anyone near him be used by the Adversary (Satan).
Matthew 16:21-23 “From that time Jesus began to show to His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised the third day. 22 Then Peter took Him aside and began to rebuke Him, saying, "Far be it from You, Lord; this shall not happen to You!"
23 But He turned and said to Peter, "Get behind Me, SATAN! You are an offense to Me, for you are not mindful of the things of God, but the things of men."
So never forget that Yeshua called even Peter – “SATAN” -- when he perceived that SATAN’S own wrong spirit had infected Peter’s answer when he was correcting Christ about his upcoming crucifixion. If Christ could call Peter “Satan” – it shows how we must be on guard even with our own best friends, our own family, or our own church members.
We often let our guard down when it’s family or friends speaking to us. We shouldn’t EVER let our guard down.
Some of you prefer to never “rock the boat” or look disagreeable. Had you been Yeshua that day, would YOU have corrected Peter so strongly – even calling him “Satan” – because that is whom Peter had listened to. Remember another time Yeshua warned Peter that Satan had asked God for permission to “sift him as wheat”. Don’t think that all stopped with Peter. I’m sure Satan is asking permission to use other brethren as well.
Luke 22:31-32 And the Lord said, "Simon, Simon! Indeed, Satan has asked for you, that he may sift you as wheat. 32 But I have prayed for you, that your faith should not fail; and when you have returned to Me, strengthen your brethren."
The good news is that once we belong to God, Satan cannot do anything to God’s children without the Almighty’s permission. Remember Job? Yes, God does give Satan permission at times. Even Paul’s “thorn in the flesh” – whatever that was – was, according to Paul, “a messenger of Satan” to harass him and keep him humble (2 Cor. 12:7).
Christ warned that our own family could turn against us in the very end as some will become wolves – in sheep’s clothing, not wolves in shepherd’s clothing.
How do we remain on guard to counter this? We’re given several points.
You will know the wolves in sheep clothing by their fruits.
Matthew 7:15-16 "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles?
Another point: Be like the Bereans. Compare whatever brethren are telling you -- to God’s word. Are all of us even IN the Bible absolutely every single day? It’s the BREAD from YHVH. We don’t miss food on any given day unless we’re purposely fasting. Neither should you miss time in God’s word one way or another, especially in 2021 when it’s so EASY to have the whole Bible in many formats in books, on our cell phones, tablets, computers, everywhere!
John 8:31-32 Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, "If you ABIDE in My word, you are My disciples indeed. 32 And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free."
Know God’s word SO WELL that when you hear something that just isn’t Biblical – you can challenge it. Instead of having the TV on constantly or having news or music on in the car when you drive – listen instead to the Bible in audio format. Or just turn everything off – and meditate in silence over what you studied that morning. DO the audio Bible in addition to deep study at your desk.
You and I are set FREE by the truth. But if we don’t KNOW the truth of scripture, how will you be set free? Yeshua says we have to ABIDE – stay closely in – HIS word!
And of course PRAY for God’s spirit to help you discern truth from error.
I personally think we should follow Jesus’ example too. SPEAK UP when heresy is being discussed. Our Savior didn’t let Peter get away with saying HE – Yeshua – would not be crucified. No, he roundly corrected him. Many of us are more comfortable saying nothing and “not causing a fuss”. But silence emboldens those propagating error. Silence is seen as agreement with their error.
There’s a great example of a married couple named Aquila and Priscilla who took an upcoming “leading man” named Apollos, mighty in scriptures, and took him aside to explain more correctly the way of God that Apollos didn’t understand. They didn’t just let him continue teaching what was error. Apollos went on to become a great leader in the church, by the way, and in Corinth some even claimed to be “of Apollos” (1 Cor. 1:12; 3:4).
Acts 18:24-26 “Now a certain Jew named Apollos, born at Alexandria, an eloquent man and mighty in the Scriptures, came to Ephesus. 25 This man had been instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in spirit, he spoke and taught accurately the things of the Lord, though he knew only the baptism of John. 26 So he began to speak boldly in the synagogue. When Aquila and Priscilla heard him, they took him aside and explained to him the way of God more accurately.”
Would you have done that? Apollos may have, at this point, been simply a regular brother/member of the church. But had Aquila and Priscilla not done that, he could have become a wolf in sheep’s (brethren’s) clothing deceiving the brethren. But it ended well – because Aquila and Priscilla were on guard.
Today, false teachers coming to you as regular members, can use so many avenues: Facebook, email, text messages. They can forward link after link of something new and titillating they think everyone needs to hear. Just be careful. Some of these forwarded links are fine. Some are not.
So –as Yeshua said: “Beware of wolves in SHEEP’S clothing;” FALSE teachers who come to us as a regular member of your church. So – we think “they’re just one of us; he’s a church member – so yes, I can listen to him”. And so our guard goes down. Let that not be your story. Let your story be that you keep your guard up, and you abide in the word of God, know it very well – and you recognize error and don’t let that wolf in sheep’s clothing continue sending you more and more material that is off based.
I certainly would not recommend you let false teachers TEACH in your congregation. If what they’re teaching is easily proven to be false – or causes division and arguments and discord – recognize their FRUIT. You shall know them by their fruit.
Let’s end with James’ admonition. When listening to other brethren around the dinner table or after church services, watch for the fruit of that discussion. Watch for it to be according to God’s word. Be sure it’s TRUTH. And be sure it is peaceable, gentle, willing to yield – and sown in peace.
James 3:13-18 “Who is wise and understanding among you? Let him show by good conduct that his works are done in the meekness of wisdom.
14 But if you have bitter envy and self-seeking in your hearts, do not boast and lie against the truth. 15 This wisdom does not descend from above, but is earthly, sensual, demonic. 16 For where envy and self-seeking exist, confusion and every evil thing are there.
17 But the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy. 18 Now the fruit of righteousness is sown in peace by those who make peace”.
So there you have it: wolves who come to us looking like regular sheep. Beware.