Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? (Matthew 7:15-16 KJV)
Jesus teaches us that we can use the fruits of a prophet( or any teacher or pastor) to know who they really are—true or false. The question then is this: what is the meaning of “fruits”?
There is an intriguing play of figurative language in the passage above. First, He says these false prophets come in “sheep’s clothing .” Then he moves away from “sheep” and “clothing” to talk about “fruit”—the product of trees. The key to understanding this instruction is distinguishing “sheep’s clothing” from “fruits.”
The false prophets come in sheep’s clothing. The term sheep is generally used for Christ’s genuine followers, and clothing is often used for outward behavior, activities, or character. So sheep’s clothing means these people will come talking, speaking, acting, or behaving just as any believer or true prophet. In this case, they will not preach another Jesus or bring another Bible. They will be as “Christian” as any other true Christian you ever met. Therefore you cannot discern who they are by simply looking at what they make you see in their public conduct.
In contrast to the sheep’s clothing, the fruits of these false prophets reveal who they really are. Fruit in scripture is often used for character. However, though their true character might reveal their true identity, as opposed to their hypocritic outward behavior, Christ has more in mind here than character alone. These prophets come as ministers or servants of God—they are not just false brethren. As ministers, their fruits represent the results of their ministry on those who follow them—their ministry works. False prophets almost always promise deliverance, freedom, healing, breakthroughs. Are people genuinely being delivered, healed, or freed under their ministry? Nothing reveals the authenticity of a prophet or teacher’s ministry than the lives of those who follow that ministry.
In summary, Jesus is saying this: despite all the propaganda from these false prophets about their prophecies, breakthroughs, or blessings, examine the lives of those under that ministry. By their fruits, you shall know them. So Jesus says “use the fruits test”!
What is the difference between “sheep’s clothing” and “fruits” as noted above?
Apply the Word
Discernment is crucial these days. Be careful. As I noted before, deception is the hallmark of the end times. Remember Jesus’s words: look at their fruits, and you will know who is who.
Ask the Father to help His children discern false prophets, teachers, and pastors amongst His people.