Discerning False Prophets: Seeing Their Converts
“‘Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. So then, you will know them by their fruits’” (Matthew 7:19–20).
We can spot false prophets by the kind of people they attract. Their converts will have the same kind of superficial, self-centered, unbiblical orientation as they do. Of this sort of attraction Peter says, “Many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of the truth will be maligned” (2 Peter 2:2). Many folks gravitate to false teachers because those men propagate what the majority of people want to hear and believe (cf. 2 Tim. 4:3).
God has not ordained false prophets, but within His will He allows them to exist. And it is within His purpose that false factions develop. “For there must also be factions among you, so that those who are approved may become evident among you” (1 Cor. 11:19). Factions often attract followers of false teachers. And in a sense, this protects genuine saints by separating the chaff from the wheat in the church.
Ultimately, the Lord makes sure that the converts of false prophets, who do not bear good fruit, get cut down and thrown into the fire of judgment. Peter says they are “bringing swift destruction upon themselves” (2 Peter 2:1; cf. Jer. 23:30–40; John 15:2, 6). A watchful, discerning, vigilant believer, armed with the Word of truth, will be able to isolate false teachers and withdraw from them, because he or she “will know them by their fruits.”
Discussions like these often get us labeled as haughty and narrow-minded. How do you handle these kinds of accusations? Why will some people never understand your concern for the church’s purity?