THEME: SPIRITUAL VIGILANCE.
BY: Fr. Karabari Paul
HOMILY FOR WEDNESDAY JUNE 22 2022
‘Beware of false prophets.’
We need to realize that the biggest dangers we face as Christians in Nigeria today are not from scams over the telephone, or Internet; the biggest dangers we face are from spiritual imposters. Because false religion will not merely hurt your future, but can send you to hell for eternity.
In the Gospel of today (Matthew 7:15-20) Jesus issues a warning to His followers: He tells us to beware of false prophets.
This Bible word here for “beware” (prosecho) means “pay attention to, guard yourself against.” It is the same word He used at the beginning of Matthew 6, when He said “Beware of practicing your righteousness before men.” Jesus knew that it is so easy for hypocrisy to creep into Christianity, so He told us to watch out for it. And in the same way, He knew that false prophets and teachers would come and try to steer us away from the true path, so He commands us to “beware” of them; be on guard against them. We might wish that everyone who holds up a Bible and says, “Thus says the Lord” would really be a person sent from God, but we just cannot do that. The sad truth is, there are false prophets and teachers in this world who will not only kill our body, but who would lead us astray spiritually and destroy our soul. We must be on guard against them.
In Matthew 24:11, Jesus says, “Many false prophets will arise, and will mislead many.” In I John 4:1 John the Apostle warns: “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” You cannot just listen to every preacher or teacher on television. You can’t just read every book that comes along promising you spiritual growth. You can’t just go to any church, or any meeting. Many false prophets and teachers are in this world, and Jesus commands us as His followers to “beware” of them. We must learn to exercise discernment, and heed the warning of the word of Christ that many false prophets have gone out into the world.
Not only do false prophets and teachers exist, and exist in great number, they also Disguise themselves. Jesus said here they “come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” In other words, these people are going to look and seem like good, godly people, but they are not. This is an important lesson for us to learn: false religion disguises itself; it rarely appears to be evil. In II Corinthians 11 the Apostle Paul spoke of “false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.” Satan is not going to appear to you with horns.
You will know them by their fruits, Jesus says. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Good fruit comes from a good teacher and bad fruit will come from a bad teacher. It is clear from the context that Jesus is not talking about their works when He refers to their fruit.
This is because Jesus reveals that the false prophets have more and better good works than the average person. They prophecy in Jesus’ name, cast out demons, and perform many miracles (Matt 7:22). They even submit to the Lordship of Jesus Christ (Matt 7:21). But Jesus says they didn’t do the will of God and He doesn’t even know them (Matt 7:21, 23). Submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ and performing a myriad of good works proves nothing whatsoever one way or the other about whether or not a person truly belongs to Jesus.
Therefore, what is the fruit to which Jesus refers? It is the words of the false prophets and how these words line up with the rest of Scripture. In Hebrew thinking, the fruit of a person’s life is primarily seen in their words. The book of Proverbs frequently reveals that the fruit of our life is our words, that we will live or die by what we say, and that our words reveal what we believe in our hearts (Prov 13:2-3; 18:20-21).
When it comes to discerning good teachers from bad, the words a teacher speaks are critically important because actions are often imitated and faked by false teachers. Indeed, false teachers often make sure they do their good works in front of a watching audience so that there are many witnesses to their charitable deeds and generous actions.
All false teachers look good on the outside. Jesus says that although false teachers are ravenous wolves on the inside, they wear sheep’s clothing on the outside. By their behavior and actions, they appear to be part of God’s flock. They look like sheep. But their words betray them. Their words reveal the true condition of their heart. It is their words, not their behavior, which reveal that they are wolves. GOD IS STILL ON THE THRONE. May God bless you and your household always through Christ Our Lord Amen. Good morning.
Fr. Karabari Paul