Matt 7:15-16,20 “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? ….Thus by their fruit you will recognize them.”
Every Jew who knew his religious history would recognize the language that Jesus used. The Old Testament called false teachers and bad rulers “wolves”. Jeremiah had to deal with such as these. (Jer 6:14) Jesus warns His followers to be aware of the danger of false teachers. Even today we use the expression ‘a wolf in sheep’s clothing’ to refer to someone who pretends to be something he is not. Shepherds in Jesus’ day wore sheepskins (fleece side in) and prophets like Elijah were known for their unique dress. Some would dress the part to deceive people into thinking that they were a devoted shepherd or a prophet. Even Satan uses this ploy 2 Cor 11:14-15. How were they or how are we, to recognize false teachers? Jesus said that we would know them by their fruits. We must examine what they do along side of what they say.
The examples used by Jesus would have been easily recognized by His hearers. There is a common buck thorn that bears black berries which from a distance could easily be mistaken for grapes. And a thistle found in that region has a flower that closely resembles a fig. The point was that though a false teacher may resemble a true one, may dress like one, may use the right language, his actions will give him away.
The way to life is through the narrow difficult gate. We need to follow those who will help us find it. Check out what is being taught against the words of the Bible – (1 John 4:1, Acts 17:11). A false teacher is seeking their own interests, teaching for gain or the praise of men, and promoting their own agenda. 2 Tim 4:3-4 says, “For the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear. They will turn their ears away from the truth and turn aside to myths.” Paul warned against accepting what someone says without question – Gal 1:8. We know that it is God’s word that will judge us, not what men have said- in John 12:48, Jesus said “There is a judge for the one who rejects me and does not accept my words; that very word which I spoke will condemn him at the last day.” Be sure what you hear is true and what you accept is right and in agreement with the unchanging word of God. Study to show yourself approved by God, a workman who does not need to be ashamed, correctly handling the word of God – 2 Tim 2:15