Matthew 7:15-16, “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?” To be honest, the Lord Jesus often clashed with hypocritical religious leaders when preaching the gospel on earth; because they did not like the truth from God, and they persecuted Jesus. Let us look at the various faces of hypocritical preachers, and use Jesus truth to guard our faith and new life.
Here, we must first define hypocritical preachers: they are not truly reborn and saved, but they only believe in religion and wear religious clothing to serve their own benefits; or when they became so-called Christians, they started to use Christianity to deceive believers purposefully for getting fame, wealth, and enjoyment. Such hypocritical preachers have existed among Christians of all ages; and in the past few decades, we can see examples of such corruption from media reports, many of whom have violated the law and taken to lawsuits. However, most of the preachers disclosed and followed by the media are influential church leaders. The crimes committed by these people are basically fornication and financial violations. As a result, some Christians who followed them have been tripped and their faith have been frustrated. So, we have to ask: why can false preachers pretend to deceive many people?
The Lord Jesus told us that these false prophets were wolves in sheep’s clothing. In the Old Testament of the Bible, it is said that during the destruction of the nation of Israel and Judah, many people who claimed to be prophets preached pleasing messages, and resisted and persecuted those true prophets sent by God; because God’s servants accused the sins of the king and religious leaders and the people, and proclaimed that God would severely punish those who betrayed God. Today the pastors and ministers of the Christian Church replace prophets and priests to explain the Bible truth to believers; but there are also false preachers, or call them hypocritical preachers. Because they are dressed in priesthood and speak the Word of God fluently in their mouths, they can easily deceive believers. It is easier to deceive believers if they become influential church leaders or evangelists respected by the church.
So how did they cheat? First of all, they are excellent actors who can disguise themselves as spiritual leaders. They are very familiar with the Bible. They speak in an enchanting way and audience feel inspired and edified. However, they are just talking with their mouths, and no one can see how they behave in their specific lives. The Lord Jesus told his disciples, “So you must obey them and do everything they tell you. But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they preach.”(Mt. 23:3)
Second, they do not blame people for their sins because they themselves are trapped in sins. As a result, they only talk about the message of life success and the worldly enjoyment, which is welcome. Third, some hypocritical preachers dare to blame sin, especially talk about the sin (such as fornication) they secretly involved. It seems to be the best way for them to use their preaching to cover their sins. Because when believers hear this kind of preaching from a hypocritical minister, they would not think that their pastor could commit such an iniquity. Indeed, some pastor who had involve the sin of fornication finished speaking in the morning, and then would secretly meet with his lover in the afternoon.
In addition, some hypocritical preachers who love cheating often preach the truth of God to those believers who truly pursue it, so that they can move their hearts for donating money to the preachers. They know that those who are lukewarm believers generally don’t give much, and only those who have fiery faith will give. Indeed, hypocritical preachers are mostly mastering at defrauding money by means of touching the hearts of people to give him money (this is an example of a wolf eating sheep). Please refer to the article: “Don’t give money to a freelance preacher lightly”. Truly speaking, God’s servants will pray directly to God when they need financial support, and God will move believers to give money to support His servants’ ministries.
Some people might say: Although a famous preacher committed adultery or embezzlement of money, he just fell for a moment, we can’t deny that he is a born-again Christian. Isn’t it the same sin with King David according to the Bible? Here, we cannot casually apply the testimony of Old Testament figures. For example, Jacob has two wives and two concubines. Can it be a justification for polygamy? And today we live in the New Testament era, and everyone who truly believes in the Lord Jesus should be born again and saved. Therefore, after the rebirth, believers with the help of Jesus’ truth and the Holy Spirit can renew their new life characters in the Lord, they should be better and better, and keep approaching the example of the Lord Jesus, not get worse.
But this is the case in the world: a moral gentleman has a good behaver before, but when he has a kind of right or reach to a high position, or when he encounters opportunities and lifestyle changes, he is corrupt. So those preachers who live corrupt and involve in sinful things cannot prove that they are reborn and saved. The believers who defended him probably did not see the bad fruits of corruption in his life, and of course they were deceived; or if they knew the truth but still maintained the face of that person, it is likely that they did not understand what it means to be born again. I would also like to point out here that a minister who is sinning without being born again should completely confess and repent to the Lord Jesus, so that he can be born again and free from the bondage of sin.
In order not to be deceived by hypocritical preachers, we must imitate the Lord Jesus in four ways. One is to pursue the principle, truth, and life taught in the Bible by studying the Bible carefully. We must also understand that “many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.”(Mt. 24:11). Therefore, we must not only grasp all the teachings and testimonies of the Lord Jesus, but also constantly renew life in Him, and obtain heavenly wisdom to discern true and false preachers. And the apostle Paul gave us an example of following Jesus. He said, “I urge you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and put obstacles in your way that are contrary to the teaching you have learned. Keep away from them. For such people are not serving our Lord Christ, but their own appetites. By smooth talk and flattery they deceive the minds of naive people. “(Romans 16:17-18)
Second, we must imitate the Lord to criticize religious hypocrisy. The Lord Jesus said, “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!”(Mt. 7:21-23) It is the Father’s will that we have life in the Lord Jesus and that it is a rich life. (John 10:10) The apostle Paul also said, ” For, as I have often told you before and now say again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their destiny is destruction, their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is on earthly things. “(Phil. 3:18-19). When we realize that there are ministers preaching for the sake of their stomach, we must use the truth of the Bible to accuse him of sin and exhorts him to confess and repent.
Third, we must follow the Lord Jesus alone, not worship people, but fear God and give glory to God. When we do this, we may offend people, we may be rejected or isolated by some believers. So we must take up the cross from the Lord every day, follow the Lord through the narrow door and the narrow path (Matthew 7:13-14), and understand that we are the disciples who belong to the Lord and not to the world, and we will experience suffering and persecution, but have peace in the Lord (John 16:33). Thus, we have faith to resist and criticize hypocritical ministers.
Fourth, we must live a new life in the Lord in our daily life and bear fruit on the true vine. The way of bearing fruit is to listen to the Word and to apply the Word. Our Lord Jesus explained this lesson: “Therefore everyone who hears these words of mine and puts them into practice is like a wise man who built his house on the rock. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house; yet it did not fall, because it had its foundation on the rock. But everyone who hears these words of mine and does not put them into practice is like a foolish man who built his house on sand. The rain came down, the streams rose, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell with a great crash. When Jesus had finished saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching, because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.” (Mt. 7:24-29)
When we understand in the Lord how to bear fruit and how to distinguish between good and bad fruits (new life in the Lord / rock vs abstract religious belief / sand), we can observe the fruits of life of believers and preachers with whom we have fellowships in the Lord; we also can also recognize wolves in sheep’s clothing. As the Lord Jesus said, “By their fruit you will recognize them. Do people pick grapes from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles? Likewise every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, and a bad tree cannot bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus, by their fruit you will recognize them.”(Mt. 7:16-20) This good tree refers to the new life in Lord by reborn. Therefore, we must keep the new life given by the Lord Jesus throughout our lives, and glorify God with our good fruits.
In general, hypocritical preachers will continue to appear. Although their number is not large, they can use modern media and Internet to expand their influence. Some people have established their prestige among many church believers by selling their “evangelical” videos and MP3 products, so as to continuously satisfy their belly and desires. Therefore, we must be awake and watchful all our lives. Not only are we not deceived by the wolf in sheep’s clothing, but we can also use the sword of the Lord Jesus’ truth to open the sheep’s skin, so that deceived believers will wake up and pursue a new life in the Lord. May the Lord help us!
- Moses Sun wrote this article. The first edition was published on January 31, 2016. The edition of translation was published on January 23, 2020.
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