Series: Student Ministry: The Sermon on the Mount

A few hundred years after God the Son took on human flesh and became man a man named Arius taught, and persuaded most of Christianity that Jesus was not God. A heresy that taught that God the Son was less that God had run rampant throughout the world. Through the efforts of Athanasius the tide was turned back and right teaching about who Jesus was reigned in the Christian world. The heresy still exists today and has probably knocked at your door. They don’t call themselves Arians anymore, they call themselves Jehovah’s Witnesses. It is a picture of the damage that a false teacher can do to Christians.

If we take another example that you may be a little more familiar with it may be helpful. How many of you have been watching television and seen a tv preacher asking for money for their ministry? You would likely have heard them saying that if you give them a certain amount of money God will give you much more. The fact is that these people fly their private jets, funded by telling people they will be blessed if they give, to other parts of the world…a lot of times the poorest parts of the world and ask them for money. People living on $1 or $2 per day will throw money at these guys’ feet in hopes that they will receive some of that prosperity. Many of them have been investigated for wrong use of money, some have been arrested for other misdeeds. Many people have been harmed or drawn away from the faith by people like this.

Jesus here discusses false teachers. In one sense this seems strange. Jesus has spent the Sermon on the Mount laying out the ethics of God’s Kingdom and then, in the last message, telling believers to trust in Him and walk in His ways. Now…false teachers?

This does make sense though. One of the greatest dangers to the life of a believer is that a false teacher will ruin their walk and lead them out of the narrow way and to the path that leads to destruction. Jesus has been teaching how to live and is very concerned that His people do not stumble because of false teachers. By the way, this happens all the time, especially in the age of the internet when everyone has a keyboard, a video camera, and no understanding of how dumb they are.

Read Matthew 7:15-20

Beware False Teachers, They Will Knock You Off The Path

Having already taught the disciples how they were to live and commanding them to walk in this way, Jesus now shows that False teachers are a grave danger.

This was nothing new for Jesus. This was historically the case in Israel. The Old Testament is filled with prophet problems and teacher problems. False teachers would lead people astray in Israel and it was oftentimes a dangerous situation. God oftentimes denounced the false teachers of Israel and the damage they did was horrific. So, Jesus and those listening could look back on Israel’s history and understand that false teachers were terribly dangerous. It is also the case that there were false teachers who existed around the same time as Jesus. So, this is a danger that everyone could have witnessed with their own eyes. And, I would argue that Jesus knew the future and knew that false prophet after false prophet would arise and draw people off the path.

One of the greatest hindrances to the life of a believer is the false teacher. A false teacher will lead Christians astray in a variety of different ways. Here it seems that the discussion would be about drawing Christians out of the path. This would work in a few different ways. This could be a teaching that states that works are not necessary. A false teacher might tell you that it does not matter how you live, all that matters is that you have trusted in Jesus. We know that this is wrong because Jesus has spent the Sermon on the Mount telling believers that they had to live a certain way, not to achieve salvation but that the follower of Christ will obey His commands. Another way might be a false teacher stating that works save you. We know that we can never live up to Christ’s commands, but a person who does not know that can fall prey to this type of teaching and spend their lives in toil only to find that it was not enough. You can see how one of these hinders the Christian life because it pulls us out of the way. You can also see how the other hinders the Christian life because it keeps us from entering into the narrow gate, that is Christ.

The warning here is dire because the danger is horrific. The false prophet is like a wolf. He will tear you apart. And the trouble is, he seems like he is okay. He is not a wolf that’s easy to spot. He is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

The question then becomes, how do I guard against false teaching? The answer is you do so by knowing right teaching. Time and time again I have heard a story about how federal agents are taught to spot fake money. They are taught by handling real money. This is true. By handling loads and loads of real cash the agent is able to spot the fake. It’s not by studying the fake that we learn to spot the fake. It’s by studying the real that we learn to spot the fake. This is even more true when discussing Scripture. How is it that a person learns to spot the false prophet? Is it by studying all the false prophets? No, there are too many to actually study. We would not do anything else. It is by studying the Scriptures and especially by hearing God’s Word declared rightly that we are able to detect false teaching and false prophets.

Know God’s Word. Study God’s Word. And, if you ever have any questions ask a good teacher. They will be able to help you and will be more than willing to do so. But, sometimes this is very difficult and Jesus tells us how we can know that the person is a false teacher.

The Distinguishing Mark Of The False Teacher Is Their Fruit

Now, how does Jesus say that you will recognize the false teacher? “By their fruit”. What does that mean?

Jesus is saying that the teacher of righteousness will live righteously and call people to live righteously. Though the false teacher may seem okay at first, upon further examination his fruit is bad. A good tree and a bad tree can look similar from a distance. They may even look the same when you are standing close to both of them. But, an examination of the fruit will reveal the disease.

Prosperity preachers are the worst sort. They get rich off of poor people wanting to get rich like them. They target the poorest of the poor countries and get in their private jets and fly home. Did they help the poor as Jesus commanded in the Sermon on the Mount? No. What is their fruit? A jet and impoverished people becoming even more impoverished. The fruit of false teachers reveals their wickedness.

After I interned for a student ministry while in college I went back to school and worked at a very small church. As time went by we noticed weird things about the pastor. He demanded to be paid in cash so that he would not have to report the money. He tried schemes to get extra money. People liked part of his sermons and he had a personality that some people were attracted to. But, his life was soon in shambles. He was doing things that seemed inappropriate. And, I left the church as quickly after these things happened as I could. I spoke up about them to some folks that I should have talked to, they looked into it, and I worked at a different church. Soon after I left it was found out that he was having an affair with another woman in a different town a few hours away. The fruit revealed the wickedness of the tree.

Christ knew that there was going to be a lot of false teachers leading people astray and He gave a simple, but profound way of determining whether this teacher was from God. Check their fruit. Sometimes these guys go to prison for beating someone in their life. Sometimes they go to jail for fraud. Sometimes they are a serial adulterer. Sometimes the people they teach go off and act like fools. You will know them by their fruits. This is of massive importance for Christians. We must be in the narrow way. Don’t be knocked off by false teachers.

The End of the False Teacher

This text has often been cited as concerning the eternal fate of both False Teacher and the False Convert. I agree with the notion that their fate is similar, but I do not believe that Jesus is talking about that here specifically. He does elsewhere, but not here. The False Teacher is a diseased tree that bears diseased fruit that will one day be plucked up out of the ground and thrown into Hell. Many of the people that lost people hate in Christianity are false teachers. Creflo Dollar, Robert Tilton, and Kenneth Copeland come to mind. They make tons of money by ripping people off and are hated by non-Christians. I hate them to and God will punish them severely for what they are doing to people.

This comes with a warning. Don’t follow the path of the false teacher. Don’t find yourself falling down into the pit with him because he drug you out of the narrow way. Do not be tempted by the false teacher. Journey to Heaven and don’t allow this person to pull you off the path.

R. Dwain Minor