Trinity 8 Sermon, 2018

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16).

When Jesus says, “Beware false prophets,” He’s saying different things to different people.

For those who hear and learn of God, Jesus says “Beware false prophets,” so that you’ll always test the teaching that you hear against the Word of God.

For those who teach and tell of God, Jesus says, “Beware false prophets,” so that you’ll always speak what needs to be spoken—to sheep and goat alike.

And for those who wish to be saved, Jesus says, “Beware false prophets,” to make sure we all know that there are false prophets out there, desiring not only your unbelief but that you spread it.

You see, it’s one thing to believe incorrectly about God. I met a man in Mobile, Alabama who attended church his whole life but had never been taught what we believe about the Trinity.

It happened to be my week to preach on Trinity Sunday that year, and, as a vicar, I did nothing but say, as clearly as I could, what we believe and why—what God has revealed to us in Scripture and the necessity of that confession.

He thanked me after the service, explaining that he had never heard that before. He thought we believed in three gods called the father, the son, and the holy spirit.

He was delighted to learn and confess that there is one God in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

He believed incorrectly, and it effected him alone.

It’s one thing to believe incorrectly about God.

It’s another to teach incorrectly—to be a false prophet.

Jesus warns us all as He does because false prophets condemn not only themselves but all those they teach.

Had that man from Mobile been a life-long Sunday school teacher, to how many children would he have taught heresy?

Or, if he tried to share the Gospel with a stranger, how many times did he lead a man in the way of the wicked instead of along the paths of righteousness?

There are differences among sins.

There are sins that effect your body and soul, and there are sins that effect your body and soul and someone else’s.

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves” (Matthew 7:15), Jesus says, because the one who teaches falsely has in mind, unknowingly or not, his own destruction and yours.

“You will recognize them by their fruits…” Jesus says (Matthew 7:16).

The fruit of a farmer is the produce of his field.

You won’t buy a rotten tomato or one filled with worms, but the only way you know whether or not it’s rotten is to inspect it.

And you always do.

You know what a good tomato is, and so you compare the one in your hand with the one in your mind’s eye.

You’ve been taught by word and deed what a good tomato is.

The good tomato abides, but the rotten tomato’s cut down and thrown into the fire, so to speak.

The fruit of a carpenter is the table in his shop.

You won’t buy a bad table. But the only way you know whether or not it’s good is to inspect it.

And you always do.

You know what a good table is, you check its height and length and width, you compare the one you might buy with the dimensions in your room and the table in your mind’s eye.

You’ve been taught what a good table is.

But what of the fruit of a prophet?

What, of his, is there to weigh and measure?

The fruit of a prophet is his prophecy—is it true? And you weigh and measure it against the Word of God.

Is what the prophet says true?

Not “Do you like it?” but “Is it true?”

Just as you inspect each tomato or table before you buy it, so you must inspect the words of a prophet before you buy what he says.

Not “Do you like it?” but “Is it true?”

For us, Jesus’ warning applies to teachers of the Word of God.

So when Jesus says, “Beware false prophets,” He means for every Christian to judge the fruit of the teachers of Scripture by asking, “Is what this pastor says true?”

Never do we ask, “Do I like what he says?” but rather “Did ‘Thus saith the Lord’?”

We see plainly, all throughout Scripture, Old Testament and New, that what God says and does and allows and teaches is neither popular nor what we, ourselves, would do in His place.

Sometimes that makes hearing and learning the Word of God difficult.

Specific to our day, thus says the Lord through St. Paul: “As in all the churches of the saints, the women should keep silent in the churches. For they are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Law also says. If there is anything they desire to learn, let them ask their husbands at home. For it is shameful for a woman to speak in church” (1 Corinthians 14:34-35).

“Speaking,” there, is the official act of speaking in church. Preaching. It doesn’t mean a woman can’t talk or sing or pray or even teach children or those for whom she is responsible.

It means, as is clear throughout all of Scripture, that the task of publicly preaching and teaching the Gospel is given to men alone.

You may not like that—but it’s true—because thus saith the Lord through St. Paul.

Every single teacher who says otherwise—and that means every single woman pretending to be a pastor—is a false prophet, a false teacher, who is leading people astray.

Even if every word is doctrinally pure and perfect—the example of a woman speaking officially in church, preaching, leads people astray.

“For God is not a God of confusion but of peace” (1 Corinthians 14:33). It’s not confusing what He says. But there’s peace only if you agree with what “Thus saith the Lord…”

“Beware false prophets,” Jesus says, because it’s easier to believe a tasty, well-worn lie than it is to confess yourself wrong—and perhaps wrong for years.

And that’s just one example.

“Beware false prophets” isn’t a charge that Jesus gives only to pastors.

He gives it to all the baptized.

You don’t have to articulate the truth as well as your pastor, nor do you need to go out of your way to find false teachers to rebuke.

But you don’t get to say, “As long as we believe in Jesus, that’s all that matters” whenever you encounter doctrinal division.

You don’t get to opt out of judging the fruit of those who claim the name of Christ.

And judging fruits, contrary to the rather popular misinterpretation, doesn’t mean judging the works of other people.

Plenty of those who teach false doctrine will lead lives that look holy.

That doesn’t make their lies true.

Plenty of those who preach the truth will embrace sin and live lives contrary to what they’ve preached.

That doesn’t make what they’ve preached false.

When you judge a pastor’s fruit, you’re looking at what his words give you and comparing that to what Christ gives you.

Jesus has given you His saving blood.

He’s given you peace with God, confidence that your sins have been forgiven, erased in His death, that you’ve been given life eternal in His resurrection.

Jesus points you to Himself.

That’s the fruit of Jesus.

If a pastor points you to yourself, that’s not the fruit of Jesus. If he hangs peace in front of you like the carrot before the horse, telling you that you can’t be saved or you can’t be sure unless

That’s not the fruit of Jesus.

If a pastor points you to himself—and not to Christ—that’s not the fruit of Jesus.

If he won’t forgive the sins you’ve committed—if he says that Jesus didn’t die for that sin or that your particular sin can’t be forgiven—that’s not the fruit of Jesus.

And if what he gives isn’t the fruit of Jesus…

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. You will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16).

If what he gives isn’t the fruit of Jesus…flee.

God never says, “Trust your pastor.”

There is no “Thus saith the Lord…” for that one.

But, “Thus saith the Lord…” regarding the responsibility of pastors: “Care for the church of God, which He obtained with His own blood” (Acts 20:28).

The fruit I have to give, as your pastor, is this: cling in faith and trust to Jesus.

He has purchased and won you from sin, death, and satan—not with gold or silver—but with His holy body and precious blood.

Believe—trust—and know for certain—that God has redeemed you all in the shed blood of Jesus Christ.

In Jesus’ name, Amen!

Trinity 8, 2018
Matthew 7:25-23
Rev. Benjamin Tyler Holt

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