When Paul and Silas taught in the synagogue in Berea, the Scriptures tell us that the listeners received the word with all readiness of mind, but then they searched the Scriptures daily to see whether the things that were taught them were Biblically correct (Acts 17:10,11). It would do each and every one of us well to follow the example of those Bereans, for it seems to me that we are living in a day and age where nobody is a false prophet or false teacher anymore. Yet, we have already been warned by Jesus that such will not be the case in these last days.
Jesus talked about false prophets coming who would be clothed as sheep, but inwardly would be “ravenous wolves” (Matt 7:15). The Greek word for ravenous here means an extortioner. A Biblical extortioner is a person who wrestles money from others by using clever tactics or methods. Amongst them is, ‘Thus saith the Lord!’ These wolves will appear in sheep’s clothing; they will carry Bibles and they will use Biblical terminology, but they are corrupt in their hearts.
In His Olivet discourse, Jesus warned us that many false prophets would come on the scene (Matt 24:11). Interestingly, Jesus said that these wolves in sheep’s clothing would show great signs and wonders. This clearly teaches us that not everything that appears to be from God really is. In the context of His teaching on false prophets, Jesus declared that many will claim to have cast out devils, prophesy and even do many mighty works in His Name, to which Jesus will reply, “I never knew you”.
Both apostles Peter and John write about our need to have a discerning heart in these last days. John would exhort you and me to try the spirit behind the teaching to see whether or not it is biblical (1 John 4:1). The Greek word for try there means to “examine” or “put to the test”. What are we to examine teachings, prophecies or ‘word’s from the Lord’ with? The Word of God. Why? Because not every spirit is from God and many false prophets are in the world today. According to the Bible, the doctrine of Balaam is the prostituting of the Word of God for personal financial gain.
Precious saints, may we continue in the apostles’ doctrine, not man-made traditions. False teachers are to be marked and exposed, not coddled and tolerated. In an age where winds of doctrine are blowing through the church in hurricane-like proportions, may we hold the course in our personal lives and as a church family, giving attention to reading, to exhortation, to doctrine. May the pure doctrine of God’s Word protect us from the “itching ears” syndrome that is so prevalent in these last days.