15 Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thornbushes or figs from thistles? 17 Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit.” (Matthew 7:15–17, NKJV)
Christ’s warning against false prophets is centered upon their teachings, not the nature of their motives or the sincerity of their personal character. They are false because the fruit they bear is corrupt (false). No false prophet (or false teacher, 2 Peter 2:1) walks around with a signboard that says, “Beware, I am a false prophet.” We know them by the fruit they bear, that is, we know the false prophet (teacher) by what he teaches – that is his fruit. When we “try the spirits” to see whether a teacher is from God, it is the message that we test, not the heart of the one teaching the message (1 John 4:1, 6). We are fruit-testers, not heart-testers. This is what Jesus said in verse 16 of today’s passage (see also, Matthew 7:20). Test what you hear by the word of God. The true teacher of God teaches the true gospel, but the false teacher proclaims and advances error God’s name (2 Peter 2:1-3; 2 Timothy 4:2-4). The false prophet (false teacher) speaks from his own heart and not from God’s revelation (Deuteronomy 18:20-22; Ezekiel 13:1-3).