Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves. … Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Having grown up on a regular diet of Saturday morning cartoons I can even describe the background music upon the arrival of the wolf dressed as a sheep or a granny, for that matter. While the image of such danger is not lost a cartoon makes it visually clear that sheep do not have long noses or big teeth. Even a six year old can spot the Big Bad Wolf.
Not so easy regarding false prophets – we won’t be able to tell by their outward appearances. They probably look really good, sound of Godly and holy speech with a touch of appropriate incense. It is likely to be tricky to spot them except for this clear warning from Jesus – check out their fruit. What is the quality of their life?
I love how Ray Stedman speaks of Biblical leadership:
“The true authority of elders and other leaders in the church, then, is that of respect, aroused by their own loving and godly example.”*
Sounds a lot like “fruit”, doesn’t it?
Since white hats are out of fashion, fruit is how you tell who the good guys are.
The rest of Stedman’s quote is very much worth the read.
*”This is the force of two verses which are often cited by those who claim a unique authority of pastors over church members. The first is found in First Thessalonians 5:12-13a (RSV), “But we beseech you, brethren, to respect those who labor among you, and are over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them very highly in love because of their work.” The key phrase is “and are over you in the Lord.” The Greek word in question is prohistamenous. Though this is translated “over you” in both the Revised Standard and King James versions, the word itself contains no implication of being “over” another. The New English Bible more properly renders it, “… and in the Lord’s fellowship are your leaders and counselors.” The thought in the word is that of “standing before” others, not of “ruling over” them. It is the common word for leadership. Leaders can lead only if they are able to persuade some to follow.
Another verse used to support command authority is Hebrews 13:17a (RSV), which the Revised Standard Version renders, “Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as men who will have to give account.” The imperative translated “obey” is from the word peitho, “to persuade.” In the middle voice, used here, Thayer’s lexicon gives its meaning as “to suffer one’s self to be persuaded.” Again there is no thought of a right to command someone against his will, but the clear thrust is that leaders are persuaders whose ability to persuade arises not from a smooth tongue or a dominant personality, but from a personal walk which evokes respect.”