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WOLF IN SHEEP'S CLOTHING?

Dedicated to the memory of John Barr. The only man whom I heard teach much of what I have learned regarding truth versus error.

by Jacques More

How do you discern a wolf in sheep's clothing?

How can you tell someone who is leading others astray?

What are the signs?

This article arises out of many years of experience and study of the Word. The most significant experience arose out of 9 years up to 1982 in a fellowship which eventually stopped gathering. The characteristics of a cult and the understanding of a real work of deception were the result of this time. So, what are the signs?

Possible Answer:

The miracles testify to the validity of the Man of God?

There are clear examples of miracles being a sign to vouch for the person as agent of these being someone the Lord is sending. Moses is a classic case in point:

. . . the LORD said to him, ''What is that in your hand?'' And he said, ''A rod.'' And He said, ''Cast it on the ground.'' So he cast it on the ground, and it became a serpent; and Moses fled from it. Then the LORD said to Moses, ''Reach out your hand and take it by the tail'' (and he reached out his hand and caught it, and it became a rod in his hand), ''that they may believe that the LORD God of their fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has appeared to you.''

Exodus 4:2-5


Then there was the sign of his hand becoming leprous and being healed just by the act of placing it in and out of his cloak.

Then it will be, if they do not believe you, nor heed the message of the first sign, that they may believe the message of the latter sign.

Exodus 4:8


And thirdly there was the turning of water into blood (Exodus 4:6-9). Jesus and the apostles are also recorded as being recognised by the miracles. After Jesus had healed a man who had been infirm for 38 years He says of the Father (John 5:1-19):

. . . the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself does; and He will show Him greater works than these, that you may marvel . . .

John 5:20


This identifies the healing of the infirm as a 'work' in Jesus' language. Such that when He says:

If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; but if I do, though you do not believe Me, believe the works that you may know and believe that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.

John 10:37-38


Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father in Me, or else believe Me for the sake of the works themselves. Most assuredly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do he will do also; and greater works than these he will do, because I go to My Father.

John 14:11-12


And these signs will follow those who believe: . . . they will lay their hands on the sick, and they will recover.

Mark 16:18


Certainly, the working of miracles was a great encourager and a boost to the confidence of those who witnessed as shown by this prayer of the Church in Jerusalem:

. . . grant to your servants that with all boldness they may speak Your word, by stretching out Your hand to heal, and that signs and wonders may be done through the name of Your holy Servant Jesus.

Acts 4:29-30


Are miracles a fool proof method of Recognition?

No. We are clearly told that miracles can happen but that what is taught by the agent of those miracles is not always to be trusted.

If there arises among you a prophet or a dreamer of dreams, and he gives you a sign or a wonder, and the sign or the wonder comes to pass, of which he spoke to you, saying, ''Let us go after other gods which you have not known, and let us serve them,'' you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams, for the LORD your God is testing you to know whether you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul.

Deuteronomy 13:1-3


Also we are told that Jesus Himself could not do many miracles on certain occasions and as such they could not be used as a means of testifying to His validity on those occasions. Jesus is ''. . . the truth . . .'' (John 14:6) and as such what He says is always valid. But the miracles or lack of them did not always represent His validity.

. . . He did not do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.

Matthew 13:58


Indeed miracles are shown by the Lord as not a full pointer to the validity of the person when He says the following about Judgment Day:

Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, 'Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?' And then I will declare to them, 'I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practise lawlessness!'

Matthew 7:21-23


Jesus did not deny the miracles; He denied the person who practised lawlessness. This He spoke immediately after talking about wolves in sheep's clothing (Verses 15-20). But, before I delve there let's stick with the miracles a bit longer.

The lack of miracles as shown is not a clear sign of a wolf in sheep's clothing per se. Neither is the abundance of them a sign that what is taught is to be fully trusted. They will point to a full gospel being preached, but not to any inroads the enemy may have in the lives of the individuals concerned. Jesus commanded His disciples to make more followers and to teach these new believers to observe everything He had commanded them (Matthew 28:19-20). In the same gospel we read Jesus' command to:

Heal the sick, cleanse the lepers, raise the dead, cast out demons. Freely you have received, freely give.

Matthew 10:8


So the Word shows us that while there are followers of Jesus there will be miracles. But these miracles are a sign of God's faithfulness, not of the person's trustworthiness. God is a free giver and answers faith.

. . . though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:2


A good example of this in many individual believers' lives is speaking in tongues.

Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I have become as sounding brass or a clanging cymbal.

1 Corinthians 13:1


You can speak in tongues and have hate or resentment towards a brother. You can tell a lie one moment and speak in tongues the next. Because it is a free gift. An ability God does not take back.

For the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Romans 11:29


Whether you go on to fulfil that calling or make wise use of these gifts will depend on your desire for righteousness, not on the gifts and the calling themselves. A good example of this in scripture is Balaam of whom we are warned as Christians not to be like (see also Jude 11).

They have forsaken the right way and gone astray, following the way of Balaam . . .

2 Peter 2:15


Balaam was a man who could hear God and who prophesied accurately about Israel. But, his love for money meant that he taught the enemies of Israel what to do to cause God to resist the people of Israel by their idolatry and whoredom.

. . . Balaam . . . taught . . . to put a stumbling block before the children of Israel, to eat things sacrificed to idols, and to commit sexual immorality.

Revelation 2:14


And yet he prophesied effectively, and spoke truth of God's nature. Undisputed scripture came from his lips:

. . . he took up his oracle and said ' . . . God is not a man, that He should lie, nor a son of man that He should repent. Has He said, and will He not do it? Or has He spoken, and will He not make it good?'

Numbers 22:18-19


How lovely are your tents, O Jacob! Your dwellings, O Israel! Like valleys that stretch out, like gardens by the riverside, like aloes planted by the LORD . . .

Numbers 23:5-6


All good stuff. From a man whose wickedness went on to be a byeword for a wolf in sheep's clothing in the early church. He could prophesy, but his love was not in the right place.

. . . though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries and all knowledge . . . and have not love, I am nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:2


There is a balance to be gained here in that miracles are indicative of God's activity and can point to the agent as true. Nicodemus said to Jesus:

Rabbi, we know that you are a teacher come from God; for no one can do these signs that You do unless God is with him.

John 3:2


They were a cause for people to believe Philip's words and turn to Jesus,

. . . they believed Philip as he preached the things concerning the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ . . . and was amazed, seeing the miracles and signs which were done.

Acts 8:12-13


But, since they are not given us as clear signs in scripture to identify wolves they need to be understood primarily as gifts of God and acts of faith without necessary reference to what is taught at all times. They are indicative that faith is present and active, but not that the person or the teaching from that person are necessarily wholesome in themselves. They are no foolproof testimony to the person or teachings who is the agent involved with the miracles.

What does the Bible say is a sign of a wolf?

Jesus said:


Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits . . .

Matthew 7:15-16


This could be understood to mean that these are people who come from outside, but Paul makes clear that the very elders of New Testament churches are included. In his farewell speech to the elders of the church at Ephesus he said:

. . . I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.

Acts 20:29-30


From amongst them there would be those who would end up being as wolves in sheep's clothing. Those in leadership are not excluded. Anyone is in a position to allow the enemy to affect their life and through this become a wolf within the church. The only method of recognising these Jesus said is by their fruits. As explained above it is not the miracles which will help identify them. It is the fruits. It is not the sound or lack of sound teaching per se. It is the fruits. Although one such fruit as I will explain is often linked with doctrine.

What fruits?

Possible Answer:

Charitable giving testifies to the validity of the Man of God?

Was Jesus talking about good deeds? Like giving to the poor? No. Since this is something that can be done without the right heart. It can all be done for show like the hypocrites Jesus mentioned:

. . . do not do your charitable deeds before men, to be seen by them . . . when you do a charitable deed, do not sound a trumpet, before you as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, that they may have glory from men . . .

Matthew 6:1-2


These can be seen as a fruit when you realise the attitude in which they are done. The deed itself is no proof. But, the desire to give to and help others is a good fruit when honestly in a self-effacing manner and without show. God loves a cheerful giver (2 Corinthians 9:7). But, the regular open declaration that one does give to the poor is a fruit of an evil heart. It seeks the praise and recognition of men.

. . . the pride of life - is not of the Father but is of the world.

1 John 3:16


This can therefore be seen as a fruit to look out for. For without genuine love charitable or allegedly generous giving is a sham.

 

. . . though I bestow all my goods to feed the poor . . . but have not love, it profits me nothing.

1 Corinthians 13:3


A good example of this 'show' in giving is Judas Iscariot of whom John wrote about after Mary had poured expensive perfume on Jesus' feet. Just as it was a problem with Balaam, so it was with Judas Iscariot:

. . . Judas Iscariot . . . said, 'Why was this fragrant oil not sold for three hundred denarii and given to the poor?' This he said, not that he cared for the poor, but because he was a thief, and had the money box; and he used to take what was put in it.

John 12:4-6


The handling of money is helpful to identify a fruit of a wolf. The attitude held and reaction to the gift of others a good indicator of the heart. In fact the reaction to good news unconnected with your actions is a good indicator of pride. A faculty always existent in an evil heart.

I will bless the LORD at all times; His praise shall continuously be in my mouth. My soul shall make its boast in the LORD; the humble shall hear of it and be glad.

Psalm 34:1-2


The proud shall hear of it and not be glad. This is talking of gladness of heart. It involves genuine love of the recipient exercising it's joy. The proud instead will want to add to the story or, qualify it in some way. I have often found this particular fruit useful to identify and recognise where I am at in relation to pride. A prayer and a genuine desire to listen and take heed to the other person the way through. If, on the other hand the fruit is prevalent then the door is open for the enemy to the heart of the individual concerned.

This tells us that outward show is also not a good indicator of a false person or teaching. Miracles are not on their own nor is a 'good image' in terms of being an abundant giver.

THE FRUITS

The fruits that show the wolf in the sheep are those against God's nature.

. . . the wisdom that is from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, willing to yield, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality and without hypocrisy.

James 3:17


This wisdom displayed in the individual's attitude to life and interaction with others shows them to be a Son of God. But, what are the visible signs, the fruits of those who have not this heart?

Isolation

If an individual in your flock, in your care is isolated from others in the same group because they are treated differently then, this is a clear fruit of a wolf in sheep's clothing. The wisdom from above quoted above involves being 'without partiality and without hypocrisy'. The acts of isolating individuals is an act of division of the church and is a work of the flesh:

. . . the works of the flesh are these . . . dissensions, heresies . . .

Galatians 5:20


Disagreements are not the same things as dissension. You can disagree and be in accord with the person. But, any acts of rebellion to cause discord by either party is a dissension. The leader who isolates for this reason is equally at fault as the individual who sows his disagreements amongst others. Love has regard for the other in being a family irrespective of the differences. The moment either party causes isolation of the other then this fruit is evil if nothing more than temporary. It is proper to allow for a time of searching or evaluation, but this needs communicating clearly. Any extensive isolation beyond a reasonable period reveals the lack of desire for true fellowship on behalf of the one isolating. A period of say, more than 6 months to realise whether an individual is to be treated other than you yourself would be treated is not just unhealthy but wrong. If a spreading of accusation has not occurred then the individual is for you not against you and to be treated a full member of the family.

Accusation

This can take the form of accusation of individuals who are being isolated or other groups unlike your own. This is another classic fruit.

This accusation takes various forms. Mockery is one. Amongst your inner group the mocking of the individual isolated or, the group other than yours in sharing with your group are forms of accusation. One denomination or known grouping of Christians mocking or making fun of another group are effectively exhibiting a work of the Evil one.

. . . that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan . . . the accuser of our brethren, who accused them before our God day and night . . .

Revelation 12:9-10


This mocking is a form of slander where self-control (i.e. of the tongue) is not present.

. . . unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control . . .

2 Timothy 3:3


This fruit is very apparent when the individual above who has been isolated or, when the other group is seen to have made a mistake or stumbled in some way. Due to the feelings within a joke or making fun at the expense of the other occurs.

. . . For out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.

Luke 6:45


If we sought peace with all men then no such mockery would come from our lips.

Pursue peace with all men, and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord.

Hebrews 12:14


Exclusivity

This is the fruit of superiority. Pride in believing something you have makes you fitter than someone else. This may be because of a teaching you identify with or a practise. This is what idols and heresy do. Not only are these works of the flesh, but they are directly inspired and encouraged by the activity of the enemy. Anyone not submitting to this teaching or practise are isolated. Anyone championing the teaching or practise are praised and given credence. It is not that they are a fellow believer or family member that they are treated this way. It is in direct regard to the attitude towards the activity or belief in question. The moment someone says or declares a doubt regarding the 'idol' then this person begins to be isolated and this fruit comes to the fore. With groups this causes a ghetto mentality to subtly develop. A clique amongst the inner faithful becomes evident. You often end up with a 'high priest' of this which is being followed. Whereas,

Love suffers long and is kind; love does not envy; love does not parade itself, is not puffed up; does not behave rudely, does not seek its own, is not provoked, thinks no evil; does not rejoice in iniquity, but rejoices in the truth; bears all things, believes all things . . .

1 Corinthians 13:4-7


Although love rejoices in the truth it also believes all things. This is no reference to believing error or deceit, but to the way others are treated who themselves do no believe as you do. That is the test. How do you treat those who are in the Lord's family, but do not believe or practise as you do? Are you thereby exclusive in your practises?

Control

Control or domination are the fruit of a wolf in sheep's clothing. Jesus leads His sheep, He does not drive them. He does not order people about, He invites them to follow. He guides and instructs. And always leaves you with a choice because He has self-control. He works with you as a partner and a friend. The leader who leaves no room for partnership, but requires obedience without mutual understanding practises control. If in isolating someone others connected with this person are told accusations or directions to not associate with the individual then, control is occurring. It must not be forgotten that Jesus was known as a friend of sinners and publicans.

The Son of Man . . . a friend of tax collectors and sinners . . .

Matthew 11:19


Such that even if a church were to properly put someone out of their fellowship they are to play their part in remaining friends.

. . . if he refuses to hear them, tell it to the church. But if he refuses even to hear the church, let him be to you like a heathen and a tax collector.

Matthew 18:17


Not forgetting that if in the past some genuine sin had been done, when the person has truly repented then they are to be reaffirmed.

This punishment which was inflicted by the majority is sufficient for such a man, so that, on the contrary, you ought rather to forgive and comfort him, lest perhaps such a one be swallowed up with too much sorrow. Therefore I urge you to reaffirm your love to him.

2 Corinthians 2:6-8 (cf. 1 Cor. 5:1-5)


Control and exclusivity, let alone isolation prevent such a merciful act. Due to the room the enemy has in the sheep's clothing through which he manifests his fruits.

Who are wolves in sheep's clothing?

Well you and me actually. Whenever we open the door to the enemy we are in practise enabling the production of the fruits mentioned. Regular practise of these things causes us to become thoroughly deceived and unable to tell the truth in these areas of our lives. Wolves in sheep's clothing are not wolves who know they are wolves. They are sheep who do not realise the wolf they have become. Like the recognition of pride's existence mentioned earlier. These fruits recognised in any way needs bringing before the Lord to clarify His mind upon. Does He not say,

'Come now, and let us reason together,' Says the LORD, 'Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow . . .

Isaiah 1:18


And John tells us,

If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9


But, before we can really see we need to have our eyes able to see. Talking with the Lord about all of this is a top priority.

I counsel you to . . . anoint your eyes with eye salve, that you may see. As many as I love, I rebuke and chasten, Therefore be zealous and repent.

Revelation 3:18-19


I recommend two other articles which are linked to this topic: THE CHARACTERISTICS OF DECEPTION: Various thoughts which help identify the work of deceiving spirits in Believers; MAKING AN IDOL How can you tell if you have an idol?


Ref. M.013

Unless otherwise stated Bible quotes are from the New King James Version

© copyright Thomas Nelson Inc. 1979,1980,1982.

© copyright Jacques More 2001. All Rights Reserved.

· The Early Church Fathers and Predestination
· The Impossibility of Evolution
· Harry Potter - The Catalyst
· Wolf in Sheep's Clothing?
· The Characteristics of Deception
· What About Tithing?