Have you ever heard the saying “a wolf in sheep’s clothing”? I have heard it a couple of places. First, many years ago I heard one of Aesop’s Fables which talked about a wolf that put on a sheep skin so that he could fool the shepherd into believing he was a lamb. Then when the shepherd locked the flock behind the gate at night the wolf thought he was clear to eat all the sheep he wanted. To his surprise the shepherd returned to the flock that night to gather meat for the next day. The wolf in sheep’s clothing was killed as one of the sheep. You see the saying “wolf in sheep’s clothing” simply means someone who is pretending to be something they are not.
Years later I heard this concept in another place –The Bible. Jesus warns against wolves in sheep’s clothing:
“ … Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but in-wardly are ravenous wolves.” Mathew 7:15
Following are five tips on how you can identify a wolf in sheep’s clothing; a false prophet.
The Guessing Wolf: They Said it Would Happen – Did It?
History is full of accounts of folks predicting the end of the world; some in the not so distant past. Also, how about the prophets who promise people that they will be healed of a terminal disease and it never happens. A true prophet will predict things and those things will come to pass. A wolf in sheep’s clothing will play the guessing game and when their prophecy turns out false, they will make excuses and sometimes even set a new date for that big prophetic event. The Bible is clear about what will happen to false prophets and the foolishness of predicting the future. Take a look:
Deuteronomy 18:20-22 But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in my name that I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that same prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, ‘How may we know the word that the LORD has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the word does not come to pass or come true, that is a word that the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously. You need not be afraid of him.
Ecclesiastes 10:14 A fool multiplies words, though no man knows what is to be, and who can tell him what will be after him?
The Biblically Illiterate Wolf: Does What They Prophesy Agree With Scripture?
Are you hearing things that you know do not agree with what you have learned from the Bible? If you are it may be because that wolf in sheep’s clothing does not know the Bible and he is counting on his audience not knowing the Bible also. This is why it is essential for the Christian to be daily in the Word because when you know the truth, a lie will be very clear to you.
Is he causing problems in the church and amongst the brethren? A prophet should be building up the church, not tearing it down and causing divisions. Perhaps he is a smooth talker and believes that his smooth talk will gain him followers and feed his own belly (pride). He is not looking to edify the body, he is selfish and cunning. Look at these teachings and warning from Paul to several of the churches in his day; they are relevant in today’s churches also.
Romans 16:17-18 (KJV) Now I beseech you, brethren, mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them. For they that are such serve not our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly; and by good words and fair speeches deceive the hearts of the simple.
1 Corinthians 14:3-4 On the other hand, the one who prophesies speaks to people for their upbuilding and encouragement and consolation. The one who speaks in a tongue builds up himself, but the one who prophesies builds up the church.
Ephesians 4:11-16 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love.
The Worldly Wolf: Do They Have A Good Testimony for Jesus?
The worldly wolf will not bear fruit. You may not even know he is a Christian by his deeds. You can see this wolf when he goes about his daily affairs and his actions are not such that lead others to Jesus. In fact, his actions turn people away from the truth of the Gospel. He is not an ambassador for Christ. Here are some verses from the Bible to help you spot this wolf. If you don’t see this in his walk, beware.
Matthew 7:16-20 You will recognize them by their fruits. Are grapes gathered from thorn bushes, or figs from thistles?So, every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit. A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Thus you will recognize them by their fruits.
Romans 6:4 We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life.
Galatians 5:19-25 Now the works of the flesh are evident: sexual immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmity, strife, jealousy, fits of anger, rivalries, dissensions, divisions, envy, drunkenness, orgies, and things like these. I warn you, as I warned you before, that those who do such things will not inherit the kingdom of God. But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law. And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.
Ephesians 2:10 For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.
Hebrews 6:1 Therefore let us leave the elementary doctrine of Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again a foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God
James 2:16 But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.
1 John 2:6 whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked.
Wolves will eat just about anything, even road-kill meat. It is a way to save energy during the cold winter months. It’s a way to get something for nothing – no work involved. They will look for deer that have been struck by motor vehicles and enjoy a free meal. Same thing with the false prophet; their greed will cause them to collect money for speaking engagements where they speak the falsities and exploit unknowing prey. Greed drives their ministry rather than grace. We are warned that these wolves are not only outside of the church, but come from within as well.
Acts 20:28-30 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
2 Thessalonians 3:10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat.
2 Peter 2:1-3 But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, bringing upon themselves swift destruction. And many will follow their sensuality, and because of them the way of truth will be blasphemed. And in their greed they will exploit you with false words. Their condemnation from long ago is not idle, and their destruction is not asleep.
The Sneaky Wolf: They Hide Until the Time is Right
Wolves are sneaky. They watch the prey and plan the attack. The sneaky wolf, false prophet is in the church watching and waiting. He is the one who calls secret meetings. He gains the trust of folks and then rises up to attack, taking innocent victims with him. The Bible is clear about how God will deal with these sneaky wolves.
Matthew 7:21-23 Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’
Matthew 24:4-5 And Jesus answered them, “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and they will lead many astray.
2 Corinthians 11:13-15 For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
A True Prophecy: Wolves Won’t Always Be Bad
The great thing about the Bible is that it does not only tell us to beware of these wolves in sheep’s clothing, but it also assures us that we will not always have to fear the wolf. Isaiah, a true prophet, tells us that we have this to look forward to after Jesus comes and there is a new Heaven and new Earth:
Isaiah 11:6 The wolf shall dwell with the lamb, and the leopard shall lie down with the young goat, and the calf and the lion and the fattened calf together; and a little child shall lead them.
Isaiah 65:25 “… The wolf and the lamb shall graze together; the lion shall eat straw like the ox, and dust shall be the serpent’s food. They shall not hurt or destroy in all my holy mountain,” says the LORD.
How Do You Spot a Wolf in Sheep’s Clothing?
Do you have some tips to share? Leave a comment below, we would love to hear from you.
Resources: The Holy Bible, King James Version. The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. “Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®), copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. Used by permission. All rights reserved.”