Wolves in Sheep's Clothing: Who are They?
Identifying the wolf: Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Matthew 7:15–23
Where do wolves come from? For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in am ong you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Acts 20:29, 30
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. 2 Peter 2:1, 2
How can we avoid being taken by the wolves? To him the porter openeth; and the sheep hear his voice: and he calleth his own sheep by name, and leadeth them out. And when he putteth forth his own sheep, he goeth before them, and the sheep follow him: for they know his voice. And a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.
Who are the wolves assistants: But he that is an hireling, and not the shepherd, whose own the sheep are not, seeth the wolf coming, and leaveth the sheep, and fleeth: and the wolf catcheth them, and scattereth the sheep. The hireling fleeth, because he is an hireling, and careth not for the sheep. John 10:3–5, 12, 13
The effect of the wolves: There is a conspiracy of her prophets [spokesman, speaker, prophet] in the midst thereof, like a roaring lion ravening the prey; they have 1) devoured souls; they have 2) taken the treasure and precious things; they have 3) made her many widows in the midst thereof.
Her priests have 4) violated my law, and have 5) profaned mine holy things: 6) they have put no difference between the holy and profane, neither have they shewed difference between the unclean and the clean, and 7) have hid their eyes from my sabbaths, and I am profaned among them.
Her princes [heads, princes (of religious office) elders (of representative leaders of people)] in the midst thereof are like wolves ravening the prey, to shed blood, and to 8) destroy souls, to 9) get dishonest gain. Ezekiel 22:25–27
In every age false prophets have been the most dangerous enemies Christianity has had. Men have appeared who claimed to be champions of truth, professing to have a great burden for the souls of their fellow-men. But they taught false doctrines, and perverted the truth. The spirit they manifested, the work they wrought, testified to the character of their religion.
Such men have arisen and do arise, and will continue to arise, in our own day. They will criticize, judge others, will be always ready for controversy, and will resist the truth. They will put false interpretations upon the Scriptures. They will misstate the words of those who advocate truth, and some who listen to them, who do not have spiritual discernment, will be misled by these false teachers, and be found fighting under the black banner of the adversary of God and man.
There are many who profess to know Christ, "but in works they deny him, being abominable, and disobedient, and unto every good work reprobate." "These are spots in your feasts of charity, when they feast with you, feeding themselves without fear; clouds they are without water, carried about of winds; trees whose fruit withereth, without fruit, twice dead, plucked up by the roots."
There are many who can make excellent speeches, speak smooth things, and prophesy deceit; but they are not to be received simply because of their smooth words and fair speeches. It is an easy matter to talk. The question is, what fruit do they bear unto holiness? It is the fruit that testifies to the character of the tree. To say and to do not is to be as a tree full of pretentious leaves, yet barren and fruitless. The punishment that awaits the hypocrite will be unmingled with mercy. Those who profess to know Christ, and in works have denied Him, have passed themselves off as gold, but in the sight of God they have been as sounding brass or a tinkling cymbal. In professing faith in the gospel, the hypocrite may gain the confidence of men, but nothing short of doing the sayings of Christ will give him an entrance into the strait gate, into the way cast up for the ransomed of the Lord to walk in, —the only way that leads from earth to heaven.
Those who profess to have light from the Lord, who win the confidence of men, and lead souls to ruin, will bring swift destruction upon themselves. They are represented as that class who "destroy the way of my paths, saith the Lord." Wearing the insignia of Christ, they serve the Lord's worst enemy, and heed not the injunction, "Let everyone that nameth the name of Christ depart from iniquity." Christ plainly states that this class of teachers are as wolves in sheep's clothing. They talk of grace, they preach of grace, apparently they pray for grace; but they have not the grace of Christ in their hearts. In the pulpit such ministers may appear to be excellent; but they destroy the force of their words when out of the pulpit by such a course of iniquity that they prove themselves to be ministers of sin, wolves in sheep's clothing.
Christ came to teach us how to live. He has invited us to come to Him, to learn of Him to be meek and lowly of heart that we may find rest unto our souls. Because Jesus has lived our example, we have no excuse for not imitating His life and works. Those who profess His name and do not practice His precepts are weighed in the balances of heaven and found wanting. But those who reflect the image of Christ will have a place in the mansions which He has gone to prepare.
Jesus will reward every man according to His works. He says, "By their fruits ye shall know them." Jesus calls upon me to judge Him by His actions. He said, "If I do not the works of My Father, believe Me not." He does not ask men to take Him for their Saviour if they can find anything in His life and character contrary to His claims. Men are to be known in the same way; for a profession of Christianity does not make a man a Christian. If his words, his deportment, his business transactions, are not of a Christlike order, he denies his profession.
As Christ was in the world, so his followers are to be. The world notices every inconsistency in him who professes to be a Christian. The sun may shine day after day in pure splendor, and call forth no remark; but let an eclipse take place, and everyone's attention is attracted to the darkened orb of the day. So it is with a Christian; for he is a spectacle unto the world, to angels, and to men. Satan is constantly on the alert to cause the Christian to stumble, that he may point the world to the inconsistency of the follower of Christ.
Men may not have observed you in your consistency, but in your waywardness, in your unchristlikeness of character, how the world subjects you to criticism. How Satan delights to taunt the ministering angels, unseen by human eyes, by presenting the inconsistent Christian in all his deformity before them, by pointing to the garments spotted with the flesh, for Satan this is an occasion of triumph. Then let us walk carefully and prayerfully before the Lord, knowing that the world will judge us by our fruits. E. G. White "By their fruit ye shall know them" Signs of the Times July 18, 1892.
"There will be, even among us, hirelings and wolves in sheep's clothing who will persuade the flock of God to sacrifice unto other gods before the Lord. We have reason to know how Paul would act in any emergency. "The love of Christ constraineth us." (2 Cor. 5:13). Youth who are not established, rooted and grounded in the truth, will be corrupted and drawn away by the blind leaders of the blind; and the ungodly, the despisers that wonder and perish, who despise the sovereignty of the Ancient of Days and place on the throne a false god, a being of their own defining, a being altogether such an one as themselves, —these will be agents in Satan's hands to corrupt the faith of the unwary.
Those who have been self-indulgent and ready to yield to pride and fashion and display, will sneer at the conscientious, truth-loving, God-fearing people, and will, in this work sneer at the God of heaven Himself. The Bible is disregarded, the wisdom of men exalted, and Satan and the man of sin worshiped by the wisdom of this age… The Ellen G. White 1888 Material, 484, 485
"Says the Lord: ‘To the law and to the testimony; if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.' Our Saviour warned his followers to "beware of false prophets which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. Ye shall know them by their fruits." We are not bidden to prove them by their fair speeches and exalted professions. They are to be judged by the word of God. The true disciples of Christ will bear the divine impress. Their teaching will be in harmony with the teaching of the Son of God. Their character will be moulded after the great pattern. What message do they bring? Does it lead you to reverence and fear God? Does it lead you to manifest your love for him by loyalty to his commandments? … Signs of the Times, April 13, 1888.
The time is right upon us when every kind of deception will be practiced. Christ says, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing." They speak fair words, but all the time they are watching to see how they can get gain for themselves. They are full of selfishness, and work at cross purposes with God. Youth's Instructor, July 31, 1902