Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.Matthew 7:15
Jesus warned of the infiltration of teachers, preachers, and prophets who have the outward appearance of truth and purity, but inside are fueled and founded by evil and deceit.
The usage of the symbolic “wolf” is not isolated in this particular warning. In Ezekiel 22:27, the prophet warned “Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain.” This verse details many of the dangers of a “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
The false prophet may have an official title or a degree in theology, but his or her purpose is to prey upon the innocent and unlearned.
Further, the desired result is not only physical harm, but also spiritual ruin. Interestingly, for today’s religious sphere and landscape, Ezekiel included the characteristic of his/her desire to “make unjust gain.”
This gain can include monetary riches or stature within the religious and/or political communities. The symbolic “wolf” desires worldly gain and fame more so than the salvation of souls and the spreading of God’s true word.
True “sheep” are in need and desire feeding and comfort provided by the shepherd.
Sheep are the symbol of innocence and purity throughout the Bible. Sheep are also very perceptive animals. In John 10:27, Jesus taught that his “sheep” hear his voice, he knows them, and they follow him. Thus, it isn’t the appearance of the sheep, but its ability to ascertain the voice of the shepherd that differentiates it from other animals.
In John 21:17, Jesus instructed Simon and Peter to “feed my sheep.” Further, if the shepherd does not properly guide the sheep, the flock will scatter. Jesus in Mark 14:27 warned “all ye shall be offended because of me this night: for it is written, I will smite the shepherd, and the sheep of the flock shall be scattered abroad.” (KJV)
A true “sheep” desires both a regular and a nourishing diet from its shepherd. “Wolves” on the other hand feed upon whatever prey that is available because its “meals” are sporadic and unpredictable.
In the Old Testament, sheep are representative of the people of Israel who betrayed and failed to follow the true path of its shepherd. Thus, they were primarily used as sacrifices and examples of disobedience.
The prophet Isaiah in Isaiah 53:6 used this comparison when he wrote, “all we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all.” (KJV)
Wolves in sheep’s clothing scatter and divide congregations of God’s people with their deceit and lack of Biblical foundations.
In Jeremiah 23:1, the prophet detailed the result of a faulty pastor or teacher when he warned, “woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture!” (KJV)
We are also cautioned by Jesus in Acts 20:29 that “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock.” Similar to the world prior to his physical appearing, there was an appearing of “grievous wolves” after his ascension.
Pure and genuine sheep are harmless pack animals and desire no evil either upon other animals or humans. In Matthew 10:16, we are told believers are sent “out like sheep among wolves. Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”
Thus, the Christian is not to be naive or unknowing of the devices and tactics of the “wolves” in the world. However, we are to be harmless and not seekers of revenge despite being cognizant of these dangers.
The presence of the Holy Spirit, and its indwelling of the believer, protect and instruct just as the shepherd.
The learned believer with a close relationship with Christ will be able to discern the “wolf in sheep’s clothing.”
However, the lost and believers without a strong Biblical foundation are at risk to be deceived by the “wolf” who in reality is a worker of the devil. His beliefs and tactics will resemble and mimic those of Jesus Christ.
The true gospel promotes love and peace and a relationship founded upon faith in the one true savior Jesus Christ. The preacher, teacher, or prophet is a “wolf” if he or she promotes a message of salvation founded upon anything other than faith in Jesus Christ.
About The Author
Chad Napier is a believer in Christ, attorney at law, wannabe golfer, runner, dog lover, and writer. He enjoys serving his church as a deacon and Sunday School teacher. You can find him on Facebook, Twitter, and at his golf devotion par3sixteen.com. He and his wife Brandi reside in Tennessee with their canine son Alistair.