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Q. How Can We Discern False Prophets?

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 leaves me puzzled. If a man not from God can perform miracles, how do we know which miracles are from God? How do we know Jesus’ s miracles are from God? What’s the difference?

Answer: How do we know Jesus’s miracles are from God?

Jesus And His Apostles Are Authenticated By Signs And Wonders

23 Just then there was a man in their synagogue with an unclean spirit; and he cried out, 24 saying, “What business do we have with each other, Jesus of Nazareth? Have You come to destroy us? I know who You are—the Holy One of God!” 25 And Jesus rebuked him, saying, "Be quiet, and come out of him!" 26 Throwing him into convulsions, the unclean spirit cried out with a loud voice and came out of him. 27 They were all amazed, so that they debated among themselves, saying, “What is this? A new teaching with authority! He commands even the unclean spirits, and they obey Him.” 28 Immediately the news about Him spread everywhere into all the surrounding district of Galilee (Mark 1:23-28; see Luke 4:30-37).

11 This beginning of His signs Jesus did in Cana of Galilee, and manifested His glory, and His disciples believed in Him (John 2:11).

23 Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, during the feast, many believed in His name, observing His signs which He was doing (John 2:23).

22 “Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know— (Acts 2:22).

12 At the hands of the apostles many signs and wonders were taking place among the people; and they were all with one accord in Solomon’s portico (Acts 5:12).

2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, 3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will (Hebrews 2:2-4).

Jesus And His Apostles Were Authentic Because Of Their Obedience To God’s Word And Directed Toward The Worship Of God

30 “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me. 31 “If I alone testify about Myself, My testimony is not true. 32 “There is another who testifies of Me, and I know that the testimony which He gives about Me is true (John 5:30-32).

28 So Jesus said, "When you lift up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am He, and I do nothing on My own initiative, but I speak these things as the Father taught Me” (John 8:28).

49 "For I did not speak on My own initiative, but the Father Himself who sent Me has given Me a commandment as to what to say and what to speak. 50 "I know that His commandment is eternal life; therefore the things I speak, I speak just as the Father has told Me" (John 12:49-50).

45 "But because I speak the truth, you do not believe Me. 46 "Which one of you convicts Me of sin? If I speak truth, why do you not believe Me? John 8:45-46

Jesus’ Words And Those Of His Apostles Are Proven True Because The Holy Spirit Witnesses To Their Truthfulness:

7 “But I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you. 8 “And He, when He comes, will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment; 9 concerning sin, because they do not believe in Me; 10 and concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father and you no longer see Me; 11 and concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world has been judged” (John 16:7-11).

Everything Jesus Foretold About Upcoming Events Happened, Exactly As He Foretold It.

21 From that time Jesus began to show His disciples that He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day (Matthew 16:21).

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan has demanded permission to sift you like wheat; 32 but I have prayed for you, that your faith may not fail; and you, when once you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 But he said to Him, “Lord, with You I am ready to go both to prison and to death!” 34 And He said, “I say to you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know Me” (Luke 22:31-34).

14 "If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another's feet. 15 "For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you. 16 "Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him. 17 "If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them. 18 "I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, 'HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.' 19 "From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He (John 13:14-19).

Answer: How Can We Identify A False Prophet?

First of all, we are warned about false prophets who will deceive many through their deceitful words and through spectacular deeds:

24 "For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect (Matthew 24:24).

13 And I saw coming out of the mouth of the dragon and out of the mouth of the beast and out of the mouth of the false prophet, three unclean spirits like frogs; 14 for they are spirits of demons, performing signs, which go out to the kings of the whole world, to gather them together for the war of the great day of God, the Almighty (Revelation 16:13-14).

8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:8-10).

Christians are expected to discern false prophets and not be deceived by them:

  • Matthew 7:15-27 (especially 7:15-17)
  • Matthew 24:3-5, 11-13, 23-28
  • 2 Peter 2:1-22

Any prophet whose prophecies fail to come to pass is a false prophet:

21 "You may say in your heart, ‘How will we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’ 22 "When a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not come about or come true, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken. The prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him (Deuteronomy 18:21-22).

But false prophets may produce signs and wonders which appear to be miraculous. In this case there must be other means by which they are discerned to be false prophets, and not to be believed or followed:

False Prophets Can Be Discerned By The Way In Which They Receive Their Revelation:

10 "There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, 11 or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. 12 "For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you. 13 "You shall be blameless before the LORD your God (Deuteronomy 18:10-13).

They Can Be Discerned By Their Fruit:

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 “You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 “So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit” (Matthew 7:15-17; see also 2 Peter 2).

They Can Be Discerned By Their Words:

3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:3).

1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world (1 John 4:1-3).

They Can Be Known Because They Advocate The Worship Of Other God’s And Disobedience To God’s Word:

1 “If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2 and the sign or the wonder comes true, concerning which he spoke to you, saying, ‘Let us go after other gods (whom you have not known) and let us serve them,’ 3 you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams; for the LORD your God is testing you to find out if you love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4 “You shall follow the LORD your God and fear Him; and you shall keep His commandments, listen to His voice, serve Him, and cling to Him” (Deuteronomy 13:1-4).

They Can Be Discerned By Their Lifestyle And The Lifestyle They Advocate:

9 then the Lord knows how to rescue the godly from temptation, and to keep the unrighteous under punishment for the day of judgment, 10 and especially those who indulge the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise authority. Daring, self-willed, they do not tremble when they revile angelic majesties (2 Peter 2:9-10).

14 having eyes full of adultery that never cease from sin, enticing unstable souls, having a heart trained in greed, accursed children; 15 forsaking the right way, they have gone astray, having followed the way of Balaam, the son of Beor, who loved the wages of unrighteousness (2 Peter 2:14-15).

18 For speaking out arrogant words of vanity they entice by fleshly desires, by sensuality, those who barely escape from the ones who live in error, 19 promising them freedom while they themselves are slaves of corruption; for by what a man is overcome, by this he is enslaved (2 Peter 2:18-19).

Related Topics: False Teachers

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