Home > Trinity 6-15 > Salve for itching ears. Trinity 8 2013

Salve for itching ears. Trinity 8 2013

8th Sunday after Trinity

St. Peter Lutheran Church

St. Matthew 7:15-23

July 21, 2013

Jesu juva


Grace and peace to you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. 



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


This is a difficult word from Jesus to us.  He doesn’t simply tell us that we should love our neighbors, love our enemies, judge not, forgive, live at peace with all men, be meek, etc.  He also tells us to watch out for false prophets, and do what might appear to be unloving—separate from false prophets.  Get away from them. 


False prophets are wolves in sheep’s clothing.  That means they look like other Christians.  That means when you identify them and reject them, you will look harsh and unloving to people.


But we have to put up with looking harsh and unloving.  It is a matter of survival.  A false prophet is a ravenous wolf.  Sheep should not try to convert a ravenous wolf into a sheep.  They will simply be eaten.


Jesus alerts us to a terrifying reality for Christians, one that we do not enjoy thinking about.  If you are a Christian, you are surrounded by grave danger.  Not only do you have a sinful nature which has to be slain daily, or else it will lead you into anger, greed, and lust, pride and self-righteousness, and away from Christ.


You have false prophets who will find their way into the Church.  You will not be able to tell simply from looking at them that they are false teachers.  They will seek to entice you into false belief, despair, and other great shame and vice and thus into everlasting damnation.  They will try to make you believers in their false teaching and participants in their way of life which does not fit with Jesus’ teaching.  Or they will simply try to get you to tolerate them and their teaching in the Church alongside of Christ’s teaching, making you a communicant in their misuse of God’s name and their destruction of souls.


So we have no choice.  We have to be on guard against false prophets and discern and reject their errors.  We must not allow false prophets to teach in the Christ’s church.  We must guard against false teachers and resist them or be damned with them.  Not only pastors must do this, but every Christian.  To fail to guard against them is to hand yourself over to them.


Verse 1

Jesus preaches this to His disciples.  He has just finished telling them “Judge not, and you will not be judged.”  Jesus tells us not to condemn sinners in the sense that we write them off and wish them evil.  He wants us to love them, pray for them, seek God’s blessing for them, even when they injure us and persecute us for His sake.


At least 12 of the disciples to whom Jesus is preaching will themselves become prophets or preachers.  But here He is not speaking to pastors only, although pastors have a special duty to discern false teachers from true and guard the Church from false teaching and warn against those who teach it.


Here He is talking to all Christians, pastors and the royal priesthood.  You have to test the prophets who preach in Christ’s name, and you must reject those that are false.  Your salvation depends on it.  To refuse to do it or say, “Who knows?  Everyone has their own interpretation of the Bible, etc.” is to hand yourself over to the wolves to be torn apart.  Jesus tells His disciples this because it is a matter of survival.  False teachers and any teaching that contradicts Jesus’ teaching—neither are blessings to the Church.


It is true that someone can be saved who listens to a false teacher or belongs to a Church that confesses false doctrine.  But that is only true if the person does not know the teaching to be false.  A person who willingly allows Himself to listen to false teaching and does not leave such a church cannot be a Christian and cannot be saved, because no Christian willingly participates in hearing and supporting teaching that comes from the devil and calls Jesus a liar.


How do you recognize a false prophet? 


Our flesh is impressed by the kinds of things Jesus names.  If a person casts out demons, or does mighty works and miracles—if he does religious works that are hard and strenuous, like becoming a monk, fasting a lot, not dancing, drinking, or smoking, or if he seems exceedingly zealous—our sinful nature thinks, “Surely this is a religious man.”  But Jesus says these works are not the evidence of a faithful preacher.


You will know a faithful preacher by his fruit, says Jesus.  Just as a tree that is sick can’t produce healthy and good fruit, a false preacher will inevitably reveal himself by his works.  He will eventually preach what is false.  And his life, though it may appear to be saintly, and even full of many marvelous, even many miraculous, deeds, will not show the fruits of the Spirit. 


The fruits of the Spirit are not miracles or fasting or any outward works by themselves.  The fruits of the Spirit are the fruits of faith in Christ.  love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control;St. Paul lists as fruits of the Spirit in Galatians ch. 5.


Of course, Paul himself does not always appear to be gentle.  In the same chapter of the letter, he writes that he wishes those who told the Galatians that they have to be circumcised if they want to be saved would finish the job and neuter themselves!  How would that go over in most Christian churches today?  Wouldn’t we say “That’s not the fruit of the Spirit”?  But surely Paul was not a false teacher. 


So, Jesus tells us we will know a false teacher by his fruits.  But the fruits of a true teacher are not necessarily attractive to the sinful nature.  The false teachers in Galatia seemed very godly and holy.  They insisted on keeping the law and told the Galatians, “Paul has preached a false gospel to you.  He has made everything too easy for you.  It’s not enough to say you believe in Christ.  You also have to keep the law.  Didn’t Jesus say, ‘I have not come to abolish the law but fulfill it?’”


Paul condemns them harshly and says he wishes they would mutilate themselves.  That hardly seems godly and loving.


So to recognize the fruits of a faithful teacher is not accomplished by the wisdom of the flesh.  It requires the Holy Spirit.  A true teacher preaches Christ’s word and does not contradict the Holy Spirit, and brings forth fruits in his life in keeping with the life of Jesus.  Jesus too said and did things that sounded and looked harsh.  He did this out of love, because love does not always speak quietly and peacefully.  It doesn’t speak that way to a person who is in danger of everlasting destruction and damnation.



Jesus is the good tree—the tree of life.  The fruit that He bears is the fruit of His love for the ungodly.  He loves us who are by nature rotten.  He sheds His blood for us so that our sinful flesh which is constantly leading us astray is not counted against us, but counted against Him.  In love He preaches to us the law that rebukes our sins, so that we can hear the good news He preaches to us in love—that our sins have been nailed to the cross with Him.


Verse 2

Jesus preaches to us to be on guard against false teachers.  But isn’t it true that we have not wanted to do this?


Let me speak for myself first.


Not wanting to deal with other pastors who preach something false or whose practice is bad.  Why?  Because I don’t want the conflict.  Because fault might be found with me too.


How much of my life does not evidence the fruits of the Spirit?


Isn’t this true of you, also?


False prophets preach what people want to hear.  Judgment will not be so strict.  Things are not so dangerous. 


It’s not faith alone in Christ that justifies, manifesting itself in a life bearing the fruits of the spirit—Love joy peace patience kindness goodness faithfulness gentleness self-control.  Rather you can anchor your hope on something else.  You’re a good person, you go to church, you avoid this or that gross sin.



Jesus is the tree of life, the good tree bearing good fruit.  He preaches the law in all its sternness faithfully.  What He preaches He lived.  And the fruit of Christ is justification for the ungodly.  Our sins are not counted to us.  His preaching declares the forgiveness of sins to those who do not keep the law and whose lives often show the fruit of the flesh, not the fruit of the Spirit. 


His preaching results in good fruit in sinners.  Because His preaching gives assurance that our sins are forgiven not on the basis of our fruit but on the basis of His cross.


Through this come the fruits of the Spirit—joy.  Gentleness.  The willingness to proclaim what will only get one hardship and difficulty (that is love).  Peace—objective peace with God.  Increasing peace in our hearts as we rejoice in the forgiveness of sins.



The one teaching that the world will not tolerate but will condemn to death is the teaching that we are righteous because of Christ alone, through faith in Him alone. 


For teaching this Jesus was put to death as a blasphemer and false prophet.


When we tolerate false teachers and false teaching we are rejecting Christ, because Christ says that no false teaching saves.  All false teaching attacks Christ—


Softening the law attacks Christ because it says that there was no need for Him to suffer and die.  Saying that we need not repent of sin and seek to forsake it.


Denying that we are justified while still sinners attacks Christ because it says that His cross is not enough to justify us.  When we find we are still sinners, we cannot yet be justified, but have to do some more work. 





Instead Christ teaches, while you are yet a helpless sinner who deserves condemnation, believe what I promise you.  I have done away your sins on the cross.  This I share with you in Baptism.  This I apply to you in absolution.  This I pledge to you with my body and blood.


Christ is the good tree, the tree of life.  Life flows to us because our rottenness died in Him.  When we trembling see ourselves to have tolerated false teaching and not done the will of His Father but have kept the Spirit from producing his holy and God-pleasing fruit, right then Jesus says “Forsake your works and efforts to produce good fruit and come to me.  Take refuge in me.”


See how He was cut down and thrown into the fire, lifted up on the dead wood of the cross?  He became sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might hide in Him, be clothed in Him, and be declared just and filled with His justice which bears fruit unto life.  He was lifted up for us so that He might free us from all false teachers and all false teaching, so that we need not put up with false teachers in order to keep from being condemned ourselves.


Hide in Him.  Come to His table and receive life, and keep coming.


Then you will be free from those who would exploit you with false comforts and false teaching.  Because you will have what false teachers and false teaching cannot give—the righteousness of God.  This is yours already.  Jesus promised it to you in Baptism and pledges it to you with His own body and blood.  By these He will make you abound in good fruit.


Return to theological theme


It is necessary for us to reject false teachers and false teaching, because they would deprive us of the treasure Jesus intends for us—He Himself, the tree of life.  His teaching is pure, demanding perfect obedience to the law and declaring that we have it in Him. 


In Him we need not hide in the darkness and make excuses for ourselves and false teachers.  In Him we come into the light and receive the righteousness of God through His blood which has justified us.


The peace of God, which passes understanding, keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.  Amen.


Soli Deo Gloria.


Categories: Trinity 6-15
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