22 June 2009

Sheep's Clothing

by Phil Johnson

here's a spiritual lesson in this article from this morning's Washington Times:

Some Taliban fighters have been able to ward off attacks by U.S. aircraft by wearing special infrared patches on their shirts that signal that they are friends rather than foes.

The patches, which can also help suicide bombers get close to U.S. targets, are supposed to be the property of the U.S. government alone, but can be easily purchased over the Internet for about $10 each.

Yesterday I was preaching on John 10:1-5, whose theme has to do with miscreants who climb into the sheepfold in order to kill, and steal, and destroy. I had barely descended the platform after the second service when a zealous and agitated gentleman accosted me and began to admonish me with tears about the folly and futility of trying to distinguish sheep from robbers; shepherds from hirelings.

"Jesus said, 'Judge not, that you be not judged" (Matthew 7:1)," he pleaded, in all sincerity. "Let the wheat and tares grow together (Matthew 13:30). It's the Lord's business whether someone is a false shepherd or a phony Christian, not mine. We're supposed to assume the best of everyone and love them all alike. That's how the world knows we are Christians."

I fear that guy's attitude actually reflects the majority opinion in evangelical circles today. Anyone who wears any of the badges of Christianity is eagerly embraced and encouraged, even while some of them are wreaking spiritual havoc against the flock. And those badges are very easy to come by nowadays.

Phil's signature


Gary said...

No we cannot ultimately judge the state of a man's heart, but we can certainly judge the content of his message.

Boerseuntjie said...

Indeed Christ COMMANDS DISCERNMENT and for us to JUDGE according WITH HIS Righteousness:

John 7:24

Luke 7:43
"Simon answered and said, “I suppose the one whom he forgave more.” And He said to him, “You have RIGHTLY JUDGED.”"

The Apostles teach:
Acts 4:19
"But Peter and John answered and said to them, “Whether it is right in the sight of God to listen to you more than to God, YOU JUDGE."

Some food for discernement.

We must realize that in whatever we distinguish right form wrong; good from evil; just from unjust - WE ARE ALWAYS CALLED TO DISCERN and JUDGE according with eth RIGHTEOUSNESS of God (NOt our OWN "standards" or righteousness - which is as filthy wrags, at BEST).

To ignore discernement and RIGHTEOUS judgement is to DISOBEY Christ.

Your fellow bondslave for Christ Alone,

donsands said...

Great post. Thanks.

I was posting some phony teachers on my facebook, and a friend of mine came and said:

"Don't be a pharisee and put godly people down who are doing God's work. Be careful also about coming against God's anointed. I fear and tremble about doing this because religious people were the ones who killed Jesus.
Like the bible says, if they are for real then God will bless them, if not they will fall..."

I said:

""Be careful also about coming against God's anointed."

Steve you keep saying this. Who says he is God's anointed? Not to mention I am one of God's anointed. All of His children are His anointed.
"Be not deceived, many false teachers and prophets will come, and even deceive the elect of God if possible.""

He said:

"yes, you are God's anointed so if i came against you, your pastor, your facebook friend--i would be wrong. i would never come against someone that you loved and told me that they were of God.i would keep quiet and let God be the judge, if they are false, God is big enough to take care of them.
we all have the anointing to pray for the sick, depending on our faith, God can move through us.
God has giving other men, Billy Burke, a more powerful anointing to do the things that he does. it all works by faith and the calling on our lives."

Solameanie said...

I guess we're violating Christ's command to "love our neighbor" by calling attention to false teachers. If you want an adventure in futility, try fleshing out that command with someone who thinks it means "ollie ollie oxen free" in terms of Christian behavior and teaching.

Michael Adams said...

Thank for this, I will be quoting it in my daily emails.

Our Sunday message was on being balanced and sharing a balanced message, meaning all of the Scriptures, not just some of them.

The timing of this was perfect.

Nash Equilibrium said...

If "judge not" were as simple in meaning as some would have us believe, then we wouldn't be allowed to judge right from wrong, even for ourselves. The fact is, we must judge; we live in a deceitful world which demands that we do.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

Phil Johnson: "I had barely descended the platform after the second service when a zealous and agitated gentleman accosted me and began to admonish me with tears about the folly and futility of trying to distinguish sheep from robbers; shepherds from hirelings."

Curious with 3 questions:

#1. What did you respond to him with?

#2. From your vantage point, how did you respond to him?

#3. From your vantage point, how do you think he received your counterarguments (if proffered) to his admonishments to you?

Lastly, please know that I am sure that I personally could not have done any better than what you did.

Truth Unites... and Divides said...

PJ: "Yesterday I was preaching on John 10:1-5, whose theme has to do with miscreants who climb into the sheepfold in order to kill, and steal, and destroy."

Would it be possible to obtain a transcript or audio of your sermon on John 10:1-5 to see what could possibly have provoked this man to accost you?

Paula said...

More often by not, the "judge not" admonishment is followed by "look at how much fruit" Pastor X is producing! The implication, of course, is that if the pews of Pastor X's church are full, he must be doing God's work. Which brings to mind a favorite Princess Bride line:

"I don't think that word [fruit] means what you think it means."

Sharon said...

You will find a free download of the audio in a few days, here.

You're welcome!

A Musician by Grace

takeheed said...


I've often been challenged on this so this is my standard reply

Cecil Andrews
'Take Heed' Ministries

Dear xxx,

When Paul was saying farewell to the elders at Ephesus he warned about false teachers who would arise and who would lead many people astray with their unscriptural views - Paul wrote in Acts 20:28-30 "Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them".

In Revelation 2:1-2 the Lord in His letter to this church at Ephesus said this "Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars":

The Lord commended the believers at Ephesus for having heeded the advice of Paul and of exercising 'judgment' when it came to assessing some of the teaching they had been exposed to.

In Acts 17:10-11 we read this "And the brethren immediately sent away Paul and Silas by night unto Berea: who coming thither went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so".

Paul commended his listeners in Berea for exercising 'judgment' in assessing what he had been teaching by comparing it with the Scriptures.

In 1 John 4:1 we read "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world".

John positively commands believers to exercise 'judgment' on what they hear being taught to them.

In 2 Corinthians 13:5 Paul writes "Examine yourselves, whether ye be in the faith; prove your own selves".

Paul positively commands believers to exercise 'judgment' upon what they believe.

In the chapter [Matthew 24] that our ministry takes its name from the Lord warns several times that in the future there will arise 'false prophets and false Christs' and He says in verse 25 "Behold, I have told you before".

The Lord drew specific attention to His 'advance warning' of the coming of false teachers and teaching so that His people, having been forewarned by Him, would exercise 'judgment' in these areas.

xxx, your instruction to me to 'Judge thou not for how you judge so will God judge you' does not apply to my exercising 'judgment' as a believer upon the public teachings and writings of men like xxx and xxx Your quotation comes from Matthew 7:1 and later in the same chapter in verse 15 the Lord warns of "false prophets" and says in verse 16 "You WILL KNOW THEM by their fruits" - the Lord Jesus is stating that believers should exercise 'judgment' and as a result they WILL BE ABLE to recognise both the 'rotten fruit' of false prophets and the false prophets themselves.

Matthew Henry in his commentary upon Matthew 7:1 wrote this 'We must not judge the hearts of others, nor their intentions, for it is God's prerogative to try the heart'. I am not permitted to judge the unseen motives of someone but from the verses that I quoted earlier I am commanded by God in His Word to exercise 'judgment' upon those things that are visible namely their words and their actions.

xxx could I respectfully point out a little anomaly in your thinking. You told me quite directly to 'Judge thou not' yet you yourself have quite clearly passed 'judgment' upon me in terms such as in your first email of me being xxx and of writing xxx and in your second email of me not being xxx

Pastor David Pitman said...

If we are never to criticize others how can any one criticize us? Are not our critics being judgemental?


Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

''By their fruits ye shall know them.'' HE THAT IS SPIRITUAL JUDGETH ALL THINGS.''

Aaron said...

People need to actually read the Bible and stop living by soundbites. Jesus was speaking about hypocrisy. The entire sermon from which we take "judge not lest ye be judged" is about outward appearance of obedience while harboring disobedience in our hearts. The same was true with judging others. The problem was not in judging, but judging in a hypocritical manner. Elsewhere in the Bible, including in teachings from Jesus, we are told to rightfully judge good from evil. And....AND...Paul clearly told us to exercise church discipline.

"I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler--not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? But those who are outside, God judges. REMOVE THE WICKED MAN FROM AMONG YOURSELVES . (1Co 5:9-13)

So there.

Aaron said...

P.S. Phil, I'm always fascinated by stories from Pastors who are accosted immediately after their sermon. When I hear these stories, I always remind myself that I'm not that different in my own pride. So if I find I have a question, I never ask the Pastor after the service (especially since he wants to greet and talk to other people too). I merely tell him that I may have questions and ask permission to talk to him later. Then I take some time to research, study, and pray about the situation. Inevitably, I find that I was (a)wrong or (b) the disagreement I have is over a disputable area (and usually trivial at that).

Nash Equilibrium said...

Now there's an idea:
Since it is usually the single-issue zealots who accost a pastor after he's preached a message about the zealot's single issue, perhaps the first thing a pastor should do after arriving at a church is pick out the top three nut-job-obsessing issues and preach a sound Biblical sermon on each of them. Then, find out who comes up to the podium afterward foaming at the mouth, and have them quarantined.
Hey, I think I can see the outline of the next top selling, purpose-driven, methods book taking shape!

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

''not that ye not be judged'' has to do with Israel in the kingdom of heaven, or the millennial reign.

''He that is spiritual judgeth all things'' has to do withe church in the Dispencation of Grace.

Boerseuntjie said...

Just another thought about the "judge not...for love" argument.

It is OFTEn the case the someone who satnds ACCUSED by the Law (Wheher Moral or Civil) will point out to a Judge and say that it is not fair to BE JUDGED.

It OFTEN tells us a HUGE amount about the HEART of the hearer when he/she kicks aganist the goads when faced with the discerning TRUTH claims of LAW.

It must also be noted that the parallel between Divine Law and the Civil LAW herein is not coincidental.

For instance:
If I where to drive over the speed limit (Accidental or not) and was caught on camera; went to court to fight the penalty of the Law, then what I am I saying about JUSTICE?

It is noteworthy to consider the Levitical Law in this, just as a parralel:

Numbers 15:27
"‘And if a person SINS UNintentionally, then he shall bring a female goat in its first year as a sin offering."

Feel free to search teh Scriptures for the use of "UNintentionally"; read the texts and see that the Sacrifice for Atonement was STILL REQUIRED by YAHWEH; for the SINS committed.

So we may say that Justice has been served and Mercy gifted by our Judge - Our Civil Laws do somewhat reflect this still (Albeit marred by the influence of sin in our justice systems which have abaondoned Biblical Devine Moral Law).

So shall we then get rid of all of the JUSTICE SYSTEM and allow Murder, Rape and Theft to flurish? NO! That would be UNJUST and UNRIGHTEOUSS - Our LORD is the epitomy of Truth and JUTICE and He commands us to be conformed to His Image.

So we JUDGE - But ONLY By His Charecter and revealed Will, according with the Scriptures Alone.

Your fellow JUROR by the Righteousness of Christ Jesus ALONE.

Paula said...

Sir Aaron said, I'm always fascinated by stories from Pastors who are accosted immediately after their sermon.

I'm so grateful for our pastor and his willingness to preach the truth in a straightforward, unequivocal manner. I'm mindful of the fact that pastors often face criticism - some of it about stupid nitpicky little things, some of it rather serious. I6 must get very discouraging at times.

I try as often as possible to find something positive to say to encourage him in the good work he is doing and how he is blessing our family. I try to be specific and go beyond a perfunctory "good sermon." Something like, "That sermon really made me desire to change some things in my life," or "It really takes courage to pray for the salvation of our president."

Andreas said...

Great point, and great post Phil.

I have an honest question though, as I've heard this reply somewhat myself. How are we supposed to read and understand Jesus' words about the wheat and tares growing up together?

I would be glad if you (or someone else) found time to give an answer to this.


trogdor said...

tck, I would explain that parable like this:

Then he left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, "Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field." He answered, "The one who sows the good seed is the Son of Man. The field is the world, and the good seed is the sons of the kingdom. The weeds are the sons of the evil one, and the enemy who sowed them is the devil. The harvest is the close of the age, and the reapers are angels. Just as the weeds are gathered and burned with fire, so will it be at the close of the age. The Son of Man will send his angels, and they will gather out of his kingdom all causes of sin and all law-breakers, and throw them into the fiery furnace. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth. Then the righteous will shine like the sun in the kingdom of their Father. He who has ears, let him hear."

(The parable is in Matthew 13:24-30. That explanation is from 36-43.)

So those who try to make it say that Jesus is telling us not to weed out false teachers or false brethren from the church are absolutely wrong.

Dr. Paul W. Foltz said...

re;Wheat and tares.

Matthew 13 interprets itself-tares=children of satan
enemy= the devil
wheat= children of God
applying it to local church; it has lost members and saved members.
will continue until the Lord removes the church, lost go into trib, saved go to heaven.


trogdor said...

'not that ye not be judged'' has to do with Israel in the kingdom of heaven, or the millennial reign.

Dr. Foltz,

Could you explain how you came to that conclusion? Are we also to take the immediately preceding promises/exhortation of 6:25-33 as for Israel during the millennial reign? Or the immediately following commands against hypocrisy in 7:2-5?

If not, is there a drastic shift wherein only 7:1 applies to millennial Israel, and the rest is binding on us today? Or is the whole sermon for millennial Israel only, perhaps?

Anonymous said...

If we are commanded not to judge and discern the orthodoxy of teachers and preachers, then we would need to dismiss a large part of the NT epistles. And we would need to call the apostle Paul a disobedient servant due to his repeated identification and condemnation of false teachers. We would have to ignore Jude's command to "contend earnestly for the faith." Could it be that God's means of dealing with apostate and false teachers is through the discernment of His saints?

Marie said...

When he complained about your sermon point it seems to me he judged you!

Tony Byrne said...

It is commonly said, "we cannot know who the elect are!" That itself is an ambiguous statement. If one means the unbelieving elect, then of course, we cannot know them. We can all grant this. But can we know who the believing elect are? There are only three options that I can see:

1) Believers cannot know [whether fallibly or infallibly] who the believing elect are.
2) We can fallibly know who the believing elect are.
3) We can infallibly know who the believing elect are.

If #1 is true, then we cannot possibly obey the command to not be unequally yoked with unbelievers, as in marriage. We cannot even practice believers baptism, for we cannot know in any sense if their profession has any credibility. It would seem to follow that we cannot know if we are even believers ourselves.

If #3 is true, then why were the Apostles obviously mistaken about Judas? Our own noetic experiences and church history proves #3 to be false without dispute.

Is #2 true? If we can fallibly know ourselves to be true believers, then it follows. Option #2 is the only way one can make sense out of Christ's commands and his call for biblical discernement. If we cannot know in any sense who are and who are not swines and dogs, then why give the command to not throw pearls before them, or to give them what is holy?

Here's the bottom line: Those who oppose biblical discernment [thus siding with option #1] like to misrepresent proponents of option #2 as if they were siding with option #3. They therefore posit a false either/or dilemma between #1 and #3.

We're called to judge according to an accurate and fair assessment of the evidence. By their fruits you shall know them. It's alright to claim to have knowledge, even though it is possible that you are mistaken. We are fallible judges awaiting the infallible judge to make the final distinctions.

Tony Byrne said...

Incidentally, the field is called "the world" in Matt. 13:38, not "the church."

Blue Collar Todd said...

This is going to be a growing problem in the Church in America. Particularly as Liberal Theology continues to cause havoc within the Church. This is most evident by Christians who can still support President Obama, someone who tolerated outright infanticide as a necessary consequence to his idolatrous Liberal religion.

Christians are to be holy, priests of God, set apart to do righteousness not propagate sin as Christians do who kneel at rancid base of Liberal idols. I am afraid that there has not been any real preaching against idolatry and naming today's idols in order to tear them down so we can see the Lord Jesus Christ clearly.

The Liberalism of today is equal to the idolatry of that was rampant in Israel. Idols have consequences, and necessary ones at that. The threefold evil fruit that idolatry produced in Israel was 1) the worship of nature, 2) rampant sexual immorality and 3) child sacrifice. These are the identical things Liberalism advocates today and no Christian ought to be instruments of sin or support those who advocate such things.

Ultimately, such idolatry leads to the persecution of the faithful. The sick irony is that our Liberal "brethren" are helping create conditions that will lead the the persecution of other Christians and ultimately Jesus Christ.

We need some good preaching on Matthew 25 these days. I wonder what they will say to Jesus when He asks them why they did such things to Him?

Aaron said...


It is interesting to note your and my reactions. BOth are the opposite of confronting the Pastor from the moment he steps down from the pulpit.

LeeC said...

"Great point, and great post Phil.

I have an honest question though, as I've heard this reply somewhat myself. How are we supposed to read and understand Jesus' words about the wheat and tares growing up together?

I would be glad if you (or someone else) found time to give an answer to this.



There one thing to know about wheat and tares. Whilst they are growing you cannot tell them apart...until they mature and you can then see them for what they are.

And then the tares are snatched up and destroyed.

Greg said...

I personally enjoyed the sermon, but I can see why someone could be offended, especially if there is a possible wolf in their own family.

Keep preaching the word, Phil!

romans923 said...

I am really struggling with something. As I read Galatians 1, Paul says let anyone who teaches a Gospel other than what I preach be anathema. Does this mean that my brother, who is a devout Roman Catholic is going to hell? I struggle with this, because I love him dearly. Of course, I don't know how to properly exegete. Are Catholics going to hell? This verse is potent, and Paul repeats the curse twice for emphasis. So, is my brother, by believing and teaching a Gospel other than salvation by faith alone, going to Hell? Is his soul in jeopardy?
I have been asking people that I trust this question. Pyromaniacs is my homepage. I have been reading you guys for a bit now. I know you are swamped, but I am about to embark on trying to figure out all of the answers to the questions he raises, and I really have no clue where to start. I got all of the Early Church Fathers work on my computer now, but I have no clue where to start with that as well. A lot of reading in my future, but before I even begin looking at the Marian Doctrines, Purgatory, Eucharist and all the other stuff he wants me to consider, I just want to know if I should be praying for his salvation in light of Galatians 1. If he is saved, I would be slandering him.
I recognize that it might be inappropriate to post this here, but I know of no other way to contact you guys. If you have advice, or answers, I am always open to them. My email is

olan strickland said...

"Jesus said, 'Judge not, that you be not judged" (Matthew 7:1)," he pleaded, in all sincerity. "Let the wheat and tares grow together (Matthew 13:30)."

He's probably been reading too much Rick Warren :) If you get a chance give him MacArthur's Truth War.

The parable of the tares in no way nullifies Scriptural commands to test the spirits, beware of false prophets, or maintain church purity through church discipline. It is primarily a lesson in eschatology establishing the truth of the coming apostasy before God's people are gathered together to the Lord (see Matthew 13:30 and compare it to 2 Thessalonians 2:1-3).

FX Turk said...

Are all Catholics lost?


Are all Baptists saved?


Anyone who trusts in a false gospel will be lost. So a baptist who thinks he is saved by his pastor's theology will be lost; a presbyterian who thinks he is saved by his discernment is lost; and the Catholic who thinks he is saved by the sacraments, or by his acts of contrition, or finally by his time in purgatory, is lost.

You must preach the Gospel to these people. You must be the one who loves them away from these lies and toward the truth. Because the truth is that you cannot save them, but the Gospel can.

Aaron said...


My heart goes out to you. Roman Catholicism is one of the greatest threats to the church and perhaps always has been. While there are stark differences between Protestant belief and Catholicism, it sometimes becomes confusing about which beliefs separate one from salvation and which beliefs fall under "disputable things", especially since many Catholics conceal the true nature of their beliefs with deceptive wording.

The first thing that you need to do is understand the basics. How is one saved? What must one understand about Christ, God, and the nature of salvation? I recommend a book, "Bitesize Theology." It is a small book that explains things such as salvation, propitiaion, etc. with supporting verses.

Next, I'd recommend researching the basic differences between Christianity and Catholicism. MacArthur has done several sermons on this topic and all of them are available for free on the GTY website. For some quick historical perspective, you might watch "Luther."

Once you've done all that, you have to ask yourself...Can a Catholic believe all of the church's stated doctrines and still be saved? Many people will tell you "absolutely not." Personally, I leave a little room for God's grace. I think its possible for a Catholic to be saved despite the overwhelming use of supersition and false doctrines. But far more Catholics are lost in darkness because of said use. You may decide that your friend is saved, that is unsaved, or that you don't really know. In any case, your prayer could be the same. Deliver this person from Catholicism and to the light of truth.

I hope that helps. If you need to discuss this more, I suggest via e-mail so as not to sidetrack this thread too much.

TAR said...

Scripture tells us we are to judge.. How are we to keep the wolf from the door??

Whenever anyone pulls out the "judge not " scripture I always wonder the amount of time the person spends reading scripture in context.

That is an admonishment to make CORRECT judgements .
We are told not to be unequally yoked, that takes spiritual judgement..we are told to evangelize, that takes judgement on the condition of the ones we approach, we are to be fruit inspectors lest we fall prey to false teachers.

The scriptural word that comes to mind is discernment. if there is no fruit do not feed at that tree...or sit under it..

Fertilize it with the word..

TAR said...

Good post Sir AAron,

I was catholic when God saved me.I stayed for a couple of years after that because of family reasons..I went to a protestant Sunday night service and was fed there.

One day i realized that my bible study had led me to a point where i disbelieved more than I believed and so i took the final step and left.

I have a heart for catholics, but I fully believe that 98 or 99% are lost . But the same gracious God that choose to save me, can open the eyes of anyone any time.

romans923 said...

Thank you to everyone who answered my questions. You are most gracious. Thank you to the Pyro team for permitting my question to remain. God is Glorified and I am blessed through your ministry.