Jesus was clear that, concerning wolves, “you will recognize them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:16). The Bible makes a very clear distinction between wolves and the rest of people who often struggle with sin. They are not in the same category for this reason: people who struggle with sin repent and those who only produce bad fruit do not. It is impossible for the latter to repent, according to the scriptures.
So what are these characteristics that all wolves have? We’ll unpack this more later, but for now we need to know that wolves “go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth” (Hebrews 10:26). They are “ravenous,” meaning they stop at nothing to destroy innocent people. They revel in their deceptions as they are feasting with the people they seek to destroy (2 Peter 2:13; 2 Timothy 3:13). In other words, they enjoy causing harm and distress to people. Put another way, they enjoy wrecking the lives of innocent people.
Finally, they are instinctive, persistent, and do not ever stop. Peter says that what the true proverb says has happened to them: “The dog returns to its own vomit, and the sow, after washing herself, returns to wallow in the mire” (2 Peter 2:22). This is a far cry from people who genuinely struggle (even for a lifetime) with sin. People who struggle do exactly that–they struggle. They often suffer from depression, guilt, and shame. They work hard on overcoming sin. They take no pleasure in hurting others, which is why they are overcome with guilt and shame. Contrast this with the wolf, who enjoys inflicting pain on innocent people.
Once we recognize these patterns we can better identify wolves and keep them away.
Jesus very clearly defended the innocent. He was not friendly towards people whose intent was destruction of innocents. Even before Jesus preached, John the Baptist said of Jesus: “Even now the axe is laid to the root of the trees. Every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:10). Jesus echoed John when he was describing the destruction of evil people who pretend to be righteous: “Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 7:19). Paul, using very similar language, explains why impostors are to be destroyed: “. . . while evil people and impostors will go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Timothy 3:13).
Unless we understand the evil mindset of impostors people will keep welcoming them into the church, assuming they will have a change of heart. Afterall, we all want to believe that everyone is capable of change. But not all are. This becomes more and more clear as we follow the ministry of Jesus. Jesus had extreme compassion and mercy for people who made horrible decisions, who lived in wildly sinful lifestyles, and who wrestled with temptation. We see him forgive a prostitute who wiped his feet with her tears, reveal himself to a Samaritan woman who had 5 husbands and was living with her current boyfriend, and let’s not forget the woman caught in adultery who Jesus defended and sent in peace.
But for people who intentionally deceive and worm their way into the lives of innocent people to oppress them, Jesus was not so merciful. There is a line in the sand that separates sinners and impostors. Impostors always take advantage of innocent people. They are repeat offenders, and they never repent. In fact, the Bible is clear that some people are so hardened that they cannot repent. These are the people Jesus called “ravenous wolves.” And they were never allowed near the sheep. Jesus saw to it.