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.