As New Testament Christians, we need the operation of the gifts of the Holy Spirit in our churches today. We should encourage every flame of fire that comes from God, but we also should realize that there are true and false gifts (Heb. 1:7).

There is no need to be afraid of the gifts of the Spirit just because some false elements have crept in.

Once I was given some counterfeit money. I didn't throw away my whole billfold and all of my good money just because a little of it was counterfeit. I kept the genuine and threw the false away.

Believers can learn to distinguish between true and false prophets. How? The Bible gives seven steps for judging prophecy. Studying these steps will be a blessing to you now and in the future.
The First Step:
By their fruits ye shall know them
Jesus warned against false prophets, saying, "Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Matt. 7:15).

Paul and Peter, writing to the Early Church, also warned against false prophets, false apostles, and false prophesies:
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no greater thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
(2 Cor. 11:13-15)

But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. And many shall follow their pernicious ways; by reason of whom the way of truth shall be evil spoken of. And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you: whose judgment now of a long time lingereth not, and their damnation slumbereth not.
(2 Peter 2:1-3)
If such a warning was necessary to the Early Church, it is necessary today. (We believe and practice what they wrote then concerning the Lord's Supper, water baptism, and other things. Why not believe and practice what they said about this?)

Jesus is the One issuing that warning against false prophets in Matthew 7. Does He know what He's talking about? I believe He does. I believe people today need His warning.

As we saw, He described false prophets as coming to you " sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves" (Matt. 7:15). They seem very humble, very meek—just like the rest of the sheep. You can't tell from their outward appearance that they are ravening wolves.

But Jesus said there is a way to know them. How? Jesus said
Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorn, or figs of thistles? Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit.
(vv. 16-17)
He continued,
A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
(vv. 18-20)
I once knew a minister who seemingly was used mightily in prophecy and other gifts. Yet when I had an opportunity to attend one of his services, I knew something was wrong. I couldn't put my finger on it—I didn't have any revelation from God—but something on the inside of me told me he wasn't tuned in to the frequency I was on.

I didn't know much about this man's ministry, so I couldn't judge his fruit. Soon afterwards, however, I preached for a pastor friend who had just had this evangelist in his church.

When accusations of dishonesty were made against the man, the pastor confronted him. The evangelist replied, "Why, there's not a word of truth in that! Those people are lying about me!"

When the pastor's sister-in-law came to him with the same story, he had to confront the evangelist the second time. "There never was a bigger lie told," the evangelist stated. "They're lying about it."

Then the pastor's sister-in-law took a tape recorder into a secret meeting the evangelist held with some of the church members. She recorded what he said. He told the people, "I don't let them know I believe this, but it's all right to lie as long as you're lying for good." (Brother, it's wrong to lie, regardless of what it's about!)

When the pastor confronted this preacher with the tape recording, he said, "Well now, brother, you know if a man's working for God, you just can't tell everything. It's all right to lie sometimes."

By their fruits you shall know them. This evangelist could prophesy long and loud, but who would believe his prophecies? Once you knew about him, would you?

Source: Seven Steps For Judging Prophecy by Kenneth E. Hagin.
Excerpt permission granted by Faith Library Publications