Monday, September 29, 2014
Wolves in the Sheep Pen
In I Timothy 1:3-4, Paul writes: "As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith." Then Paul goes on in verses 5-7 to describe what the goal of their teaching is and how it differs from the false teachers: "The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. Certain persons by swerving from these, have wandered away into vain discussion, desiring to be teachers of the law, without understanding either what they are saying or the things about which they make confident assertions." The false teacher appears to be knowledgeable, but in fact, as Paul says, they really do not understand what they are saying. Hasn't this been true of those who have appeared on the world stage declaring that they have new revelation from God? A number of cults grew as a result of false teachers in our day, but this has been happening since the beginning of the church.
Later in Paul's letter to Timothy, he comes again to address the false teachers and what motives they may have. In chapter 6:3-5, Paul writes: "If anyone teaches a different doctrine and does not agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus Christ and the teaching that accords with godliness, he is puffed up with conceit and understands nothing. He has an unhealthy craving for controversy and for quarrels about words, which produce envy, dissension, slander, evil suspicions, and constant friction among people who are depraved in mind and deprived of the truth, imagining that godliness is a means of gain." There it is. Money, greed, and power are behind those who depart from the sound Gospel of Christ. They come sounding very good, sincere, and earnest in their approach, but they really do not grasp the truth found in God's Word. Instead, they believe there is money to be made in the work they do in the church. Paul clearly rejects this and tells Timothy that we are to be content with the food and clothing we have. Certainly, there is nothing wrong with wanting to make a good living to support your family, but some of these false teachers want more than that. They are building a kingdom for themselves not for God.
Wolves in sheep's clothing are not always easy to spot because they sound so good. They know enough about Scripture to make their appeal come across as valid. However, as Jesus told us, we will know them by their fruits. Are they submissive to leadership? Do they accept discipline or do they want things their way? Are they looking for monetary gain or are they humble servants seeking to reach out to all? These are the questions we need to ask ourselves when someone puts himself forward as a teacher, leader or pastor.
Today, just as in the time of the early church, I fear there are many wolves looking for opportunities to promote themselves not for the good of the sheep but for their own good. Such is the sin nature of man. Therefore, as believers, we need to pray for our pastors, elders, deacons and leaders that they may have wisdom and the ability to discern the wolves among the sheep along with the courage to drive them out. It is not an easy task to protect the flock of God. May God help us to walk in the truth daily so we may not be caught off guard by false teachers. Selah!
Wolf picture is courtesy of Wiki Commons Media and author Laenulfean at http://flickr.com/photos/60359963@N00/481388115.