“Watch out for yourselves and for all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after I am gone fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Even from among your own group men will arise, teaching perversions of the truth to draw the disciples away after them. Therefore be alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning each one of you with tears. And now I entrust you to God and to the message of his grace. This message is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified” —Acts 20:26-32
After an introduction like this, who could take Paul’s final words of exhortation lightly? After he shared the ominous aspects of his future, Paul now warns them about a threat to the well-being of the Ephesian church in verses 29 through 31. Paul is confident that the Ephesian church will face its own dangers. Contrary to his conduct and creed, there are those who will rise up like fierce wolves. They won’t care about the flock like Paul has done; they will actually seek to devour the flock. These will come into the church, not only from outside, but also from among this very group of elders to whom Paul is speaking.
I clearly remember the night many years ago when I was pastoring a campus group and the Spirit of God brought this very passage to my heart. I began to warn the students about this very thing. How, even right in their midst, some would rise and attempt to “steal their joy.” I warned them that these wolves would try to gain a following, and they would attempt to accomplish this by corrupting the truth in such a way that sound appealing and devout; they will present a message that is intriguing and sincere. Just like Paul I had passionately and persistently warned them of these dangers.
Eventually that did happen and a few of our members were indeed led away. It was a group that I initially admired. That is until I leaned more about them. They were a truly devoted group that sought a deeper walk with the Lord. I had read many of the studies and books of its founder, but something from those teachings went awry. It sounded so tantalized and attractive but the leadership became so domineering and strict that it had all the earmarks of a cult. To the point, as a matter of fact, that the parents of one dear sister had her taken into a ministry that deprogrammed what this other group had so drilled into her spirit.
By the way, this sister once again has a deep love for our Lord and a sweet family of her own that she rejoices over. Her story is one of great victory and celebration, so maybe I can entice her to share her experiences.
Paul knew that believers would very possibly experience such heretics. “Wolves in sheep’s clothing” would come in and steal as many as possible.