This afternoon on The Paul Edwards Program, Paul offered several characteristics or behaviors of those men within a congregation who present themselves as godly, kind, and caring “shepherds” but in reality are wolves pretending to be shepherds so that they might destroy God’s church:
- Their outward righteous appearance (Matthew 23:27) is a covering for insidious evil. In Matthew 7:15 Jesus is not warning us against wolves dressed like sheep, but rather wolves who wear the clothing produced by the sheep – “sheep’s clothing” – which every one of Jesus’s first century hearers would have understood to mean “the clothes worn by shepherds” which were made from the wool produced by the sheep.
These are wolves who alter their outward appearance in order to present themselves as wise, loving, caring shepherds of the sheep, but “inside they are ravening (extortionist) wolves. In Matthew 23:25-28, Jesus – as the Word of God which “discerns the thoughts and intents of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12-13) tells us precisely what is hidden beneath the outward righteousness of these ravening wolves pretending to be caring shepherds:
Excess: lacking self-control
Dead Men’s Bones: exactly what you would expect to find in a grave
Uncleanness: the impurity of lustful, luxurious, profligate living
Hypocrisy: acting a part
Iniquity: contempt for the law
- They insidiously undermine the God-ordained legitimate authority of the true shepherds.
- They present a competing vision against the vision of the God-ordained legitimate shepherds.
- They divide the flock over non-essentials: “Why are we singing THAT kind of music? Why is the pastor preaching from THAT translation? Why are we not meeting mid-week? Why did the pastor cancel the regular Sunday Evening service for one week?”
- They bring unsubstantiated accusations against the pastor or the elders in order to plant the seed of doubt and to sow discord.
- They circumvent the biblical process for appointing leaders by pushing themselves forward as the one who can truly protect the flock.
- They have a history of causing division in previous churches.
The Bible warns us to be on the lookout for these kind of men – and even some women – within our churches who seek to “draw away disciples” after themselves and who “love to have the preeminence,” working against the God-ordained legitimate leadership of God’s church (See Acts 20:38-31).