Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing

Jesus gave his disciples many warnings about a life on mission with Him and for the kingdom. He tells them, “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves” (Mt 7:15, NKJV). I do not believe this verse only applies to “spiritual leaders” in a church or religious organization, I believe it applies to everyone claiming to be a “Christian”.

As a pastor / preacher / teacher of God’s Word, I have said many times (as most preachers have) that just because you get dressed up on Sunday morning, that does not make you a Christian. Satan will come to church, and he will show up with many disguises. When the Apostle Paul called the elders from Ephesus to come to Miletus to give them guidance and say his farewells; he said, “Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock (Ac 20:28–29). Pay attention to those last four words, “not sparing the flock.”

While sheep will bite, butt heads, and irritate each other every now and then, it is extremely rare for them to bring intense harm to the flock. Most of the time after sheep “bicker” they move past it and mend together with the other sheep. Wolves in sheep’s clothing will do the same, but only long enough to appear as genuine sheep. Read those warnings again and pay attention to the adjectives describing the wolves (ravenous and savages). Wolves will even fall under the authoritative hand of the shepherd, but this too will only last for a short period. Wolves have no problem with attacking and attempting to kill a shepherd.

So, how do we get better at recognizing these pretenders? I believe the answer is found in Jesus’s letter to the church at Ephesus given to John in the book of Revelation. Jesus commends them when He says, “I know your works, your labor, your patience, and that you cannot bear those who are evil. And you have tested those who say they are apostles and are not and have found them liars; and you have persevered and have patience and have labored for My name’s sake and have not become weary (Re 2:2–3). It is evident to me here that the elders adhered to the instructions from Paul and tested those who came into the church desiring to be a part of the church. This is where we fail too often in our churches. We get enamored with numbers (though we will never say that out loud). We forget to test those who want to become a part of a precious flock, we stop asking about doctrinal (biblical) beliefs. We want them in the choir, teaching a class, leading a ministry; all for the sake of our “numbers” not looking bad. We must also get better recognizing that wolves will begin to “isolate” some sheep before they attack. They want the sheep to trust them, be their friend, and rely on them for as much as possible.

We should not get upset if someone asks us our beliefs on biblical issues, the sheep in that church are only following the guidance given to them by God. Jesus reminds the apostles (and us), “You will know them by their fruits” (Mt 7:16). Wolves will come, but we can, and should, recognize them.

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