Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing (Part I)

[This is part one of a three part article. It was inspired; no it was born from the response to Anne Rice’s “dramatic announcement that she was quitting Christianity.” I was appalled and then became broken and grieved at the responses that I read in various places which made her out to be some type of “hero.” Some seemed to imply that she was being heroic in some sense as she wished to dissociate herself from the debacles’ of “Christianity gone wild” as she took the higher ground.

It wouldn’t have been so bad as to possibly in grace to think she might be misguided in her diatribe. But to then see the “pass” given to her and other patently false teachers as “Christian leaders” who are misleading the sheep with false doctrine was too much for me. I was grieved as those who first, made no research into what she actually believed, and second who found it easier or nobler to praise her than to denounce her foolish accusations and diatribe. It was too much to for me to see believers who accept someone as a believer merely because he or she says that they are. The naivety of the church as a whole troubles me]

Giving final instructions to the believers at Rome, Paul wrote in chapter 16:17-18:

I appeal to you, brothers, to watch out for those who cause divisions and create obstacles contrary to the doctrine that you have been taught, avoid them. For such persons do not serve our Lord Christ, but their own appetites, and by smooth talk and flattery they deceive the hearts of the naïve.” (Emphasis is mine)

This quotation is from my beloved English Standard Version. It accurately translates the Greek Word σκοπεω. Primarily this word gives us the idea to “watch” or “to look at, observe, or contemplate.” Secondarily it can be translated as “mark.” Encapsulated in this word is the idea to watch out for yourself – hence the reference to the deception of the naïve. The KJV reads “…mark those which cause divisions and offenses contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned and avoid them.”

First of all, we as believers, we who are the true children of God need to be wise and astute enough to differentiate between who and what is Christian and who and what is not. We need to take a stand and stop being so afraid to call a “spade” a spade. You have heard the expression if it walks like a duck, quacks like a duck, and looks like a duck, well, it must be a duck.

God expects us look at individuals, particularly those who claim to be teachers, leaders, or spokespeople and evaluate them. We are expected to match their fruit, their life, their doctrine, and their demeanor against the qualifications, description, and doctrines of the Scriptures in order to determine the false from the true.

I am grieved that “believers” are at time so biblically illiterate and spiritually anemic that they cannot recognize ravenous and destructive wolves in sheep’s clothing. Satan has been very successful in his campaign to prevent true scrutinization of a man’s claim of being a spokesperson for God. We need to patiently, slowly, and over time evaluate a man’s “credentials.” I am not referring to his degree or necessarily his pedigree.

Why does he think he has the right to speak for God? What is his life like? Does he meet the qualifications in the Scripture? Is his doctrine biblical? Does his life match that of the Master, His Message, and His Mission?

If it doesn’t match up then we need to shout it from the house top and avoid these people like the plague. The church needs backbone today. It needs courage to mark and avoid those who cause division and offenses contrary to sound biblical doctrine.

The common complaint is that the “secular world” lumps both believers and false teachers into one lump. So what? If we were faithful to Paul’s instruction, not to mention the numerous references in other scriptures to examine men and their doctrine, and we made known those who are false the world would get the idea that not everyone who says that they are a believer are actually believers. If we followed Peter’s exhortations and instructions of making Christ’s character attractive and desirable by how we conduct ourselves on a daily basis we would by contrast demonstrate to the world the false from the real.

God knew that false teachers, false prophets, and false doctrines would develop in the church. He gave a test and a remedy by which the saints of the Old Testament could determine a true prophet from a false one and a true prophecy from the false in Deuteronomy 18. The false teachers of today, especially those on TBN  will tell you not to touch the anointed of God. They tell you not to examine them nor their words. They don’t want you to see their appetites and the lusts of their flesh. They don’t want their life – their method, mission, and means scrutinized by the scriptures.

We don't have that same test and liberty today in the church. We must examine teachers and their teaching against scripture and then accept or reject truths on the basis of Scripture. The New Testament is replete with exhortations, instructions, admonishments, and commands to reject false teachers and false doctrines. What is the problem? I think it stems from one or a combination of the following - fear, naivety, ignorance, or rebellion. Any and all are sin and an affront to our Majestic, Soverign, Righteous, and Holy God!

(To be continued Lord willing in Part II of Wolves in Sheep's Clothing)


welcome to my world of poetry said...

Most absorbing to read, very thought provoking.

Have a good day.

Brad said...

Good, fiery post, Gregg. The problem with so many false teachers today still lies with us. If we are the only reamining light in a dark world, then we need to humble ourselves, become so Christ-saturated with the Gopsel that it compels those on the highway of life to come in to our midst and hear the Good News. Our warnings must always be accompanied with exhortation and with the reflection of our joy and faith in Jesus. And we should never lose heart. These things will come (and must come) just as Jesus said - and we must wait happily for them, armed with his Good News.


As you said false teachers have always been a problem for God's people. Wolves in sheep's clothing is truly what they are. They appear to be angels of light but they are actually doing the work of Satan.

They often appeal to man's greedy heart to draw people away from the truth of God. Woe unto them who fleece the flock of God when they stand before Him to be judged!