Both Jesus and Paul warned us about wolves in the strongest possible terms. Christ is the Great Shepherd and His church is His flock. But wolves will come to attack the flock. These wolves are false teachers.
What do you think false teachers teach? What is so savage about these wolves? What do they preach that threatens the flock so greatly??
When Paul had been in Ephesus 3 years he left the leaders of the church with this charge:
28 Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. 29 I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. 30 Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. 31 So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.
32 ‘Now I commit you to God and to the word of his grace, which can build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified.
Paul was clearly very worried about wolves, coming in to destroy the flock. Sheep have no defences against wolves. Wolves are savage with sheep. And these wolves – some of them – will arise from the Ephesian church. Isn’t that scary? It scared Paul. For three years he never stopped warning them, night and day with tears.
Now, what do you imagine these wolves to be teaching? In what ways are these people going to savagely destroy the church that Paul had planted?
Now, the truth is, we don’t know. But what’s fascinating is how we naturally think of wolves. What kinds of teaching do we think will tear a church apart?
When I hear people accused of being wolves these days, usually it’s because they’re soft on sin, lax on the law. People who won’t teach good biblical principles, something like that. What does Paul mean?
Well notice the one protection he offers to this vulnerable flock in verse 32: “The word of God’s grace”, that’s what will build them up. He’s been teaching them the word of this grace and his parting words are for the Ephesians to be committed to the word of God’s grace. With the wolves coming, that’s what they need to know.
Because the wolves which seem to concern Paul most in his letters aren’t so much those who are soft on sin or lax on law. Actually the wolves are the very ones so keen to teach “biblical principles for living” and to bring the flock under the law.
There are different kinds of wolves, it’s true. But when Jesus mentions wolves, it’s in the context of Pharisaism. And the false teachers who seem to cause Paul the most sleepless nights are the legalists – those earnest preachers with their Bibles open, urging you to godliness by bringing you under the law. They are, most consistently, the savage wolves who Paul has in his sights.
Is that what you thought of, when you thought of wolves?