PASTORAL MINISTRY MUST FOLLOW THE APOSTOLIC PATTERN
WATCH OUT FOR WOLVES!
I made a serious error last week when I introduced this series of messages on Paul’s final farewell address to the Ephesian elders gathered at Miletus. I told you this would be a two part message; actually it ends up being a three part message. We covered three areas last week of the Apostolic Pattern for Pastoral Ministry:
I. (:17-21) PASTORAL TRACK RECORD OF A CONSISTENT, HUMBLE, CARING, PERSEVERING, PROFITABLE PROCLAMATION OF THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD
II. (:22-24) PASTORAL COMMITMENT TO FINISH THE COURSE OF MINISTRY WHATEVER THE PERSONAL COST IN A MANNER HIGHLIGHTING THE GOSPEL OF THE GRACE OF GOD
III. (:25-27) PASTORAL TESTIMONY OF A CLEAR CONSCIENCE IN MINISTRY DUE TO FAITHFULLY COMMUNICATING THE WHOLE COUNSEL OF GOD
Final two points each deserve full treatment on their own. We will cover Point 4 today:
IV. (:28-32) PASTORAL WARNING AGAINST FALSE TEACHERS WHO WILL SEEK TO LEAD THE SHEEP ASTRAY
Piper: Let me just mention one feature to watch out for in the recognition of wolves. As I have watched the movement from biblical faithfulness to liberalism in persons and institutions that I have known over the years, this feature stands out: An emotional disenchantment with faithfulness to what is old and fixed, and an emotional preoccupation with what is new or fashionable or relevant in the eyes of the world.
Let’s try to say it another way: when this feature is prevalent, you don’t get the impression that a person really longs to bring his mind and heart into conformity to fixed biblical truth. Instead you see the desire to picture biblical truth as unfixed, fluid, indefinable, distant, inaccessible, and so open to the trends of the day.
So what marks a possible wolf-in-the-making is not simply that he rejects or accepts any particular biblical truth, but that he isn’t deeply oriented on the Bible. He is more oriented on experience. He isn’t captured by the great old faith once for all delivered to the saints. Instead he’s enamored by what is new and innovative.
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That quote from Piper would certainly be true about the emerging church movement. But whatever the ilk or ism of the day, there never seems to be a lack of false teachers trying to infiltrate the church and lead the flock astray.
Part of our problem is that we cannot judge the motives of someone else. If we could, we would see that false teachers would be exposed much more easily. I think that is why Paul concludes with the fifth area which we will study next week:
V. (:33-35) PASTORAL EXAMPLE OF SELF SUPPORT AND SACRIFICIAL GIVING
If you could identify who was truly unselfish and ministered with a humble, servant spirit you would have a good early warning system. But we do have the objective truth of the Bible against which we can measure the teaching of those who would twist the truth and adulterate the gospel of the grace of God.
4 MOTIVATIONS FOR ELDERS TO GUARD AGAINST FALSE TEACHING (Incentives, Encouragements)
A. (:28) Guard Against False Teachers Because of Your Divine Commissioning –
1. Scope of Responsibility
a. Personal Life – you are a sheep (part of the flock) before you are a shepherd
“Be on guard for yourselves”
προσέχω— Active imperative here; 2nd pers plural — 1. act. turn one’s mind to—a. pay attention to, give heed to, follow w dat. Ac 8:6, 10f; 16:14; 1 Ti 1:4; 4:1; Tit 1:14; Hb 2:1; 2 Pt 1:19.—b. be concerned about, care for, pay attention to w. dat. Ac 20:28. προσέχειν ἑαυτῷ be careful, be on one’s guard Lk 12:1; 17:3; Ac 5:35; cf. Mt 7:15; 10:17.—c. occupy oneself with, devote or apply oneself to w. dat. 1 Ti 4:13; Hb 7:13; be addicted 1 Ti 3:8.—2. mid. cling to w. dat. 1 Ti 6:3 v.l.
Matt. 7:15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.”
Luke 12:1 “Beware of the leaven of the Pharisees, which is hypocrisy”
You don’t want to be disqualified from pastoral responsibility:
You want to be a holy vessel to promote holiness; otherwise you have hypocrisy and no moral platform from which to counsel and exhort others
You want to be a discerning teacher to promote truth and expose error;
You want to be a committed leader who is available to minister to the flock; not distracted
Look at all of the spiritual leaders who have let their guard down and suffered loss of their personal reputation as well as loss of effectiveness as a leader – we could rattle off examples;
Elders first of all must be “blameless” in reputation themselves
Understand that Satan will first try to attack the leadership —
Look at the history of the seminaries in the various mainline denominations going heretical long before the rank and file church membership has been corrupted
Book by Richard Swartley: A Wolf in the Pulpit? The Setup for Moral Failure and the Abuse of Power – senior pastor model with its unrealistic expectations and its lack of accountability creates a context that makes it more difficult for pastors to adequately guard themselves
– sexual problems – ranging from pornography to any type of inappropriate behavior
– financial exploitation in a variety of forms
– abuse of power in a variety of forms
you have a governing structure that depends more on the personality and charisma of the senior pastor
“Be on guard for yourselves” – hopefully within the context of the checks and balances of a plurality of elder governing system
b. Local Church
“and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers,”
not just shepherding the strong or the rich or your personal favorites; care must extend to the entire flock; the Good Shepherd is concerned for the welfare of each of the sheep
leadership is a delegated authority role from the Holy Spirit – church recognizes leaders; Holy Spirit makes someone a leader and commissions them to that role
Bruce: Probably the reference to the Holy Spirit here does not mean that their appointment to this sacred ministry had been commanded by prophetic utterance in the church, but rather that they were so appointed and recognized because they were manifestly men on whom the Holy Spirit had bestowed the requisite qualifications for the work.
“overseers” – word here is bishop –
S. Lewis Johnson: We have things backward in the church, often; we think if a person wants to be an elder, then he ought to be an elder. And the next thing that we try to do is to be voted into the office by people. That is, unfortunately, what has caused some of the difficulties in our churches. Because, in many of our churches, when a man is put up for an office, like the office of overseer, the office of elder, then he is voted; and thus it is thought he becomes an elder. You don’t become an elder by vote; you don’t become an elder by self-choice. You become an elder in only one way, by divine appointment.
That is why the epistles detail the qualifications for elders – this is how you judge that a man has been made an elder by the Holy Spirit.
2. The Function of Shepherding
“to shepherd the church of God”
Pres. Tense infinitive – keep on shepherding continually
Not called to lord it over the flock; called to shepherd; lead flock to pasture and feed it and protect it and nurture it and guide it
Don’t ever get confused and think that the local church belongs to you; don’t call it MacArthur’s church
Psalm 23:1 “The Lord is my Senior Pastor” — He is the Head of the Church; He is the Good Shepherd – we serve collectively as undershepherds
One thing that bothers me about large, mega-churches is that the recognized senior pastor cannot possibly “shepherd” the large mass of individuals effectively; he becomes more of a public teacher and administrator of the professional staff; so this critical pasturing function is delegated to the leaders of various small group ministries who are not really at the “pastor” level;
your number of elders should be proportionate to the size of your congregation to allow for effective shepherding; John 10 – the shepherd knows each sheep by name and can tenderly care for its needs
3. The Value of the Flock
“which He purchased with His own blood.”
περιποιέω 1aor. mid. περιεποιησάμην; only middle in the NT; (1) preserve (for oneself), save (LU 17.33); (2) gain or acquire (for oneself), obtain (1T 3.13); pay the price for, acquire with much effort (AC 20.28)
the church belongs to Jesus Christ; not some nameless group of people that don’t matter that much
Is. 43:21 “The people whom I formed for Myself will declare My praise”
1 Pet 1:18-19 “knowing that you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ”
Interesting combination of words – God not usually associated with having blood to shed; points to the deep truths of the incarnation where Jesus who is truly divine takes on human nature, yet without sin, and becomes the God-man in one person
Bruce: “his own” = “of His own one” – used thus as a term of endearment to near relations; “only” or “beloved”
This task of guarding the flock cannot be delegated to any other group. It falls on the shoulders of the elders to get the job done. They have been divinely commissioned for the task and the very shed blood of the Head of the Church, the Lord Jesus, cries out for spiritual leaders to take this responsibility seriously.
B. (:29-30) Guard Against False Teachers Because of Their Aggressive Attacks –
Sneak Attacks (the church is in grave danger all of the time)
1. (:29) Attacking from the Outside
“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;”
Paul’s departure will leave the young believers vulnerable; they need the careful guarding by the elders
Wolves are cunning predators – fierce, cruel, savage (heavy, weighty); dangerous pretenses – they present themselves as harmless but are destructive
“Who’s afraid of the big bad wolf??” don’t take them lightly
Ezek. 22:27 “Her princes within her are like wolves tearing the prey, by shedding blood and destroying lives in order to get dishonest gain.”
Zeph. 3:3 “Her princes within her are roaring lions, Her judges are wolves at evening; they leave nothing for the morning.”
2 Pet. 2:1-3
Jude 4 “For certain persons have crept in unnoticed, those who were long beforehand marked out for this condemnation, ungodly persons who turn the grace of our God into licentiousness and deny our only Master and Lord Jesus Christ.”
S. Lewis Johnson: If [false teachers] were called wolves, we sheep would start running. We might not be able to escape them, but we would run. So the wolves come, not as wolves, but as Paul says in 2 Corinthians 11, they come as “ministers of righteousness.” To think, the reverend doctor so and so is actually a wolf. But he is, if he doesn’t preach the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, if his message doesn’t tally with the word of God.
Alan Carr: analogy of wolves:
1. Pack Animals – They rarely work alone, but feel safer, and can do far more damage when operating in numbers.
2. Typically Operate In The Dark – These beasts are terribly afraid of the light as it exposes their errors.
3. They Attack The Young, The Weak And The Sickly – The wolves typically go after those who cannot easily defend themselves against their attacks.
4. They Never Attack Face To Face – They always attack from the blind side. When you let your guard down, that is the moment when the enemies of the church will attack.
2. (:30) Attacking from the Inside
“and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.”
“Perverse things” – distorted, corrupted; things that mislead
To lure away
Deffinbaugh: I think that the first step in the fall from a shepherd to a wolf is that one ceases to think and act like a servant and begins to expect to be served. The “good shepherd” (not our Lord, but the faithful shepherd or elder) is one who gives of his life, who sacrifices personally for the benefit of the sheep. The “wolf” becomes willing to sacrifice the sheep so that he may benefit. He expects to gain from the sheep, even at the expense of the sheep. He may first become a mere “hireling,” looking out for himself and not really caring for the sheep. When there is danger or demands, he is not present to care for the sheep. But eventually he becomes the wolf, who actually devours the sheep.
Matthew Henry: Probably Paul has an eye to those of the circumcision, who preached up the ceremonial law; these he calls grievous wolves, for though they came in sheep’s clothing, nay, in shepherds’ clothing, they made mischief in the congregations of Christians, sowed discord among them, drew away many from the pure gospel of Christ, and did all they could to blemish and defame those that adhered to it; not sparing the most valuable members of the flock, stirring up those whom they could influence to bite and devour them (Gal. 5:15); therefore they are called dogs (Phil. 3:2), as here wolves. While Paul was at Ephesus, they kept away, for they durst not face him; but, when he was gone, then they entered in among them, and sowed their tares where he had sown the good seed.
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2 Cor. 2:17 Message – Marks of Genuine Ministers of the Gospel
How can you tell whether someone is a genuine gospel preacher? There are many hucksters and shysters in the religious arena who are out for personal gain and exploiting others for their own advantage. The Apostle Paul came under great attack by some false teachers at Corinth. He pointed to these evident marks of the validity and sufficiency of his gospel ministry:
1) Genuine Ministers of the Gospel are in the Minority — “we are not like many”
2) Genuine Ministers of the Gospel offer the unadulterated truth of God’s Word without charge — they are not hucksters, “peddling the Word of God”
3) Genuine Ministers of the Gospel are Marked by Integrity — “but as from sincerity”
4) Genuine Ministers of the Gospel are Sent by God — “as from God”
5) Genuine Ministers of the Gospel Speak with the Power and Authority and Mind of Christ — “we speak in Christ”
6) Genuine Ministers of the Gospel Stand Accountable to God — “in the sight of God“
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C. (:31) Guard Against False Teachers Because of the Apostolic Shepherding Model –
“Therefore be on the alert, remembering that night and day for a period of three years I did not cease to admonish each one with tears.”
Paul had personally invested a lot into the spiritual development of the believers at Ephesus; he had laid a good, solid foundation – concerned that the leaders coming after him would not follow through and do the hard work necessary to protect the flock; don’t get careless; don’t get sloppy; don’t be neglectful – be on the alert
Wiersbe: danger of failing to stay alert and forgetting the price that others have paid so that we might have God’s truth.
“admonish” — Word from which we get nouthetic counseling – admonish, correct, instruct
nouthetic counseling consists of lovingly confronting people out of deep concern in order to help them make those changes that God requires.
“with tears” – Paul was emotionally engaged with the flock; not some type of detached download of information; he was concerned for their struggles against sin; for the hardship of the trials they faced; for the family troubles that arose; for the threat of persecution; he did not want them to fall away from the faith
D. (:32) Guard Against False Teachers Because of God’s Powerful Resources –
Sanctifying Grace (there is the hope of being successful in the task)
“And now I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all those who are sanctified.”
Psalm 31:5 “Into your hand I commit my spirit; you have ransomed me, O Lord, God of truth.”
Luke 23:46 – Christ quoted this psalm
2 Tim. 1:12 – “I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day”
1 Pet. 1:23
John 17:17 “Sanctify them in the truth; Your word is truth.”
Ephes. 1:11-14 Holy Spirit is the guarantee of the full inheritance
Col. 1:12 “giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in Light”
Matthew Henry: He commends them to the word of God’s grace, not only as the foundation of their hope and the fountain of their joy, but as the rule of their walking
F. B. Hole: God, and God alone, is the resource of His people. But then He has given His Word, which reveals Himself.
Piper: What is this inheritance? Well, the inheritance Paul sometimes talks about is the kingdom of God. Twice in 1 Corinthians (6:9,10) and once in Galatians (5:21) he says that people who go on living in sin and unbelief will not inherit the kingdom of God. It’s the inheritance Jesus talked about when the rich young ruler came and asked him, “What must I do to inherit eternal life?” (Luke 18:18,25,26; cf. Tit. 3:7). It’s what Jesus meant when he said, “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth” (Matt. 5:5).
The inheritance is salvation, the kingdom of God, the new heavens and new earth, eternal life — “the riches of the glory of God” (Eph. 1:18; Rom. 8:17). . .
We’ll see from the context in a moment what sanctified means in very practical terms. In short, it means that your heart is changed so that you love the holy God and his revealed will for your life, and that you hate sin, especially in your own life.
So when Paul leaves Miletus and commits the elders into the care of God and his word, he is not committing them to something passive. The word of God is active and powerful. Paul says that the word of grace is a builder. It builds a useful structure out of a life of ruins. It builds design out of a life of confusion. It builds security out of fear and anxiety. It builds strength out of weakness. It builds permanence and stability out of wavering uncertainty. It builds beauty out of ugliness. The word of God’s grace is a master builder. And it’s called a word of grace because it always builds with lousy raw materials in our lives.
CONCLUSION PART 2:
At sporting events on TV (like NHL ice hockey games), I like to hear the stirring anthem of our neighbor to the north, Canada – some large chested man belts out the lyrics in a majestic tone:
“O Canada, we stand on guard for thee”
What a privilege and what a responsibility to be tasked with standing on guard for the flock of Jesus Christ which He purchased with His own blood.
– Stewardship Responsibility – divinely commissioned to guard the flock
– Sneak Attacks of the wolves – danger abounds
– Shepherding Model of Apostle Paul – don’t let the toil of those who went before us be in vain
– Sanctifying Grace as our key resource – Divine presence and divine resources will prove sufficient for the task as we persevere to the end and gain our inheritance
Richard Baxter – The Reformed Pastor (1656) – Oh then, let us hear these arguments of Christ, whenever we feel ourselves grow dull and careless: “Did I die for them, and wilt not thou look after them? Were they worth my blood and are they not worth thy labour? Did I come down from heaven to seek and to save that which was lost; and wilt thou not go to the next door or street or village to seek them? How small is thy labour and condescension as to mine? I debased myself to his, but it is thy honour to be so employed. Have I done and suffered so much for their salvation; and was I willing to make thee a co-worker with me, and wilt thou refuse that little that lieth upon thy hands?”