Paul’s Last Words to the Ephesian Elders are About Evil Creeping into the Church

Acts 20:28-31 Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. (29) I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; (30) and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. (31) Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears.

I am thankful to a good friend for pointing these verses out to me, and the ones which follow in this post. How very different Paul’s words sound in contrast to the typical teaching that pastors and church leaders are being given today.

Whenever we have a record of someone’s “last words,” as we have here, we do well to pay close attention to them. Paul was never going to see these Ephesians again. He had limited time. He had instructed them for three years about many things, but here he distills a final warning down to this very point – Be awake and alert. Fierce wolves are coming and some of them are going to rise up from your own ranks. If you are careless, they will lead the flock away to destruction. 

To some degree, the evangelical church has fought just such a fight in the past century, particularly standing against liberal theology that denies the foundational doctrines of the gospel – the deity of Christ, His resurrection, the inspiration of the Scriptures, and so on. And yet the battle against what I suppose is best called “legalism” has not been fought well at all. Paul warned the Galatians that they had been set free by Christ and must never, ever again be subject to a yoke of slavery. And yet, what are we seeing today? The traditions of men trumping the Word of God so that large segments of the church are enslaved.

Nowhere are these man-made counterfeit “doctrines” more evident than in their approach to the very evil that Paul warns about. We are told (“commanded”) by leading Christian celebrity authors, pastors, conference leaders, movers and shakers in the counseling movement, and others things such as:

  • Anger is always sinful
  • We must be sure that our churches have a “non-judgmental” atmosphere toward everyone
  • Everyone, no matter who they are, is to be welcomed into our churches
  • Regardless of the evil committed by someone, God requires us to forgive them and that forgiveness must include reconciling relationship with them
  • All of us are sinners, all just as bad as anyone else
  • No one is beyond God’s mercy

And on and on we could go. Not one of these teachings is true. None are to be found in Scripture. In fact, what we do find in Scripture is the very opposite of these supposed “bible” truths.

Paul did not lay these things on the Ephesian elders in his “closing statement” to them. What he did tell them was to wise up about evil, to fully expect emissaries of the devil to show up, to not be surprised that some of those diabolical agents were already in position disguised as brethren, and to be ever vigilant in guarding Christ’s flock. You can bet that in those three years of instruction, Paul had described what these wicked types look like, how they operate, and what Christ commands us to do with them. THIS is what he is telling them to remember!

Did they listen? We don’t know. But something we do know – most of the elders and pastors and church leaders today are NOT listening. And as a result the majority of local churches have numbers of these savage wolves sitting in the pews if not actually standing at the pulpit! This means then that another Babylonian Captivity of Christ’s people has happened and that a new exodus is sorely needed away from this bondage. These are dark, dark times when Christ’s light is needed desperately.

Ephesians 4:11-14 And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers, (12) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (14) so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.