Paul the Apostle – Wayne Barber/Part 8
|By: Dr. Wayne Barber; ©1992|
|He’s on his third missionary journey. If you’ll look in the center of the map, you will see Asia. It should be easy to find. If you’ll look to the southwest of Asia, you’ll see Ephesus, which is a seaport city of Asia Minor. Then you see Miletus. That is where he is as we are looking at the Scripture in this study. It is a seaport city. Paul did not want to go back to Ephesus. He is on a time table. He is trying to get to Jerusalem for the day of Pentecost.|
Paul: The Missionary – Part 8
This is our ninth study introducing the book of Ephesians. You say, “Acts is a strange place to be if you are introducing Ephesians.” The first phrase of Ephesians 1:1 says, “Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God.” We have looked at Paul, the man, and we’ve been looking at Paul, the missionary. This is our seventh study on Paul the missionary.
He’s on his third missionary journey. If you’ll look in the center of the map, you will see Asia. It should be easy to find. If you’ll look to the southwest of Asia, you’ll see Ephesus, which is a seaport city of Asia Minor. Then you see Miletus. That is where he is as we are looking at the Scripture in this study. It is a seaport city. Paul did not want to go back to Ephesus. He is on a time table. He is trying to get to Jerusalem for the day of Pentecost. So, therefore, he calls the Ephesian elders to him at Miletus.
That is where we are, in Acts 20. In our last study, verses 17-24, we saw some things that marked the integrity of Paul’s testimony. He was genuine. We saw some things that really added to his testimony to others. What were they? Well, in the last sentence of verse 18 it says, “he said to them, ‘You yourselves know, from the first day that I set foot in Asia, how I was with you the whole time, serving the Lord.’” That term “serving the Lord” is from the word doulos, which means a bond-servant. It is in the present tense. Paul, when he was among the Ephesian elders, was consistently serving His Christ, not because he had to, but because he wanted to. That’s the mark of a genuine servant of Jesus. He doesn’t do it because he has to, but because he wants to.
Secondly, he was a contrite servant of God. By contrite, I mean broken and humble. The word “humility,” used there in verse 19, refers to an attitude that one has. Have you ever been around somebody who just seemed to do everything right, but there was something missing in their attitude? That’s what this word refers to. It wasn’t so much what they did, but how they went about it. The word is not tapeinoo, which is usually the word used for humility. That word means “in light of God, we get down as low as we can and have a proper estimation of ourselves.” The word used here is tapeinophrosune, which is the word that means “to think of yourself that way.” We live it out. It comes out in your attitude. Yes, you may do the same thing someone else does, but the way you go about it has a mark on it. You have a right relationship to go with the proper estimation of yourself. You do not want to please yourself. You want to please your Lord Jesus.
Thirdly, he was a compassionate servant of Christ. He says, “serving the Lord with all humility and with tears.” If you love the people that you are serving, you cannot fake that. It is either there or it’s not there. Paul had it. Paul said, “You know me better than anybody. You know these things were true.”
Fourthly, he was a contested servant of Christ: “serving the Lord with all humility and with tears and with trials.” He was contested by the Jewish religious system wherever he went. He mentions that. He says, “which came upon me through the plots of the Jews.” They were constantly trying to subvert him even to the point of trying to assassinate him, which changed one of his missionary journeys. Paul said, “Listen, I have had many trials.” He was a contested servant. They were always coming against him.
Then fifthly, he was a compelled servant. This is found in verses 20-24. Look particularly at verse 22. He says, “And now, behold, bound in spirit.” Actually, it should be “bound in the spirit.” The word “bound” is the word which means compelled. It’s in the passive voice, which means “I have not bound myself.” Paul was saying, “This is not man’s ministry. This is God’s ministry, and He has caused me to be compelled to do the things that I am doing.” What an integrity to the testimony of Paul.
Well, now we move a little further. Beginning in verse 25, we want to see the integrity of his burden. One of the things to watch for when you are trying to learn about the Christian walk is when you see somebody like the apostle Paul begin to glean what makes them tick. When you begin to understand his burden, it will be a blessing to your heart and to your life.
Can I make a statement? Behind every true servant of Christ is a God-driven burden to protect doctrinally those that God has entrusted to your care. Can I say that again? Behind every true servant of Christ, there is a God-driven burden to doctrinally protect those who have been entrusted to your care. Whether it’s a mother with her children or a pastor and his flock, that is God built in. It is God-driven in your hearts.
Well, Paul has called the elders to Miletus from Ephesus. He has something on his heart. He has got a heavy burden on his heart, and he begins to communicate that to these precious men who are the leaders of that church. Look at verse 25. He says, “And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will see my face no more.” There are two words for the word “know.” There is the word ginosko. God has given us varying degrees of learning skills. I use those learning skills to acquire knowledge, either through books or through experience. That’s the word ginosko. You learn it. You participate in it. You acquire knowledge.
There is another word for the word “know,” the word eido. This word is the intuitive knowledge. I don’t know why, but women seem to have this intuitive knowledge. I can ask my wife sometimes, “How do you know that?” She says, “I don’t know. I just know.” You know, ninety percent of the time, she’s right. I don’t know about that other ten percent, but ninety percent of the time, she’s right. This intuitive knowledge is kind of like that. It is something that is in one’s spirit. It’s something that God enables a person to have that he didn’t have to go and acquire. He didn’t have to read a book to get. It’s built in.
Romans 8:28 uses that word. “And we know that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose.” That’s the same word. We intuitively know it.
Well, that word is used in verse 25 and in verse 29. It is important that we understand what he is saying. Paul says, “I have a heavy burden on my heart. There are some things God has told me in my spirit that has caused me to call you from Ephesus to Miletus. We have got to talk.” What does he know? Two things. One is in verse 25: “And now, behold, I know that all of you, among whom I went about preaching the kingdom, will see my face no more.’” Paul, in his spirit, knows that where he is headed, he will not return. These people will never see him again. How does he know it? He just knows it in his spirit.
If you will go back to verses 22 and 23, you will see what we are saying here. It says in verse 22, “And now, behold, bound in spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem [Now watch], not knowing what will happen to me there.” That doesn’t mean he doesn’t know anything about what will happen, but intuitively, spiritually, God has not given him the whole picture. The word for “not” there is a relative word. Paul was saying, “I don’t know everything, but I know some things.”
Look at the next verse, verse 23, “except that the Holy Spirit solemnly testifies to me in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions await me.” Paul says, “Listen guys. I’ve got a heavy burden on my heart. There are two things that the Spirit has told me. One is, I am leaving, and you will never see me again. But not only that, I have a burden on my heart that what is coming down the road won’t be good.”
Look in verse 29 again. He uses the word “know” at that point. He says in verse 29, “I know that after my departure, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.” Now we are getting down now to the reason he calls these elders to Miletus. He says, “Guys, in my spirit, I know it. They are waiting for me to move out. They are going to move in on the flock. I had to bring you here. I had to caution you and warn you and instruct you, because in my spirit I know I am not going to return. I know that. I know in my spirit, as soon as I am gone, the false teachers are going to move in. I’m concerned about the integrity and the lives of the people of the flock of God.” This is the biggest burden that Paul has.
You say, “Now, Wayne, it really wasn’t that way. He wanted to be with his friends before he went into the trials that came.” No. Remember verse 24. “But I do not consider my life of any account as dear to myself, in order that I may finish my course, and the ministry which I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify solemnly of the gospel of the grace of God.’” In other words, Paul said, “I am not thinking of myself. Man, I want to get on with it. I want to see the course of my life completed. I want the finishing of that course to testify to the gospel of God’s grace. I am not concerned about myself. I didn’t bring you from Ephesus to Miletus to give a pity party for me. I brought you here because I am burdened for the flock and I am burdened for you. I want them to be protected doctrinally in the days ahead. False teachers are coming your way.”
So, in that burden, I want us to see three things about the integrity of Paul’s burden. Perhaps we can glean from it. You know, we are not the apostle Paul. I am not the apostle Paul. You are not me, and I am not you. But, you know, in all of those God has entrusted to our care, we are God-driven to make sure they are protected doctrinally so they can stay on the course God has put them on.
There are three things about the integrity of Paul’s burden. First of all, we see in verses 26-27 that he was not burdened for those who resisted the word of God. Now be careful to understand this. Look in verse 26: “Therefore I testify to you this day, that I am innocent of the blood of all men.” In other words, Paul was saying, “I am not guilty of their blood guiltiness, if they stand before God one day. I have done everything God has called me to do. I am not guilty of their blood. When they stand before God, they will have to answer for themselves.”
Now, let me show you how that works itself out. The word “innocent” in verse 26 is the word that is a familiar word if you know anything about the Greek language. It is the word katharos. It is the word that is sometimes translated “clear,” sometimes it is translated “clean,” sometimes it is translated “pure.” It means that in the sense of being washed. It is also a word that means innocent. In other words, Paul was saying, “I am not guilty of anything. I am washed from that guilt. There is no stain of guilt upon me whatsoever.”
In order to understand what he is talking about a little better, look back in Acts 18:6. This is really the key to understanding what Paul is talking about. Actually, if we will move back to verse 5, we’ll catch the whole thought. Look what he says. “But when Silas and Timothy came down from Macedonia, Paul began devoting himself completely to the word, solemnly testifying to the Jews that Jesus was the Christ.” He would go into the synagogue and the Jews would gather around. He would take the gospel of Christ. He was clear and correct as he preached with conviction all that God had told him to preach.
Look at verse 6. “And when they resisted [that’s the key!] and blasphemed, he shook out his garments and said to them, ‘Your blood be upon your own heads! I am clean. From now on I shall go to the Gentiles.’” The word “clean” is the same word we are looking at in chapter 20 but translated “innocent.” In other words, Paul says, “I have preached to you what God told me to preach to you. I am not guilty anymore. If you resist and you blaspheme God, that is your problem. God will not hold me guilty, He will hold you guilty. I am innocent of the blood of all men.”
Paul is saying, “I am called out. I am an apostle by the will of God. I am doing what God has called me to do and gifted me to do. I have done it. Therefore, since I have done it, I am not guilty of their blood.” In other words, they will stand before God on their own.
Well, he is saying the same thing, I believe, right here in the city of Miletus. He is saying, “When I was in Ephesus with you, I preached the Word of God.” Look at verse 27. He says, “For I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.”
Have you ever been on a sailboat? I haven’t. I haven’t had the nerve to do that quite yet. I have always wondered about it. I know you get down with the wind. I have always wondered, how do you get back? Nobody has properly explained that to me yet. When you take a sail down, you bring the nets down, that’s the word that is used here for “shrink.” Paul was saying, “I did not retreat. I did not fold as a sail in the wind that just all of a sudden lost its ability to sail. I didn’t do that. I stood in there. I took all the contesting of the Jews. I did exactly what God told me to do. Therefore, I am not guilty of the blood of men. I am innocent of the blood of all men.”
As a matter of fact he says in verse 27, “I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God.” Now the word “purpose” there is the word boule, which means “the counsel of God, the decisions of God.” Boy, did you see what he is saying? He is saying, “Listen, when I was among you, I did exactly what God called me to do. I didn’t preach to you man’s gospel. I preached to you God’s gospel. If you have rejected me, you didn’t reject me. You rejected Him. I am innocent of your blood. You’ll stand before God for what you have done. I am not burdened about those who resisted. I am burdened for those who have received the Word of God.”
I wonder how many of you are like me at certain times in my life. All of a sudden you begin to feel guilty because you are not burdened for those who don’t care about the Word of God. Have you ever gone through that? Somehow you think it is your responsibility. One person who has ministered to me is a man by the name of Roy Hessian. When Roy Hessian came to my house years and years ago, I remember at least three different things he told me. One morning I was talking with him, and I said, “Brother Roy, I am having trouble with some of my thoughts. I can’t seem to get victory over them. Can you help me?” Brother Roy said, “Oh, son, victory is not you overcoming sin. Victory is Jesus overcoming you in His Word.” That turned a key in my understanding. From that point on, I began to be able to walk and live like I should. I stopped dealing with sin. Oh, no. I still confess it, but I stopped focusing on sin and started focusing on the Lord Jesus and His Word. It is incredible the victory that comes.
He shared with me one day not to get into full-time conference work. He said, “I know God has burdened you for conference work. I know that God has put that on your heart.” Brother Roy said, “Don’t get out of the church. Do both together.” I said, “Why?” He said, “Wayne, you need the church. It is your school of brokenness. It is the way in which God is going to keep you fresh so that when you do your conferences, it will flow out of what is fresh and not out of that which is stale.” I have never forgotten that.
Well, he told me something else. I said, “Brother Roy, I am having trouble. I study, and I pray, and I preach. I love the Lord. I am trying to live it, but I’ve got a bunch of people in my church who just don’t want to hear. Brother Roy, they will shake my hand, walk right out and cut everybody to pieces with their tongues. They just don’t care about God’s Word. What do I do about that?”
I had already begun to weaken my sermons to make them a little more communicative and to try to make them simpler so that everybody could get into them, which was a huge mistake. Some nights I would come in from a conference, and I would preach the next day, and I had not even studied. I would come in and take somebody else’s outline. It wasn’t even mine. I would rework it with my wording, put in a bunch of illustrations and make it as simple as I could. The people loved it. They would line up to tell me how much they loved that particular sermon. I had gotten tired of preaching and digging into the Word and people not liking it. I kind of enjoyed people walking up and saying, “I liked your sermon.” I was kind of turning that way. It was more fun to do it that way. Hey, a few more jokes, a few more illustrations, everybody loves it. Nobody is convicted. Everybody leaves as ignorant as they were when they came into the service. I started trying to do that.
Do you know what Brother Roy told me? He said, “Wayne, you are making a huge mistake. Nowhere in Scripture does it tell you that you are responsible for people who will not eat. Nowhere! You are responsible for those who are hungry. You set the table and quit worrying about those who resist and blaspheme God. You are innocent, in effect, of their blood. You do what God has called you to do.”
That set me free from that day until today. I am not worried about it anymore. I’m not burdened about it anymore. You will stand before God. If you are not going to live the Word of God, I am not guilty for you. I have done what God has called me to do. I am going to keep right on, by the grace of God, doing it. My burden is not for those who resist the word. My burden is for those who have received it.
You might need to hear this. Maybe you are going around fretting over people who don’t care anyway. He didn’t say he wasn’t concerned. That is not what I am saying. Oh, you can pray for them, but friends, don’t let it caught up into your burden. The burden of a man that is a true servant of God is not for the people who reject it, but for the people that have received it.
Secondly, he was burdened for those who had responsibility for the flock of God. We begin to see it come to the surface. Why did he bring them from Ephesus to Miletus? Verse 28 says, “Be on guard for yourselves.” Notice first, he said to these elders to be on guard for themselves; “and for 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.’” Now, these men were called “elders.” Look back in verse 17: “And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called to him the elders of the church.” These elders were assigned a two-fold assignment. One, guard yourself; two, guard the flock. Do yourself first; how can you keep the flock on line if you are not on line. Secondly, guard the flock.
Now the picture that we usually think of for “guard” is a picture of a sentry with a rifle standing over or watching over a particular area. That is not the word used here. The word used here is prosecho. It is the word which in this context means “to care for or watch over.” It is also used as a nautical term for those who navigate on the waters. It means to hold a ship in the proper direction, to make sure the ship stays on course.
Now, who are these elders? Who are these people? It is mentioned in the plural. There is a plurality of elders. The church is mentioned singularly. There is one church, but there are many elders who were appointed to make sure the ship sailed in the right direction.
Well, there are three terms used in Scripture to describe the same man. One describes his office, one describes his ministry, and one describes his heart as he goes about doing the things God has told him to do. They are all found right here. The first one is kind of humorous, because the first one is in verse 17. That’s the word presbuteros. “Oh, don’t you mention that to me. That’s Presbyterian.”
I remember when we first began to introduce the concept of elders to our church. We have the elder system here. We certainly are not ashamed of it. We believe that is what God teaches. Back when we began to introduce it, some people would come to me and say, “Oh, that sounds Presbyterian to me, man. I don’t know. That’s not Baptist.” Well, now folks, the word is presbuteros. Whether the Presbyterians took their name from that word or not makes no difference.
There is another word which describes the office, and it is in verse 28. “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” What is that word “overseers”? Episkopos. “Oh, no; that’s Episcopalian. We are Baptist. Quit telling us about these words that we don’t like to hear.” The word is episkopos. It means to oversee something. As a matter of fact, if you are in the position of leadership in your family, Dads, you oversee. You do the same thing. You oversee your little flock that God has given to you. That is your responsibility to make sure that flock stays on course and the ship goes in the right direction.
Go on to the next thing that he mentions there. Right after “overseers” in verse 28, he says, “to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood.” Now that word “shepherd” is poimaino. It’s the word we get the word “pastor” from. “Do you mean to tell me the elder is the man?” That’s right. “Do you mean to tell me that overseeing is his responsibility?” That’s right. “Do you mean to tell me he is supposed to do it like a shepherd would oversee his own flock?” That’s right. He cares about his flock.
In another place it mentions all three of them in the same place. Look at 1 Peter 5. This was the biblical way of making sure the ship stayed on course. You don’t put one man in charge of it. No. The word “pastor” in the singular is found once in the New Testament. “Elders” in the plural is found 70 different times. Why? Because one man does not have it all together. Folks, I tell you, the beauty is in the plurality of those men so that they can check and balance one another. That’s what it is all about. That’s the safeguard for the flock. Well, in 1 Peter 5:1, look what he says. “Therefore, I exhort the elders [presbuteros] as your fellow elder and witness of the sufferings of Christ, and a partaker also of the glory that is to be revealed, shepherd the flock of God among you, exercising oversight [episkopos], not under compulsion, but voluntarily, according to the will of God; and not for sordid gain, but with eagerness [now, look in verse 3], nor yet as lording it over those allotted to your charge.”
Watch this. The word means and implies that the elders are there to steer the ship, but there are others on the ship beside the navigators, the ones making sure it is going straight. He says don’t overlord the flock; don’t do for the flock what the flock is designed to do. If you find a church where the staff is doing the work of the ministry, you’ve got a perverted situation. If that is going on, it is not the organism of Christ. It is an organization. It is upside down. It is not what God says in His Word it is supposed to be. God raised up certain ones, who are gifted and called. What are they to do? They are to give doctrinal guidance. They are to steer the ship. They are to equip the saints so that they can go about their ministry, biblically and find the joy that they can find. That is what a church is supposed to be. It is a body. What we have done to it in the 20th century has nothing to do with what the New Testament says. If we didn’t have the 20th century, then what would the New Testament say? You have to go back to that; it is “what does the Word of God say?”
Well, we see then that these men are elders. They oversee and they shepherd or pastor the flock that you have. Now, what is the primary difference between a deacon and an elder? That is one of the questions you always ask. “Well, we didn’t come from that kind of system. That’s just not Baptist to me.” What’s the difference in a deacon and an elder?
Well, let’s just look and see. First Timothy 3:2 shows you the major difference between the two people. It doesn’t mean one is better than the other. It only means one is different than the other, gifted in a way that the other is not. This is not supposed to be a series on elders. I just want to acquaint us with who these men are. First Timothy 3:2 says, “An overseer, then, must be above reproach, the husband of one wife [that term means a one-woman man], temperate, prudent, respectable, hospitable.” Look at the next phrase. If you have a King James Version, it says “apt to teach,” if you have a New American Standard, it says “able to teach.” What does Paul mean by that? The word for “to teach” there is the word didaktikos. It is not the word which means to teach from the pulpit necessarily. A person doesn’t have to have the pulpit preaching gift, but he has got to be able to communicate the doctrine of God’s Word to the flock. Why? Because he is responsible for keeping the ship on course.
Paul says, “Listen, I am burdened, guys. I am leaving, and I’m not going to be back. When I depart, there are going to be people in here to try to get this big ship at Ephesus off course. I am trying to help you realize you are to guard yourself. You stay on course so that you can keep the ship on course. Then it can be what God wants it to be.”
Well, verse 28 tells us it is not their flock, and it is not their congregation who elects them. “Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers.” The word “made you” there is the word tithemi. It means He put you there. He set you there. Man didn’t set you there. When it comes to deacons, the church elects them. But when it comes to the elders, the Holy Spirit sets you there. Why would the Holy Spirit bother to do that? Because the flock is not man’s, it is God’s. To shepherd the church of the Lord, or the church of God, is the rendering there.
So Paul is burdened for these elders. He is not burdened for the ones who resist the Word and blaspheme. That’s not on his heart. He is innocent of their blood. But he is burdened for the flock and for their leadership that the ship stays on course.
You know, one of the things that I have loved about being at this church is we finally moved into the elder system. We are not where we ought to be and we know that, but I tell you what, we are at least headed in the right direction. We are men, and we are fallible. We have feet of clay, but at least God has honored that in ways in which I don’t believe our church fully understands yet. There is a unity that is produced in a church that honors God that is incredible. Remember, Ephesians never says that you can produce unity. No, sir; you can’t do things that people want you to do and think that unifies. No, Ephesians does not say “produce it,” Ephesians says “preserve it” in the bond of peace.
Just from having been a pastor in other places, I have seen a uniqueness here that I have not seen in other places. We don’t have any of those shoot out at the OK corral business meetings any more. When people come with an agenda, it’s incredible the horrible bitterness and criticism it creates. There always seems to be people who don’t like this and don’t like that. Listen, we have not seen any of that now in four years. If it is here, it is at least under the umbrella of something else. We don’t ever want to think that it is not here, but at least it is not to the point that it has caused the unity to be totally broken up. God is allowed to be free to unify His people. That is the thing that has blessed me more than anything else.
Well thirdly, he was burdened about those who would ravage the people of God. Now look what he said. It is interesting the way he phrases this. Verse 29 says, “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock.”
Now, I don’t know if you are an outdoorsman, or if you like things like this, but I like stuff about wolves and especially bears. I love things about bears. I’ve been reading about them for years. When we went to Alaska, that is all I wanted to ask about. I made the mistake of buying the three books that are written by Alaskans for people like us who go up there so we will not be so ignorant as to what we are facing when you go out in the woods in Alaska. I read them on my way to Greece. That’s why I didn’t sleep on that trip. I kept looking around for bears crawling around the plane. It was an incredible book.
I also asked them about the wolves. “Are they still a problem? Are they fading out?” They said, “Oh, no, man. They are still a problem up there. Especially to people who have cattle.” Can you imagine somebody going to Alaska and trying to raise cattle with the grizzlies and the brown bears and the wolves? I mean, that would be just like throwing a banquet for them. He said, “They still have problems with these wolves.” One of the things that he told me about them was that they still travel, not singularly, but in packs.
Notice what Paul says here. He says, “There are going to be savage wolves.” He didn’t say a savage wolf, but savage wolves. They come in groups like all wolves do when they prey upon something. Now, the term “savage” caught my attention. What does that mean? Well, it can be translated savage or fierce, but it is the word barus. It is the word that means “burdensome.” When you use it as a metaphor, it means a burdensome teaching, a teaching or a doctrine that burdens somebody down.
I think there is a thought here that we need to look at. To me, these savage wolves are the legalists that Paul fought everywhere he went on all of his journeys. These were the people who would come in behind him, not to his face, oh, no. When he would depart, they would run in and take the message of grace and make it law. They would put the people back up under that awful bondage of the Law, saying if you don’t obey the Law, then you are not spiritually right with God. To me that is a savage wolf who preys upon those tender people who have been birthed in the kingdom. They have been saved out from under all of that. Now they are trying to put them back up under that bondage.
God did not do away with the Law, but He fulfilled it in Christ. When I obey Jesus in the freedom I have to obey Him, I am free from myself, and the Law is taken care of by that act of obedience. Freedom is not the right to do as I please. It is the power to do as I should. When you start putting people back up under a set of rules, look out. To me, those are those savage wolves that he is talking about.
Paul puts them in the plural again because there is more than one. In verse 29 he goes on to say they will “come in among you, not sparing the flock.” Now the word, “sparing the flock” there means they will show no tenderness at all. They will prey on each and every one of those tender ones in the flock.
How are they going to do that? Look at verse 30. He says, “from among your own selves, men will arise.” Peter says the same thing, so we know we’ve got a principle here. In other words, Paul is saying, “Those wolves are not going to be coming in from the outside. They are already there on the inside.” The word, “they will rise up” means they’ve been laying down and now they are going to stand up. That is just like a wolf. Wolves have been known to lay down for as much as two days without ever making a move until their prey gets into that right position. Then they pounce on them. Paul says, “They are right here among you right now. They are waiting on me to depart, and then they are going to step in and prey upon the flock.”
Well, what are they going to do? It says, “and from among your own selves, men will arise, speaking perverse things.” Now what does “perverse” mean? “Perverse” means “to take something and twist it.”
Do you remember back when the liberal-conservative thing was going on in our convention? I think the conservatives have pretty much surfaced now, and the convention is going to stay that way. Back in those days, it was ugly. I’ve been a conservative since I’ve known the Lord and since I have understood the Word. All of a sudden, overnight, I was called a fundamentalist. I don’t even know what that is yet. Someday someone is going to explain that to me. That was a term which was used as a snide remark because it didn’t have a real good ring to other people who had never heard it before and didn’t know what it meant. So now, the people who were simply conservative are now fundamentalists. Those who were liberal, now they became the conservatives. I don’t think they are liberal. I think they are lost. They used the term “conservative” not in the sense of doctrine, but in the sense of conserving the denomination. They began to disarm our whole flock. They began to make people sitting in the pew think that if you preached the Word as inerrant and true, you were a fundamentalist, and we don’t like the sound of that. In reality, they had taken a word that everybody thought meant one thing and just simply twisted it like a plastic word.
You know, you have to heat up plastic. When you heat it up you can do anything you want to with it. That’s what these teachers were going to do. They were going to make it sound like what they had heard, but very skillfully take it and put the people back up under bondage. That is when they speak perverse things. Sounds great. It is the quickest way to bondage.
Well, why would they do that? Verse 30 says, “to draw away the disciples after them.” There was a lot of jealousy here. They wanted those disciples to start following them instead of the doctrines that Paul had preached. So they are going to distort and use twisted words to put people back up under the Law.
Verse 31 says, “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.” In other words, Paul says, “Don’t throw away what I did among you for three solid years. Stay on the course that I set you on. You have been called and set there by the Holy Spirit to keep that church on its path and on its course.”
You know, the sad thing is, you can go to five Baptist Churches and find five different doctrines taught. Who is checking anybody anymore? It is very difficult even as far as our church has gotten, knowing that these folks are going to be among us. That is what Paul says. That is what Peter says. We know we have had people come in and join us who are not of us. They are just waiting on their opportunity to get us off track. That is why we have elders. We are trying our best. We can’t go to every Sunday School class. We can’t go to every committee meeting. We can’t. We have to do the best we know how to do and trust the Holy Spirit to lead us.
I tell you what. When that false doctrine gets in, it will pull you right back to the old performance works mentality. It will rob you of every bit of joy you ever had and the freedom of walking and trusting the Lord Jesus Christ.
You may disagree with me, but I am going to love you. We’ve got a course this ship’s on, and by the grace of God, we are going to hold on it. Years ago I preached on 1 Corinthians 12 and remember we talked about tongues and the interpretation of tongues. I came into church with a riot helmet and a bullet proof vest. I remember my daughter was sitting out in the congregation and some little girl who was visiting said, “Who is that? Who is this guy?” She said, “I don’t know.” She wouldn’t admit she was my daughter.
That particular morning I made a statement. I said, “The message this morning is going to make you sad, mad or glad. You will not be in neutral when we finish.” I said, “Some of you are going to want to fight.” That’s when I put on that big old bullet-proof vest. That thing was heavy. It was yellow. The people started laughing. I stuck that riot helmet on. I had gotten a policeman to bring that and hide it in the pulpit that morning. I put on that riot helmet, and for ten minutes it was the funniest time I have ever spent since I have been the pastor. I have never seen people laugh so hard. I think a lot of it was just the tension being released.
When I finished, I said this, “What you do in your prayer closet is between you and God. I will not interfere. I will not bother you. You can stand on your head and stack BBs for all I care. That is between you and God. I have nothing to do with it. But don’t you come into this congregation and say to somebody else, “They didn’t get it all when they got Jesus, and there is something else out here they need to have.” I said it then, and I say it now, “I will call you out by name, publicly humiliating you and mark you as a person who causes division if you start doing that in this congregation.” Now, the strange thing about it is, a lot of folks that disagreed with me are still at the church. I love that. We can agree to disagree.
If somebody is steering the ship and you are a passenger on the ship, you can’t go up and tell him how he to steer it. We’ve got people who God has set up to put this ship on a course, and we are going to keep it on that course by the grace of God. That is what elders are all about. That was the burden Paul had.