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. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. (Acts 20:29-30)
In a recent periodical one of our Editor-Bishops declared a Texas church of Christ to be led by ‘wolves in sheep’s clothing’. I have no doubt of the honesty of his appraisal. From his perspective, this is the truth of God that he is speaking. I do not embrace his narrow vision of God’s truth, but I do understand it. But that has me thinking about these ‘wolves’ and the labeling of these men as vicious destroyers of the church. Both the Editor and the Preacher about whom he writes are dedicated followers of Jesus Christ. Both would affirm the sovereignty of God, the reliability of the Bible, and the necessity of trusting in the blood of Christ to cleanse sin. Both would teach lost sinners to have faith, repent of sin, and be immersed in water to begin the new life. Yet one is a ‘wolf’ and one is not.
Let’s use our imagination a bit and ask some other people to identify these wolves in sheep’s clothing for us. To narrow the search, let’s contain our consideration to those in the churches of Christ. I’ll get out my handy dandy Chuches of Christ in the United States book, year 2000 edition. I think I bought the newer one but I can’t find it.
According to this book there are among ‘us’ the Mutual Edification churches of Christ. They “oppose using one preacher to present most of the sermons; generally oppose institutional support, but have Sunday schools and multiple cups in the Lord’s supper.” I would suppose that if you ask one of the ministers of this sect who the ‘wolves’ in the body of Christ are, he would say that those who employ a minister to preach for them have abandoned the faith and have allowed their itching ears to lead them into apostacy. I’m sure there are probably some more ecumenical folks in that sect, but many of them would be unbending in this necessity … that there be no paid minister. Our aforementioned editor and the preacher he writes about are wolves to some in these churches.
Another group are the Non-class churches. They “oppose having separate Bible classes and a located preacher.” If you ask one of these brothers who the ‘wolves’ are, they would likely tell you that the real wolves are the ones responsible for leading the church down the primrose path of apostasy into dividing the assembly. There is no authority for dividing the assembled church. That’s true. There isn’t.
Then there are the Non-institutional brothers. They “oppose church support of institutions and the sponsorting church concept for benevolence or missions.” I have had many communications with these brothers via the Mars List. Those who teach that we can support orphans homes via the church treasury are considered wolves by many of them.
There are the one cup (in communion) brothers. Subdivided there are the one cup fermented, one cup unfermented, one cup and one loaf, one cup and one loaf broken before distriubtion, one cup and one loaf broken by each individual participant. I don’t have to tell you how you are regarded with your multiple cups.
If we think these sects are not serious about their convictions, think again. Many of them have separated themselves from other believers, built separate buildings, and do not fellowship with the apostates who refuse to embrace their particular ideology. In fact, there are entire ‘brotherhoods’ within the galaxy of Churches of Christ of which many of us are not even aware! (The Church of Christ is not alone in this kind of knit-picking division, but I’m most familiar with my own group. The attitudes that lead to this kind of division are common among many denominations.)
That’s not even all of the groups, but the point is obvious. A ‘wolf’, as used in today’s journals, is someone who disagrees with my opinion – which I regard as THE TRUTH. Alan Highers is a flaming liberal to most of the groups listed above. He misleads people into thinking that his digressive practices are approved of God. He is, without a doubt in their mind, a wolf. In cowboy vernacular, his arguments are “all hat, no cattle”.
Wolves are not brothers who come to different conclusions of church polity. Wolves are not brothers who practice various worship styles. Wolves are not brothers who are dedicated to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Wolves are not people who boldly follow their faith into new territory. Wolves are not brothers and sisters who decide to pursue a narrow and even restrictive form of faith.
I pray that one day we will know who the true wolves are. The wolves are those that lead people away from Jesus Christ, not people who will do everything possible to reach people for Jesus Christ. Wolves undermine the deity of Christ. Wolves tear apart the church of Christ in order to maintain their own schismatic conclusions for their own gain. Wolves practice hateful speech toward Christians. Wolves use tantalizing arguments to cause deceived people to place their hope in something other than Christ.
We must be careful when calling someone a wolf. When we do, we are identifying an agent of Satan who is hellbent on destroying the faith of a Christian. To identify someone as a wolf is a serious charge. It is an edict of damnation. It should never be applied to a Christian who’s faith remains in Jesus Christ. There is much room for repentance on this issue among my brothers and sisters in Christ.
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