As with all scripture, these verses do not exist in a vacuum. This text comes as a middle section of a warning. Paul had in verses 24-27 declared to these Ephesian believers, that his missionary ministry is coming to a close, and that he had kept the good fight, and remained faithful to the end, declaring to them all the truth of God as it was presented to him by Christ Jesus, and as he was led by the Spirit of God. Verses 28-31 cover a section of warning to these elders in particular, and the entire body of believers as a whole. The Spirit of God has revealed to him that in the coming days there would be a long period of persecution – externally from Rome and the Jews, but also internally within the church. God would, as he did with the Israelites in Canaan once those who had seen God’s work among the people first-hand had passed away, introduce some testing among those who remain to sift them out and allow those mere hangers-on to be revealed, whereas the true believers – the elect of Christ – would maintain the truth of God and serve to the end with faith in the fear of their Creator, King, and eternal Savior.
It is with regard to these internal struggles that he is warning them – that they should be on guard for spiritual battles more than those of the mere physical variety. We can always expect to have those outside the church warring against it – laws, politicians, common atheists, etc. But those inside the church appear to be part of our own community. These are the teachers who promise what the heart desires, more than what the Spirit commands.
The heart desires:
- Acceptance in the world
- Compromise between God’s standards with the world
- No need for repentance
- Acceptance of our pet sins
The Spirit commands:
- Obedience to the commands of Christ
- Relentless faith in the promises of Christ
- Understanding of our own sin struggles and therefore embracing open forgiveness to all who sin against us
- A life lived in constant repentance to our Savior and King
v 29 – “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;”
- Wolves – These do not seek out the strongest in the flock, but the weakest, and they prey upon the lame in the flock who cannot keep up with the rest of the herd. The herd defend against this attack, but only if it knows that it is there.
- The weak among us are those who are vacillating – with feet on both the world and the Word, who have not yet been trained by persecution and struggle to trust in the promises of God implicitly.
- These are those who still ask “If God is good, then how can [something] happen”, whereas the one who is trusting in Christ knows that wickedness is in the world is a result of sin, and that no one is good before God, so the fact that God provides any earthly good, much less spiritual good, to anyone is a miracle in and of itself.
- These are those who read the Bible with a mind to make it fit with their own narrative – their own lived experience. They are not serving the God of scripture, but a god of their own making, who seeks to serve them rather than demand that they conform to the image of the true Christ of scripture.
- In order to protect yourself against these wolves, you need to learn to embrace the God of Scripture on his own terms. You need to learn to step into that hammock of faith, and allow yourself to be swung out over the edge of that canyon with nothing to support you but the strings of the hammock, the steel of the frame, and the foundations of the arm that supports it.
v 30 – “and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them.”
- Among you – the scariest part of this is that we likely already know those in our midst who will later fall into heresies. Those whom we know and today believe to be soundly saved individuals, but who will later fall into self worship. We have seen this in our own day through the collapse of leaders such as Tullian Tchividjian, Josh Harris, Francis Chan, and Mark Driscoll – people who, 10 years ago, would have been gladly accepted in any of our pulpits but today are wholly disqualified – all by their own desires and likely through multiple rounds of compromise.
- Tullian Tchividjian with his desire to serve self in his sexual sin.
- Josh Harris and his desire to be welcomed and pleasing to all people, even those who embrace sin that God clearly despises.
- Francis Chan and his desire to seek other “realms of faith” which allow him to accumulate vast amounts of wealth – a love of mammon.
- Mark Driscoll and his desire to love himself so much that he openly accepted anything that agreed with his own preconceived notions, even to the harm of the flock that God provided to him.
- We should always be careful not to look at these men and their abandonment of their roles at the altar of self and think “well, that will never happen to me”. We should always be on guard ourselves – seeking to serve God in all that we are – bathing ourselves in the Word of God, and constantly recognizing our own struggles and daily repenting to Christ our savior, humbly acknowledging our battle against worship of self until we pass through that veil of death and step into eternity.