“For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears.” — Acts 20:29-31
Watch. Paul admonishes the church, “Therefore watch.” The word in this passage is an Imperative Command (an order) and it’s in the Present Tense (continuous action). Literally it means to do something and keep it up! It may seem to be a strange way to warn someone of danger but when we see someone about to be hit or fall or slip, or come into some kind of danger, don’t we shout, “Watch out!” That’s the meaning here. Keep shouting, “Watch out,” until the danger passes or is eliminated. Other forms of the word are translated, to arouse, to arise, or to refrain from sleep by staying awake. “Shake sleep” would also be a good rendering.
What was the Apostle Paul’s concern? Obviously he believed that in the church at Ephesus, after he left, there would be those who would rise up within the body of believers “to draw away the disciples” from the pure understanding of the gospel that they had been initially taught and believed. We know that it began with Judaism in the form of legalism, attacking the finished work of Christ on the cross. It then manifested in the next two centuries in the heresy of Gnosticism, an attack on the full deity of Christ. Paul called them “savage wolves,” literally violent or fierce. But who were they?
One of the principles of Bible interpretation is to “Let Scripture interpret Scripture.” That is, look for parallel passages in the Bible that address the same subject. We see it quickly in a warning by Jesus to His disciples, where He uses almost the same language, “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves” (Matthew 7:15).
False prophets. Like wolves that in their natural habitat are “opportunists.” They test their prey, sensing any weakness or vulnerability through visual cues and even through hearing and scent. They always go after the weakest as first among their victims.
The book of Jude devotes almost all of his counsel warning against these false prophets. He calls them, “certain individuals whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you. They are ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into a license for immorality and deny Jesus Christ our only Sovereign and Lord” (Jude 4).
One thing I see that really stands out. The false prophets were within the body of Christ, embedded in the church, seeking to draw away believers at the right time to “another gospel” (Galatians 1:8-9). Today it’s the “Woke” church!
So what do we look out for dear saints, realizing that the attacks we are warned about will be quietly subtle like the wolves that seek out and slowly surround their prey until it’s too late? We are to watch and keep on watching. And the very best thing we can do while we’re watching is to read, study and memorize the Word of God, while placing ourselves under good solid teaching (Hebrews 4:12) and share the good news wherever God leads us (Romans 1:16). — Maranatha!
“God is good all the time. All the time God is good!”