In Acts 20:29-31, Paul gave the following warning to the Ephesian elders,
“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them.”
One of the primary functions of a shepherd is to protect the flock from wolves. Too many elderships are taking a lax attitude toward the use of false teachers. Many do not properly investigate what a man believes and teaches before bringing him in among the local flock. Some, even after learning of the false views of the invited speaker, refuse to take action. It appears they would rather lose face with the Lord than with the local congregation.
In an attempt to justify the use of a false teacher, elderships give the false teacher explicit instructions not to address the subject wherein he holds a false view. This is what one might call “muzzling the wolf.” Rather than cancel the wolf’s invitation to enter in among the flock, they “muzzle” him, hoping his presence will not damage those over whom they have oversight. Thus, they not only bring in a wolf among the flock, but attempt to disguise him as a sheep! Such a practice is not only unwise, but also unscriptural! Jesus said, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matt 7:15). Jesus gave his life for the church (Acts 20:28); do elderships really believe it is acceptable to invite in those who would do harm to the body?
In a recent conversation with a preacher-friend of mine, the following scenario was given with regard to a situation with an eldership in another state who had unknowingly invited a false teacher to preach in a gospel meeting:
A man who was related to one of the local members was invited to preach in a gospel meeting (this invitation was given before my friend accepted the local work). When an area preacher heard of the invitation, he sent my friend a sermon tape of the invited speaker addressing the topic of divorce and remarriage. According to my friend, the man took every view except the one view taught by the Bible in Matthew 19:9. When the local elders heard the tape, they discussed their options on how to handle the situation. One suggested that in order to keep peace, the false teacher would be instructed not to address the topic of divorce and remarriage during the meeting. The preacher objected on the following grounds:
- What if others attend the meeting or hear the tapes and are led to believe the man is not a false teacher, and the false teacher is later invited to preach for them and teaches error among our sister congregations?
- What if the false teacher gains the confidence of some of the local members who later seek out his guidance on the topic of divorce and remarriage and are taught error?
- What about our responsibility to refrain from inviting a false teacher among us and bidding him godspeed, lest we become a partaker of his evil deeds (2 John 9-11)?
- What about our responsibility to reprove and expose the unfruitful works of darkness, as opposed to the practice of inviting a false teacher to speak (Ephesians 5:11)?
When the eldership was presented with the facts, and because they had a great desire to do as the Bible commands, the false teacher’s invitation was rescinded.
The Lord’s church needs more elderships who will accept the responsibilities of shepherding and dutifully carry them out, heeding the words of the great hymn,
“Rise up O men of God! Have done with lesser things;
Give heart and mind and soul and strength to serve the Kings of kings.
Rise up O men of God! The Church for you doth wait;
Her strength unequal to her task, rise up and make her great!”