I. PAUL'S GREAT CONCERN FOR THE CHURCH.
A. The wolves who will come in after he is gone.
1. Jesus warned His disciples about the false prophets who would be wolves in sheep's clothing.
2. One of the great banes of the church has been the false prophets who prey upon the unsuspecting saints.
3. They are wolves and they look upon the lambs as something to be devoured.
B. False lying prophets are inspired by Satan and have existed from the beginning.
1. It began with Satan's lies to Eve in the garden. The denying of God's word and the false promise to be like God.
2. A false prophet often comes in the guise of an angel of light. Paul wrote:
For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.
3. Satan's goal is to destroy you. He is no friend, if you give yourself over to him, you are on the path to destruction.
II. HOW CAN YOU TELL A FALSE PROPHET?
A. Not by his looks, for he looks like a sheep.
B. Not always by his words, for he uses feigned words (plastos).
1. Something that looks genuine but is not. He had a plastic smile.
2. You might say that the fruit in the fruit bowl is just plastic. It has been molded to look real, but it is really fake.
C. Peter tells us how. They seek to make merchandise of you.
But there were false prophets also among the people, even as there shall be false teachers among you, who privately shall bring in damnable heresies, even denying the Lord that bought them, and bring upon themselves swift destruction. Many shall follow their pernicious ways; They shall speak evil of the way of truth and lure many to follow them. They will make up false stories to make merchandise of you. (Let me interject at this point, anyone who hints or suggests that by your giving to their enterprise that a loved one can be saved or healed, or that you can miraculously have the money come back to you 60 or 100 fold are the kind of false prophets that Peter is warning against.) Their judgment is long overdue but their damnation shall arise. For if God spared not the angels that sinned, but cast [them] down to hell, and delivered them into chains of darkness, to be reserved unto judgment; And spared not the old
world, but saved Noah the eighth [person], a preacher of righteousness, bringing in the flood upon the world of the ungodly; And turning the cities of Sodom and Gomorrha into ashes condemned them with an overthrow, making [them] an example to those that live ungodly lives; And delivered just Lot, who was vexed with the filthy lifestyles of the wicked: (For that righteous man dwelling among them, as he saw and heard their ungodly activities his righteous soul was vexed day after day. The Lord knows how to deliver the godly out of temptations, and to reserve the unjust unto the day of judgment to be punished: But chiefly them that walk after the flesh in the lust of uncleanness, and despise government. They are presumptuous, self-willed. They are not afraid to speak evil of dignities. Whereas angels, which are greater in power and might, bring not railing accusation against them before the Lord. But these, as natural brute beasts, made to be taken and destroyed, speak evil of the things that they do
not understand; they shall utterly perish in their own corruption; And shall receive the reward of unrighteousness, for they count it pleasure to riot in the day time. They are spots and blemishes, as they sport themselves in their own deceitful ways while they feast with you; Their eyes full of adultery, and they cannot cease from sin; as they beguile unstable souls: they have filled their hearts with covetous practices; They are cursed children who have forsaken the right way, and are gone astray, following the way of Balaam, who loved the wages of unrighteousness even though he was rebuked for his iniquity: the donkey speaking with man's voice forbade the madness of the prophet. These are wells without water, clouds that are carried with a tempest; to whom the mist of darkness is reserved for ever. For when they speak great swelling words of vanity, they arouse the lusts of the flesh, through wantonness, those that had escaped from them who live in error. While they promise them liberty, they
themselves are the servants of corruption: for of whom a man is overcome, of the same is he brought in bondage. For if after they have escaped the pollutions of the world through the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, they are again entangled therein, and overcome, the latter end is worse with them than the beginning. For it had been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than, after they have known it, to turn from the holy commandment that was delivered unto them. But it is happened unto them according to the true proverb, The dog has turned to his own vomit again; and the pig that was washed to her wallowing in the mire.
D. In verse 33, Paul speaking of himself said:
I have coveted no man's silver, or gold, or apparel. Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. I have showed you all things, how that so laboring you ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.
E. Writing to the Philippians he said:
Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark how the false prophets walk so that you have us as an example. (For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, [that they are] the enemies of the cross of Christ: Whose end [is] destruction, whose God [is their] belly, and who glory in things for which they should be ashamed, who mind earthly things.
1. That is, they live in million-dollar homes, complete with wine cellars, fly around the country in their personal jets, ride in chauffer driven limos and tell you "Precious little partners, how desperately God needs your money."
III. PAUL WAS THE LEADER THAT GOD USED TO BUILD A STRONG WORK IN EPHESUS.
A. As far as he knows, this is the last time that they will see him.
B. Paul realizes that there will be a power struggle after he is gone.
1. When God has built a powerful and successful work it always attracts those who are hungry for power who want to control the assets.
2. There will be those from the outside who will come and try to lure the people after themselves. They are wolves, they will try to take over the work that God has wrought.
3. There will be those from within their own body who will become involved in the power struggle, and try to draw people after themselves.
4. There have been ministers in the area who started churches nearby with the hopes of siphoning off many of the congregation as they can, as soon as I die.
5. I am going to fool them, I am going to live until the Lord comes.
IV. THEREFORE WATCH, BE ON GUARD.
A. Remember that for three years I did not stop warning everyone both night and day with tears.
1. This was a heavy burden on Paul.
2. It seemed that there were those who followed him around trying to reap the fruit from the seeds that he had planted.
3. They did not go out into the world to reach the lost, but sought to gain from his labors.
4. We often have people from other churches come to our parking lot during the services and place flyers on the windshields of the cars advertising some special program at their church.
a. Our security guards are always having to apprehend these people and order them off of the parking lot.
b. I will usually call the pastor of the church and talk to him about Christian ethics.
c. When we have special events we do not try to draw people from other churches to come, but go out to the public places and try to reach the world. We do not seek to call the righteous, but the sinners to repentance.
d. The body of Christ does not grow by shuffling people from one church to another, but by reaching the lost for Christ.