We have all heard someone say, “It’s enough to make a grown man cry,” implying that the shedding of tears is not a manly thing to do. Studies show that women cry five times a month on the average, while men cry only once a month. It’s surprising that men even admitted to that! After all, here is another saying that is supposed to be true in our culture: “Big boys don’t cry.” However, we must realize that crying under certain circumstances is nothing to be ashamed of, including both men and women, and it is not necessarily a sign of weakness. Indeed, it is part of being human and can be a very natural response.
It is said that hours before D-day was to begin, the Supreme Commander of the Allied Forces, Dwight D. Eisenhower, visited with the paratroopers of the 101st Airborne Division to bolster their morale. As he moved among the troops, his heart was heavy because he knew that a 70% casualty rate was possible. At 11:00 P.M., the general stood on the roof of the nearby headquarters and saluted each plane as they took off for France. As they soared passed him, tears filled his eyes– “I’ve done all I can,” he told them, “Now the rest is up to you.” Who would accuse Gen. Eisenhower of being a sissy or too sentimental that day? Although trained in warfare, even a soldier has the right to weep now and then.
In the Scriptures we read about another soldier, a man who was engaged in a spiritual warfare, and in his field of activity he was as great a soldier as Gen. Eisenhower was. Yes, the Apostle Paul was an old soldier of the cross, fighting “the good fight of faith” (1 Tim. 6:12), for the Lord’s cause. Considering all that Paul suffered in his life (2 Cor. 11:23-28), he was surely a “man’s man” in every sense of the term. He exhorted the Corinthians, “Watch ye, stand fast in the faith, quit you like men, be strong” (1 Cor. 16:13). Only a person who had an appreciation for real manhood would give a commandment like that!
Yet, there were some things that made Paul cry: “Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews” (Acts 20:18-19). By considering the tears of an apostle, we learn a lot about what was important to this great man of God. Let’s notice one of the things that caused him to weep.
CONCERN FOR THE CHURCH
Paul charged the elders at Ephesus to guard the flock for whom they were responsible: “Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood” (Acts 20:28). Notice they were first told to keep a watchful eye on themselves, emphasizing at least two points: (1) It takes effort for elders to constantly be aware of the needs of the congregation by keeping themselves mentally and spiritually alert, and (2) elders themselves can become the problem if they don’t remain sound in the faith.
Here is the reason for Paul’s concern: “For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock” (Acts 20:29). Since elders serve as “shepherds” over the local flock (1 Pet. 5:1-4), they are to do as Peter wrote, “Feed the flock of God which is among you, taking the oversight thereof,” realizing that they will someday receive a crown of glory from the “chief Shepherd” for their faithfulness. A shepherd, of course, takes care of the flock by feeding them and providing protection from predators who would devour them. That’s why it is no accident that Paul uses the analogy of a wolf!
Just as a wolf can strike without warning, slipping in undetected under the cover of night, Paul said that this will be true of some false teachers. Our Lord used this same analogy: “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves” (Matt. 7:15). This presents the idea that false teachers come disguised, pretending to be something that they are not, and they are often guided by impure motives. How do we recognize them for whom they are? Jesus gave the answer in Matt. 7:20, “Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” If a person is leading souls into error and causing strife in the church, you can know that a wolf is in our midst! As Tit. 1:11 puts it, their “mouths must be stopped.”
CHARACTERISTICS OF WOLVES
The following characteristics demonstrate how the wolf fits perfectly in the picture that Paul is painting for us: Wolves are very adaptable– They can live in almost any climate and are adaptable to all natural environment. Likewise, false teachers enter in among brethren and quickly become an integral part of the congregation. They know how to move in and out of the flock without being hardly noticed, they can fit in with any group regardless of doctrinal differences, and they do what they have to in order to push their agenda. Also, wolves can have many colors and various kinds of fur. Their fur can vary from gray to brown, while some are pure white on the Arctic plains or red to jet black in the sub-Arctic forests.
Since wolves have the advantage of taking on different forms, this gives them the uncanny power to infiltrate and take control at the opportune moment. So it is with the false teacher! One of the greatest advantages of “wolves” in the church is that they will lead you to think that they believe exactly what you believe, but they are spreading false doctrine privately and sowing seeds of discord. Yes, dishonest tactics are often used in order to deceive the unsuspecting, giving themselves time to gain a foothold among brethren. Sometimes the false teacher distracts people by getting them to focus on the wrong things, enabling him to do his work undetected for a period of time. Edwin Morris, one of our faithful preachers of years gone by, once approached a preacher who was becoming more and more liberal in his views.
After asking him what he believed on the topic of fellowship, the obscure answer was given, “Oh, I believe what I’ve always believed about it.” Recognizing that this was nothing more than a dodge, Bro. Morris said that he insisted on a straightforward answer from him. He had learned that everything is not always as it appears to be!
Wolves have a big appetite– With 42 teeth, including four fangs at the front of the mouth to wound, grab, and kill prey, its large stomach can eat as much as 20 pounds of food at one time. So it is with “wolves” in the church! “Not sparing the flock,” as Paul put it, their intention is not to hurt only a few, but to devour the whole church. Here is what they are really trying to accomplish: “Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). It’s significant that the word “disciple” is used because it indicates that they want to make followers of themselves. While we can only be a true disciple of Christ by continuing in His word (John 8:31), false doctrine makes us followers of men instead of followers of Jesus.
IMPORTANCE OF DOCTRINAL PURITY
Knowing that an apostasy was coming, this saddened the heart of the Apostle Paul: “Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears” (Acts 20:31). This is what made Paul weep. He shed tears out of concern for the doctrinal purity of the church. What about us?
Article by: Billy D Dickinson