Dances with Wolves
by John MacArthur
Any literal shepherd tasked with feeding and leading a flock of lambs would be thought deranged if he regarded wolves as potential pets to be domesticated and amalgamated into the fold. Suppose he actively sought and tried to befriend young wolves, presuming he could teach them to mingle with his sheep—insisting against all wise counsel that his experiment might succeed, and if it does, that the wolves will acquire the sheep’s gentleness and the sheep will learn beneficial things from the wolves. Such a shepherd would be worse than useless; he himself would pose an extreme danger to the flock.
Nearly as bad would be a shepherd whose vision is myopic. He has never seen a wolf clearly with his own eyes. He therefore believes the threat of wolves is grossly exaggerated. Even though his sheep keep disappearing or getting torn to shreds by something, he refuses to believe that wolves are the ones harming his flock. He declares he is tired of hearing shrill wolf warnings from others. Finally concluding that people’s “negativity” toward wolves poses a greater danger to his flock than the wolves themselves, he takes out his reed and plays a gentle tune to lull the lambs to sleep.
Then, of course, there is the “hireling, he who is not the shepherd, one who does not own the sheep” (John 10:12). He “sees the wolf coming and leaves the sheep and flees; and the wolf catches the sheep and scatters them. The hireling flees because he is a hireling and does not care about the sheep” (John 10:12–13, NKJV).
Self-seeking hirelings, myopic shepherds, and wannabe wolf tamers are all too prevalent in the church today. So are wolves in sheep’s clothing. Frankly, some of the postmodern lamb’s-wool costumes aren’t even the least bit convincing. But some pastors seem to have no hesitancy about unleashing these eager, disguised wolves among their flocks. Many are like the near sighted shepherd in my parable—convinced that warnings about the threat of wolves are potentially more dangerous than actual wolves.
That attitude exposes a cavalier disregard for the repeated warnings of Christ (Matthew 7:15-20) and His apostles (Acts 20:29-31; 2 Timothy 3:1-9; 2 Peter 2:1-3:7; 1 John 2:18-19; 4:1-3). By ignoring Jude’s exhortation to “contend earnestly for the faith” (Jude 3), many negligent shepherds have opened wide the door of the church to the dangerous influence of false teachers.
In fact Jude’s entire letter is devoted to warning his readers about the presence of apostate false teachers and the severe spiritual danger they represent. He wanted his readers to stand strong against the spiritual deceptions that threatened to wreak havoc in their fellowship. And he also wanted all who propagated such errors in the church to be exposed and expelled.
Like any true shepherd, Jude had a deep love for his readers—meaning that he was dedicated to their spiritual well-being. His appeal stressed the need to defend the truth continually and vigorously.
“The faith” Jude urges his readers to defend is not some nebulous body of religious doctrines. Rather, it constitutes the Christian faith, the faith of the gospel, God’s objective truth—basically everything that relates to “our common salvation” (Jude 3). It is what Luke wrote about in Acts 2:42, noting that the early believers “were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching” (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:1-4). In the same way, Paul admonished Timothy to protect the faith.
Retain the standard of sound words which you have heard from me, in the faith and love which are in Christ Jesus. Guard, through the Holy Spirit who dwells in us, the treasure which has been entrusted to you. (2 Timothy 1:13-14)
In life and in ministry, God’s truth is paramount (cf. Psalm 25:10; 119:160; John 8:32; 2 Corinthians 13:8; 2 Timothy 2:15). To manipulate and distort that truth, or to mix it with error, is to invite God’s eternal wrath. That’s why Paul told the Galatians, “If any man is preaching to you a gospel contrary to what you received, he is to be accursed!” (Galatians 1:9). And the apostle John told his readers:
Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds. (2 John 9-11)
Far from engaging or accommodating false teachers, the clear duty of every church leader is to guard the truth from the deadly, corrupting influence of heretics, liars, and charlatans. A godly shepherd faithfully protects the sheep; he doesn’t dance with the wolves.
(Adapted from The Jesus You Can’t Ignore and The MacArthur New Testament Commentary: 2 Peter & Jude.)
#2 Posted by
Todd Farr | Monday, March 03, 2014at
"Any literal shepherd tasked with feeding and leading a flock of lambs would be thought deranged if he regarded wolves as potential pets to be domesticated and amalgamated into the fold. Suppose he actively sought and tried to befriend young wolves, presuming he could teach them to mingle with his sheep—insisting against all wise counsel that his experiment might succeed, and if it does, that the wolves will acquire the sheep’s gentleness and the sheep will learn beneficial things from the wolves. Such a shepherd would be worse than useless; he himself would pose an extreme danger to the flock.
Nearly as bad would be a shepherd whose vision is myopic. He has never seen a wolf clearly with his own eyes. He therefore believes the threat of wolves is grossly exaggerated. Even though his sheep keep disappearing or getting torn to shreds by something, he refuses to believe that wolves are the ones harming his flock. He declares he is tired of hearing shrill wolf warnings from others. Finally concluding that people’s “negativity” toward wolves poses a greater danger to his flock than the wolves themselves, he takes out his reed and plays a gentle tune to lull the lambs to sleep."
What a beautiful picture that you have painted here. All faithful disciples will appreciate the work that you and your staff are doing.
This post brought to mind Luke 13:32, where Jesus calls Herod a fox. Although Herod was not a "wolf" in the false teacher sense per se, Jesus still knew the danger involved and desired that his disciples know as well. Mark 8:15
However, faced with the same type of danger and deception, this is the type of response you hear out of so many within the church today. "Well, that's not very loving," or "Judge not lest you be judged", or "We need to pray for the repentance and salvation of that person instead of openly criticizing them". These things have all been said to me as well as numerous other "unloving" phrases. My question is: is that how our Lord responded? The answer is no. He understood the imminent threat of danger and sought to expose it. This is exactly what the godly shepherd is called to do (2 Tim 4:2-3).
Leaders within the body and the body in general have been so frightened and intimidated by Satan doing his work in twisting God's Word, particularly verses such as Matthew 7:1. I think many of us miss John 7:24, which is the intent of Matthew 7:1. Deception has become so prominent and even accepted because we have neglected to exercise a righteous judgment.
#3 Posted by
George Canady | Monday, March 03, 2014at
Is there room for a plea of salvation for these also?
#4 Posted by
Todd Farr | Monday, March 03, 2014at
What does the Word say? Maybe you can find your answer there.
#6 Posted by
Todd Farr | Monday, March 03, 2014at
I guess, maybe a better example than our Lord naming Herod as a fox would be His series of woes pronounced on the scribes and Pharisees in Matthew 23. Wow. Where is the sweet and loving Jesus? Where is the prayer for their salvation? How heart-breaking that must have been, evidenced by his words at the conclusion of the chapter. They didn't want Him and they had no interest in caring for His sheep and therefore, they came under divine judgment.
I am not suggesting that we are not instructed to pray for the lost, or even for false teachers, as Paul held that very prayer in Romans 10:1. But Jesus did not hold back his rebuke and neither did Stephen before he was stoned (Acts 7). This is not the type of attitude typically seen towards false teachers today.
#7 Posted by
Rudi Jensen | Tuesday, March 04, 2014at
This is a very tough subject, and we all know that.
Who am I, to tell another person, that you do not love the Lord, and by not doing that, you actually hate Him. And we can see the fruit, or lack of it, in your life.
Who am I? I’m a Christian. I’m supposed to do this. It’s my nature and love and devoting to my beloved Lord Jesus Christ, that compels me and drives me.
When I read our Lords prayer in John 17, my heart is almost crushed, because the brutal reality is, that those who love their sin, have to kill Him, and me too.
So we get the confrontation, holding them accountable to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and then we act according to the clear instructions given to us by the Apostles.
#8 Posted by
Russell Aubrey | Tuesday, March 04, 2014at
I think it is abundantly clear that the Christians who get eaten by wolves bear the brunt of their own demise. How can one recognize wolves if they don't know the clear warnings presented in Scripture? So it's a two-edged sword and because they don't know, they either get eaten or cut to shreds.
There is yet another group of Christians that trouble me. I'll give one example. I have a dear, old high school friend, who is a believer and occasionally sends me mild porn via e-mail. Such messages usually contain a joke about the subject matter, and with the joke attached, I can imagine why he views them as harmless.
I recently questioned him about it, in a loving and friendly manner, and got the reply, "Not to worry, Russ, I keep all this nonsense in perspective." I wrote back and said, "Granted, I might have some understanding, comprehension and sympathy for such a remark, but, old friend, it's going nowhere - as in nowhere - if you try it on God."
His reply back was, "How sad it would be if no one had a sense of humor."
So there it is, a big, big problem. Exasperating.
#9 Posted by
Dolores Kimball | Wednesday, March 05, 2014at
After nearly 40 years attending churches, I've grown weary with pastors and elders whose concerns are limited to budgets, programs and church growth, all safe topics for elder meetings. Too many see confronting the wolves as the ultimate 'unloving' sin, simply because they can't bring themselves to man up. Most of the conflicts that rage in churches today could be eliminated by more leaders with backbones and fewer with soft, sweet words.
#10 Posted by
Nancy Moore | Thursday, March 06, 2014at
“contend earnestly for the faith” - thank you for doing so!
#11 Posted by
John Cox | Thursday, March 06, 2014at
Unfortunately, most of us are just left to Flee the "Wolves" and to find an anointed fellowship our their own. You can't trust Denominations - or even sticking with ONE church through thick and thin (Probably you never could..)
If you follow the progress of nearly every Protestant denomination since the reformation - they all follow basically the same trajectory...
They start strong.
Full of faith and working for the Glory of God.
Then, the original leadership moves on or dies... and is replaced....
and the slow slide starts....
Apostates move in for love of power, glory, and fellowship...
The leadership stops working hard on Leader Development and Outreach
Compromises are made... You see a watering down in every major area... Doctrine, hermeneutics, exegesis, service... You see the slow chipping away...
Until, finally - what's left is a massive Edifice thats spiritually dead inside... It's a hollow shell of it's former self..... No longer in existence for the Glory of God... but they are Rich in the world with Millions of dollars worth of Land and holdings, powerful Political connections, etc....
Yep... Revelation Ch. 3... Church of Sardis.... A Name that *USED* to mean something important... but no one knows (or cares) what it is anymore....
What I am seeing is that an individual congregation may sort things out - and blossom for a time... Great things happen, and God is with them... but then, the leadership changes and they begin that slow decline into Apostasy again....
#12 Posted by
William Proud | Friday, March 07, 2014at
Yes John Cox, you have hit the nail on the head.
Except the original leadership doesn't even have to have passed on anymore.
Here is the progression, or regression, however you choose to look at it. You may use John chapter 9 to see all this.
You set up a religion with a doctrine. John 9:16. This doctrine allows you to find like-minded individuals who believe the same thing. You emphasize that your religion is the only way to God and those who don't agree with you are headed for hell. This includes the Mormons, Catholics, Seventh Day Advents, Amish, Armstrongs, Jehovahs, and some lesser knowns.
You ostracize any who cross you. John 9:22. This fear of exclusion suppresses anyone who would question the hierarchy and keeps the peasants in line. It started in ancient Athens, ostrakophoria, which was designed to control society by removing those who didn't stay in the norm of societal behavior.
As the hierarchy grows and the money flows in, you hire gate keepers to keep dissidents away from the recognized master. Today we call them the security team, a few years back they were called thugs. This will probably be the reason that this thread will never see the daylight of your eyes.
You get all self righteous when anyone questions your religion, John 9:34, and you get cast out as being a heretic. You stay busy pointing out every other religion's flaws so no one looks at your own shortcomings.
Finally you get all puffed up with anyone who gets past all your barriers, and in your face telling you that you are still blind. John 9:28,29.
If none of this works, and to protect your religion and its income, you kill any and all opposers.
So here is the progression: convert, hypocrite, Pharisee.
Look familiar to your religion?
#13 Posted by
Rudi Jensen | Friday, March 07, 2014at
Jesus and the Apostles say the same. Those who do not believe the Truth, are forever lost.
#14 Posted by
Rudi Jensen | Friday, March 07, 2014at
"Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘You must be born again.’ The wind blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.”"
What you describe is Luke 11. Those without the Holy Spirit. They can produce nothing but evil.
#16 Posted by
William Proud | Monday, March 10, 2014at
I'm sure there are many who say they are born again and are not. That is why they are wolves.
John 9 is about religious people who claim to know God but don't.
#17 Posted by
Rudi Jensen | Monday, March 10, 2014at
That is why we have this debate, I guess. To point out who is a wolf, or at least give some warnings about what to look for, and why.
John MacArthur has spent 4 decades on verse by verse trough The New Testament. So I will on no way take the wind out of the magnitude of that work in the Lord.
The Wolfs are those defending living in lawlessness. Worldly, fleshly and void of The Spirit of God.
At least one should recognize the work of The Holy Spirit.
1 John 3
"See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness. You know that he appeared in order to take away sins, and in him there is no sin. No one who abides in him keeps on sinning; no one who keeps on sinning has either seen him or known him. Little children, let no one deceive you. Whoever practices righteousness is righteous, as he is righteous. Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the works of the devil. No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. By this it is evident who are the children of God, and who are the children of the devil: whoever does not practice righteousness is not of God, nor is the one who does not love his brother."