Alexander the coppersmith did me great harm; the Lord will repay him according to his deeds. Beware of him yourself, for he strongly opposed our message. - 2Timothy 4: 14-15 (ESV)
There is a reason why God chose to use certain analogies in the Bible. They are for our benefit. They are designed to make things crystal clear for us. So there can be no ambiguity or wiggle room for the deceitful nature of our hearts. Yet despite this, our hearts always find a way. A way to obscure what God has made clear. A way to cast pious-sounding doubt and a shroud of "Christianese" over what He has said. This is the area false teachers thrive in. It is where they make their living. Rip a verse horribly out of context, mix in a "praise the Lord" here and a "can I get an amen" there and voila!
One such analogy is the pitting of wolves against sheep. God uses an analogy we can see every day in nature. The sheep are believers. They are people who have placed their faith in Jesus Christ. They are our brothers and sisters, even before those in our own family according to the direct teachings of Christ. They are our first family. They are who we ought to care about foremost. Before the lost even. What do sheep need? They need to be cared for. They need to be nurtured and fed. They need to be protected. They need to be led. In short, they need a shepherd. This is why God refers to Jesus Christ as the Great Shepherd. It is from Jesus that we take our lead and follow. It is through His Word that we are protected, fed and nurtured. In the church system He designed, preachers, pastors and teachers are supposed to be under-shepherds. They are supposed to protect us by presenting us with the uncompromised Gospel of Jesus Christ. They are supposed to follow Christ themselves to show us who we are to follow. They are responsible for our growth and maturity by proclaiming correct doctrine. That leaves us with the wolves in this analogy:
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock;and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. - Acts 20: 28-30 (ESV)
This is the Apostle Paul saying farewell to the elders at the Church of Ephesus and God makes it very clear who the wolves are that the Bible warns us so often about. They will be fierce, which according to the dictionary means they will have a ferocious aggressiveness about what they do. They will infiltrate the very church itself. They will even come from among those who professed belief. They will not spare the flock in their attempt to draw sheep away from the Great Shepherd and unto themselves by twisting correct doctrine. The Bible cannot be any clearer about the roles we have just witnessed.
So the question before us now is why? Why is it that God uses this imagery? What is the relationship between wolves and sheep? Do wolves play with sheep? Are they friends with them? Do they hang out together and sing Kumbaya? Do the wolves routinely leave the sheep alone? Show them mercy? The answer to all of these things is a resounding - NO. Wolves kill sheep. They slaughter them. They eat them. Without remorse or mercy, their sole mission is to destroy the sheep. There is no secondary agenda. There are no differences within the wolf factions. They all slaughter sheep. It is their very nature. It is what they do beloved. There are no ifs, ands, or buts about it. Wolves are not friends with sheep. Yet despite these truths, why do so many professing Christians seem to want to be friends with the wolves? Why do so many professing Christians seem to want to cozy up to the wolves and snuggle with them? You think I am being funny? Make a post on Facebook with any truthful criticism of Joel Osteen and wait a few minutes before the chorus of "judge not" reigns down upon you. Beloved, the jury is in. Joel Osteen is not only a wolf; he is one of the largest predators in the kingdom today. Perhaps we simply do not consider him in the context of the analogy God has provided. The slaughtering false teachers engage in is in denying eternal life for those who otherwise may have been genuinely seeking it. Seriously consider the following verses Jesus spoke against the false teachers of His day, the Pharisees:
"But woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. For you neither enter yourselves nor allow those who would enter to go in.Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you travel across sea and land to make a single proselyte, and when he becomes a proselyte, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves. - Matthew 23: 14-15 (ESV)
The Bible teaches us that correct doctrine saves people. Preaching a false Christ and a false Christianity does not. It shuts the door to the kingdom of God in the faces of those who are seeking it. Note here that the Pharisees operated with the same evangelical zeal we see from most false ministries today. Travelling to world to convert people but what are they converting them to? Remember the verses from Acts! Drawing disciples away from the Great Shepherd. Yet in doing so the convert becomes twice the son of hell as the false teacher. Realize that if you believe that salvation can be lost, this is one path that could lead to it. If you believe in eternal security, you still have to get to the point of actually being saved. Over 50,000 people go to Lakewood Church every week and if you suspect that any more than 15% might actually be saved then you have not been paying attention. Remember, it is the Holy Spirit that leads us into all truth and convicts us. The simple, biblical fact is this. If the majority of people who went to Osteen's church were actually saved, they would leave.
That's too harsh preacher! Is it? Beloved, Jesus is coming back very soon and there is simply no time for us to be caught playing with wolves. No time to be concerned about he who is slaughtering the sheep instead of the sheep themselves. I have been accused when taking a stand for sound doctrine of being unloving. I think my stance is the exact opposite. How is it love to protect the wolf? How is it love to defend he who slaughters my family? It is not. That is cruelty. And this is not about intent. I could care less if Joel Osteen wakes up every day intending on doing the will of God. His teaching is leading untold thousands straight to hell. But you don't know him preacher! I don't have to. I have to know his teaching and make sure it lines up with the Word of God. But my pastor does all sorts of great work in the community! So what? Is he preaching the correct doctrine that will lead people to penitent faith in Jesus Christ or not? Everything else is just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. It is not loving to hold someone's hand who is dying and lie to them that everything is going to be OK. With this as the backdrop today, let us go through some of the typical unscriptural arguments offered by the pastor worshipping crowd.
"Our job is to pray for them." Now hold onto your Bibles beloved. Our job is not to pray for wolves. Nowhere is that supported in Scripture. Just today someone offered up the verse about praying for our enemies but that is not what we are talking about. Those verses are from the Sermon on the Mount and were Jesus teaching that we cannot just pray for those we love. That we have to transcend what is easy for us to do. That said, if you want to pray for a wolf to come to penitent faith in Christ there is nothing prohibiting you from doing so. But that does not mean we are compelled to. In fact, you could be praying for them while I expose their false teachings and we both could be perfectly doing the will of the Lord. Look at the key verse today. I chose it over many others because Alexander the Coppersmith rarely gets his day in the sun as a key verse in a Christian devotional. Here we see Paul expressing that Alexander did some kind of great harm and most scholars do not believe it was personal harm to Paul as much as to the faith. This is because Alexander is mentioned elsewhere:
This charge I entrust to you, Timothy, my child, in accordance with the prophecies previously made about you, that by them you may wage the good warfare, holding faith and a good conscience. By rejecting this, some have made shipwreck of their faith, among whom are Hymenaeus and Alexander, whom I have handed over to Satan that they may learn not to blaspheme. - 1Timothy 1: 18-20 (ESV)
So it appears that Alexander once walked in the ways of Christ and professed faith. Yet he became enamored with a false teaching. In doing so he rejected the real Gospel and shipwrecked his faith. What is interesting here is the use of "blaspheme." I think we tend to overly spiritualize this word in the church today. We set the bar so high because we like our false teachers and their "little blasphemies." The definition of blaspheme is to speak irreverently about God or sacred things. So when Joel Osteen twists the Word of God to pretend that we can speak things into existence he is actually blaspheming. When Joyce Meyer preaches that Jesus spent a weekend in hell and had to be born again, she is actually blaspheming. When Brian Houston preaches that God will give you money if you tithe more he is actually blaspheming.
So what is the reaction of Paul to the blasphemy of Alexander the Coppersmith? Does he encourage everyone to pray for him? Does he put his best intercessors on the case? Does he hold a vigil for him, rend his garments, wrap himself in a prayer shawl? No. He simply says the Lord will repay him for what he did and more importantly, he warned the family. Beware of him yourself! Another common argument is the ridiculous argument that before being critical we somehow needed to appeal to the wolf in private:
"If your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault, between you and him alone. If he listens to you, you have gained your brother. But if he does not listen, take one or two others along with you, that every charge may be established by the evidence of two or three witnesses. If he refuses to listen to them, tell it to the church. And if he refuses to listen even to the church, let him be to you as a Gentile and a tax collector. - Matthew 18: 15-17 (ESV)
You do not need an advanced degree in Hermeneutics to realize the problem here. These verses have absolutely nothing to do with false teachers. This is dealing with when a brother sins against you personally. The notion that Joseph Prince would take my phone call is ludicrous to begin with, but even if he did these verses do not apply. His false hyper grace preaching is not a personal sin against me. I should also mention here we are talking about heresy, not error. Anyone can make a mistake. Anyone can have an error. Heresy is when it has been repeatedly pointed out to you and you refuse to repent of the false teaching. Hyper-grace is not an error. It is heresy. Prosperity gospel and word faith are not errors. They are heresies. Not to lose sight of the backdrop and the analogies God has outlined for us - wolves kill sheep. Heresies kill sheep. It is not loving to coddle the wolf while there are sheep dangling from his jaws.