Paul’s last words to the Ephesian elders, when he met with them for a farewell on the beach near Miletus, included a somber warning about inevitable false teachers. “I know that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves men will arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be on the alert” (Acts 20.29–31″ data-version=”nasb95″>Acts 20:29–31).
Those warnings are summarized in the word translated beware in Matthew 7:15).
In Palestine, wolves were the most common natural enemy of sheep. They roamed the hills and valleys, looking for a sheep that strayed away from the flock or lagged behind. When a wolf found such a sheep it quickly attacked and tore it to pieces. Even a grown, healthy sheep was utterly defenseless against a wolf.
Wolves are known for being merciless and ferocious (cf. Ezekiel 22:27; 1 Corinthians 5.10–11″ data-version=”nasb95″>1 Corinthians 5:10–11; 1 Corinthians 6.10″ data-version=”nasb95″>6:10), referring metaphorically to those who deceitfully and mercilessly ravage a person of his money and possessions. False prophets and wolves are clever and wily, and are always on the lookout for new victims.
Next time, we’ll look at what God’s Word says about identifying them.