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God's Warning To Godly Leaders

Acts 20:28-31
'Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood. I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock. Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them. So be on your guard! Remember that for three years I never stopped warning each of you night and day with tears.' (NIVUK)

Paul was giving final instructions to the Ephesian church elders. He would not return to Ephesus again (Acts 20:22-25), and his words almost sound like a military battle briefing: they are. Not a war against people, but a spiritual conflict against the devil and his evil forces (Ephesians 6:10-20). Paul's time for guiding the church was over. The elders were now responsible to keep themselves and the flock following Jesus, with the courage of shepherds in the midst of ravenous wolves.

The church is precious, because it has been bought with the precious blood of Jesus Christ (1 Peter 1:19). That is why it is the target for enemy action by Satan and his agents. The Evil One seeks to destroy the faith of people to whom the Lord has given life (John 10:10). Paul knew that his departure would leave a gap for spiritually malignant people within the church to distort the gospel. Although they had kept a low profile while Paul was watching, they were waiting to make their own disciples - pulling them away from Christ.

Paul appealed strongly to the elders not to be naïve. They may not have fully recognised his work in protecting the church; they may have been concerned about their own areas of ministry. But now they had to wake up (Ephesians 5:13-14). The danger was immediate. The challenge was urgent. They must protect the flock with the truth of God's Word, denying imposters the right to teach what is false. Paul's plea reminded them of his own frequent passionate warnings not to accept false doctrine.

The church is still under spiritual attack. More danger comes from inside the church, by believers accepting false teaching, than from external persecution. Church leaders must not be naïve. Tolerating what is against God's Word, or failing to proclaim what God says, is the route to spiritual disintegration at a personal or corporate level. Some leaders are more afraid of upsetting people, or whole families, than offending Jesus. These verses are a 'wake up' call. Church leaders are accountable for their flock (Hebrews 13:17). Failing to protect the flock from false teaching is a serious error. If you are a leader, consider these verses urgently. If you are part of a vulnerable flock, pray; and encourage your leaders to deny false teachers legitimacy, by preaching Bible truth and publicly refuting error.

Lord of the church. Thank You for providing, in the Bible, all we need to know so that we can follow Jesus faithfully. Forgive me when I have failed to protect Your church by being careless about truth or being more concerned not to upset people than to offend You. Please help me to lead faithfully according to Your truth, wherever You have placed me; and to pray for church leaders that they will be strong in the truth, refuting error and motivated by gratitude for Christ's precious blood. In His Name. Amen.
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© Dr Paul Adams