What does the bible say about wolves dressed in sheep’s clothing? How can we spot a wolf?
Wolves among the Sheep
The church is often referred to as sheep and Jesus is the Great Shepherd. We read this analogy in John 10 where the believers are the sheepfold but Jesus has a warning for us; “he who does not enter the sheepfold by the door but climbs in by another way, that man is a thief and a robber” (John 10:1). Jesus makes it clear that He is the door, saying “I am the door of the sheep” (John 10:7) and there are plenty of thieves and robbers today entering the church but they are dressed as wolves and wolves among the sheep are a dangerous combination. Typically “The sheep hear his voice, and he calls his own sheep by name and leads them out” (John 10:3) “and the sheep follow him, for they know his voice” (John 10:4). The thief only wants to come “and steal, kill, and destroy” (John 10:10) but “The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep” (John 10:11). Jesus, our Great Shepherd, dies for His sheep but here is the problem “the hired hand [is] not a shepherd [and] does not own the sheep [and when] he sees the wolf coming [he] leaves the sheep and flees, and the wolf snatches them and scatters them” (John 10:12). Jesus says there is “one flock [and] one shepherd” (John 10:16) and Jesus is the True Shepherd, and even though I’m a pastor, I am an under-shepherd to the Great Shepherd. Today in many churches, the wolves have infiltrated the sheep and they dress like sheep and they sound like sheep, but inwardly, they are ravenous wolves and they seem to be growing in numbers, putting the sheep in ever increasing danger.
Old Testament References of Wolves
We might think that wolves have only been around in the church until recently, but this imagery of a dangerously ravenous wolf is nothing new. In the Old Testament, God inspired Ezekiel to write about the leaders of Israel as “Her officials within her are like wolves tearing their prey; they shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain” (Ezk 22:27). Wolves are never a symbol of good things because God warned about wolves coming into devour Israel who time and again fell into idolatry, even to the point of sacrificing their own children to a pagan god. God eventually sent in the Babylonians, sometimes referred to as the Chaldeans, who were “dreaded and fearsome” (Hab 1:7) whose “horses are swifter than leopards, more fierce than the evening wolves” (Hab 1:8) and “They all come for violence, all their faces forward” (Hab 1:9). The imagery of the Scriptures where wolves are mentioned could well be why Jesus and Paul referred to false prophets as wolves.
Just before Paul was about to leave the church at Ephesus he spoke to the elders and told them to “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” (Acts 20:28) saying “I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock” (Acts 20:29). Where would these deadly wolves come from? He said that they would come “from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). These wolves wouldn’t be an outside threat but the enemy would come from within…within the church itself. This explains why he said that “for three years I did not cease night or day to admonish every one with tears” (Acts 20:31). How can you recognize these wolves, sometimes referred to as false prophets? They would say things like “I got a word from God” or “God spoke to me and….” but unless it comes from Scripture or matches up with the Word of God, it is certainly not a word from God but from the leader of the wolf pack; Satan himself!
Jesus Warning about Wolves
Just like after Paul would leave Ephesus, Jesus knew what would happen after he was gone which is why in Matthew 7:15 he said “Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves.” Why did Jesus use the word “beware?” The Greek word Jesus used for beware was “prosechō” and means “be attentive too” or “to devote thought to” so obviously He was saying that you’ve got to give much thought and attention to what someone teaches or believes. These wolves will come dressed in church-garb, looking very much like sheep but inside they are nothing more than ravenous wolves. Ravenous wolves are hungry to devour…in this case sheep! Paul used the word “savage” in describing these wolves and that is a very good description of their tendencies but Jesus used the word ravenous which in the Greek usage (“harpax”) means “an extortioner” or “a robber” and why call them extortioners and robbers? Because they are only wanting to, as Paul says, “draw away the disciples after them” (Acts 20:30). Once they’ve separated the sheep from the fold, they are in greater danger than ever before of being robbed, much like wealth and prosperity preachers do, who only want to fleece the flock. Remember Ezekiel’s reference about wolves that they too want to “shed blood and kill people to make unjust gain” (Ezk 22:27).
Jesus is the Great Shepherd and we must recognize His voice which is found in the Word of God because as He said in John 10:12 “The hired hand is not the shepherd and does not own the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it.” The best way to recognize a wolf is to notice or pay attention to what he teaches for even Satan has his own ministers who appear as an angel of light but they are really preachers from hell. This should be “no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor 11:4).
Article by Jack Wellman
Jack Wellman is Pastor of the Mulvane Brethren church in Mulvane Kansas. Jack is also the Senior Writer at What Christians Want To Know whose mission is to equip, encourage, and energize Christians and to address questions about the believer’s daily walk with God and the Bible. You can follow Jack on Google Plus or check out his book Blind Chance or Intelligent Design available on Amazon.