The Zoology of Church Life
The Scriptures use vivid imagery to help believers understand who they are in the church, and who others are in the church. Perhaps the most memorable are taken from the world of the ancient shepherd, who cared for the whole life of the sheep. Two animals dominated the life of a shepherd. There were all the sheep he was called to care for and then there was the predatory wolf (or wolves) he had to watch out for.
Not an animal, I know, but key to the analogy. The Shepherd is the Lord Jesus Christ, who is called the Good, the Chief and the Great Shepherd. He is the one who lovingly laid down his life for his sheep. He is the one who's voice the sheep hear and respond to.
How does he exercise his Shepherdly care today, since he is ascended and risen? His voice and hands and feet are the undershepherds (church elders) which his Holy Spirit appoints in each local church. Even those undershepherds are sheep in the ultimate sense, but they are also called to shepherd the flock.
Now to the animals.....
Sheep are all the believers, who are loved by God and bought by his precious blood, shed when he laid down his life for them. They hear the voice of Jesus and follow him.
Wolves are men who come into the church from the outside (although they can arise from within the church - indeed an elder can turn wolf according to Acts 20). The single purpose of a wolf is to treat sheep as food. A wolf comes into a flock for himself, for his own purposes, not for the good of the sheep.
Now you would have thought that a wolf would be spotted a mile off with them big teeeeeth and all - and indeed seasoned shepherds learn to spot them. But the problem with wolves is that they come disguised as sheep.
“Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." (Matthew 7:15)
These wolf-sheep come into the flock and can even impress some of the sheep because they look like nice cuddly sheep. But their deep motive and purpose and mission is to devour the sheep - which means destroy them, destroy their faith.
If a wolf looks just like a sheep, how can a shepherd or the sheep detect a wolf?
Here are four marks of a wolf:
(1) Wolves smile at sheep
This lets slip the lie. Wolves are as nice as pie to sheep. They may flatter them, give them money, and generally look as though they are really helping them. But their end purpose is to destroy them. (This is often by gathering the sheep around themselves into a little secret group and then separating them from the safety of the flock.)
Make no mistake some of the most dangerous men in the world are some of the nicest men on the planet, for Satan masquerades as an angel of light.
The sheep are taken in by them only because they don't know them. Don't know their history, don't know their lifestyle. If they knew what these men were really like, they'd run a mile. That's why wolves don't - and can't - settle in any church. Outed by one flock, they have to move to another, then another, then another, then another and then another. (I guess that's a further mark of a wolf - restless wanderers).
(2) Wolves snarl at shepherds
Wolves may well smile at sheep but they snarl at shepherds. To shepherds wolves turn nasty. Of course! The shepherds are standing in their way of dinner! Wolves may start out nice to shepherds, hoping to impress them, and even be regarded as a shepherd - lots more access to juicy sheep! Ah, but as soon as the shepherds suss them out, the wolf turns against them.
Because wolves snarl at shepherds, it is shepherds who normally detect the scent of a wolf first.
(3) Wolves scatter the flock
Because wolves have no love for the flock, they delight when they hear the flock dispersing. When wolves attack a flock their purpose is to scatter them and thus to pick on a weak sheep or a sick sheep or an injured sheep. One of the marks that a wolf has been at work in a flock is that sheep may enticed out of the safety of the fold. Said Paul, "I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock." (Acts 20:29)
(4) Wolves always go for weak sheep
A wolf won't try it on some 25 stone ram! (I met some of these mean beasts in Yorkshire and believe me you would not want to mess with an angry 25 stone ram!) A wolf won't try it on a strong Christian, say a strong elder. Instead he will find sheep with weaknesses which he can exploit - a Christian in a disordered upside down marriage, a Christian with a root of bitterness, a young naive couple, and so on.
Enough zoology for one blog.
Here's the lesson: Undershepherds and sheep must always be on their guard against wolves. Thank God that ruling over all the flocks in the world is the Great Shepherd of the sheep.
This post is taken from our Pastor Roy Summers’ blog, where he discusses and comments on a wide range of current subjects and issues both in the world and in the church.