Act 20:28-30 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. (29) I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; (30) and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them.
The church, the true church, the real body of Christ is holy and righteous. It consists of people who are the Lord’s flock, people He knows. And a local, visible church that is a true church consists primarily of just such people, although there may be some in the pews who are not born again. Local churches in this present world – even the best of them – will not be absolutely pure. But where the Word of God is truly preached and taught and believed, where the Lord’s Table and Baptism are observed, and where church discipline (real, righteous and just discipline) is practiced, you have a true church. Sadly, in our day, such true churches seem to be getting harder and harder to find.
Whenever you have unbiblical preaching, a watered down “gospel,” an improper exercise of the sacraments (ordinances) or a sinful neglect of biblical discipline – what are you going to have? Well, I propose that what you are going to have is what we have today! More and more local churches that are full of counterfeits who honor the Lord with their lips but their hearts are far from Him.
When you read the New Testament (and the Old for that matter), think about it – how often do you read things like:
- Descriptions of evil people to watch for
- Descriptions of the tactics of evil, false shepherds or members
- Rebukes for toleration of evil in the church
- Instruction for church discipline, why? Because evil in the church must be dealt with.
- Threatenings from the Lord for a church’s refusal to put evil out or to separate from it.
Get the idea? The problem of wicked ones coming in among Christ’s people is not some rare phenomenon. It is, in fact, typical. Think of how many of the seven churches in Revelation 2-3 received no rebuke from the Lord and in several cases the rebuke was for “tolerating that woman Jezebel” or “the Nicolaitan” heretics. Evil within is not rare. It is always at the door and it would seem that it very often is receiving a warm welcome.
What then is the point? It is that we must stop buying into this nonsense that “everyone is welcome in the church.” Or, “we are to love everyone, just love them to Jesus no matter who they are.” Or, “we must not doubt that anyone who professes to be a Christian really is a Christian.” You’ve heard all of these lies before I am sure.
No, we are to have the Lord’s armor on. We are to be watchful. We are to be on guard for ourselves and for the flock. Because, well, because:
1Pe 5:8 Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.