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Wolves in the Church

First posted: November 28, 2004

 

This article deals with the wolves that Paul prophesied would enter the Church, and we will study the spiritual roots that have allowed these wolves to rule the Church for so many centuries.

 

Index

The Ephesians

The first love

"I loved you prophetically"

"I did you apostolic good"
"You've lost that giving feeling"

Foil for food

Fat wolves bring "de-spare"

Ephesus and Pentecost

 

 

 

The Ephesians

In the book of Acts, the Spirit declares that, during his third missionary voyage, Paul was determined to be in Jerusalem on the day of Pentecost, so he hasted to go by Ephesus to give them a final message:

 

"16For Paul had determined to sail by Ephesus, because he would not spend the time in Asia: for he hasted, if it were possible for him, to be at Jerusalem the day of Pentecost. 17And from Miletus he sent to Ephesus, and called the elders of the church." (Acts 20:16-17)

 

The name "Miletus" literally means "pure white fine wool". In Scripture, "wool" is associated with judgments and the mind:

 

"17Learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. 18Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool" (Isaiah 1:17-18)

[Notice how "wool" is mentioned in the context of making righteous judgments, "reasoning" (which speaks of the mind), and whiteness (which speaks of purity)]

 

"His head and his hairs were white like wool, as white as snow; and his eyes were as a flame of fire" (Revelation 1:14)

[Notice how "wool" is mentioned in the context of "head and hairs", which speaks of the thoughts (i.e.- the hairs) that are produced by our mind (inside the head). Notice also that this verse speaks of the Lord's eyes, which, as we have said before, speak of making judgments; the fact that the Lord's eyes are as a "flame of fire" speaks of how His judgments consume all unrighteousness and iniquity. The "whiteness" in this passage speaks of purity.]

 

As we have said before, "purity" in Scripture is associated with the mind, and speaks of a person whose mind is not contaminated by emotional biases or personal interests that try to skew the truth. Therefore, we can safely say that "white wool" refers to a mind that is filled with God's spiritual laws and that therefore produces righteous judgments, calling what is good "good" and what is bad "bad".

 

We can now say that, when Paul spoke to the elders of Ephesus at "Miletus", he was speaking out of a heart that places an emphasis on mental purity, on God's right-handed judgments, righteousness, and wisdom:

 

"A wise manís heart is at his right hand; but a foolís heart at his left" (Ecclesiastes 10:2)

 

Now that we understand the spiritual meaning of "Miletus", why did Paul "send for" the elders at Ephesus? To answer this, we must look at what God says about the Ephesians in the book of Revelation:

 

"1Unto the angel of the church of Ephesus write; These things saith he that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks; 2I know thy works, and thy labour, and thy patience, and how thou canst not bear them which are evil: and thou hast tried them which say they are apostles, and are not, and hast found them liars: 3And hast borne, and hast patience, and for my nameís sake hast laboured, and hast not fainted." (Revelation 2:1-3)

 

Notice the reference to the stars on the Lord's right hand in verse 1, which speaks of a heart bent on right-handed judgments and truth. The Lord's walking in the midst of the 7 golden candlesticks speaks of God walking about as an "inspector" who is verifying with His eyes whether or not we are moving in the anointing of all of His 7 Spirits (Revelation 1:4, 3:1):

 

"And I beheld, and, lo, in the midst of the throne and of the four beasts, and in the midst of the elders, stood a Lamb as it had been slain, having seven horns and seven eyes, which are the seven Spirits of God sent forth into all the earth" (Revelation 5:6)

 

"For who hath despised the day of small things? for they shall rejoice, and shall see the plummet in the hand of Zerubbabel with those seven; they are the eyes of the LORD, which run to and fro through the whole earth" (Zechariah 4:10)

[The plummet speaks of inspecting to verify rectitude, and therefore speaks of making judgments]

 

Each of the 7 Spirits of God produces certain spiritual manifestations in our lives. Most congregations around the world are not manifesting all the 7 Spirits. For the most part, most seem to manifest 2, 3, or 4 of the Spirits. They "lock out" the other Spirits because of their determination to stick to traditional doctrine in some cases, and, in other cases, because of sinful attitudes they want to preserve. God, however, declares that we cannot be complete unless we grow in all of His 7 Spirits. He will inspect each believer and determine whether or not we have allowed all 7 Spirits to operate in our lives. If the hardness of our heart has prevented any of the 7 Spirits from operating in us, we will be held accountable.

 

Notice how the reference to the Lord's right hand and to His walking about in Revelation 2:1 above speak of righteousness and judgments. In Revelation 2:2, the emphasis on justice and judgments continues when He refers to how the Ephesians could not bear those who are evil, which speaks of a zeal for righteousness. The Lord then congratulates them for "trying" (i.e.- judging) those who say they are apostles, but are not. As the old saying goes, "It takes one to know one", meaning that the church at Ephesus had a strong apostolic anointing, which enabled the Ephesians to discern who had the qualities of a true apostle and who didn't. As we have said before, the apostolic ministry has a strong "judgment nature" to it; apostles are endowed with wisdom, and that wisdom is for the making of judgments. Therefore, the strong apostolic anointing on the church at Ephesus means that the Ephesians were prone to making judgments (and God included that in the list of Ephesus' good qualities in Revelation 2:1-3).

 

The apostolic nature of Ephesus is once again emphasized by the Lord in Revelation 2:3, where He declares that the Ephesians had "borne" and had "patience". The word "patience" was translated from the Greek word hypomene, which literally means "to abide under", and speaks of someone who is able to stay under and bear a great deal of weight for a long time; it therefore speaks of an enduring person who does not easily succumb to suffering. As we have said before, apostles are called to bear suffering and death for the sake of others (2 Corinthians 4:10), meaning that the Ephesians' endurance and "laboring" are once again a manifestation of their apostolic nature.

 

All of the above, therefore, makes it fairly evident that the church at Ephesus had a strong apostolic anointing of judgments and justice. As we have mentioned before, each of the 7 churches mentioned in Revelation chapters 2 and 3 represent each of the 7 Spirits of God. Therefore, the church at Ephesus had an impartation of the Spirit of Judgments and Justice, which is one of the 7 Spirits of God. This Spirit is strong on those of you with an apostolic-calling on your lives. In a sense, we can say that an "apostle" is an "embodiment" of this Spirit of God.

 

Since Ephesus is strongly related to the apostolic ministry, it is not surprising that Paul "sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church" (Acts 20:17). Why? Because the English word "apostle" is derived from the Greek word apostolos, which literally means, "one sent". The fact that he did it from Miletus is also not surprising, since, as we saw above, "Miletus" represents a heart that is focused on mental purity, God's right-hand judgments, and wisdom.

 

The first love

After pointing out Ephesus' good qualities, the Lord declares that Ephesus had a big flaw:

 

"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love" (Revelation 2:4)

 

This is one of the most misunderstood verses in all of Scripture. Most preachers seem to think that "leaving one's first love" refers to losing the "zeal and fervor" that many believers experience in their first weeks or months after converting to Christianity. To most preachers, losing one's first love means becoming a "pew-warming" member of the congregation who does not get involved in any of the church's many groups and activities. However, accepting such an interpretation of Revelation 2:4 would mean disregarding the 3 preceding verses. As we saw in the previous section, Revelation 2:1-3 portrays the Ephesians as iniquity-intolerant believers with a zeal for righteousness and as pain-enduring believers who labored without fainting. Does that sound like an indifferent, pew-warming group of believers? Obviously not!!! Therefore, Revelation 2:4 is another example of how preachers constantly take verses out of context, interpreting them with a literal mind and manipulating them in order to advance their religious, activity-driven agendas.

 

What, then, does the "first love" of Revelation 2:4 refer to? To answer that, we must go to what the Lord says to Ephesus in verse 7:

 

"He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches; To him that overcometh will I give to eat of the tree of life, which is in the midst of the paradise of God" (Revelation 2:7)

 

The "tree of life" refers to the tree that God protected after man was kicked out of Eden:

 

"23Therefore the LORD God sent him forth from the garden of Eden, to till the ground from whence he was taken. 24So he drove out the man; and he placed at the east of the garden of Eden Cherubims, and a flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life." (Genesis 3:23-24)

 

The "sword" above refers to the logos Word of God, which, according to Hebrews 4:12, acts as a sword that judges the heart and the mind. The fact that the sword is a "flaming" sword refers to how God's judgments consume all unrighteousness and iniquity in us in order to perfect us. The sword's "turning" speaks of how the Word of God produces a process of conversion and transformation. In Scripture, the concepts of "circle", "roundness", and "wheel" are often associated with God's purifying processes that remove imperfections:

 

"But let judgment run down as waters, and righteousness as a mighty stream." (Amos 5:24)

[The phrase "run down" was translated from the Hebrew word galal, which literally means "to roll", which speaks of a circular motion.]

 

"7And their children, whom he raised up in their stead, them Joshua circumcised: for they were uncircumcised, because they had not circumcised them by the way. 8And it came to pass, when they had done circumcising all the people, that they abode in their places in the camp, till they were whole. 9And the LORD said unto Joshua, This day have I rolled away the reproach of Egypt from off you. Wherefore the name of the place is called Gilgal unto this day." (Joshua 5:7-9)

[The phrase "rolled away" in verse 9 was also translated from the Hebrew word galal mentioned above. The name "Gilgal" is derived from this word.]

 

"27For the fitches are not threshed with a threshing instrument, neither is a cart wheel turned about upon the cummin; but the fitches are beaten out with a staff, and the cummin with a rod. 28Bread corn is bruised; because he will not ever be threshing it, nor break it with the wheel of his cart, nor bruise it with his horsemen. 29This also cometh forth from the LORD of hosts, which is wonderful in counsel, and excellent in working." (Isaiah 28:27-29)

[Notice how the "cart wheel" is associated with the process that wheat must go through in order to be transformed into bread. The word "cart" was translated from the Hebrew word agalah, which is related to the word galal mentioned above.]

 

Therefore, Genesis 3:23-24 declares that the only access to the "tree of life" is through God's consuming sword of transforming judgments. Exposing ourselves to His judgments means dying (since swords kill) as we are exposed to His truth. Truth and judgment are inextricably intertwined:

 

"Before the LORD: for he cometh, for he cometh to judge the earth: he shall judge the world with righteousness, and the people with his truth." (Psalm 96:13)

 

"And thou shalt swear, The LORD liveth, in truth, in judgment, and in righteousness; and the nations shall bless themselves in him, and in him shall they glory" (Jeremiah 4:2)

[Notice how this passage says that the life of God is in truth, judgment, and righteousness.]

 

"But we are sure that the judgment of God is according to truth against them which commit such things" (Romans 2:2)

 

Therefore, when Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life" (John 14:6), He was declaring that the only way to reach the life of God is by dying in His truth. We are placed on the "way" (or "road") when we give our hearts to Christ and are born again (Acts 9:2, 19:9,23). We are then called to have our minds regenerated as we go through God's flaming sword of truth in order to reach our final destination, where our emotions will find their fulfillment: the tree of life.

 

God's judgments always cause death, but their purpose is not death, but life. God judges us to transform us into His likeness so that we may eventually be able to be One with Him for eternity, and that is eternal life. God has called us believers to judge one another, not for the purpose of destroying each other, but for the purpose of building each other up:

 

"He that spareth his rod hateth his son: but he that loveth him chasteneth him betimes" (Proverbs 13:24)

 

"For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips" (Proverbs 8:7)

 

"14That we henceforth be no more children, tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the sleight of men, and cunning craftiness, whereby they lie in wait to deceive; 15But speaking the truth in love, may grow up into him in all things, which is the head, even Christ: 16From whom the whole body fitly joined together and compacted by that which every joint supplieth, according to the effectual working in the measure of every part, maketh increase of the body unto the edifying of itself in love." (Ephesians 4:14-16)

 

As we said above, truth is inextricably intertwined with judgment, so the speaking of truth implies a willingness to make judgments. Even though judgment-hating Canaanites might disagree, the passages quoted above declare that those who refuse to judge their fellow man are hating him instead of loving him, because they are sparing him from short-term pain at the price of long-term life.

 

As we make judgments, however, we may at times forget God's true purpose for those judgments. Legalistic believers are those who make judgments for the sake of judging, not for the sake of producing life. In other words, legalistic believers simply "kill" (i.e.- judge) for the sake of "killing", without expecting a resurrection after the death they have caused. This is what happened to the Ephesians. They began to judge for the simple sake of judging, and forgot about their first love. They forgot to "speak the truth in love" (Ephesians 4:15), and were not judging in order to produce spiritual growth in others. Even though the execution of spiritual judgments may produce gruesome death, it must be done with a heart that visualizes the life that will come after that death:

 

"24Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit. 25He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal." (John 12:24-25)

[Judgment death produces transformation. The grain of wheat cannot be transformed into a multiplied harvest of life unless it dies first.]

 

Why does God call it "first love"? Because "first-ness" is associated in Scripture with the begetting of sons unto God:

 

"For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren." (Romans 8:29)

 

"4These are they which were not defiled with women; for they are virgins. These are they which follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. These were redeemed from among men, being the firstfruits unto God and to the Lamb. 5And in their mouth was found no guile: for they are without fault before the throne of God." (Revelation 14:4-5)

[The fact that there is no "guile" in their mouths means that they speak truth (Proverbs 8:7). The reference to them not being "defiled with women" is a spiritual reference to the spiritual menstruation in the Church produced by Canaanite believers who speak out against judgments and by Girgashite believers who promote a status quo of human traditions and earthly thinking.]

 

"13Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son: 14In whom we have redemption through his blood, even the forgiveness of sins: 15Who is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of every creature" (Colossians 1:13-15)

 

"17Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. 18Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures." (James 1:17-18)

 

Notice how James 1:18 above declares that we are begotten with "word of truth" so that we may be transformed into "first-fruits of His creatures", which is a phrase applied to the Lord Jesus in Colossians 1:15 (also quoted above).

 

The concept of a "first-born" is also associated with inheritance, since the firstborn was generally given a double portion of the father's inheritance, as opposed to the other sons, who received a "single" portion:

 

"But he shall acknowledge the son of the hated for the firstborn, by giving him a double portion of all that he hath: for he is the beginning of his strength; the right of the firstborn is his" (Deuteronomy 21:17)

 

Therefore, we can safely that the phrase "first love" that the Lord uses with the Ephesians in Revelation 2:4 means the following: The Ephesians forgot that the purpose of applying death-causing judgments on others is so that they may be transformed (through death and resurrection) and be able to possess the inheritance of eternal life:

 

"And for this cause he is the mediator of the new testament, that by means of death, for the redemption of the transgressions that were under the first testament, they which are called might receive the promise of eternal inheritance." (Hebrews 9:15)

[Some might read the passage above and say, "This verse speaks of Jesus' death so that we may receive the blessings; we don't have to die". Why, then, would Paul say in 2 Corinthians 4:10 that he bore about in the body the "dying of the Lord Jesus"? Why, then, would the author of Hebrews say in Hebrews 13:12-13 that we must join Jesus outside the gate and suffer with Him (which speaks of how He died outside the gates of Jerusalem)? Why then would the Lord Jesus say in Matthew 16:24-28 that we are to take up our cross and "follow" Him?]

 

When Jesus said, "I am the way, the truth, and the life", He was saying that the purpose of going through death at the hands of truth and judgment was in order to eat of the tree of life. Those who have the Spirit of Justice and Judgment start off with the awareness of this principle at first. If they are not careful, however, they may forget it. The Ephesians did, and this is when they "left their first love".

 

Those who truly love God will love righteousness and hate unrighteousness (1 Corinthians 13:6), because God's Nature is Righteous. As we have said before, this love for God will mean love for the God-potential in our neighbor and a willingness to pronounce spiritual judgments that will destroy anything that may be hindering that potential. However, when the other person has cast off his or her potential (because of hardness of the heart), our spiritual judgments will serve to "terminate" the other person, so to speak. Even in such a drastic case, we are still operating in love, because our judgments will be a manifestation of our love for God's Righteousness and Truth.

 

"I loved you prophetically"

When the elders of Ephesus came to Paul, he said the following to them:

 

"18And when they were come to him, he said unto them, Ye know, from the first day that I came into Asia, after what manner I have been with you at all seasons, 19Serving the Lord with all humility of mind, and with many tears, and temptations, which befell me by the lying in wait of the Jews" (Acts 20:18-19)

 

The phrase "from the first day" in verse 18 is a prophetic reference to the "first love" spoken of in the previous section. The word "seasons" in verse 18 was translated from the Greek word chronos, which literally means "time". As we have shared before, the people most "bound by time" are the Girgashites, since the Girgashite spirit is one of earthliness and temporality. Therefore, the phrase "I have been with you at all seasons" speaks of Paul's willingness to give himself in sacrificial love, even while exposing himself to the attack of Girgashite spirits.

 

The word "serving" at the beginning of verse 19 was translated from the Greek word douleuo, which is the verb form of the Greek word for "slave", doulos. Therefore, verse 19 is alluding to the prophetic ministry, since this is the ministry most related to "slavery" in Scripture (the word "servants" that appears in the following passages, except for the last one, were translated from the Hebrew word for "slave", ebed):

 

"Surely the Lord GOD will do nothing, but he revealeth his secret unto his servants the prophets" (Amos 3:7)

 

"And thou shalt smite the house of Ahab thy master, that I may avenge the blood of my servants the prophets, and the blood of all the servants of the LORD, at the hand of Jezebel" (2 Kings 9:7)

 

"Which thou hast commanded by thy servants the prophets, saying, The land, unto which ye go to possess it, is an unclean land with the filthiness of the people of the lands, with their abominations, which have filled it from one end to another with their uncleanness" (Ezra 9:11)

[The reference to "land" points to the Girgashite spirit of earthliness; the reference to "filthiness" and "abominations" points to Canaanite spirits of low, earthly passions.]

 

"But my words and my statutes, which I commanded my servants the prophets, did they not take hold of your fathers? and they returned and said, Like as the LORD of hosts thought to do unto us, according to our ways, and according to our doings, so hath he dealt with us" (Zechariah 1:6)

[Girgashites prefer to follow their time-honored traditions than to hear the Spirit's prophetic voice]

 

"But in the days of the voice of the seventh angel, when he shall begin to sound, the mystery of God should be finished, as he hath declared to his servants the prophets" (Revelation 10:7)

[The word "servants" was translated from the Greek word for "slave", doulos, mentioned above]

 

When one studies the famous chapter on "love", 1 Corinthians chapter 13, it becomes evident that true love can be summarized in the phrase "giving of oneself for the sake of others", which is another way of saying "sacrifice". As we have said before, prophets are the most "naturally" gifted with the ability to give themselves in sacrifice for others. Therefore, we can say that, when Paul "served the Lord" while he was with the Ephesians, he was "loving them prophetically", i.e.- loving them in prophetic sacrifice.

 

"I did you apostolic good"

Paul added the following as he spoke to the Ephesian elders:

 

" 20And how I kept back nothing that was profitable unto you, but have shewed you, and have taught you publickly, and from house to house, 21Testifying both to the Jews, and also to the Greeks, repentance toward God, and faith toward our Lord Jesus Christ." (Acts 20:20-21)

 

The phrase "kept back" in verse 20 was translated from the Greek word hypostello, which is similar to the word apostello from which the word "apostle" is derived. The word hypostello literally means "to place under" while apostello literally means "to place forth". Apostles are supposed to "apostello" judgments; in other words, they are called to "place" God's judgments in front of others in order to confront them. On the other hand, if a person wants to avoid any type of spiritual or literal confrontation, he or she will "hypostello" God's judgments; in other words, he or she will "place" those judgments "under" the rug and pretend like they are not there. Therefore, when Paul says that he "kept nothing back", he is saying that he always declared God's judgments to the Ephesians, without hiding them under the rug.

 

The word "profitable" was translated from the Greek word sumphero, which literally means "to carry with"; its translation as "profitable" comes from the idea that something profitable "carries benefits" with it. This word also appears in the following passage, translated as "profit" (v10):

 

"9Furthermore we have had fathers of our flesh which corrected us, and we gave them reverence: shall we not much rather be in subjection unto the Father of spirits, and live? 10For they verily for a few days chastened us after their own pleasure; but he for our profit, that we might be partakers of his holiness. 11Now no chastening for the present seemeth to be joyous, but grievous: nevertheless afterward it yieldeth the peaceable fruit of righteousness unto them which are exercised thereby." (Hebrews 12:9-11)

 

Therefore, we can say that the phrase "keeping back nothing profitable" in Acts 20:20 means that Paul never hesitated to speak judgment word, because he understood that, even though God's judgments may produce short-term suffering, they also produce eternal benefits. Paul kept doing "apostolic good" to the Ephesians, even if it meant winning the hatred of those with "Canaanite" tendencies. In short, brother Paul was no "pander bear"!

 

"You've lost that giving feeling"

In the two sections above, we saw how Paul did two things: he loved the Ephesians prophetically and he did apostolic good to them. In a previous article on Luke 6:38 , we shared on how these two qualities are "symptomatic" of a "spiritual giver". Paul's giving is also evident in the other words that he spoke to the Ephesians:

 

"33I have coveted no manís silver, or gold, or apparel. 34Yea, ye yourselves know, that these hands have ministered unto my necessities, and to them that were with me. 35I have shewed you all things, how that so labouring ye ought to support the weak, and to remember the words of the Lord Jesus, how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive." (Acts 20:33-35)

 

Notice how Paul emphasizes the fact that, as a "servant of God" (Acts 20:19), he was aware of his obligation to give to his brethren, not to take from them. He never saw his ministry as an opportunity for self-aggrandizement, fortune, or cheap popularity. He never saw his fellow believers as feudal serfs who had the obligation to serve him and to enlarge his ministry. He always, always understood that it was the other way around. He was there to serve and to enlarge his brethren. He was there to raise up and strengthen the spiritual ministry of believers, not the other way around.

 

This "giving" attitude carried over into his preaching. He always emphasized that the Gospel was about us giving ourselves to God, not about God catering to our every whim and desire. Many believers go to church on Sunday to see what they can get from God. They want to hear the next sermon because they are eager to learn a new Bible passage which they can "claim" during the week in order to buy that nice new car or to go on that Hawaiian vacation they have dreamed of for so long. Instead of seeing God's Word as the means to know Him more intimately, to abide in His will, and to fulfill His purposes on Earth, they see the Bible as the means to get things from God and "to acquire wealth". These Girgashite believers even quote Deuteronomy 8:17-18 and say, "God has given me the power to get wealth; that is his covenant with me":

 

"17And thou say in thine heart, My power and the might of mine hand hath gotten me this wealth. 18But thou shalt remember the LORD thy God: for it is he that giveth thee power to get wealth, that he may establish his covenant which he sware unto thy fathers, as it is this day." (Deuteronomy 8:17-18)

 

Fools! Why don't you read the verse that follows, verse 19?

 

"And it shall be, if thou do at all forget the LORD thy God, and walk after other gods, and serve them, and worship them, I testify against you this day that ye shall surely perish." (Deuteronomy 8:19)

 

Greedy fools! Why don't you read the two prior verses, verses 15 and 16?

 

"15Who led thee through that great and terrible wilderness, wherein were fiery serpents, and scorpions, and drought, where there was no water; who brought thee forth water out of the rock of flint; 16Who fed thee in the wilderness with manna, which thy fathers knew not, that he might humble thee, and that he might prove thee, to do thee good at thy latter end;" (Deuteronomy 8:15-16)

 

God's true blessings and shalom peace come after going through His desert of judgments. God abhors covetousness (i.e.- "greed"), calling it idolatry (Colossians 3:5):

 

"17Brethren, be followers together of me, and mark them which walk so as ye have us for an ensample. 18(For many walk, of whom I have told you often, and now tell you even weeping, that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ: 19Whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, and whose glory is in their shame, who mind earthly things.)" (Philippians 3:17-19)

 

When the Spirit speaks of "enemies of the cross of Christ" in verse 18, He is not speaking of people who dislike cross necklaces! The "cross" in Scripture is symbolic of suffering and death. Therefore, the "enemies of the cross" are those who preach a Gospel that opposes any type of suffering or death and who emphasize mercy and blessings. These enemies of the cross have turned their belly into their "God" (v19) and are thereby committing spiritual idolatry. This obviously goes against Deuteronomy 8:19 quoted above.

 

When Deuteronomy 8:17-18 speaks of "getting wealth", it is speaking about something much, much greater than money. As we have already said before, believing that Deuteronomy 8:17-18 is saying that we, as Christians, are supposed to be rich millionaires is contradictory to many other passages of Scripture. If you want to take Deuteronomy 8:17-18 at a completely literal level, you must also take passages such as Revelation 2:9, Hebrews 11:37, and 2 Corinthians 6:10 literally. You can't have your cake and eat it too!

 

The Hebrew words that are translated as "getting wealth" in Deuteronomy 8:17-18 also appear in the following passage:

 

"4With thy wisdom and with thine understanding thou hast gotten thee riches, and hast gotten gold and silver into thy treasures: 5By thy great wisdom and by thy traffick hast thou increased thy riches, and thine heart is lifted up because of thy riches: 6Therefore thus saith the Lord GOD; Because thou hast set thine heart as the heart of God; 7Behold, therefore I will bring strangers upon thee, the terrible of the nations: and they shall draw their swords against the beauty of thy wisdom, and they shall defile thy brightness. 8They shall bring thee down to the pit, and thou shalt die the deaths of them that are slain in the midst of the seas. 9Wilt thou yet say before him that slayeth thee, I am God? but thou shalt be a man, and no God, in the hand of him that slayeth thee. 10Thou shalt die the deaths of the uncircumcised by the hand of strangers: for I have spoken it, saith the Lord GOD." (Ezekiel 28:4-10)

 

The word translated as "wealth" in Deuteronomy 8:17-18 and in Ezekiel 28:4 above is the Hebrew word chayil, which literally means "strength, force, army". In 99 out of the 243 times that chayil appears in the Old Testament, the King James version translates it as "army", "host", or "forces"; 50 other times, it is translated as either "man of valour" or "valiant". Therefore, we can say that the word chayil has a clear military connotation. When God declares that He has given us the power to get chayil, those who have the heart of a spiritual warrior see it as a promise that God will give us "military" power to overtake spiritual principalities and powers and conquer nations unto God; as we have studied before, the Scriptures clearly show that when God speaks of giving us "all things", He is speaking of giving us the nations of the Earth. Those who don't have the heart of a warrior and have a materially-oriented heart see in Deuteronomy 8:17-18 a mandate from God to become a millionaire, even if that contradicts other passages of Scripture. To such believers, the only thing that I can say is this:

"Go ahead, 'claim' your money! Get rich and live it up! Buy your private jet and enjoy this life as much as you can, 'cause you ain't getting nothin' after you turn to dust. You will be unable to see God's Face in Eternity. He will vomit you out of His mouth and you will not enter into eternal life, even though you will not go to hell. If all the money in the world is worth being rejected and abhorred by God forever, go ahead, fool! It's your life. God gave you that prerogative, and you have the right to use it. But don't tell God later that He did not warn you."

 

In 1965, a famous song called "You've lost that lovin' feeling" hit the charts. In the Church's case, the song should say "You've lost that givin' feeling". As the Church's message veered away from righteousness and towards blessings, the "givin' feeling" was lost. It is therefore appropriate that the duo that sang the aforementioned song was called the "Righteous Brothers".

 

Foil for food

While speaking with the righteousness- and judgment-loving Ephesians, Paul prophesied that wolves would enter the Church:

 

"29For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 30Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. 31Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. 32And now, brethren, I commend you to God, and to the word of his grace, which is able to build you up, and to give you an inheritance among all them which are sanctified." (Acts 20:29-32)

 

Verse 30 above speaks of men who speak "perverse" things. The word "perverse" was translated from the Greek word diastrepho, which literally means "to turn aside, to distort". Verse 30, therefore speaks of men who distort the Gospel to fit their soul interests, which points to the "liberal enemies" of God that Isaiah 32:6 refers to, who like to "work iniquity", i.e.- to fashion a "gospel" that appeals to the lusts of their audiences in order to win their loyalty. Interestingly enough, the word "get" in the phrase "get riches" of Deuteronomy 8:17-18 discussed in the previous section was translated from the Hebrew word asah, which literally means "to fashion", and is the same word used in the phrase "work iniquity" of Isaiah 32:6.

 

As we shared before, the "fashioners of iniquity" are "generous clowns" who adapt the Gospel to please the likings of the people. As they do this, they drain away the believers' apostolic and prophetic anointing, thereby weakening the congregation's "male-ministry" anointing. As the congregation's spiritual authority diminishes, these clowns become the dominant spiritual figures, and the congregation becomes a helpless flock of sheep that are spiritually dependent on them. This gives them full control, and these people-pleasing jesters turn into the kings of the court! This is how spiritual wolves operate! They give you temporary "food" in exchange for your spiritual authority and calling.

 

Webster's Dictionary has several definitions for the word "foil". One is "to frustrate, to thwart"; as you accept the wolves' nice food, you allow them to thwart your apostolic, prophetic, and evangelistic anointing. Another definition Webster's Dictionary gives for "foil" is "something giving prominence to another by contrast, especially to the advantage of the other"; as you take the wolves' nice food, you become the wolf's "foil". Your spiritual weakness and dependence on him serves to make him look greater and more powerful. You become part of his trophy case; your lameness becomes proof that he conquered you, and that you are now one of his sheep, not God's. This is why Acts 20:30 speaks of these wolves "drawing away disciples after them", not after God. God is a Shepherd who empowers His sheep. Man is a shepherd who uses them and profits from them:

 

"1And the word of the LORD came unto me, saying, 2Son of man, prophesy against the shepherds of Israel, prophesy, and say unto them, Thus saith the Lord GOD unto the shepherds; Woe be to the shepherds of Israel that do feed themselves! should not the shepherds feed the flocks? 3Ye eat the fat, and ye clothe you with the wool, ye kill them that are fed: but ye feed not the flock. 4The diseased have ye not strengthened, neither have ye healed that which was sick, neither have ye bound up that which was broken, neither have ye brought again that which was driven away, neither have ye sought that which was lost; but with force and with cruelty have ye ruled them. 5And they were scattered, because there is no shepherd: and they became meat to all the beasts of the field, when they were scattered. 6My sheep wandered through all the mountains, and upon every high hill: yea, my flock was scattered upon all the face of the earth, and none did search or seek after them." (Ezekiel 34:1-6)

[Notice the reference to "wool" in verse 3. Wolves preach a judgment-hating message that deprives believers of "spiritual wool", i.e.- a pure mind that executes God's judgments. They then use that "wool" to mask their own spiritual shame.]

 

When wolves offer sheep temporary food, they hide the fact that they are starving them spiritually (since they are not feeding their spiritual authority). When you take their temporal food, you allow them to foil your spirit-potential and you become a foil that gives them spiritual prominence. When you buy the wolves' clown act, you buy into their "foil for food" program.

 

Fat wolves bring "de-spare"

In Acts 20:29, Paul describes these wolves as "grievous". This word was translated from the Greek word barus, which literally means "heavy". The word barus appears in the following passage (translated as "heavy"):

 

"4For they bind heavy burdens and grievous to be borne, and lay them on menís shoulders; but they themselves will not move them with one of their fingers. 5But all their works they do for to be seen of men: they make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments, 6And love the uppermost rooms at feasts, and the chief seats in the synagogues, 7And greetings in the markets, and to be called of men, Rabbi, Rabbi. 8But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. 9And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. 10Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ. 11But he that is greatest among you shall be your servant. 12And whosoever shall exalt himself shall be abased; and he that shall humble himself shall be exalted." (Matthew 23:4-12)

 

These wolves burden believers with human traditions and doctrines, and they weigh them down under the demand of an unconditional submission to human authority, not to God. They demand that believers request their permission or "covering" if they plan on carrying out any type of "religious" activity. They demand bureaucratic paperwork before considering someone for a "ministerial position", instead of spiritually discerning whether or not the anointing of God is on that person. Woe be unto these men and women who have placed a meaningless earthly burden upon God's people but who have forgotten about the spiritual things that are really important in God's eyes:

 

"23Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone. 24Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel. 25Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess." (Matthew 23:23-25)

[The word "weightier" in verse 23 was translated from the same word barus used in Acts 20:29 and Matthew 23:4]

 

Notice how the Lord mentions "law" and "judgment" in His list of "weightier matters" in verse 23. When we veer away from an "Ephesian" zeal for His laws and judgments, we expose ourselves to being deceived by these fat wolves who replace our weight of glory (2 Corinthians 4:17) with worthless earthly burdens that are of no eternal benefit (Colossians 2:23).

 

In Acts 20:29, Paul declares that these fat wolves "do not spare the flock". The word "sparing" in Acts 20:29 was translated from the Greek word pheidomai, which also appears in the following passage:

 

"Moreover I call God for a record upon my soul, that to spare you I came not as yet unto Corinth." (2 Corinthians 1:23)

 

Notice how Paul made a conscious effort not to be a burden to the Corinthians, unlike the wolves who do not spare a person who comes under their spiritual domination. Notice what Paul wrote in his first letter to the Corinthians:

 

"And when I was present with you, and wanted, I was chargeable to no man: for that which was lacking to me the brethren which came from Macedonia supplied: and in all things I have kept myself from being burdensome unto you, and so will I keep myself." (2 Corinthians 11:9)

[When one reads the two letters to the Corinthians, it becomes evident that the fat wolves were beginning to manifest themselves inside that church. Since these men were "unsparing", Paul decided not to be an economic burden to them in order to show the Corinthians that "ministers" are called to serve, not to be served. Paul, under the guidance of the Spirit, also wanted to prevent the Corinthians from boasting that they were the ones who "fed" Paul, which they would have then used to manipulate his message. Paul was unwilling to sacrifice His spiritual principles for the sake of some food. He never bought into their "foil for food" program.]

 

The word pheidomai of Acts 20:29 also appears in the following passage:

 

"32He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things? 33Who shall lay any thing to the charge of Godís elect? It is God that justifieth." (Romans 8:32-33)

[In a previous article, we share on the true meaning of the phrase "freely give us all things" in verse 32]

 

Notice that, instead of not sparing us, God decided not to spare His own Son for us all. It's no wonder, therefore, that Paul commended the Ephesians to God (Acts 20:32), not to any "minister" or religious leader. Notice also how Romans 8:33 speaks against anyone laying earthly burdens on God's elect.

 

The word pheidomai is similar to the Greek word aphiemi, which means "to forgive". The "fat wolves" want to preserve the hierarchical structures of the Old Covenant where only a certain group of people (the Levites) had "priestly" privileges and served as "intermediaries" for the "regular folks". God has declared that, when we walk in the New Covenant, our iniquity is forgiven, and our sin is not remembered (Jeremiah 31:31-34, Hebrews 10:16-17). While God has already "spared" His people, these wolves continue "unsparing" them, driving them away from prophetic fullness and into Hittite purposelessness and "de-spare".

 

Ephesus and Pentecost

Acts 20:16 declares that Paul was hasting to be in Jerusalem for the day of Pentecost. Pentecost speaks of the outpouring, or "uncovering" of the Spirit, and is a figure of the latter-rain Revival that is about to hit the Church. The fact that the Spirit prompted Paul to stop at Miletus and speak to the elders of the church at Ephesus is a prophetic figure of how the Revival will come only until the Ephesus Spirit of Judgment and Justice is fully manifested in the Church. The fact that Paul spoke to the Ephesians about the wolves in the Church means that the issue of wolves has to be dealt with before the Revival can come. The only way that these wolves will be driven out is by closing the spiritual door that let them in in the first place, and that door is the Church's carnal interest in hearing a "nice and easy gospel" that appeals to her carnal lusts and interests. As you pray for spiritual judgments to be unleashed upon the Church and the world in general (without forgetting the first love), you will drive these fat, unsparing, Amorite-Canaanite wolves out, and you will pave the way for the Glorious Manifestation of the Lord Jesus Christ inside His Church and throughout the Earth.