Of Shepherds and Wolves
By Gary Amirault
"After these things the Lord appointed seventy others also, and sent them two by two before His face into every city and place where He Himself was about to go. Then He said to them, 'The harvest truly is great, but the laborers are few; therefore pray the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into His harvest. Go your way; behold, I send you out as lambs among wolves'"
"Most assuredly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep. All who ever came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them".
Isn't it strange that when Jesus came to the House of Israel, that when He chose those who would be apostles and other leaders such as the 70 mentioned above, He didn't make His primary choices from the religious leadership of His day? Can you imagine Jesus Christ coming to the earth today bypassing the Pope, Billy Graham, the head of the World Council of Churches, Pat Robertson, Charles Swindoll, all the superintendents of the various denominations, Oral Roberts, John MacArthur, etc.? Can you picture Jesus gathering 70 unto Himself to clean up New York city and not a single pastor or T.V. evangelist among them?
God worked with Israel for 1500 years. When Jesus came to the scene, Herod was rebuilding the Temple. It was one of the seven wonders of the world. Jerusalem was being rebuilt. The Jews were greatly favored by the Romans in terms of religious freedom. The Priesthood was allowed to collect the temple tax and allowed to worship they way they wanted without having to worship the Roman gods. Israel was very prosperous at this time. Synagogues were throughout the Roman Empire. They even had Synagogues for Greek-speaking Jews and others for Hebrew-speaking Jews. Jerusalem was full of thousands of priests. With such a large selection of religious leadership, isn't it rather strange that he chose fishermen and tax collectors, unlearned men?
Referring to the religious leadership of His day, Jesus said in Matthew 23:13:
"Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you shut up the kingdom of heaven against men; for you neither go in yourselves, nor do you allow those who are entering to go in."
Now if the kingdom of heaven is what Christianity today calls "eternal life," then Jesus is saying the religious leadership of His day was responsible for people going to "hell!"
So Jesus selected a different group, not versed in the Scriptures like the scribes, priests, and Pharisees were, and sent them out to preach the "good news."
Within that very same generation, Paul, near the end of his life, gathered up the leaders who entered the "ecclesia" at Ephesus and said the following:
"For I have not shunned to declare to you the whole counsel of God. Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God which He purchased with His own blood. For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves. Therefore watch, and remember that for three years I did not cease to warn everyone night and day with tears." Acts 20:27-31
From the above mentioned scriptures we learn that Jesus could not select from the very Priesthood which was ordained by the Mosaic Law because they were not entering into the true kingdom and were preventing others from entering. He raised up a new leadership, and within the same generation, Paul warned the church wolves would enter it and even from among the hand picked-elders, some would draw disciples unto themselves.
The Bible tells us that what happened to Israel serves as an example for us. We should learn from their mistakes. 1500 years of building Israel into a favored nation under Rome and the end result was that Jesus had to go to fishermen to develop leadership. He couldn't go to the local seminaries or denominational headquarters to find qualified personnel.
If the wolves were entering into the church 1900 years ago; if Paul warned that leaders would draw disciples after themselves 1900 years ago, what would make one think that the condition of the present day church leadership is any different than it was in Jesus' day? Considering wolves were entering almost 2000 years ago, what condition should we expect the church to be in today?
Israel had great synagogues all over the Roman Empire. The Temple rivaled the great cathedrals and ornate church buildings of today and before the end of that generation it all came down. Why? Why didn't God leave it all in place? I mean, these were expensive buildings. What a waste!
Christian, if you are looking for a pastor, look for one who will lay down his life for the sheep. Look for one who practices serving others. Look for one who spends many hours finding all the ways he can to bring you to Jesus, the true water and nourishment. Look for one who, perhaps, was not afraid to spend some years in the wilderness, away from the "organized" thing. Someone who like Moses spent 40 years being broken alone. Like David who spent many years living in caves. Like Paul, who left the organized church in Jerusalem and spent several years alone to be taught by God Himself.
Men and women like these often hear, "Why aren't you in fellowship?" "Who is your covering?" "You have a rebellious non-submissive spirit." Look for one who, like Paul, can preach the "whole counsel of God" and never preach "hell." (If you don't believe me, go to Strong's concordance, find the word "hell;" then go to Paul's writings and try to find the word "hell." It isn't there.) Spend a few weeks combing the New Testament to see what believers did when they came together. Study how they met, where they met. Look at the leadership that Paul describes, not the group at Jerusalem, which never could separate themselves from Moses. Paul's gospel must be read very carefully. Paul not only knew how to walk after the Spirit, Paul also studied.
If God calls you into separation unto Himself in the wilderness, don't be afraid to go. Yes, church leadership will probably come against you for that, but sometimes this separation is necessary. Just remember, if He called you out, he will also call you back to some kind of fellowship. He is a many membered body. The separation is for preparation, it is not permanent. We need each other. We are not complete without each other.
We also need leadership. Don't look at all the denominations and compare them to see which one suits your fancy. Look to Paul's writings. Study them thoroughly and don't compromise. Ask God to put true leadership in your life. I truly believe He would bring someone from 10,000 miles away to teach us if our hearts really wants to be taught the truth. Don't compromise on this point. Don't "go to church" like all the good Christians do just because our tradition says to. Come together in Spirit and Truth with like-spirited believers with leadership that lines up with the qualifications in the New Testament. Don't be surprised if you don't end up doing the 2 hour thing in Sunday in a building that is vacant most of the week except for those two hours. Don't be surprised if your whole concept of "fellowship" and "assembling" might be as different as when Jesus told His disciples that the brand new Temple which cost big bucks was coming down. He was building His temple with a different kind of building material.
Young Christian (and old), the synagogues (churches) of today are in the same condition they were 1900 years ago when Jesus had to by-pass most of them to find leadership He could trust. I realize as I say this, that I make many enemies when making statements like this. Few Christian leaders would categorize themselves with the scribes and pharisees of Jesus' day, but many of them (I did not say all) are just that. We have steered so far from the simplicity of Paul's Gospel that we cannot see how blind we have become.
Most church leadership is not purposely corrupt. They have just been brought into a system that has been corrupt for hundreds of years; this is the way it has always been and they cannot see how far off it is. Many were never called into leadership by Jesus. Most of us like to be in the majority. The leadership of today again sits in Moses' seat, hindering God's people from entering into the kingdom. Will God clean it up from within? If He returned in like manner, would He go to the present church institutions to gather around Himself leadership or would he again call unlearned fisherman, IRS agents, and prostitutes?
In summary then, wolves of the past and wolves of the present use the sheep to build little kingdoms for themselves. Shepherds serve to the sheep true drink and true meat. They bring the sheep into the kingdom made up of righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit. They encourage the sheep to mature, that they, the sheep, may become what they were meant to be in the earth- its salt, and its light; its New Heavens.