Identifying Hypocrites, Wolves and Divisive Personalities
A Seminar for Faithful Shepherds of God’s Sheep
“Now I beseech you, brethren,
mark them which cause divisions and offences
contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned;
and avoid them.”
The First Mark
Those who harm the church are prone to projection. Others are accused of the evil [pornos, injurious behavior to self and others] they are guilty of in their petulant religious zeal. “But the Jews which believed not, moved with envy, took unto them certain lewd fellows of the baser sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city on an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them out to the people. 6 And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brethren unto the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come hither also” (Acts 17:5, 6). It is the wicked who turn the world upside down. It is Christ and Christians who turn the upside-down world, right side up.
The Second Mark
A Critical Spirit
Those who harm the church are fault finders because they have a critical spirit. The critical will discover an area of weakness in a person, remember it, gather anecdotal narratives, and, when ready to pounce, present the faults in the worse light possible. No one is safe around such an individual. Years of personal intimacy will be discovered to have been nothing more than religious chatter about “love,” “support,” “devotion,” and “helpfulness.” In the day of ultimate judgment, it will be consumed in divine fire as wood, hay, and stubble. “Now if any man build upon this foundation gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, stubble; 13 Every man’s work shall be made manifest: for the day shall declare it, because it shall be revealed by fire; and the fire shall try every man’s work of what sort it is” (1 Cor. 3:12-13).
The Third Mark
An Obsession with Control
Those who harm the church have an obsessive need to be in total control of everything they are involved with. While the church needs individuals who are well organized and capable of getting projects done, what the church does not need are compulsive perfectionists who become angry when others do not listen to them, meaning that others do not do exactly as commanded. Of course, a child of the living God, filled with the Holy Spirit, does not need to capitulate to angry individuals just because the controlling personality cannot get their way. The child of God does not have to agree to every false accusation hurled against them in a malicious manner. The religious perfectionist will tell all others what songs to sing, what time to meet, and what to say if teaching. Because of the need to micro manage every detail, every person will be told by the obsessive perfectionist were to stand, and how to act in the worship service.
The controlling person will invade one’s private life, and tell who can be a family member, and where each family member is to live geographically. Every individual will be told what to write. Every sentence, every thought, will be monitored to make sure nothing is said that is not approved by the thought police. Money will be monitered and carefully controlled.
The controlling person in the church will inform the body of believers who is qualified to be a church leader, in their opinion, by making up their own novel standards that go beyond Biblical mandates. The Holy Spirit is dismissed. The spiritual gifts of God, for the people of God, need not be recognized. Study 1 Corinthians 12:11-16; Ephesians 4:11-16
The controlling perfectionist will have the audacity to speak on behalf of others, take offense on behalf of others, implicate others, and then say they have done no such thing. These people are indifferent to the collateral damage they inflict. The need to be in total control will cause the obsessively controlling person to literally explode in rage over time, thereby destroying many others with their passion, even those who have cared for them. Especially those who have cared for them the most.
If anyone doubts that any statement made thus far is unfair, untrue, unloving, or unjust, then they need to read the testimony of Jim Bakker (b. Jan 2, 1940), founder of the PTL Club and Heritage USA, the former American Christian-themed water park, theme park and residential complex in Fort Mill, South Carolina.
In fact, the half has not been told about those who need to control in the church. Read if you will, Jim Bakker’s book, “I Was Wrong.” Watch the movie, “Fall from Grace” (1990), and, “The Eyes of Tammy Faye” (2021).
Study the life and ministry of Jack Hyles (d. Jan 6, 2001), a former pastor of First Baptist Church of Hammond Indiana. Listen to the “TED” (Technology, Entertainment, Design) Conference video of his daughter, Linda (Hyles) Murphrey, and the shocking story of Victor Nischik, a former deacon. The Jim Bakker story, and the Jack Hyles story, are not unique. In every church, without exception, large or small, the Enemy sends hypocrites, wolves, and divisive personalities.
This is why the Bible speaks of hypocrites (plural), wolves (plural), and those (plural) who cause division. The Army of Our Enemy Below is named, LEGION. These Emissaries of Satan were present in the first century, and they are present in the 21st century. They exist to remind Christians that, “we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places” (Eph. 6:12).
Each of the enumerated characteristics of a person obsessed with control in the church is also found the home, and in secular society. You will see this is true when you read the biographies of Nero, Mohammed, Joseph Smith, Jr., Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, Kim Jong Un, Vladimir Putin, Mao Zedong, or Chairman Xi Jinping. You will see this to be true when you counsel spouses living with an abusives person who is a narcissis.
Another distinguishing mark of a religious hypocrite, a ravenous wolf, and a divisive personality is the unwillingness to be held accountable for the letters they write, the words they speak, and the emotions they display. From their perspective, they have no reason to be held accountable or apologize because they are never wrong, though pretentious words are used to convey a spirit of humility. They will be the first to say they are sanctified, have knowledge, and are spiritual. What they will not say is that they are wrong when confronted in detail with objective truth. They will play the victim of being misunderstood. They will say that are only trying to help someone else be better.What they really do is speak in a cruel way and disquise it as candor.
The Fifth Mark An Unholy Boldness
So, how is it that so many militant religious hypocrites, wolves, and divisive personalities find their way into the church in every generation? The following thoughts come to mind in relation to the unholy boldness of those who will hurt the church.
First, hypocrites, wolves, and divisive personalities exist in the local church because church discipline has been abandoned, for the most part. Even when publicly exposed, people are not held strictly accountable for breaking the Moral Law of God. Mark Dever addresses this concern in his book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. In a narrower sense, church discipline is the act of correcting sin in the life of the body, including the possible final step of excluding a professing Christian from membership in the church and participation in the Lord’s Supper because of serious unrepentant sin. Study Matthew 18:15-20; 1 Corinthians 5:1-13
Second, hypocrites, wolves, and divisive personalities exist in the local church because there is an open invitation for anyone to become part of the local assembly, regardless of lifestyle or doctrinal belief. There is no social discrimination because there is no spiritual discernment. A social formula has been found to attract the world, and it is effective in growing religious assemblies.
Third, hypocrites, wolves, and divisive personalities exist in the local Church because, the assembly is no longer a church in the sight of God. Therefore, it no longer matters if the gospel is preached, souls are saved, the saints are baptized, and edified, and the Word of God is exalted. A good discussion among pastors and theologians would be, “When is a Church no Longer a Church?”
Fourth, hypocrites, wolves, and divisive personalities exist in the local church because they are financially generous, and are willing to work hard to impress others, and rise in church leadership positions.
Fifth, hypocrites, wolves, and divisive personalities exist in the local Church because, when confronted with bad behavior, the modern counseling technique is MAD – Mutually Assured Destruction. In other words, in a desperate effort to bring about peace and reconciliation, the modern Christian counselor seeks to find fault with both parties, thereby encouraging a spirit of parity to prevail, and thus, Mutually Assured Destruction. The counseling technique is for everyone to remember they are all sinners, and exchanges of words and emails and conversations are not helpful. The irony is that the offending party, the hypocrite, the wolf, the divisive personality, is the victorious party because they are seen as a “victim” because of outraged pushback, and because they are allowed to be the moral equivalent of the defendant. Rather than their mouths being stopped, they are free to continue to operate as before to devour the sheep. The shepherd has protected the wolf, though the intention was to guard the sheep, and keep unity in the congregation. As a result, there will be another sheep wounded.
Sixth, hypocrites, wolves, and divisive personalities exist in the local church because, there is no closure. There is no closure because a final ecclesiastical judgment is not rendered. Even when specific charges are made in writing, there is no condemnation, or commendation, of the document. Furthermore, no instruction is given on what the condemned, or the exonerated, must do.
When Will the Religious Hypocrite, the Ravenous Wolf, and the Disruptive Personality be Marked? The leadership in the local church will “mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them” when wise Shepherds, serious about the souls of the saints, follow through the biblical process of accountability to its logical end. Some individuals must be marked because they must be stopped. “Whose mouths must be stopped, who subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake” (Titus 1:11). May the Lord grant His people the grace to do His work, His way.