Hypocrites, Wolves, and Divisive Personalities
first cast out the beam
out of thine own eye;
and then shalt thou see clearly
to cast out the mote
out of thy brother’s eye.”
“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves
enter in among you, not sparing the flock.”
“Now I beseech you, brethren,
mark them which cause divisions
and offences contrary to the doctrine
which ye have learned;
and avoid them.”
When scripturally compelled to do so, the discovery is made, there are enemies within the Church.
They are identified in Scripture as hypocrites, wolves, and those who love to have pre-eminence, or, disruptive personalities. These religious hypocrites, devouring wolfs, and divisive personalities have much in common because they are the children of their Father the Devil, whose desires they must carry out (John 8:44). Because this is true, hypocrites, wolves, and disruptive personalities must be discovered, and brought under Church discipline. Therefore, consider some of the identifying marks they bear.
The First Mark
Those who harm the Church are prone to projection. Others are accused of the evil [pornos], or injurious behavior they are guilty of in their petulant religious zeal. Luke, the early Church historian of the acts of the apostles, records how the Jews in the city of Thessalonica, which believed not, “moved with envy, took unto themselves certain lewd [evil] fellows of the baser [vulgar] sort, and gathered a company, and set all the city in an uproar, and assaulted the house of Jason, and sought to bring them [Paul and Silas] out to the people. 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).
What was their crime?
They protected the servants of God.
They believed in Jesus Christ as the Messiah.
They loved the brethren.
They proclaimed the gospel of redeeming love, and freedom from social, and ceremonial, Laws of Moses.
It is the wicked who turn the world upside down, with godless behavior, impure thoughts, and self-centered living.
It is Christ, and Christians, who turn the upside-down world, right side up, by declaring that abortion on demand must be stopped, the mutilation of children is cruel, socialism is based on envy and greed, and God has only made people, male and female. Salvation is by grace through faith alone, in Christ alone. There is no other name given under heaven whereby we must be saved.
It is Christ, and Christians who say, “This is the way of the Lord, let us walk in the gospel light of Scripture.” Those who would hurt the Church will engage in projection, accusing the saints of the evil that they themselves are doing.
The Second Mark
A Critical Spirit that Cannot be Justified
Because what is Said it is not True
Those who harm the church are relentless fault finders, because they have an unbalanced critical spirit. There is a need, for constructive criticism in the Church.
However, a censorious personality will discover an area of weakness in a person, remember it, gather anecdotal narratives, and then, when ready to pounce, magnify the fault in the worse light possible. No one is safe around a censorious individual.
In the day of ultimate judgment, the words and works of such a person, will be consumed in divine fire. “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).
Winston Churchill had the following words of Abe Lincoln framed on the wall of his office: “I do the very best I can, I mean to keep going. If the end brings me out all right, then what is said against me won’t matter. If I’m wrong, ten angels swearing I was right won’t make a difference.” Let the Church beware of anyone with a censorious spirit that cannot be justified. The Church should listen to what is being said, by anyone, but then let the people of God render a righteous judgment on what is said, written, or whispered.
The Third Mark
The Need to 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 personalities who become angry when others do not do exactly as commanded.
The apostle John wrote about a man who came into an unnamed early Church, with an obsessive need to be in control. His name was Diotrephes (Gentile, “nurtured by Jupiter”). According to the Biblical narrative, Diotrephes was a self-seeking troublemaker (3 John). When such a person is in the congregation, the Holy Spirit is grieved, if not quenched. The spiritual gifts of God in others, are no longer recognized (1 Cor. 12:11-16; Eph. 4:11-16).
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. The Emissaries of Satan were present in the first century, and they are present in the 21st century. They exist to remind Christians, “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).
The Fourth Mark
Another distinguishing mark of a religious hypocrite, a ravenous wolf, and a divisive personality, is their 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, because they are never wrong, though pretentious words are used to convey a spirit of humility.
With self-righteous arrogance, they will be the first to say they are sanctified, have knowledge of the Bible, and are spiritual. What they will not say, is that they are wrong, even when confronted with objective contrary evidence. The Bible says, “Wherefore let him that thinketh he standeth take heed lest he fall” (1 Cor. 10:12).
The Fifth Mark
An Unholy Boldness
Those who hurt the Church have an unholy boldness. Perhaps you too have been amazed at the militant audacity of individuals to promote, to say, and do the most outrages things on sacred ground. And they get away with it. There is rock music in the name of Christ. How in the world has the Church gone from Bach to Rock? There is the flying of a Gay Pride Flag in congregations of the alleged redeemed. How can such a congregation sing,
“Holy, holy, holy!
Lord God Almighty!
Early in the morning
our song shall rise to Thee;
Holy, holy, holy!
Merciful and mighty!
God in three Persons,
There is the slaughter of the innocent, and the mode\\rn Church remains relatively silent on the issue, with many believing individual states should determine whether to allow abortions.
America has been at this cross road before, over the issue of slavery. Stephen A. Douglas called for popular sovereignty in the Kansas-Nebraska Act, 1854. The territories of Kansas and Nebraska were to choose whether to allow slavery. Abraham Lincoln, and others, realized that slavery was a moral issue, not a political one. Slavery is intrinsically evil, and need not be debated, but eliminated.
In like manner, being pro-life is not a political issue; it is a moral issue. It is a matter of ethical behavior. Abortion is not to be debated, or regulated, but eliminated, according to God’s holy law, for each person is wonderfully made in the image of the Lord.
There are some reasons why hypocrites, wolves, and divisive personalities exist in local assemblies.
First, Church discipline has been abandoned.
Few people are willing to be held accountable for breaking the Moral Law of God.
Fewer still want to follow the counsel found in Matthew 18. Mark Dever addresses this concern in his book, Nine Marks of a Healthy Church. In one chapter, he talks about the need for pastoral oversight, and congregational accountability.
“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 ecclesiastical 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.The Church growth formula is to minister to those who are believed to be seeking the Lord, by not preaching about sin, shame, guilt, or the need to repent. Self-esteem theology, and feel-good sermons, replace a serious call to the unconverted to turn, or burn.
Third, hypocrites, wolves, and divisive personalities exist in the local Church, because the local assembly is often no longer a Church in the sight of God. Like the people in the Old Testament era who lived in the days of Isaiah, it can be said,
‘These people draw near to Me with their mouth,
And honor Me with their lips,
But their heart is far from
And in vain they worship Me,”
Teaching as doctrines
the commandments of men’ ”
~Matthew 15:8, 9 NKJV
If a local Church is not really a place of worship, 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?”
Part of the answer is this:
“A local Church is no longer a Church, when there are more unbelievers gathered in the hour of worship, then sincere believers.”
Fourth, hypocrites, wolves, and divisive personalities exist in the local church because they are often financially generous, are willing to work hard to impress others, and use flattery when necessary.
In this way they rise in church leadership positions.
Generosity, hard work, and kind words are not intrinsically wrong, until they are used as a counterfeit coin in the Kingdom of God.
Fifth, hypocrites, wolves, and divisive personalities exist in the local church because, when confronted with bad behavior, a modern counseling technique is MAD – Mutually Assigned Destruction.
In other words, in a desperate effort to bring about peace and reconciliation, modern Christian counselors are tempted to seek to find fault with both parties, thereby encouraging a spirit of parity to prevail, and thus, Mutually Assured Destruction.
Unfortunately, the issue to be judged is left unjudged, and the hypocrite, the wolf, the divisive personality, becomes the victorious party.
Because they are raised to the same moral status as those they have just tried to destroy. Rather than their mouths being stopped, they are free to continue to operate as before, and devour other sheep. And so it is thathypocrites, wolves, and divisive personalities continue to roam in the local church because, there is no closure.
For those who are willing to be held accountable for their behavior, and for those who are concerned about individuals who hurt the Church, a question arises:
When Will the Religious Hypocrite,
the Ravenous Wolf,
and the Disruptive Personality
The leadership in the local church will begin to “mark them which cause divisions and offences contrary to the doctrine which ye have learned; and avoid them,” when good Shepherds becomes wisely serious about the souls of the saints, and follow through the biblical process of accountability to its logical end.
Unfortunately, there are some individuals that must be marked because they have a mouth that must be stopped, because they will “subvert whole houses, teaching things which they ought not, for filthy lucre’s sake” (Titus 1:11). May the Lord grant His people grace, and wisdom, to do His work, His way, even when it is difficult.
There is a final observation.
No one needs to look for hypocrites, wolves, or divisive personalities. They will manifest themselves naturally. Care is to be taken not to accuse anyone falsely, and not to judge too quickly. Church, just be aware there are people in the Church who have come to hurt, not help, the people of God. These individuals are contrasted with those who love Christ, and other Christians.