“So guard yourselves and God’s people.
Feed and shepherd God’s flock—
purchased with his own blood
over which the Holy Spirit has appointed you as leaders.
I know that false teachers,
like vicious wolves,
will come in among you after I leave,
not sparing the flock.
Even some men from your own group will rise up and
distort the truth
in order to draw a following.
Remember the three years I was with you—
my constant watch and
care over you night and day, and
my many tears for you. (Acts 20:28-31)
Insights from the book of Revelation.
“Write this letter to the angel of the church in Ephesus. This is the message from the one who holds the seven stars in his right hand, the one who walks among the seven gold lampstands:
“I know all the things you do. I have seen your hard work and your patient endurance. I know you don’t tolerate evil people. You have examined the claims of those who say they are apostles but are not. You have discovered they are liars.
You have patiently suffered for me without quitting.
“But I have this complaint against you. You don’t love me or each other as you did at first!
Look how far you have fallen! Turn back to me and do the works you did at first. If you don’t repent, I will come and remove your lampstand from its place among the churches.
But this is in your favour: You hate the evil deeds of the Nicolaitans, just as I do.
“Anyone with ears to hear must listen to the Spirit and understand what he is saying to the churches. To everyone who is victorious I will give fruit from the tree of life in the paradise of God. (Rev 2:1-7)
Did you notice the match between what Paul said to the Ephesian elders and the words of the Spirit of God to John in what he wrote in Revelation about the church in Ephesus. It is clear that not only did the leaders in Ephesus take to heart what Paul said to them, but how much the words of Paul to them when they met in Miletus around AD 58 proved to be prophetic. Most commentators agree that John wrote the Book of Revelation during Domitian’s reign as emperor. Domitian reigned from AD 81 – 96. Many suggest Revelation had been written by AD 90, some suggest an even earlier date. But whenever Revelation was written it was at least 20 years or more after Paul met with the Ephesian elders in Miletus. Even a cursory reading of the above passages shows us how accurate Paul’s words concerning the situation in the church in Ephesus proved to be.
Paul’s warning to the elders to guard themselves and their leadership of the church against false teaching was remarkably accurate. That false teachers would come and lead believers astray and the fact that such people would arise from within the church. We might say from hindsight that the likelihood of such a thing happening was inevitable. You may think it happens in churches all the time. We certainly hear about such things happening frequently these days. But for Paul to state so clearly what would happen and warn the elders to take action against it and for that to match what John records under the influence of the Holy Spirit twenty to thirty years later is remarkable.
It is like Paul’s words to their hearts in Miletus inspired the Ephesian elders to seriously guard the flock against false teaching. They had been pre-warned that false teaching would happen and that it come from within the body and so they have determined they would guard against it as Paul challenged them to do. Clearly they examined the motives and claims of those who claimed to be apostles and found they were false.
When other cities were succumbing to the teaching of the Nicolatans, the followers of Nicolaos, the leaders in Ephesus stood against such teaching. There is debate over just who the Nicolatans were on the basis of the derivation of the name. Most believe the name comes from a sect that taught freedom in Christ went all the way to any and all pleasures that mankind could conceive. Christ gives you the freedom to do whatever you like and afterwards you can ask for forgiveness. This attitude became prevalent in some sects by the second century. The Ephesian church opposed such teaching.
There is another school of thought who hold that the Nicolatans were focused solely on freedom in eating any and everything the people desired. Those who hold to this claim the word Nicolatans is derived from nicolah (Grk) for “let us eat”. I believe the term was more likely linked to a wider teaching of freedom from any and all prohibitions rather than those just linked to what you could eat.
What is significant is that elders of the church in Ephesus took Paul seriously and made it their mission to guard the flock and were commended for it in Revelation. It is significant that this is the only speech of Paul’s recorded as being spoken exclusively to Christian believers and that it should be a challenge to the leaders to guard those they lead against false teaching. Of all the things you could tell a group of people dear to you with your final words to them, that guarding against false teaching should be the focus only emphasizes the times in which they lived.
It is no different today. There is every ism and ideology under the sun prevalent today.
It astounds me what some “believers” believe and how susceptible those who “know the LORD” can be to false doctrine and fall away.
A text without a context is a pretext. Ian
Before you learn the tricks of the trade, learn the trade.
Those trained to spot counterfeit currency don't study the range of the false notes; rather they study the genuine.
When you KNOW the genuine then you can spot the fake.
Guard yourself against error but knowing the Truth.
Don’t study all the isms known to man before you look at the Way, The Truth and the Life. Ian
Don't content yourself with speaking truisms; rather seek to be true to Him who called you out of darkness into light.