“Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the church of God, which he obtained with his own blood. I know that after my departure fierce wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock; and from among your own selves will arise men speaking twisted things, to draw away the disciples after them. Therefore be alert,. . .” (Acts 20:28-31a)
Pastors are shepherds whom God has entrusted with the duty of leading and guiding His people. As such they face dangers from outside the church as well as from within. The apostle Paul addressed this issue in his farewell address to the elders of the Church at Ephesus. At some time prior to this he had apparently received a word from the Holy Spirit to return to Jerusalem. He knew that danger and violence awaited him. Some factions of the Jews had conspired against him because they resented all of the preaching he had done among the Gentiles.
The words of the gospel do win a lot of converts for they have the power of God to convict and convince. Yet the gospel also cuts the other way. When people reject the Gospel, the result may be that it creates enemies and enrages them to oppose our faith, sometimes with violence. Thus we should never be surprised when we take a firm stand for the truth of God’s word and other people hate and despise us and try to silence us.
Paul also warned the elders of the church to be shepherds of God’s church, to teach, feed, and guide them. The flock, the people belong to God. They are His servants just as are the elders. They have a great responsibility to care for the flock, but perhaps the greatest and most arduous of the tasks of the shepherd is to guard and protect the sheep from wolves and predators, false teachers as well as legalists and charlatans out to fleece the flock for money, power and ego. Such false teachers will arise from within as well as from outside of the church and devastate Christ’s flock, distorting the truth, and seducing the people to forsake the gospel to follow them and their ideas instead. The shepherds must have the support and encouragement of the people of God. Therefore God’s people must devote themselves to study the scriptures so they may discern false doctrines and false teachers and oppose them openly.