The Journal of Biblical Accuracy

From among yourselves (PDF) PDF version

From among yourselves

In Acts 20 we find Paul traveling to Jerusalem. This would be his last journey to places where he preached the Word and made disciples of Christ. Thus, reaching Ephesus, he sent and called for the elders of the local church:

Acts 20:17
“From Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called for the elders of the church”

These people were elders, i.e. people old in the faith, overseers – as the verses that follow make clear – that the Holy Spirit had set to shepherd the church of God. In his meeting with them, Paul after reminding them the way he walked when he was among them, he carries on with the following warning:

Acts 20:28-31
“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”

The fact that the people Paul had before him were overseers set by the Holy Spirit to shepherd the church of God, DOES NOT MEAN that they were excluded by this warning. Among these people, that till then shepherded the church of God, there would be some that one day instead of leading the disciples behind Christ, as they used to do, they would start leading them behind themselves. A ministry can start very well. A servant of God may have been set by Him in the ministry; the Lord Himself may have set him to overseer. Yet, what started well DOES NOT NECESSARILY MEAN THAT WILL ALSO CONTINUE WELL. Some will serve as they should. However, some others will not. Though God put them in the ministry, giving them gifts to serve His people, at the end they will turn and use these gifts to make the disciples follow them instead of Christ. My brother, if you serve the people of God, be careful to turn the people to Christ and not to yourself. Be careful that the one that you point the people to is Christ and not you.

“You will know them by their fruit”

The elders of the church of Ephesus that would go astray and for whom Paul is speaking, are put in the same category with the wolves that after Paul’s departure would come among them without sparing the flock. The difference between a sheep and a wolf in the church of God is not in the outside: in the outside they both look like sheep. Instead, the difference is in the fruit they give. As the Lord said:

Matthew 7:15-23
“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves. You will know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles? Even so, every good tree bears good fruit, but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. Therefore by their fruits you will know them. Not everyone who says to Me, “Lord, Lord” shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father in heaven. Many will say to Me in that day, “Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?” And then I will declare to them, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!”

It is interesting that the Lord speaks about those who will not enter into the kingdom of heaven, immediately after his reference to the false prophets and how one can recognise them. The false prophets will also say “Lord, Lord”. In Christ’s name they will also do miracles and will prophesy. However these do not make them true, genuine disciples. It is not the words, the wonders or the prophecies that mark the genuine from the non-genuine, the wolf from the sheep, but the FRUIT that one gives. And we speak here for the fruit of Galatians 5:

Galatians 5:19-21
“Now the works of the flesh are evident, which are: adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lewdness, idolatry, sorcery, hatred, contentions, jealousies, outbursts of wrath, selfish ambitions, dissensions, heresies, envy, murders, drunkenness, revelries, and the like; of which I tell you beforehand, just as I also told you in time past, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God”

Someone may say that knows the Lord. He may also have done wonders in His name. He may have prophesied in Christ’s name. However, do these make him a real sheep or give him entrance into the kingdom of God, if his fruit is the fruit of the above passage? Well, as the Lord said and as Paul also repeats: NO! As James also says:

James 2:14-18
What does it profit, my brethren, if someone SAYS he has faith but does not have works? Can faith save him? If a brother or sister is naked and destitute of daily food, and one of you says to them, “Depart in peace, be warmed and filled,” but you do not give them the things which are needed for the body, what does it profit? Thus also faith by itself, if it does not have works is dead. But someone will say, “You have faith, and I have works.” Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.”

Many brethren have been confused with the above passage. Especially the phrase “Can faith save him?” has perplexed many. However the passage does not speak for the true faith, but for the faith that someone SAYS THAT HE HAS. “If someone SAYS he has faith”. THE FAITH THAT EXISTS ONLY IN WORDS, DOES NOT SAVE.

Romans 10:9-10 does not say that “if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus will be saved”. What it says is:

Romans 10:9-10
“if you confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus AND BELIEVE IN YOUR HEART THAT GOD HAS RAISED HIM FROM DEAD, YOU WILL BE SAVED. For with the heart one believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation”

WITH THE HEART ONE BELIEVES”. A confession is true when the heart agrees with it. And when there is faith in the heart then there will also be the respective fruit. “EVERY GOOD TREE BEARS GOOD FRUIT but a bad tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a bad tree bear good fruit.” It is IMPOSSIBLE to have faith AND NOT HAVE THE RESPECTIVE FRUIT.

Externally, both the wolf and the sheep seem the same: they both look like sheep. However it is the fruit that makes the difference. While the wolf makes a fruit respective to Galatians 5:19-21, the sheep makes fruit respective to Galatians 5:22-23:

Galatians 5:22-23
“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. Against such there is no law”

Let’s therefore take heed to ourselves (Acts 20:28). Let’s examine ourselves whether we are in the faith (II Corinthians 13:5). What kind of fruit comes out of our hearts? Galatians 5:19-21 or Galatians 5:22-23. There is no profit in saying “Lord, Lord” and in making big statements, when our hearts are not OK. There is no point to honour the Lord with our lips WHEN OUR HEART IS FAR FROM HIM.

Isaiah 29:13
“Therefore the Lord said ….. these people draw near with their mouths and honour Me with their lips, but have removed their hearts far from Me

and I Samuel 16:7
“For the Lord does not see as man sees; for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.

It is the heart that the Lord is interested in. Let this therefore be clean, a house clean for the Lord, full of faith and good fruits.

Anastasios Kioulachoglou