Paul told the Ephesians that he had declared to them “the whole counsel of God” (Acts 20:27). The entire plan and purpose of God for man’s salvation in all its fullness: divine truths of creation, election, redemption, justification, adoption, conversion, sanctification, holy living, and glorification. And now that he was leaving, he gives them a warning.
False teachers were already plaguing the churches of Galatia (Gal. 1:6) and the Corinthian church (2 Cor. 11:4). “Take heed to yourselves” (v. 28), a warning that proved true by later events at Ephesus (1 Tim. 1:3–7, 19, 20; 6:20, 21; Rev. 2:2). Paul repeated this call to self-examination to Timothy when his young son in the faith served as pastor of the Ephesian congregation (1 Tim. 4:16; 2 Tim. 2:20, 21). The “overseers” are the same as elders and pastors. The word stresses the leaders’ responsibility to watch over and protect their congregations—an appropriate usage in the context of a warning against false teachers. Church rule, which minimizes the biblical authority of elders in favor of a cultural, democratic process, is foreign to the New Testament (1 Thess. 5:12, 13; Heb. 13:17).
He warns of “savage wolves” (v. 29)—a term borrowed from Jesus (Matt. 7:15; 10:16). This metaphor stresses the extreme danger false teachers pose to the church. “From among yourselves” (v. 30). Even more deadly than attacks from outside the church are the defections of those (especially leaders) within the church (1 Tim. 1:20; 2 Tim. 1:15; 2:17; Jude 3, 4, 10–13). These wolves would speak “perverse things.” The Greek word means “distorted” or “twisted.” False teachers twist God’s Word for their own evil ends (13:10; 2 Pet. 3:16).
“So now, brethren, I commend you to God and to the word of His grace, which is able to build you up” (v. 32). The Scriptures, the record of God’s gracious dealings with mankind, is the source of spiritual growth for all Christians. And since the church is “the pillar and ground of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15), its leaders must be familiar with that truth.
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