When Paul Wept (lukoi bareis: Savage Wolves in the Church)

When Paul Wept
Robert Wurtz II

Take heed therefore unto yourselves, and to all the flock, over the which the Holy Ghost hath made you overseers, to feed the church of God, which he hath purchased with his own blood. For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. Therefore watch, and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears. (Acts 20:28–31 KJV)

It’s hard to read these chilling words and not be reminded of the Lord Jesus, who during the Last supper informed the disciples stating, “verily, verily, I say unto you, that one of you shall betray me” (John 13:21). Just as Jesus had walked the earth for three years with a man who would ultimately betray him; so too, Paul had ministered to the Ephesian elders for three years with a few betrayers lurking in the midst. Sadly, they were so “wolfish” or self-deceived that they didn’t hear a word of it. Just as Jeremiah wept over the Israelites saying, “Woe to the shepherds who are destroying and scattering the sheep of my pasture!” declares the LORD… (Jeremiah 23:1), so to Paul wept saying, For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. 

  



Why Paul Wept


So long as Paul was around the sheep were safe; it was after he left that he was concerned about. He warned of “grievous wolves” (lukoi bareis) entering in. Bareis is a Greek word that means heavy, rapacious, and harsh. The word rapacious means “greedy and power-hungry.” This is always a deadly combination of character traits. Jesus had already so described false teachers who would raven the fold (John 10:12 A. T. Robertson); that is to say, they would ravage, pillage, and scatter the saints. Wolves can be identified by their reckless behavior that wounds, scatters, and even kills the sheep. They have the opposite nature to a shepherd who instinctively protects the sheep with his own life. 

What is most interesting in our text in Acts 20:28ff is that Paul apparently did not know who the “wolves” were. Had he known he would have surely dealt with them. He only knew that after his departure that certain men would “not spare the flock” as they attempted to exalt themselves. To “not spare” means he will not pity them, nor show mercy or kindness. The heart of a wolf does not lend it to show compassion. These deadly characters were so well camouflaged that Paul could not identify them after three years being around them. They wore their “sheep clothing” so well that even he could not discern the difference. Apparently, they could do the things that sheep do. Perhaps they could teach, preach, or even work miracles. They could fool most of the people — most of the time. However, time and opportunity would expose them for who they were and the damage they would cause. 

You know a tree by its fruit. It would be easy to identify who the wolves were once they started doing their deeds. The Ephesians might look up one day and the church be scattered here and there with wounded saints all over the place. Whereas Paul cultivated a spirit of love and unity among the saints; the wolves move in their own ambitions and agendas and have no regard for the sheep. Their actions wound the sheep in ways that only God can heal. They are so self-deceived that they cannot put two and two together or they simply don’t care. This is why Paul wept for three years night and day.

I wonder if we really comprehend this? I wonder if we want to? Can you imagine a grown man weeping day and night for three years? What on earth could possibly cause him such distress? Clearly he had a profound love for the sheep and would guard them with his own life if he could; but he was being sent to Jerusalem and then Rome and would not be around to fight their battles. He was leaving it up to the elders to guard and protect the flock. In fact, in Acts 20 Paul commended the elders to God and to the word of His grace. Not to men. Not to some “leader.” He commended them to God. Circumcise your ears if necessary and let this truth sink down into them. Ephesus needed the guidance of the Holy Spirit — not some personality. It was personalities that threatened to destroy the church. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things, to draw away disciples after them. You know you are dealing with a wolf when the “leader” demands that you follow them instead of God. 

The sheep have to have a place to go after the wolves have scattered them. Unfortunately, wounded and scattered sheep can be found all over the world. Only God knows how many of them are out there.. roaming around, wounded, scattered by the wolves. What happened? They were in a church that walked the same path that lay before Ephesus and the consequences were disastrous. More times than not these sheep are ignorantly labeled as “rebellious” or “wounded” and need to repent. But this was not Paul’s attitude and nor is it God’s. It’s the attitude of the wolf in sheep clothing. Why? because a true shepherd would instinctively feel compassion for wounded sheep and work to nurse it back to health — not mock and heap more insult upon their injury. Selah.

Woe be unto the pastors that destroy and scatter the sheep of my pasture! saith the LORD. Therefore thus saith the LORD God of Israel against the pastors that feed my people; Ye have scattered my flock, and driven them away, and have not visited them: behold, I will visit upon you the evil of your doings, saith the LORD. And I will gather the remnant of my flock out of all countries whither I have driven them, and will bring them again to their folds; and they shall be fruitful and increase. And I will set up shepherds over them which shall feed them: and they shall fear no more, nor be dismayed, neither shall they be lacking, saith the LORD. (Jeremiah 23:1–4 KJV)   
      

  

The Making of a Headless — Fingerless god

The Making of a Headless — Fingerless god 

Robert Wurtz II

And He is the head of the body, the church, who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things He may have the preeminence. (Colossians 1:18 NKJV)


Let no one cheat you of your reward, taking delight in false humility and worship of angels, intruding into those things which he has not seen, vainly puffed up by his fleshly mind, and not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. (Colossians 2:18–19 NKJV)


There have always been deceptions coming along to lure the saints away from our primary focus. For the Church in the first century, it was legalistic Judaism and dualistic Gnosticism; in the western world, it seems to be shallow decisionism and radical denominationalism. Anything that disconnects the churches of God from the Head of the Body (Jesus Christ) is usurping Christ’s preeminence. No amount of explanations or excuses can change this fact.  

Removing The Finger


It should be superfluous for me to say that decisions made in the Body of Christ must originate in the Head, Christ Jesus. Nevertheless, many churches have undergone a similar transformation of what the Jews suffered under the Rabbis. Soon after the Temple was destroyed in 70AD, a radical group of Pharisees created a religion that had almost no continuity with the Judaism prior to that time; we know it as Rabbinic Judaism. The goal of the religion was to usurp God’s authority by granting the Rabbi’s authority to snuff-out the prophetic voice of God. To use Rabbinic Judaism scholar Daniel Gruber’s characterization; the radical Pharisees turned rabbis had broken-off the Finger of God. 


By the time they were finished, a Rabbi could overrule a Prophet, an audible voice from Heaven (Bath-kol), and had authority to interpret all dreams. They effectively eliminated God from their religion. They would not admit as much, but that is what it boiled down to. The Rabbis have the Law of Moses and assumed the authority to interpret it. In fact, they believe they can over-rule God Himself. 

Removing The Head

Many Evangelicals do the exact same thing, but are more subtle about it. Like the Rabbis, Bible interpretation (hermeneutics) has replaced the voice of God. This ought not so to be. Good hermeneutics has always been an essential part of biblical instruction and revelation, but this did not negate the prophetic voice of God. In fact, the two were always complementary. The written word of God has always been the standard against which prophetic revelation was judged. Unfortunately, as with the Rabbis, many would rather stifle God’s voice than hear what the Spirit is saying to the churches. This is a very serious problem of mortal consequence. It is all just another way of not holding fast to the Head, from whom all the body, nourished and knit together by joints and ligaments, grows with the increase that is from God. 

Pathetic or Prophetic? 

Another group came along in the 20th century who claimed to believe in the prophetic voice of God, but corrupted it to the point that many can no longer take it seriously. Wolves dressed in sheep clothing used “prophetic words” to gain everything from filthy lucre and sexual encounters — to popularity and political clout. This is not far from the Corinthians who were calling Jesus accursed in their so-called operations of the Spirit. These abuses became so profound that many people distrust anything remotely labled as “prophetic.” Exaserbating the problem was the diabolic teaching “touch not the Lord’s anointed” and the stage was set to sever the Head from the Body under the pretense of speaking for God. So-called prophets riding in private jets and limousines to conferences. The time would fail to go into all the disgusting things that have gone on in the name of prophetic. Nevertheless, the solution for abuse was never non-use, it was right use. 



Seven or Severed?

All too often the connection between the Head (Christ Jesus) and His Body (the churches of God) is severed, and there is no real communication at all. This is catastrophic. We are told seven times in the Revelation to, “…hear what the Spirit says unto the churches.” Paul wept and wept in Acts 20:32 because he knew men would come in to sever the Body from the Head (Christ Jesus). This is what has happened in modern times. Many have commended themselves to men, systems, programs, organizations… anything but the Head. We are to commend ourselves to God and not to men; to the Word of His grace and not to the strategies of man. This is what Paul did with the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:32 — he commended them to God. The word commend is the same as is used by Jesus when he stated, “Father, into thy hands I commend my spirit.” We must as individuals and as the churches of God set ourselves before the Lord and allow Him to deal with us in a real way. 

Hearing From the Head

We must hear from the Head if we are to function as a Body. This requires that we come together in a Spiritual frame — not to strategize, but to wait upon the Lord until we ascertain what is the mind of the Spirit. God is not an absentee landlord. He is walking in the midst of the lamp stands (churches). He is watching and He is listening. He sees all and knows all. We ought to tremble to think we could operate independent of Christ’s absolute Divine direction. In Acts 15 the saints came together until they could say with conviction, “It seems good to the Holy Spirit and to us…” If a modern democratic denominational approach would have been taken in Acts 15, the gates of Hell would have prevailed against the Church. Those Godly men came together and talked through the issue under the superintendence and guidance of the Holy Spirit — until there was unanimity. Then they declared, “For it has seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us to lay on you no greater burden than these requirements” (Acts 15:28 ESV)

The Only Hope

We need to hear from God in this crisis hour. The only hope for this present evil world; the only hope for the churches; the only hope for the Christian is to ascertain the mind of God. We must hear what the Spirit is saying unto the churches. Then, and only then, will we begin to see the Church turn the world upside down. God is calling us to lay down, as it were, the books of Babylon and the plans for a Tower, and pick-up prophetically the God breathed book — with absolute conviction that it contains the Blueprint for this desperate hour. We cannot continue on our own orders — we need to hear from our Heavenly Head Quarters. There is no other hope.

Predator Prophets

Predator Prophets
Robert Wurtz II

And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, “Son of man, prophesy against the prophets of Israel who prophesy, and say to those who prophesy out of their own heart, ‘Hear the word of the LORD!’ ” Thus says the Lord GOD: “Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! (Ezekiel 13:1–3 NKJV)

The most dangerous person in any full gospel setting, is a person who at one and the same time believes they have “the gift of prophecy”, but does not truly fear the Lord. What makes them dangerous is that they do not hesitate to speak for God. It’s as casual a matter as if they were speaking of any subject. Nevertheless, ‘Hear the word of the LORD!’ ” Thus says the Lord GOD: “Woe to the foolish prophets, who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing!

Since the dawning of the Charismatic movement, we have watched a wholesale shift towards the use of so-called “prophetic utterance gifts.” In fact, whole ministries have sprung up headed by people who do not hesitate to say, “Thus says the Lord.” Sadly, many of these people could not pass a lie-detector test, much less have a standard of truth worthy of speaking for God. Typically, these words are vague statements of encouragement that often promise the person the moon. They generally appeal to the flesh or some other self-pleasing and self-serving thing. I wish I could count the number of prophesies I have heard where people were told in effect that God is going to make them famous. When the prophesies turn out to be false, usually the person who gave it is nowhere to be found. This is profoundly different than when Paul received a word in the book of Acts. What did a prophecy sound like in Paul’s ears? Ask yourself how many so-called “words” that you have heard actually prepared a person for calamity? This is the word Paul received everywhere he went:

“The Holy Spirit testifies in every city, saying that chains and tribulations await me” (Acts 20:23 NKJV)

I recall as a young Christian a certain man came to a meeting loaded with “Thus saith the Lord’s.” After giving a round of words to various people in the meeting, he came upon a woman who had been praying earnestly and daily for her husband who was a hard worker trying to make a living for the family. The so-called prophet gave her a word that she needed to pray for her husband. This caused so much confusion that the young man had to be confronted. His response? “I’m sorry, I’m new at this.” 


Not all people will admit that they have misued prophecy, intentionally or otherwise. In fact, one of the greatest consequences of false prophecy, or a false “word,” is that the individuals almost inevitably feel compelled to stand by the word they gave — even against all odds. This is why the saints, and more specifically the Elders, were to judge (discern) whether or not a prophecy was of the Spirit of God. This is part of the “check and balance” system that God designed specifically to protect the sheep. When “personal words of prophecy” are given, this is all but impossible, and that is why abuses take place. Any prophecy or prophet that seeks to operate independent of the discernment of the Saints, and is unwilling to submit to the Elder leadership of the church, is in error and should be rejected. 

I am not saying that if a person gives a false word they are going to Hell or ought to be stoned; nevertheless, God-fearing Christians will often say that in the Old Testament, if a “word” or “prophecy” went forward that was false, a funeral was held. In fact, The penalty for false prophecy, was capital punishment according to Deuteronomy 18:20. This is God’s estimate of the behavior. How ought men and women tremble before ever pronouncing the words, “Thus says the Lord”? 


But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’ And if you say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which the LORD has not spoken?’— when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him. (Deuteronomy 18:20–22 NKJV)

The Didache had some simple tests to identify a false prophet (if he stays more than two days or asks for money, 11.5–6). It is “from his behavior, then, [that] the false prophet and the true prophet shall be known” (Didache 11.8, quoted in NIBC) In other words, prophecy was not to be prostituted into a money making scheme. It is marvelous how society would put a politician or judge in jail for receiving bribes, but false prophets solicit their wares all over the world unthwarted. Money corrupts judgement. (1 Samuel 8:3) In fact, if a so-called prophet gives a “personal prophecy” to someone who pays their salary or contributes significantly and knowingly in their offerings, it is a conflict of interest. That is common sense. 

In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus taught about the marks of a false prophet and the consequences of being one (Matthew 7:15-23 ). He also cautioned His followers to beware of false prophets who would arise during times of tribulation and in the end times (Matthew 24:11, Matthew 24:11, 24:24; Mark 13:22 ). He said to be careful when the world loves a prophet’s words, because a prophet who is false is apt to be popular (Luke 6:26 ). (Holman) Imagine a person trying to operate in the gifts, but they are as unloving and unchristlike as can be. Not all false prophecies are from the false prophets own heart; some are CLAIRVOYANT. How will we know who is true or false? Check for the fruit of the Spirit. It’s hard to cover up a bad spirit for long periods of time. Jesus said it plainly:

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 thornbushes 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. (Matthew 7:15–18 NKJV)


I wish to complete this entry by focusing on our Lord’s description of false prophets as ravenous wolves. A ravenous wolf in nature, is one that devours great quantities of food.  We have this passage in Genesis 49:27, “Benjamin is a ravenous wolf: in the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil.” The tribe was said to have a warlike spirit. You will recall that Saul of Tarsus (Paul) was from the tribe of Benjamin. He described his life prior to salvation this way, “For you have heard of my former conduct in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God beyond measure and laid waste to it.” (Galatians 1:13 NKJV) Paul, before he was born again, was a ravenous wolf hunting down and persecuting the saints. He was a destroyer of Christians who tried with all his might to compel them to renounce Christ. This is what a Ravenous Wolf does; it naturally destroys the faith of the sheep. 

The ravenous wolf (false prophet) comes in sheep’s clothing. It pretends to be harmless and Christian outwardly. It befriends the other sheep. It can put on a show with the best of them. It behaves in such a way that it can blend in with the sheep; however, it is all “put on.” The Christian behaviors are a pretense. A sheep is not what they really are. Their love is feigned. In fact, they are devoid of the fruit of the Spirit and then pretend to be anointed of God. In private they have a devouring spirit. Wolves don’t love the sheep; they love to eat the sheep and the sheeps resources. 

The word ravenous also carries the meaning rapacious. This word means aggressively greedy or grasping: like a rapacious landlord. Webster dictionary has it in the sentence, “Poor Tom has fallen for a rapacious gold digger.” A.T. Robertson defines the word as being “greedy for power, gain, and self. It is a tragedy that such men and women reappear through the ages and always find victims. Wolves are more dangerous than dogs.” Again, false prophets are ravenous and will destroy the sheep (saints). 

In this evil generation professing Christians in full Gospel circles are know to tell others things the Lord has revealed to them or some specific direction for them. False words of this type take place with a chronic regularity. What are the consequences? It destroys peoples’ faith in Christ. I have known of so-called Christians to give “words” to people that were maliciously wrong, and it stumbled the person. If you have worked in pastoral ministry in Full Gospel circles you have likely come across this devilish treachery. 

Not all words that are given to folks are “positive.” Some so-called prophetic words are given to people out of sheer envy and meanness. These false prophets hear something about a person and then have the gall to say “the Lord revealed it to me.” People are told that they are doing things they are not doing –stumbling their faith and destroying their belief in Spiritual gifts. “Women on women” false prophecy abuse is a terrible problem in some Charismatic and Pentecostal circles.   

Jealousy and prophecy are a devilish mix. Words are given to control and hurt people. It is witchcraft. The false prophets are generally so deceived, that you cannot tell them that they are wrong. They are so deceived that they believe themselves above correction. They will stiffen up as if the person hearing is the liar. Nevertheless, if you are given a false word from somebody, mark that person. They are quite probably a wolf in sheep clothing. At the very least they are destructive to the kingdom of God. If they miss your prophecy, how many more have they missed? How many people have they stumbled? These are very serious issues. This is why Jesus warned us. It is more than mere putting words in God’s mouth; it is userping HIS authority in a person’s life. What could be more diabolical than to assume the authority of God when saying something to a person when God has not spoken? 

Moreover, many, if not most people are afraid to confront a false prophet because of the devilish out-of-context “touch not the Lord’s anointed” teachings that prevail in this evil generation. Show me a person who emphasizes that teaching and I’ll show you a false prophet. 

Moreover, never excuse a false prophecy as just a mistake. The Holy Spirit does not inspire people to do things contrary to the scriptures. The old-timers used to say, “the Spirit and the Word agree.” When Moses said, “Thus saith the Lord” over a million people took a step forward. Professed Christians would not be quick to prophesy “thus saith the Lord” if they knew the enormity of it. God is going to judge every word that has been spoken in His name. If you or I ever say, “Thus saith the Lord” it had better and I mean better be the Lord. God will not suffer fools gladly. He is going to hold the false prophets accountable. 

This is what the Sovereign LORD says: Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit and have seen nothing! (Ezekiel 13:3)





How Shall They Hear?

How Shall They Hear?
Robert Wurtz II

For “WHOEVER CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD SHALL BE SAVED.” How then shall they call on Him in whom they have not believed? And how shall they believe in Him of whom they have not heard? And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: “HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO PREACH THE GOSPEL OF PEACE, WHO BRING GLAD TIDINGS OF GOOD THINGS!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” (Romans 10:13-16 NKJV)

I have quoted this passage at length in order to focus on the importance of “hearing” the Gospel. Certainly, there is a sense in which all people everywhere ought to know that there is a Creator. We know that the world is filled with people that should acknowledge the light that they have, but they suppress it. In fact, God has written His laws in the hearts of men and women, so that from birth, we all have a basic sense of right from wrong. Nevertheless, unless people are challenged in some way they will go on suppressing these realities. Paul reminds us that some are so hardened in heart that they do it and approve of others that do it as well. How will they hear? God’s method of challenging these sinners is through what Paul called, “the foolishness of preaching.” Not that preaching is foolish, but rather people (especially those who consider themselves educated) often view preaching as a foolish thing to do. Nevertheless, this is God’s method. 

Unless They Are Sent 

It stands to reason that there are realities that must be true before a person can be sent to preach. Saul of Tarsus is an example. Until his Demascus Road experience, he was not qualified- nor did he desire to preach the Gospel. In fact, he was at odds with God’s revealed Gospel in mind and in practice. To a lesser or greater degree, all unbelievers (the unregenerate) are in a state of disagreement with God when it comes to the Gospel. Saul went so far as to persecute those who believed and would have stamped out the preaching of the Gospel if he could have. However, when Saul was converted and became (as it were) Paul (as a new creation in Christ) he satisfied the first requirement for preaching the Gospel. 

Until Paul was truly born of the Spirit he was not in agreement with God from the heart and could never preach the Gospel. This is because the carnal mind is at enmity with God and cannot be made subject to His law. Bear in mind that I am speaking of the Gospel as it is known in the book of Acts and the rest of the New Testament and not the post-tent crusade, man-centered gospel as it has been known now for roughly a century. The unregenerate can preach the “modern gospel,” but they could never preach the Gospel of the book of Acts. So we have to make the distinction between the preacher of the modern gospel and the Preacher that Paul is speaking of when he says, And how shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach unless they are sent?”

The “Report”

But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “LORD, WHO HAS BELIEVED OUR REPORT?” (Romans 10:16)

Paul, referencing Isaiah, calls the Gospel message “our report.” The first aspect of the message is the revelation of the sinfulness of all men and women. This is argued extensively in the early chapters of Romans and was preached regularly in the book of Acts. It typically produced one of two responses: anger or trembling. When Stephen preached, the people got angry and stoned him. When Paul preached to Felix, he trembled. Paul heard Stephen’s message and later repented. We have no record of Felix repenting. So we see then that it is not enough to tremble at the notion that we have offended God and are accountable to him in the great Judgment. We have to repent (change our mind) and turn to Christ. We have to agree with what God has said about our sinful behavior and our sinful condition. 

Roman’s 10:16 equates obedience with believing the report (message). If a person does not believe they will not obey. This is an act of the will- not a matter of being convinced. God Himself has shown man the truth. Many people have received far more “light” than they should have ever needed to believe, but they go on in disobedience. The religious leaders even saw Lazarus raised from the dead; and rather than believing- they sought to kill him again. Amazing. But this is how obstinate man can be. This is how hostile to the truth of the Gospel some people are. 

A God and A Gospel that Sinners Will Accept  

 Israel was loaded with false prophets that told the people what they wanted to hear. How could these wolves in sheep clothing ever bring Israel to a place of repentance? They were too busy telling the people about peace and safety. The same is true today. Men and women have fabricated a “god” that will accept their sinfulness and be available at their beckon call. Grace has become a synonym for license to sin. Some people will go to their grave worshiping this god- because the process answers their inward need to worship their Creator. It is a placebo. It is false. 

Paul was greatly challenged by Jews that believed they were the elect and could not possibly be at enmity with God. They saw no need to repent under the deceptive religion they believed. We get the impression in Romans that many believed themselves above the common people because they were teachers of the law and of “babes.” In their mind this made them exempt from the very things they taught. They were born and raised Jews and therefore were God’s people by divine right. Paul thoroughly challenged this belief. 

In modern times we have a similar dilemma. Many people are born into Christian homes, and like the Jews, believe that this is what makes them a Christian. They would never admit this, but we have to account for the fact that historically the many children of true Christians are likely to have never undergone a true conversion experience. The Puritans experienced this in the 16th and 17th century in America and had to make compromises in church procedures to accommodate them within the churches. Paul would have challenged these peoples’ assurance-just as John the Baptist had done. God is able of stones to raise up children in Christian homes; nevertheless, this does not make the person a true child of God. 

We can train up a child in a way he or she should go, but this does not make them believers. This was Paul’s message in Romans. We all, no matter our upbringing, have to come to a place of Godly sorrow and true repentance. We have to acknowledge our sins just like everyone else. We have to repent of many of the sins that run rampant within churches and go completely unchallenged. In fact, we have to begin to see how many churches have established their rules of conduct in such a way that it allows children raised in church to fly under the radar. There are a lot more sins in the world than drunkenness and homosexuality (sexual immorality). Hypocrisy, greed, lying, gluttony, pride, and a host of other like things are often the very sins that answer to sinners rebellion. This is what the Pharisees and religious leaders (who thought they were elect) we often guilty of. When these go unchallenged-many people never see their sinfulness and therefore will never repent. Stephen was the type of preacher that could look at Saul (Paul) who was “blameless as touching the law,” and declare “you stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears, you do always resist the Holy Spirit. As your fathers did – so do you.”

 How Shall They Hear?

If there is any question that I dwell on more than any other it is this, “How shall they hear without a preacher?” Until we get some people truly born of the Spirit and called of God- there is no hope in our lands. We have “ministers” a dime a dozen- but where are the preachers like Paul and Stephen that will call the people to repent and believe the Gospel? How long must we go on wearying ourselves as did Israel with false prophet after false prophet? The only hope we have is for the preachers that are truly born again to preach the Gospel as it is supposed to be. Not ear-tickling, and not abusing the people, but ministering the “report.” I have no doubt that if men will do this God will back the words and we will begin to see real change in our lands.         

  

I AM COME TO SEND FIRE

I AM COME TO SEND FIRE
Robert Wurtz II

I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance: but he that cometh after me is mightier than I, whose shoes I am not worthy to bear: he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost, and with fire: (Matthew 3:11)


In our previous study entitled, THE THRONE IN THE MIDST we discussed the symbolism of the Ark of the Covenant. We stated that the Ark was a symbol of the presence of God; but more pointedly it represented the very throne of God. When the High Priest went into the Holy of Holies they were figuratively walking into the throne room of God. The Jews will sometimes say that the High Priest had a sense that he was ascending up to God as he walked forward. In other words, He was ascending up to God’s throne room where his will is carried out in an absolute sense. The Tabernacle was like a ladder reaching up into Heaven. 

Israel was a theocracy wherein the priests were to communicate God’s will to the people. They were called to be a kingdom under God’s authority. YHWH (Jehovah) was the King and He ruled from the Mercy Seat in the Holiest of All. It was not until Israel had backslidden far from God that He would accept their request for a “king”, so they could live like the rest of the nations. The sobering response of God is recorded in 1 Samuel 8:7f; And the LORD said unto Samuel, Hearken unto the voice of the people in all that they say unto thee: for they have not rejected thee, but they have rejected me, that I should not reign over them.” They wanted a king that would fight their battles and in whom they could place their trust. This is why God wanted a king after His own heart. He still wanted to rule the people, but He would have to do this through a man. You will note that from this point forward Israel will have her ups and downs; but the trajectory of the nation was downward until finally they were led into captivity. Some kings hearkened to God and others did not. The king over the people was “the Lord’s anointed”. The people were warned not to “touch this king”. Today the Lord’s Anointed is Jesus Christ. He is the King over His people the Church. Man may call themselves, “the Lord’s anointed” and expect to speak for Him and be protected as Him, but there is only one king among God’s people; that king is Christ.

Why the Fire went out

Eli’s sons made the cardinal error of thinking that the Ark of God could be used in some superstitious way to scare the enemy or bring good luck in the battle. Imagine a group of infidels trying to carry the Ark into battle. The Ark of God represents God’s authority. When that authority is being abused and the people are living in rife disobedience, God had already said that He will not drive their enemies out (Judges 2:2-3). They should have known this. They were living in compromise and sin and trying to operate in the supernatural. Keep this fact in mind. Priests are called to be wholly sanctified unto the Lord. To whom much is given, much is required. Otherwise, the enemy will have a platform to use a compromiser to influence His people. They may not even know it is happening. Eli’s sons should have recused themselves knowing they were living in sin. They did not. How could they have not viewed everything they thought they heard from God with suspicion, knowing they were living in disobedience? But, they kept on ministering in this pivotal role. This is a very dangerous situation.   

Eli’s sons were trusted with being obedient to God’s precepts and order while doing service inside the Tabernacle, where none of the people could come and see. If they decided not to keep the charge, that is to say, to carry out their responsibility to change out the shewbread daily or if they only lit one instead of all seven of the lamps on the lamp stand, the only ones that would know would be them and God. These things were all symbolic of true realities that would one day exist in the churches of God. The bread was “The bread of the presence” (לחם הפנים lechem haPānīm). It symbolized the fact that priests are to labor together with God daily, to set before the Lord and the people the fresh bread of God’s word. Man cannot live by bread alone, but by every word that is proceeding from the mouth of God. It is the job of the priests to be the living link between God and man. They were to receive from the Lord directives that He had for the people. This is how He ruled. But Eli’s sons did whatever they wanted to. The people were trusting them to be obeying God in the secret place, but they refused to keep the charge. The results? The Fire of God went out, the Ark was lost and Eli and his sons were dead.



Regaining the Fire    

Nothing can be done in the service of God without the Fire of God. You can’t just strike a match, that would be strange fire (common fire). The only way the Fire of God could return was for the AUTHORITY of God to return. The people, beginning with the High Priest and the Levites, had to get their houses in order. They had to repent and determine to come under God’s authority in an absolute sense) and keep His charge. To initiate this process David sent for the Ark to be brought up to the city. They brought it in on a new cart (the machinery of man’s devices). The Philistines had the Ark sent back on a new cart and the people continued with it. The Ark was as an empty throne. It belonged to God, but He had departed from it because of Israel’s sin. As the throne was returning back in Israel, God was drawing near to it again and preparing to exercise His authority. Uzzah was killed as a first sign that God was coming back to rule and things would not be as they were before. 

The lesson here is that God’s presence, authority, glory and Fire cannot be mechanized by men. In Africa witch doctors use drum beats to drum up spirits. God cannot be ushered in this way. It has to come about as the result of the priests carrying the burden of God’s directive leading. When the Egyptians carried Pharaoh on their shoulders, Pharaoh was giving the commands that set the direction for the processions. Likewise, the priests (the sons of God) are to hearken to the voice of God as He leads them (and subsequently this present evil world) in the direction He wants them to go. The churches of God should be filled with a Royal Priesthood that follows God in such a way that the world can have a sense of God’s direction. Man cannot manufacture this with his equipment. 

When Uzzah reached up to steady the Ark He was touching God’s throne. Think about the awesomeness of that. He put His hand to God’s prerogative. They were manufacturing the process of moving God around as if He could be drug around on a trailer any ole’ way by man’s whims. “We’ll just drag God along with us where ever we want Him to go.” God forbid! He became an accessory to what the people wanted to do. They wanted a song, dance and a shout, but were not willing to do things God’s way. This whole story is exemplary and we do well to give heed. David got very angry because Uzzah was killed (2 Samuel 6:8). In the next verse he feared the Lord. It was a serious attitude adjustment. Likewise, people today get very angry when they are told that God cannot be ushered in with man’s machinery; the same machinery used by the world to drum up demon spirits or work up a crowd in a concert. It is a new cart. God simply cannot be trailered around like that. People try it, but it always ends up in something false; sooner or later. 

If you think about it, what David had done was little different than what Eli’s sons had done, though it was well intended. They were dragging God around where they wanted Him to be, not bothering to inquire as to the right way. A whole generation was in place that had no idea the way it was supposed to be done. So, they get angry when they are challenged. They believed they were right and had God not slew a man they probably would have never put the Ark back on the shoulders of the priests. They would have always transported the Ark on the new cart. Someone may have jumped in front of the procession and said, “Stop! this is all wrong! This is not the way it is supposed to be done!” And rather than listen, they would have viewed the man as an obstructionist and a bad spirit. Some may have went as far as to discern he had a demon spirit. So God had to kill a man. As sad as it is that is probably the greatest lesson of all in the story. The people were so hard headed in thinking they were right that God had to strike a man dead to sober their minds. David got hostile at first, but then he feared the Lord. Maybe it will have to happen in our times?

The Danger of the New (novel)

The Philistines provided Israel with a ‘new’ (novel) way of handling the Ark. But decades of passing time did not change God’s instructions as to how things are to be done. In modern times the ‘Philistines’ do the same thing and few people even notice it. The world offers the churches of God a means of carrying God’s authority with a worldly means. I say authority because God’s Shekinah presence and His Fire would not be manifest until the Temple was completed and Solomon had dedicated it. Keep this clear. We are talking about God’s Throne and how it is being carried. When man reaches up and touches God’s authority in a person’s life, as they wrongly attempt to lead them along with the machinery of this world, they are committing a sin that is worthy of death (please read that sentence a second time). This is God’s prerogative authority in a person’s life and people are not to be manipulated on that deep level. This is God’s domain, not man’s. The danger we have in this evil generation is that men would manufacture a sense of God’s presence and then start touching the Ark in peoples lives by purporting to be speaking to them prophetically to direct their decisions. God never works this way. He always deals with the person Himself; any other word they may be given of Him by other individuals will simply be to confirm what God has already said to them. Keep that clear. 

Forcing God’s hand

A lot of messages have been preached over the years on “touching the Ark.” They are a dime a dozen. The problem is that the messages are obscure and in the abstract and have no real meaning. They never really touch upon the real issues. For example; people are told that God is calling them to the Mission field and God has not really spoken. A story is commonly told of a man that was called to one country and his wife to another country by the same prophet! It is madness. God does not call people this way. He speaks to them in the secret place of the sanctuary of their own heart where only He is in authority. To intrude into this place is to touch the throne in their life. To do so could destroy the person and bring upon the offender a remedial judgment of God like unto what Uzzah received. Over the last 20 years I have known on more than one occasion for a person to be given a so-called “word from the Lord” in an attempt to steer them out of an intimate relationship. It usually goes something like this, “thus says the Lord, that person you are dating is not for you.” Putting words in God’s mouth, for any reason, is a serious offense. Some people think they know God’s will for other peoples lives and it is the epitome of pride and arrogance. They are so sure that they will do a “thus saith the Lord…” when God is not saying anything. I have seen this type thing destroy people. God’s hand cannot be forced in this way. They who practice such things are in desperate need of repentance. 

Long term consequences 

About 20 years ago I had a front row seat to a terrible situation where the Ark was touched” in a man and woman’s life. Early one year there was a move of God and a great excitement. This sometimes gives rise to a host of people wanting to “prophesy” and “give folks a word” (as if prophesying were a normal thing to do). A family had been struggling, so an individual gave the wife a word that she needed to pray for her husband. Upon hearing this the wife became distraught. It happens that she had been praying and interceding for her husband on a daily basis for some time. After the meeting the family went to the man and asked what was meant. He simply replied to the effect, “I’m sorry. I’m new at this.” It was evidence of the error of giving people directive instructions as if it is God speaking. Later in the year a popular TV evangelist came to town that this family attended. During the offering he gave a general word to the effect that God will multiply your offering if you will be obedient. This family gave a certain amount and waited. They were struggling financially and rested hope on the evangelists words. When they returned home from the meeting their car had been broken into and thieves stole several hundred dollars in merchandise. The “multiplied blessing” word never came to pass either. Not surprisingly, every person in this story suffered long term. The family viewed the evangelist as a false prophet from then on. The evangelist some years later was caught in scandal. The other person left the ministry. Solution? Thus says the Lord GOD, Woe to the foolish prophets who follow their own spirit, and have seen nothing! (Ezekiel 13:3) Our Hebrew word for “foolish” here is nabal that means “to wilt”. It’s the sons of Sceva all over again with a different twist. They had the bizarre notion that they could move in the power of God, speaking for God, not realizing that what they were doing was a solemn business. They follow their own spirit and not the Holy Spirit. That is, they rely on their own reasoning to speak for God. They have knowledge of a situation and pretty soon a concoction of words comes into their mind and they speak it with a “thus saith the Lord” in front. it is a prophet with a recklessness of the sons of Eli; they went running into battle with God’s authority. God’s authority and glory departed.

The Ark in Place      

When God is ruling within man as He desires to, it is akin to the Ark being moved into the Holy of Holies. The High Priest alone was allowed in this place (Hebrews 9:7). Our Great High Priest is Jesus Christ (Hebrews 4:14). It is up to the individual to have an ear to hear what the Spirit is saying to them. Once the temple (person) is cleansed by the Blood of Christ and God’s authority is established (the Great High Priest is living within); then the person is a candidate for the Fire and Glory of God. Solomon dedicated the Temple by bringing a tremendous sacrifice. The people sang and the glory filled the house; having totally filled the altar he prayed and the Fire fell. It was this very Fire that the priests were to use, under the guidance of the High Priest to do the service of God. So far we have learned two great things: 1. We must have the Fire of God to do His service 2. God alone has the prerogative to lead a person in His perfect will. Disobedience in either area has shown to result inn God’s remedial judgment, both with Nadab and Abihu and later Uzzah. 

Replacing the Fire

We cannot with our machinery drum something up; God has to send something down. This is utterly important. We cannot manufacture a move of God; He has to come in His very presence. Not in a feeling, but in a life altering presence that transports a person from the Kingdom of Darkness to the Kingdom of His dear Son. When we fill the altar God will send the Fire. This is what Romans 12:1ff is about. 

Losing the Ark


Obviously by the time of Jesus this Fire had gone out and the Ark was gone again. The priests must have tossed the blood on the floor behind the veil in Herod’s Temple and performed the services with common fire. What a reckless mess. God was not there. God was in Christ. For He said, destroy this Temple (speaking of His own body) and I will raise it again in 3 days. He called the place the Father’s house and His house (Matthew 21:13John 2:16), but at last He revealed to them that it was ‘their house’ that had been left unto them desolate. (Luke 13:35) Why? No Fire. No Ark. God’s authority was gone. No way to do the service of God and no desire to have it. When the Fire came in Christ; they didn’t want it or Him. They and no desire to burn for God or to be temples of the Living God. (See Isaiah 66:1ff) They wanted to keep God under control in the temples made with hands. They wanted to lead Him around on a cart and dictate in peoples lives. Today the Rabbi’s usurp God’s authority in the lives of the people. They reserve the right to give the people direction in the place of God. For almost 2000 years they have had their hands on the Ark. 

Keeping the charge   

And they burn unto the LORD every morning and every evening burnt sacrifices and sweet incense: the shewbread also [set they in order] upon the pure table; and the candlestick of gold with the lamps thereof, to burn every evening: for we keep the charge of the LORD our God; but ye have forsaken him. (2 Chronicles 13:11)

It is unfortunate that many today in the churches of God believe that we can lower the standard and get by on some lesser thing than the authority and Fire of God. How can priests unto God do the service of God unless they are under His authority. When a priest got under the stave to lift the ark they were coming under God’s authority. How could they see clearly with no Fire? Yet substitutes are put in place that spread death and wreak of unconsumed flesh. Jesus said, I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!” (Luke 12:49We are responsible to keep the Fire stoked in our lives as surely as were the Levites. We are to keep presenting ourselves to God holy and acceptable. What is acceptable? Simply put- And we are his witnesses of these things; and so is also the Holy Ghost, whom God hath given to them that obey him. (Acts 5:32) Do you have a desire to obey God? Do you want God to rule and reign in you? Have you filled the altar? Those that have been baptized in the Holy Spirit and Fire- is the Fire still burning? Are you keeping the charge as did Abijah and his priests? This was the basis on which Abijah knew he would win the battle. “If you keep the charge of God you will be the devil’s master.” (GWN) 


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