Paul warns the Ephesian elders that there will be elders and leaders within the Ephesian church who will distort the truth and its application. They will do this in order to cause division and separate a portion of the believers from the flock and, in so doing, gain a following. This following of people will then provide these “savage wolves” with power and access to financial gain.
Jeremiah and Ezekiel dealt with the same problem in their day. There were prophets who exploited their position or spiritual gift for their own gain. They use people like sheep, fleecing and butchering them for their own gain, while they use phrases like, “We love people,” and, “We are a church that cares,” to conceal the intentions of the savage wolf that lurks within.
Isaiah, Micah, Jeremiah and Ezekiel all wrote about the problem of spiritual leadership prospering while misleading, deceiving and not teaching the people of God:
“His watchmen are blind; they are all without knowledge; they are all silent dogs; they cannot bark, dreaming, lying down, loving to slumber. The dogs have a mighty appetite; they never have enough. But they are shepherds who have no understanding; they have all turned to their own way, each to his own gain, one and all.” – Isaiah 56:10-11
“Her priests teach for a price, and her prophets tell fortunes for money. Yet they lean upon the Lord and say, ‘Is not the Lord among us?’ ” – Micah 3:11
“From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit.” – Jeremiah 14:18
“‘I want you to condemn these leaders and tell them: I, the Lord God, say you shepherds of Israel are doomed! You take care of yourselves while ignoring my sheep. You drink their milk and use their wool to make your clothes. Then you butcher the best ones for food. But you don’t take care of the flock!” – Ezekiel 34:2, 3