What I am about to share is not intended to create suspicion or fear. Those two things are a work of hell. I write to address a sad, but true reality. Some within the Church who claim to follow Jesus are tares planted within the harvest. To ignore such a possibility is to dismiss the human experience and the hard realities expressed in Scripture.
As the American West was being explored and eventually settled each night the wagon trains would stop and circle the wagons to rest and repair from a hard day of travel. The wagons would also circle at other times when they came under attack. At the command of the wagon master, the pioneers would circle their wagons creating a defensive barrier to fend off the attackers who were circling the wagon train.
The phrase “circle the wagons” has become colloquial in its usage in the present day when a group comes under attack of criticism, unwarranted accusations, or any kind of danger from without. In those moments, we circle our wagons in solidarity to survive until the attack abates.
What happens when it becomes obvious that another attack is taking place like an attack from inside our group? These two-pronged attacks can have devastating results if we are not informed and prepared for their occurrence.
The Lord and His disciples experienced this when Judas betrayed the Lord from the interior of the most intimate circle of followers. This was not a remote experience in Scripture. A cursory search reveals its repetition in the history of people of faith.
Jude 12 describes these kinds of attacks from within and those who perpetrate them, “When these people eat with you in your fellowship meals commemorating the Lord’s love, they are like dangerous reefs that can shipwreck you.”
Paul asked his readers, “I make one more appeal, my dear brothers, and sisters. Watch out for people who cause divisions and upset people’s faith by teaching things contrary to what you have been taught. Stay away from them. Such people are not serving Christ our Lord; they are serving their own personal interests. By smooth talk and glowing words, they deceive innocent people” (Romans 16:17-18).
In Paul’s farewell message to the Ephesian elders, he issued a similar warning, “ I know that false teachers, like vicious wolves, will come in among you after I leave, not sparing the flock. Even some men from your own group will rise up and distort the truth in order to draw a following” (Acts 20:29-30).
Peter also warned us of attacks from within, “But there were also false prophets in Israel, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will cleverly teach destructive heresies and even deny the Master who bought them” (II Peter 2:1).
The most devastating attacks against the Church are not from the outside, but from inside the circles of our shared fellowship. These attacks are devastating because we don’t expect them. They will come from people and places we would never imagine. These are people who once followed the Lord but now believe destructive heresies.
As we move deeper into the unfolding future, these attacks from within will occur with greater frequency. Our best and most reliable defense when under attack will come from knowing the heart of God and the truth of Scripture. Those two weapons can repel the most vicious attacks, both from without and within our circles of fellowship.