Jesus warned in Matthew 7:15-16, '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.' Paul warned in Acts 20:29-31, '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.'
From these passages we can draw some conclusions about the characteristics of spiritual wolves.
1. Wolves are described as false prophets. This means that they appear externally to be godly men, even preachers, but they are false, dishonest, unreliable.
2. Wolves are inwardly ravenous. This means they are fundamentally self-serving, interested primarily in what they can get rather than what they can give.
3. Wolves produce bad fruit. They do not display the fruit of the Spirit in any kind of consistent way and the people who follow them tend to become like them -- self-serving.
4. Wolves are savage. The Greek word means heavy or burdensome. The implication is that they weigh people down with their demands rather than lifting people up by helping to carry their burdens.
5. Wolves rise up. This means they put themselves above others, acting as though they are in someway superior to those around them.
6. Wolves speak perverse things. This means they distort and misinterpret the Word of God. They are unreliable as teachers of doctrinal truth.
7. Wolves draw disciples after themselves. The fundamental purpose of ministry is making disciples of Jesus Christ. But wolves, because they are self-serving, want people to be dependent on them, not the Lord. They therefore work toward that aim.
These are some of the characteristics of wolves which we can draw from these passages. Other passages that describe these kinds of people but don't use the term wolf are:
Romans 16:18 -- For those who are such do not serve our Lord Jesus Christ, but their own belly, and by smooth words and flattering speech deceive the hearts of the simple.
2 Timothy 3:13 -- But evil men and impostors will grow worse and worse, deceiving and being deceived.
2 Peter 2:1-3 -- But there were also false prophets among the people, even as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Lord who bought them, and bring on themselves swift destruction.2 And many will follow their destructive ways, because of whom the way of truth will be blasphemed.3 By covetousness they will exploit you with deceptive words
Jude 16-19 -- These are grumblers, complainers, walking according to their own lusts; and they mouth great swelling words, flattering people to gain advantage.17 But you, beloved, remember the words which were spoken before by the apostles of our Lord Jesus Christ:18 how they told you that there would be mockers in the last time who would walk according to their own ungodly lusts.19 These are sensual persons, who cause divisions, not having the Spirit.
By putting all these verses together, we get a detailed composite picture of the characteristics of a spiritual wolf. Some men may disply some of these attributes, while not necessarily displaying them all. At the heart level, however, every man is either serving God or serving himself. That is the fundamental difference between a wolf and a true minister of the Lord -- who he is serving.
Please also read our article titled 'The Coming of False Christs' on the End-time shelf of the Apostolic Free Library.