The apostle Mark records a parable of Jesus thusly:
“There is nothing that enters a man from outside which can defile him; but the things which come out of him…” Mark 7:15
When asked to expound on the parable Jesus responded:
“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts…wickedness, deceit…pride…All these evil things come from within and defile a man.” Mark 7:21-23
So Jesus confirmed the wisdom revealed in the Old Testament that men are born with such ungodly traits as deceit and pride. The Old Testament also proclaimed that ‘the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful man.’
Just prior to Jesus’ crucifixion He gave His disciples explicit warnings of events that would happen during the church age preceding His return to end the great tribulation. He specifically warned to be on the alert for those who would attempt to deceive His chosen.
“For false christs and false prophets will rise and show great signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, even the elect. See, I have told you beforehand.” Matthew 24:24-25
After His death, resurrection, and ascension, His apostles gave many examples of such deceit in the churches and warned them to be on guard.
Paul was an ardent teacher to warn of such trickery. He taught and preached that a great defense was to grow in the word.
“…that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting…” Ephesians 4:14
Notice Paul employed timeless terms which described the enemy’s methodology in the Garden of Eden, i.e. trickery, cunning, craftiness, deceitful, and plotting. Nothing has changed.
Paul then told of the condemnation of those who deceived God’s chosen.
“Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience.” Ephesians 5:6
In his letter to the church at Colosse Paul warned them again to beware of the teachings of men who spoke from within their natural selves, lacking the wisdom of Christ.
“Beware lest anyone cheat you (take you captive) through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ.” Colossians 2:8
Deceit involves teaching philosophy vs. Scripture and what appeals to the ‘world’ vs. the kingdom. The ‘tradition of men’ appeals to the natural man and includes present rewards vs. the promise of eternal rewards.
It is quite easy to identify contemporary church teaching that appeals to itching ears. Such churches are experiencing tremendous growth while deceiving many.
The apostle John also had much to say about deceit; its source and its presence.
“Little children, let no one deceive you. He who practices righteousness is righteous, just as He is righteous. He who sins is of the devil, for the devil has sinned from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that He might destroy the works of the devil.” 1 John 3:7-8
John confirmed that the redeemed are righteous just as their Redeemer. He also confirmed that the devil, i.e. the great deceiver was in the Garden to deceive the first creation in the image of God, although the devil’s first sin of pride occurred well before God created man.
The truth that Christ would destroy the devil was also revealed in the Garden. Recall the devil’s fate resulting from the curse.
“Because you have done this…I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her Seed; He shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise His heel.” Genesis 3:14a, 15
Of course, Christ is the ultimate Seed of the woman.
Then John confirmed that the many deceivers in the present age are antichrists. The deceit is always focused on the person and mission of Jesus Christ.
“For many deceivers have gone out into the world who do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is a deceiver and an antichrist.” 2 John7
The challenge to the churches today is straightforward; teach and preach Christ, Christ, Christ!
Walt is a veteran of the USMC and serves as a voluntary Chaplin at the Claremore Veterans Center.