Not long ago a couple of well-dressed and attractive ladies came to my door with a message of deception. Yes, it was that.
Their bible was translated to establish their doctrine. As to who Jesus really is, or was, they read from John 1, “In the beginning was the word and the word was…..a…..god.” The second lady came forward to point out that the Greek there was the same as it is in Acts 28:6, where the Apostle Paul was called a god by the natives when he did not fall dead after the viper bit him.
I am not into original Greek. Not against it, either, but give me the plain old ABCs for a regular diet. Common sense, though, tells me to consider the context in both passages above. In John this Word they call ….a….god also is named the Creator further in the context. I led them to the passage in I Timothy 3:16, where it declares “God was manifested in the flesh….” I don’t recall how their translation read, but likely it was made to read: “…a…god was manifested in the flesh….”
One thing is certain, though. Once on the road of deception, they must forever continue, or try to do so. The claim that Jesus is not God will not hold up in the whole of Scripture, for God’s inspired, Spirit-moved, Word holds true.
All this has led me to think of the various deceptions the devil has developed for mankind, and what they are to accomplish in his plan. Above, it is denial that JESUS is really God in the flesh, thus making their Jesus non-essential.
The Source of Deception
Satan pulled that trick when he deceived Eve in the garden, and laid out his scheme for defeating mankind. He told Eve, in words as smooth as butter on a hot biscuit, “Has God indeed said ‘You shall not eat of every tree of the garden’?” [my italics] (Genesis 3:1b). This subtle inquiry tells Eve that God was holding out on her ”right to know everything” .
But, no, God said they could eat of every tree except the one in the midst of the garden, lest you die, she responds. The devil implies that God lied to her, that He is holding back vital information from her. He says God knows, if she eats of that tree, her eyes will be opened and she will be like God, knowing good from evil. She, now, has been set up, and she realizes that the fruit of the tree was “good for food’ (lust of the flesh), it was “pleasant to the eyes” (lust of the yes), and “it would make one wise” (the pride of life). It is just as John described it in I John 2:16.
The distortion of God’s truth is the very essence of deception, and those three responses by Eve are characteristic of Satan’s warfare with mankind over the span of time since Eve’s encounter with him in the Garden of Eden. He lays the trap of deception, pulls naive people into it with temptations fashioned according to whichever of those three time-worn avenues that best fits the individual at the moment. Over and over again, that is the pattern used for all these centuries past. Test every deviation from the truth of God’s word according to these steps.
Denial of the Deity of Jesus
Just as it turned out in my encounter with those ladies, there is a firm and consistent denial of the deity of Jesus in the underlying doctrines of those religious entities that still want to be named among those who claim to be Christian.
This is the same deception in the Mormon doctrine. There, Jesus is identified as a created being, brother of Lucifer, the fallen angel we know as Satan. Thus, Jesus is non-essential for salvation in their book, and by their plan, salvation is dependent on a person’s works, primarily church membership–their church only, of course–which includes baptism by them. Once Jesus is not given His rightful position as the Son of God, He cannot serve them as Savior, so it follows that eternal salvation cannot depend on Jesus. They are to do everything they can do, then the work of Christ can apply. But, with the identity of their Jesus being as it is, the true grace of Christ is never really addressed. The deception must continue, then, in complete free fall.
Likewise, the deity of Jesus is denied in the religion of Islam, wherein the claim is that God’s chosen son of Abraham in faith was Ishmael, thus proclaiming that the whole lineage of Jesus and the Hebrew race has no merit with God. As it is with the Mormon religion, the principles and doctrines of this religion are from the pen of a single person—in the first instance, Joseph Smith, and in the latter, Mohammed. When the deity of Jesus has been denied, there is no savior left to redeem mankind, so he must develop a process of works of righteousness that will be satisfying to the conscience, and the deception continues.
Man-Made Eternal Life
The deception that a person must… MUST…somehow perform SOMETHING to merit salvation permeates almost every denomination in all Christendom. Many born-again believers go to bed at night, hoping they have done enough good stuff to merit salvation, or have not done something that shuts them out. None have been able to say, or point to, exactly which sin is the one that flips them over the edge! It is truly amazing how we think, right in the face of conclusive statements throughout the New Testament that speak otherwise. What does this say for their teachers?
Note this: “For Christ is the END of the law for righteousness to EVERYONE WHO BELIEVES” (Romans 10:4) . Looks like faith is the only key.
And this: “I do not set aside the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the law, then Christ died in vain.” (Galatians 2:21).
If a person cannot be assured of his salvation, he is forever held to that issue and cannot be effective to any length in Christian discipleship. Thus, Satan’s deception through the whims of man, or basically, one of the three temptations he uses, the pride of life, does its evil work. Adding anything to the mix of grace and faith and the willing and eager desire of God to save us is part of that deception. Baptism, church membership, taking communion, and for the Catholics, mass participation requirements–all these and others of like kind, are part of the deception. Does the Word not say, “Not of works, lest anyone should boast”? (Ephesians 2:9).
As an outsider, looking in, it seems that Catholics are led to believe that they can leave their spiritual welfare in the hands of their priests, as the ones who can absolve their sins, and they will be just fine at the judgment. Do what we want and have no worry about it. What a way to live! A direct confrontation with the God of righteousness is not necessary. Yes, another very dangerous deception that will, along with the teaching of Purgatory, bring many right into the depths of hell. Hebrews 9:27 says this: “It is given to man once to die, and after this, the judgment.”!
There are many Christians whose doctrine of eternal security is based on their ability to remain faithful, and they are effective and fruitful in ministry. Their lives glow with the presence of the Lord in their lives. How this fits in with Hebrews 11:6 is a remarkable example of the mercy and patience of God, no doubt, for that verse states this: “But without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him.”
There are many, many more, however, who struggle with that issue daily and are tossed to and fro by the devil, between pride of self-righteousness and the conviction that they have failed miserably. Thus, they remain immature and unable to be fully useful in the ministry. Are God’s promises that unclear?
Will the Deceptions Never End?
One other deception comes to mind. Many, many folks believe that Jesus is coming again, but have no idea when, or how it will be. The pre-trib, pre-wrath, mid-trib and post-trib issues confuse people, and some even maintain that all those things of Revelation’s accounts have already happened in ages past.
If Satan can convince people that they still have a second chance to make things right and be saved, that fits right in with the sin-hungry and sin-sick natures we have inherited from Adam. So, if one is convinced that when these tribulations and desolations start happening, then he can submit to Christ and be saved, then the deception has worked.
When Jesus, and Paul, spoke of the unannounced coming of Christ for His own, like a “thief at night”, and finds one with his life not rightly related to Christ by faith, then he will be left to the ravages of the Anti-Christ as he sets out to control the whole world and all who are in it. Salvation may not be possible, but if so, there will be a difficult time of it.
Read again Luke 17:26-30 and give it some serious thought as to when and in what order the stated events occurred.
We must pay attention to the details of God’s word, for deception is the number one tool in the hand of the enemy. Find the balance in the Word of God, “rightly dividing the word”, as Paul encouraged Timothy in II Timothy 2:15.