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Don’t Be Deceived

Date: Feb. 14, 2021

Author: Bob Henkins

2 Corinthians 11:1-15

Key Verse: 2 Corinthians 11:3

But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ.

Deception is nothing new, it has been around almost as long as man has been alive. Some of history's most bold, dazzling, and profitable scams have happened in our modern era with the help of computers, blank checks, and even a three-wheeled car. Some of those who carried out these scams have gone to jail, while others have been glorified in the movies, and others have even gotten out of jail and given a good job in law enforcement in order to catch like-minded con-artists. 

Some frauds were carried out by charismatic individuals, while others were the work of corporations that were supposed to be operating under the watchful eye of government regulators. Take for example, shortly after the Brooklyn Bridge was completed, it had been sold three times to suckers who though they had scored the deal of a lifetime. One man, George C. Parker actually sold the bridge several times throughout his life. (He also sold Madison Square Garden, the Statue of Liberty, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and even Grant’s tomb. But he really liked to sell the bridge selling it twice in one week.) At the end of the 1950’s, quiz shows dominated TV and the competition was so fierce that so many complaints were filed that shows were rigged that it sparked criminal and congressional investigations to the point that the shows were shut down. That is until 1963 when Jeopardy was invented where the answers are given first and the contestants have to figure out the question. These scams were built on deception and the dashed hopes, and ruined lives of their victims all in order to benefit themselves. However, the original deception goes all the way back to the garden of Eden where Adam and Eve fell prey to the serpent’s deceit. Deception is the topic of our message this morning. May God bless you with wisdom and knowledge in the hopes that you won’t be deceived.

Our passage starts this morning with Paul warning the Corinthians that he’s going to get a little foolish with them, but he doesn’t start to get foolish until next week’s passage. So, let’s start with verse 2. “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy. I promised you to one husband, to Christ, so that I might present you as a pure virgin to him.” To us, in our time, this may seem a little foreign, but in their culture, in Paul’s day, it wasn’t uncommon for parents to arrange marriages for their children. With that understanding, we see Paul’s fatherly (1 Cor 4:15) heart for the Corinthian believers. It’s as if Paul is a father and the Corinthians are like his beloved daughter that he is walking down the aisle on her wedding day. He is a loving father who seeks to nurture and raise his daughter to someday present her as a faithful, pure and undefiled virgin to the best husband who will love, care for, and provide for her. Engagement is an intimate and sacred relationship because of the great promise of future relationship it holds. This betrothal was to one husband to whom they should be preparing themselves to be married. The word one stresses that their relationship must be exclusive for it is no ordinary man but the Divine Christ. Paul’s jealousy here reminds us of the Ten Commandments (Ex 20) where we see that God is a jealous god, as a result Paul couldn’t bear the thought that they were devoted to someone other than Jesus.

Paul thought of the young church as his child and he had deep concern for them and didn’t want them to be lead astray. We can see his concern in verses 3-4. “But I am afraid that just as Eve was deceived by the serpent’s cunning, your minds may somehow be led astray from your sincere and pure devotion to Christ. For if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the Spirit you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough.” The reason Paul is concerned is that the Corinthians had accepted the Judaizers and allowed them to enter their fellowship. The Judaizers were a group of Jewish Christians who followed Paul from church to church and said that his teaching was incomplete. They taught that converts to Christianity must first be circumcised and required them to follow the Jewish rituals and traditions. It would be easy for legalistic Jews to pile a lot of extra rules on to new Christians who were eager to follow Jesus, because they wouldn’t know any better. And all those extra rules would require them to work for their salvation. This performance treadmill would eventually become so burdensome for them until they were worn out, or would become legalistic and critical, or worse lose their salvation. And if they fell for one lie, then they could easily fall for many.

These days there is a lot of fake news and conspiracy theories out in the world. And there are all kinds of people that believe a lot of weird ideas that get spread on the net. Some are harmless, just people with active imaginations, but some can be very harmful. We never know what those with false motives are after. Maybe to steal your identity so they could get access to your financial assets, or just to build a larger number of followers so they could gain influence. So, we have to be careful. Just because someone says they are a Christian doesn’t mean that they really are who they say they are. And it doesn’t tell us what their real motives are. The Jesus these imposters were teaching about was not the real Jesus Paul taught them about. The study Bible note says that the “different spirit” that is mentioned in verse 4, was a spirit of bondage, fear and worldliness instead of the spirit of freedom, love, joy, peace and power.

The apostle Peter taught about this he said, “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves.” (2 Peter 2:1) Jesus warned them and said that many false messiahs and false prophets will appear and perform signs and wonders in order to deceive many people. (Mark 13:22, Matthew 24:11) He said to watch out for them because they will come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. (Matthew 7:15)

The Judaizers, or deceivers we can call them, were very polished and professional. Paul called them the super apostles. The spoke and looked the part. They could fool the untrained eye. These deceivers were really flashy, and they knew how to appeal to the flesh. What do I mean by that? Apostle John put it this way, “For everything in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:16) And since the Corinthians, were attracted to the ways and things of the world, the deceivers knew how to appeal to desires like that and they could hook them like a fish that goes for bait. So, let me give you a picture of what this could looks like.  You ask yourself, why would the Corinthians fall for these deceivers and all the extra rules they were telling them the Corinthians had to follow? They are smart people, why would they fall for that? It’s because they use the same tactic that all deceivers use. They appeal to their inner desires, the lust of the flesh, lust of their eyes, the pride of life. Take for example, the Prosperity gospel is very popular. Those preachers say, “God wants to bless you and make you wealthy, but first you must be generous.” What they say is not all together wrong, but they appeal to people’s desire to get rich, in order to get them to give away their money. But how will you get rich if you give away your money? In the end, only they get rich.

The deceivers are cunning and have perfected their craft. And just as Eve was deceived by the cunning of the serpent, Paul was worried that the Corinthians would be deceived as well. When Eve looked at the fruit that the serpent was tempting her with, he appealed to her desires and she saw that it was pleasing to the eye and desirable for gaining wisdom, so she took it and ate. Satan is tempting them to gain benefits based upon their own desires to disobey God without outright telling them to disobey God. Eve’s is the original sin because it started everything. Worshiping something other than Jesus is idolatry, this is dangerous because it leads us astray. (Some false messages these days are: there are many ways to God, or God comes in many forms, there isn’t just one god) Falling prey to Satan’s lie, the false gospel, is serious business because it has eternal consequences and Satan desire is to lead the whole world astray (Rev 12:9).

Paul really wanted to encourage the Corinthians to grow in knowledge not deception. Take a look at verses 5-6. “I do not think I am in the least inferior to those “super-apostles.” I may indeed be untrained as a speaker, but I do have knowledge. We have made this perfectly clear to you in every way.” Paul is pretty forceful because he knows what’s at stake, either eternal life or death. In verse five he’s being sarcastic mocking the false preachers (the Judaziers) as super apostles. They claimed to be more educated and spoke better than Paul. However, Paul did have knowledge. He studied hard, and for a long time, to become a Pharisee. He knew the law inside and out. Plus, he knew Jesus personally because he met the risen Christ on the road to Damascus. He probably had more knowledge about Jesus than the super-A’s and he made that clear to them. Through this we can see that it is better to grow in knowledge in the knowledge of Christ not in deception. This connects well to our key verse for the year, Psalms 1:2, “but whose delight is in the law of the Lord, and who meditates on his law day and night.” It is good to delight in God’s word, because it is the source of knowledge and builds up any who meditate on it. Those that don’t have knowledge, usually try to deceive. There is the saying, “If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, then baffle them with B.S.” Too many people today care more about appearance and how they speak than what they are saying, but content is far more important than presentation. Of course, that doesn’t mean we can slack off in that area either, we should be good at both.

Verses 7-9 tell us, “Was it a sin for me to lower myself in order to elevate you by preaching the gospel of God to you free of charge? I robbed other churches by receiving support from them so as to serve you. And when I was with you and needed something, I was not a burden to anyone, for the brothers who came from Macedonia supplied what I needed. I have kept myself from being a burden to you in any way, and will continue to do so.” These people attacked Paul and made it personal, so he is attacking back. His pride is coming into this, it’s hard not to take it personal because he’s human. But we have to draw the line. The bottom line here is that Paul’s accusers said that he must not be good, because he doesn’t charge anything. Paul is the free version with fewer options; we are the upgraded version with all the bells and whistles. They didn’t subscribe to the theory, “the best things in life are free” Some people think that if you don’t pay for something, then it must not be valuable, it’s cheap. In some case they may be right, but in this case. The reason Paul didn’t collect money was because he didn’t want to burden the Corinthian church because they were spiritually young. Also, Paul didn’t want to give the false teachers an opportunity to substantiate themselves.

Paul wasn’t like the deceivers, who were out to get something, take a look at verses 10-12.  “10 As surely as the truth of Christ is in me, nobody in the regions of Achaia will stop this boasting of mine. 11 Why? Because I do not love you? God knows I do! 12 And I will keep on doing what I am doing in order to cut the ground from under those who want an opportunity to be considered equal with us in the things they boast about.” Paul didn’t serve them to get money, he served them because he loved them. And because he loved them, he was willing to sacrifice for them and not get paid. I believe that it was because Paul experienced Jesus’ sacrificial love, he was willing to keep on doing what he was doing so that they could receive the truth and so that the deceivers wouldn’t be able to take root in their community.

In verses 13-15 Paul reveals the deceivers for who they really are. Take a look at (v13-15).

13 For such people are false apostles, deceitful workers, masquerading as apostles of Christ. 14 And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. 15 It is not surprising, then, if his servants also masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve.” Paul compares these people to Satan himself. To be called an angel of light sounds good, but it isn’t a good term. These false apostles attack is so much like Satan’s. They act as if they are concerned for what is right and true while yet at the same time, they are trying to destroy what is right and true. They sow seeds of distrust and promote discord and strife all under the cloak of “helping.” The false apostles’ attack on the purity of Paul's motives was a deception. They weren’t concerned for what was right, they just wanted to break their unity and divide the church and destroy their trust in Paul and his teachings.

When Satan attacks the people of God, besides deception, another of his weapons is doubt. That’s the tactic he used when he attacked Jesus in the desert. That’s the same method these Judaizers used when they attacked Paul. The devil and his workers will not appear as Satan and deceivers. They will appear to be on your side and on God’s side, but they will take your attention off God, off Jesus, and of the Gospel and focus it on something else. Evil doesn’t come to us as wickedness; it camouflages itself as good. It enjoyable, superior, and even wiser. Temptation always appears in the guise of something desirable; otherwise, it would not be a temptation. And Satan always comes to us in masquerade, otherwise, we would not listen to him or follow him. William Evans wrote, “It is popular in some circles today to spell the word devil with the letter d left off. This reduces the idea of an actual being called the devil to a mere influence called evil.” Jesus taught that every tree is recognized by its fruit. A good tree will have good fruit and a bad tree will have bad fruit. We can tell what they are by their fruit. And according to verse 15, in the end, those with bad fruit, will get what their actions deserve.

In conclusion, the Corinthians had left their first love and were no longer following Jesus with a single-hearted devotion. They wanted easy listening instead of solid Biblical knowledge. They wanted their messages to be enjoyable instead of being full of the Holy Spirit’s power. It was not so much that they turned against Paul, but that they had turned away from Jesus. We need to have living faith founded upon the truth of the Gospel instead of emotions and religious rituals.

Basically, Satan is an imitator. He copies what God does and tries to convince us that his offer is better than God's. How does he do this? Here he offers counterfeit apostles, workers who think they serve God, but who are really servants of Satan. Therefore, we need to check the motives of all who are supposed to be servants of God and see if they are centered in Jesus and the Gospel.

I heard a story about Billy Graham’s wife, Ruth. As she sat at a banquet seated with the head of Scotland Yard's counterfeit investigation division, she asked him if he spent a lot of time studying counterfeit bills. To which the inspector replied, “Quite the opposite, I spend my time studying the real thing. That way, when I see a counterfeit bill, I’ll be able to spot it immediately.”

The best advice against a counterfeit Jesus is: to spend time getting to know the real Jesus and his word, because when you know the real Jesus, you can more easily spot the imposter. The apostle John encouraged us to do this very thing. He said, “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (1 John 4:1) If we try to gain our salvation by our own human strength, rather than relying solely on Christ we will fail. We need to realize that we are nothing without Jesus and God’s grace.  We are weak, but God is strong. All the scam artists prey on people’s greed, but the antidote to deception is to have a pure and sincere devotion to Christ and we can do that when we delight in the word of God. We don’t have to chase after things because God gives us what we need. Jesus and salvation is the free gift of God. How wonderful Jesus is the free gift of God.

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