FUNDAMENTALS OF DISCERNING DECEPTION
THE FIRST DECEPTION
Genesis 3 contains the foundational truths of discerning deception. The Garden of Eden was a perfect religious setting; and into this perfect religious setting came deception. The relationship between God and the man and woman was so close that He “walked in the garden in the cool of the day” with them. This was spiritual intimacy of the highest order. And therein was part of Satan’s subtle deception – he tempted the woman in the realm of that spiritual intimacy to become closer to God, to be more like Him (v.5). Satan speaks so craftily:
For God knows that when you eat from [the tree] your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.
Let’s remember that deception came before the Fall, before sin corrupted Eve’s mind with the twisted knowledge of what she thought good and evil were. Exactly because of the purity of her being, this deception had to come in a very good disguise – so it came disguised in a holy desire for her to be closer to the God she loved. Such a pure desire – but, in order for it to be fulfilled she had to disobey God’s one small warning: just take one bite of what looked good to her. Here was the first appearance of the “angel of light”(II Cor 11:14), bringing new light in a holy way. And she did eat…and Adam did likewise. And they lost everything. The temptation looked good; it sounded holy; and it would allow them to grow wise – how could this be so bad when it looked so good?
In their deception and sin, the man and woman did not even first realize there was any change in them:
After Eve had eaten and apparently suffered no ill effect, this constituted an additional argument why Adam need not hesitate to adopt the same course (Barnes Commentary).
After all, she hadn’t died as God said she would if she ate of the fruit, so it must be safe. But…
they eat, they expect marvelous results, they wait and there grows on them a sense of shame (ibid).
When we are first deceived, we may still seem to be holy – perhaps we may even think we are more holy – but in time a sense of shame will grow in us. When we’ve partaken of that which God has forbidden in His Word, we discover we’ve fallen for that which only looked good. What we may not realize is that discernment was a major victim in the Garden of Eden. Our discernment of what was good was skewed forever once that apple was first eaten. Now we think we have at least as much wisdom as God. Now we think we can translate His Word as we see fit. We no longer follow His Word precisely as written but listen to embellished versions.
In the Garden of Eden, wasn’t one of the things the Lord was saying was that He had already given the man and woman ALL they needed? They did not need more than all the trees and fruits He had already provided for them. Today, isn’t He trying to tell us the same thing? He has given us salvation and the baptism of the Holy Spirit – there is no “more” described in the Bible. Then why is the cry across the land for “more, Lord, more”? Biblically, what “more” is there? Do we not already have all we need?
Matthew Henry Commentary on Genesis 3:
Satan took advantage by finding [Eve] near the forbidden tree, and probably gazing upon the fruit of it, only to satisfy her curiosity. Those that would not eat the forbidden fruit must not come near the forbidden fruit.
Satan tried different tactics. He taunts Eve by suggesting that she is being really too cautious and holding to God’s Word too strictly, too precisely. “Surely you are mistaken, it cannot be that God would be so unreasonable as to deny you this tree.” Yet, it is our wisdom to keep a firm belief in and high respect for the precise commands of God.
Since the tempter doesn’t get that far with his first arguments, he turns to another: he promises them advantage by it, v.5. He insinuates to them the great improvements they would make by eating of this fruit. And he suits the temptation to the pure state they were now in, proposing to them, not any carnal pleasures or gratifications, but intellectual delights and satisfactions. “Your eyes shall be opened.” He appeals to the sin he has the most affinity with himself – wanting to be like God; “you shall be as gods”: self-sufficient, no longer dependent. “You shall know good and evil,” that is, everything that is desirable to be known. In all these insinuations he aims to beget in them, First, discontent with their present state, as if it were not so good as it might be, and should be. Secondly, the desire to be like gods.(end of commentary)
For a teaching on the error of the “we are little gods theory” access: http://www.letusreason.org/pent11.htm
ADDITIONAL DECEPTION TACTICS
The whole chapter of Deuteronomy 13 is a warning about deception, but perhaps the most alarming verses are 1-3:
If a prophet arises among you and gives you a sign or wonder and the sign or wonder he foretells comes to pass and if he says, Let us go after other gods, which you have not known, and let us serve them. You shall not listen to the words of that prophet; for the Lord your God is testing you to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your mind and heart and with your entire being. (Deuteronomy 13: 1-3 AMP)
Note: the man called himself a prophet of God. He came from among them, like the tares are among the wheat, like error comes alongside truth. And, incredibly, what he said came to pass! It looked good! Yet, in Deuteronomy 13: verses 8 and 9, God says not to listen to him; on the contrary, He says that the prophet is to be put to death for talking rebellion.
All revivals may look good: great enthusiasm and devotion may be displayed. But, religious enthusiasm in itself is not evidence of the truth. The Pharisees had great religious enthusiasm, so do Catholic mystics. Yet, remember Mt 7: 21-23:
Not every one who says to Me, Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father Who is in heaven. Many will say to Me on that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your Name, and driven out demons in Your Name and done many mighty miracles in Your Name? And then I will say to them openly, Depart from Me, I never knew you.
Who were in danger: just a few? No, many. Were evil acts being performed? No, they were doing miracles, great signs and wonders, prophesying. Were they done in a demon’s name? No, in JESUS’ NAME! In His Holy Name. Yet, He said – depart from Me. How “good” it all looks and sounds – in our eyes and ears. Not in His.
Moses was a true man of God, working true miracles. Yet, in the beginning, his miracles were duplicated by Pharaoh’s magicians (Exodus7:11-12, 22; 8:7). So that we do not forget how prone we always are to “signs-and- wonders” deceptions, 2 Timothy 3: 5-9 makes references to these magicians, Jannes and Jambres by name. It warns against “silly” (v.6) people who are “forever inquiring and getting information, but are never able to arrive at a knowledge of the Truth”(v.7). Verse 9 promises that these counterfeits will eventually be exposed. But, in the meantime, they will continue performing signs and wonders, counterfeit signs and wonders.
1Thessalonians 5:21 commands us to test all teachings. It is “noble to discern” just as the Bereans did (Acts 17:11). Error is subtle and sneaky and is purposely mixed in with truth to deceive the believer. Holiness is not contagious but unholiness is (Haggai 2:12 – 13). Put another way: if you plant flowers and weeds together, it is the weeds that will take over the garden.
Barnes, Albert. Notes on the Old Testament; explanatory and practical. Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1955.
Henry, Matthew. “Matthew 13 Commentary – Matthew Henry Commentary on the Whole Bible (Complete).” Bible Study Tools, Bible Study Tools, http://www.biblestudytools.com/commentaries/matthew-henry-complete/matthew/13.html.