How Does One Recognize Deception?

One of the most disconcerting things as history moves forward that will affect the church and that many people will be unaware of, is that false teaching and false doctrine will abound in the church. Many well-intentioned, God-fearing Christians will unknowingly be taken in by the teachings of these individuals because they long to learn from and draw nearer to the Lord. So how can we recognize when a teaching is from the Lord? As the Word says, in the final days, “Take heed that no man deceive you, for many will come in my name claiming. ‘I am Christ.’ They will deceive many.” (Matthew 24:4-5). “Take heed” is a command stating utmost vigilance. Notice that the verses emphasize many not just a few will come in His name making false claims and that many will be deceived. Jesus was speaking to the disciples when He said this, the very disciples who’d spent the most time with Him, knew Him best, and longed to know Him more. If He needed to warn them, then how much more so must we be on our guard?

So Where Do We Start?

Now the serpent was more subtle and crafty than any creature of the field which God had made (Genesis 3:1) (Amplified). 

For certain men have crept in stealthily – gaining entrance secretly by a side door (Jude 4).

But also (in those days) there arose false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among yourselves, who will subtly and stealthily introduce heretical doctrines…(2 Peter2:1)

How often do we hear the refrain – if it looks so good (brings forth such good fruit), how can it be deception? Are we expecting deception to be obvious? Why then would the Bible describe it as “more subtle and crafty” and “stealthily” gaining entrance as by a side door? Barnes Commentary states in the following excerpt of an analysis of 2 Peter 2:1:

“…false teachers] would not at first make an open avowal of their doctrines, but would, in fact, while their teachings seemed to be in accordance with truth, secretly maintain opinions which would sap the very foundations of religion. The Greek words used in the preceding verses mean properly “to lead in along with others.” Nothing could better express the usual way in which error is introduced. It is by the side, or along with, other doctrines which are true; that is, while the mind is turned mainly to other subjects, and is off its guard, gently and silently to lay down some principle, which, being admitted, would lead to error. Those who preach error rarely do it openly.

Therefore, We Should Expect Deception to Look Good!

Every false teacher, therefore, will be a charismatic, dynamic speaker: well-liked, extremely popular, and entertaining to listen to. The outer wrappings will be very attractive and agreeable: the speaker will “look good” but what of the inner person and his/her strict allegiance to the Word of God? According to the Bible, the easiest method of deception is for error to ride on the back of truth. We hear what is, indeed, truth being preached. We assume, therefore, that everything being preached is truth, that everything being done is Biblical, so we let down our guard…and error and deception can then enter “secretly by the side door.” Do we forget that it is a little bit of leaven (yeast) that leavens the whole loaf? It takes only 2 tablespoons of yeast to leaven 5 pounds of flour. It may not be visible at first – yeast takes a while to leaven that whole loaf – but once that leaven is incorporated into the loaf, you cannot get it all out…except by the Hand of God.

Let’s carefully examine what the Bible says about things that look “good.” A few simple – yet startling – examples:

Genesis13:10 – What did God describe as looking “like the Garden of the Lord?” Sodom! (where exceedingly great sinners lived

Ezekiel 28:12- Who did God say was “the full measure and pattern of exactness – full of wisdom and perfect in beauty?”  Satan!

Matthew7: 15 – Who will come “dressed as sheep” on the outside, “but inside are devouring wolves?” False prophets…looking “good.”

Acts 20:29-30 also speaks of “ferocious wolves” that come from “inside,” from those thought to be in the flock of Christ.

Matthew 23:12 – Who “looked beautiful on the outside?” The Pharisees, who “inside are full of dead men’s bones and everything impure.”

2 Corinthians 11: 14,15 – Who will come as an “angel of light” and as “ministers of righteousness”? Satan and his servants.

CONCLUSION: deception looks “good” on the outside, but inside it is deadly.

It requires diligence to discern when Satan comes as an “angel of light,” bringing what looks like the “light” of new revelation on a holy subject: when he comes, not as a devil, but as “another Jesus;” not with out-and-out heresy, but with “another Gospel,” so very close to the true one, almost all true but not completely true as the Bible requires, for example, in 2 Corintians 11:1-4

Concern for Their Faithfulness

11 Oh, that you would bear with me in a little folly—and indeed you do bear with me. 2. For I am jealous for you with godly jealousy. For I have betrothed you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ. 3. But I fear, lest somehow, as the serpent deceived Eve by his craftiness, so your minds may be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ. 4. For if he who comes preaches another Jesus whom we have not preached, or if you receive a different spirit which you have not received, or a different gospel which you have not accepted—you may well put up with it!

Have we not realized that false gospels are not completely new gospels, rather they are true gospels with a few “minor” changes? Didn’t the Galatians believe the basic truths of Christianity? Yet, Paul said, not once but twice, (Galatians: 1: 8-9) that  all men were to be “accursed” for preaching a “different gospel,” for making even a few changes to the true gospel.

Galatians: 1: 8-9 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let them be under God’s curse!  As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let them be under God’s curse!

The Lord does not judge these deceptions of the enemy and his henchmen lightly. There are teachings in the church today that “allow” 40-50% accuracy when their students prophecy under the guise that they are newcomers to this prophecy spouting and will get better as time goes on. From Isaiah to Malachi that is not the standard used. It is not God’s standard. Why then is it taught as such? Let’s take a look at Deuteronomy.

Deuteronomy 18:20-22(NKJV) But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die.’  And if you say in your heart, “How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?”— when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.

Perhaps, we need to look at some passages of Scripture in greater detail so that we may grow in discernment and avoid the deadly dangers of deception. So we will do in the next few weeks through the only lens we can safely use: the Word of God.

Featured image entitled “Wolf in Sheeps Clothing” by Christopher Walker. You can find this print at