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The Danger of Deception

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg
The Truth Network Radio
November 30, 2023 3:00 am

The Danger of Deception

Truth for Life / Alistair Begg

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November 30, 2023 3:00 am

Talented actors convincingly adopt the language and behavior of their characters. False teachers similarly put on a show—but rather than entertain, they endanger! Learn to discern sound preaching from crafty deception, on Truth For Life with Alistair Begg.


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This listener-funded program features the clear, relevant Bible teaching of Alistair Begg. Today’s program and nearly 3,000 messages can be streamed and shared for free at thanks to the generous giving from monthly donors called Truthpartners. Learn more about this Gospel-sharing team or become one today. Thanks for listening to Truth For Life!

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Skilled actors take on the language of Truth for Life. According to Irenaeus, who lived a long time ago, Polycarp, who was the first bishop of Smyrna, records in his writings an incident that took place in the public baths in Ephesus. Apparently, Polycarp writes that at a particular moment in the day, the apostle John shouted out, "'Let us flee, lest the building fall down! For Cerenthus the enemy of the truth is in sight.'"

Cerenthus was a first-century heretic, and according to Polycarp, he found himself in the public bathing area in Ephesus at the same time as the apostle John, the writer of this little letter. If it is an accurate statement of history, then it serves in a quite graphic way to underscore John's significant concern regarding the danger of those who profess to walk in the truth being led away by those who are deceivers. He has commended in the first six verses those who are walking in the truth, following Jesus, and he has taken time to start there because of what follows.

And in verse 7, he turns to the dangers that they face. And essentially, the danger that they face is a form of counterfeit Christianity. There are a group of individuals who are going around, and they are promulgating a gospel which is really no gospel at all.

They are, in fact, a gathering of smooth-talking impostors. And John, out of a fatherly concern for those who are many of his children in the faith, not only commends them for their continuance in the gospel but warns them concerning those who will deceive them if they can. It is important for us to recognize that they are not picking away at peripheral matters concerning the faith. John is not here concerned because there are people who don't agree with him on areas of secondary importance. No, these individuals are attacking the very heart of Christian belief.

And let me state exactly what they're on about. At issue is the eternal humanity and divinity of the person of Jesus Christ, the Son of God. You see, the basic doctrinal test of the professing Christian is his or her view of the person of Jesus. Does this professing Christian have a view of Jesus that is true to the revelation that is provided for us in all of the Bible? Now, John's concern about this ought not to strike us as strange, because it is not a concern that is locked somehow in the annals of church history.

I could do no better for you on this day than to warn you of error and to confirm you in the truth. And that is what John is doing—making sure that those who are his readers are not caught off guard. And so the concern of John, century one, ought to be the concern of all who believe, every century, including this one. Now, the NIV does not tie verse 6 to verse 7 as it should, because in the Greek there is the word gar, g-a-r, which is a conjunction meaning for or because.

And verse 7 begins almost as a whole new thought, but it isn't. And Phillips, the paraphraser, catches the continuity of thought when he writes, "'You have known from the beginning that you must live in him, for the world is becoming full of impostors.'" The reason that it is so important, he says, to live in Christ, to abide in Christ, to know what it means to trust in Christ, is not simply that you may be assured in your faith but so that you might be alert to the dangers of deception which are present in the contemporary church. And so, in this little section, John first of all identifies the error that is being offered, those who are promoting the error, and then he prescribes, if you like, the medicine or the action that needs to be taken if we're going to have an antidote to this poison.

And I've gathered my thoughts under two headings. We'll only get to the first of these this morning, and that is simply counterfeit Christianity. Counterfeit Christianity. In verse 4, he has already rejoiced that some of the children are walking in the truth. These professors in Jesus are making headway in the truth. Now he bemoans the fact that many deceivers, in verse 7, have taken to the highways, seeking to insinuate their error into these local fellowships. And you will notice how he puts it. These deceivers who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh have gone out into the world.

That's almost a technical phrase by this time. And he, you will remember, wrote John's Gospel, and in John's Gospel he records the high priestly prayer of Jesus, who at one point, in praying to his Father, says to him, Father, as you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. I am sending them out into the world.

Who are they? The disciples, the apostles of Jesus, who will go out into the world to tell the truth about Jesus. Well, since the evil one is a deceiver and the father of lies, and since he possesses an agenda and a strategy too, we surely would not be surprised that he decides, I will send my folks out into the world as well. I have a deceiving message to sow. I have untruths to convey.

And I will send my folks out into the world. And that's exactly what has happened. These deceivers who don't acknowledge Jesus Christ have gone out into the world. The key to being a deceiver is that nobody knows you're a deceiver. That's what makes it so difficult. That's why a knowledge of the truth is so foundationally important. The best of deviations are subtle, almost undetectable at first glance. Now, what are the characteristics of these smooth-talking charlatans?

Well, there are many, but let me give you just two. First of all, and you will notice this in the text, they do not confess Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. That's verse 9. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God. That is verse 9, but it is in verse 7 that he says, Many deceivers who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh.

Now, let me just cross-reference this for you in 1 John, because he is concerned with this in 1 John chapter 2, verse 21. I do not write to you, because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the antichrist, he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father, whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also. The Bible is absolutely unequivocally clear that a knowledge of God the Creator, the Father of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, is only possible through his Son. He is the one mediator—1 Timothy 2—he is the one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus, full in his humanity, full in his divinity. These deceivers denied that the man Jesus of Nazareth and the eternal Son were and are one and the same person.

Now, that might not mean a lot to you right now this morning because of where you are in your inquiries about Christianity and so on, but that is the issue that he's confronting. In other words, these deceivers would not have been willing to sing in Wesley's Christmas carol, Veiled in flesh the Godhead see, Hail the incarnate Deity, Pleased as man with man to dwell, Jesus our Emmanuel. They would not sing that.

Why? Because they didn't believe it. The false teachers here described denied that the man Jesus and the eternal Son were and are the same person possessing two perfect natures, human and divine.

That's the issue. Essentially, they denied and dismissed an orthodox view of the incarnation. If that is their denial, what then was it that they were offering in their deceitfulness? Well, this is what they were saying. In their view, Jesus was a mere man upon whom the Christ—in their view, simply a divine emanation—upon whom the Christ descended at his baptism and departed before his crucifixion. So Jesus is simply a man.

This is not a diatribe against Mormonism or your Mormon friends, but if you go to the website and go to the statement of Mormonism, it is classic insofar as it says, We believe in God the Eternal Father and his Son Jesus Christ and in the Holy Ghost. Someone says, Well, that's perfect. That's exactly what we're talking about.

See? They are true believers. No, but what they don't tell you is that the distinction that they're making is there only for those who will go far enough to discover it. And that is that when they say, We believe in God the Eternal Father and in his Son Jesus Christ, Mormonism teaches that Jesus Christ is a created being, that he is not eternal with the Father, nor is the Holy Spirit co-eternal with the Father.

That's the subtlety in it, and that's the deceit that is in it. And that is exactly what is being conveyed here—that an ordinary man was invaded by divinity for a time, and then it departed. In other words, they were teaching that the Christ came into the flesh of Jesus. The Bible declares that Jesus was the Christ come in the flesh. Do you understand the distinction? They said that the eternal Son came into the flesh of Jesus. The Bible declares that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. That is imponderable and as incomprehensible as the doctrine of the Trinity is—namely, that is orthodoxy.

That God himself, in the person of the eternal Son, comes in time and space in order to reveal God in a revelation of all of God that is capable in humanity and to provide reconciliation to that God for those who are sinners. Now, what makes this so vital—and you may not believe it to be vital, and that's your story—what makes this so vital is that we live at a time where clarity and conviction are often regarded as suspect, and where vagueness and uncertainty are in vogue. Things are so warped that the only people that you need to fear will be people seeing things such as I'm seeing—people actually discriminating between truth and error, people actually delineating distinctions.

These are the people you must watch for. Why? Because the contemporary philosophical climate suggests that we know that there is no absolute truth. We know that there is no defining way of knowing God. We know that God has not articulated himself in these objective categories.

Therefore, anybody who suggests that he has, he's the person you should watch out for. That's why, loved ones, it is vital that you read your Bibles. That's why it is of fundamental importance that you recognize that I am only here to teach this book.

I'm not here to tell you stories. I have a calling from God to try somehow or another to make sure that after my departure, you will be able to recall these things, and you and your children and your children's children will walk in the truth, even if the whole world is against you. That's the issue. So, any temptation we have to compromise or fudge on this question has to be resisted. You will notice that John does not mince his words. At the end of verse 7, any such person is the deceiver and the antichrist. There can be no stronger condemnation of error and deceit in all of Christian doctrine, writes Marshall. In other words, this individual or these individuals embody radical opposition to the true doctrine about Jesus, and they are absolutely fundamentally opposed to Jesus.

And here's what makes it so difficult. They love to tell you that that's not the case—that they actually are followers of Jesus, they love Jesus, and so on. But it's not a Jesus of our invention that we're called to follow and trust. It's not a Jesus of our invention that dies upon the cross for us. Anselm, in his little book, Curdus Homo, God Becomes Man, God as Man, argues magnificently centuries ago for the fact that the only way atonement can be achieved, the only way that reconciliation can take place, is for the individual who affects that reconciliation to be both God and man. And only one person qualifies. Jesus.

Now, let me just say the final thing. Characteristic number one is that they do not confess Jesus as coming in the flesh, and characteristic number two is that they do not continue, verse 9, in the teaching of Jesus. You'll notice how John's approach is essentially, if the cap fits, wear it, so that at the end of verse 7 he says, any such person, and then here in verse 9 he says, anyone who runs ahead and doesn't continue. In other words, if you find somebody who runs ahead and doesn't continue, then you need to be very, very careful. In other words, what he's saying here is, you've got to watch out for the person who's so advanced that he is no longer content with what Jesus taught.

That's the notion here. This person had got on the road marked Orthodoxy, and then he didn't realize that at a certain point the name of the road changed—indeed, the nature of the road changed—and he's now driven out and beyond Orthodox Christianity. He has run ahead and has failed to continue in what Jesus taught. In other words, the advance that has taken place is an advance beyond the boundaries of Christian belief. And, says Plummer, the commentator, to advance beyond Christ is not progress but apostasy. Now, you will notice—and with this we will conclude—that the implications of what they have done are so significant. Anyone who runs ahead and does not continue in the teaching of Christ does not have God. Does not have God. You see how devastating even a line like that sounds in our contemporary conversations with one another?

The exclusivity of it jangles in people's ears. And that's why it is important, I say to you again, to be people of the book. That's why the issues of Christ alone and the Scriptures alone and grace alone and faith alone and so on, that's why these things are all so vitally important.

Because if we're not going to go Scripture on its own, then it'll be Scripture plus something else—either the Roman Catholic magisterium or the Book of Mormon or whatever else it is. No, says the Bible Christian. It's the Bible by itself. And this is what the Bible says.

And I'm glad that I didn't make it up, because it sounds so different. But the person who doesn't have Jesus, as he is revealed, perfect in his humanity and perfect in his divinity, does not have God at all. To confess the Son, says Stott, is to possess the Father. To deny the Son is to forfeit the Father. And I know I've said this to you before, but I feel it so strongly when I have time with my Jewish friends. The ones who care to discuss it do not believe that Jesus is the Messiah.

I believe that Jesus is the Messiah. We can't both be right. Islam says that a person will make heaven if, according to the scales which are their symbol, they are eventually able to outweigh the bad with the good. Christianity says we could never outweigh the bad with the good.

We need someone who is absolutely perfect to keep God's law and someone who is absolutely sinless to die in our place. We can't both be right. Mormonism says that Jesus Christ is a created being, no matter how they tend to disguise it.

Christianity says that Jesus Christ is the Creator, not the created. That, my friends, is not an issue of marginal importance. This is not a story of somebody who's just annoyed because certain people differ in relationship to peripheral questions.

No. John, as an old man, doesn't sit down to write these letters just because he had a bad pizza the night before, and his tummies unsettled him, and he's just feeling kind of cantankerous. He writes these things down because, he says, there can be no greater joy than to know that my children are walking in the truth. And I have to tell you what the truth is, and I have to alert you to what deception is, so that you then in turn may be able to abide by that which Jesus so clearly taught, and that you may be able to teach it to your children when you walk along the road and wind your lie down and when you get up, and you may be able to put it on little videos for your grandchildren when they come along and teach them songs and sing all about it as you walk with them in the park.

Why? Because Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father but by me. You're listening to Truth for Life.

That is Alistair Begg with a warning about the danger of deception. As Alistair mentioned in today's message, it's essential that we understand God's Word if we're going to discern truth from error. That's why we teach the Bible every single day at Truth for Life. Our mission is to help you understand what Scripture says and apply it to your life every day so you can walk in truth even if the whole world is against you. Alistair also pointed out today how important it is to pass along your faith to your children and your children's children.

Well that's what today's book recommendation is all about. The book is called The Big Book of Questions and Answers about Jesus, and if you have school-aged children of your own or you work with children between the ages of 5 and 10, this is a book that will help you answer their most frequently asked questions about Jesus, one question and answer at a time. Today's the last day we're offering The Big Book of Questions and Answers about Jesus. You can ask for your copy when you give a one-time gift at slash donate, or you can arrange to set up an automatic monthly donation when you visit slash truthpartner.

I'm Bob Lapine. Tomorrow we'll see what it looks like for our walk to match our talk. That's what our faith is supposed to look like. How do we do that? We'll find out tomorrow. The Bible teaching of Alistair Begg is furnished by Truth for Life where the Learning is for Living.
Whisper: medium.en / 2023-11-30 04:58:08 / 2023-11-30 05:05:58 / 8

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