An Appearance of Godliness: Case Studies in Evil (Part 15)

2 Corinthians 11:3-4 ESV  But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.  (4)  For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough….

2 Corinthians 11:13-15 ESV  For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ.  (14)  And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light.  (15)  So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.

We frequently need to be reminded of what the Apostle Paul is saying here. Just recently as most of you probably know, another “Christian” celebrity’s hidden, ongoing, unrepentant evil has come to light. And typically, many professing Christians are running to his defense, insisting that without doubt he was a godly, though flawed man, who was without question a true servant of Christ. Really?

Just as Paul told Timothy to beware of people who have an appearance of godliness, so he is instructing (actually admonishing) the Corinthians here of the amazing level of deception the devil’s servants are capable of. And the word we need to get a firm hold on is “amazing.”  They are so skilled in their disguise that they can even preach a false gospel and people who claim to know Christ will go for it like a hungry fish after a tantalizing morsel on a hook.  And yet, they present “another” Jesus, “another spirit,” “another gospel” in order to hook the gullible.

They disguise themselves, says Paul, as “apostles.” Now let’s think about that for a moment. Apostles. These were men like Paul who were personally appointed by Christ and gifted by Him to not only preach the gospel, but to deliver the full canon of the New Testament to us, even opening up the Old Testament as well. They were given the gift of the miraculous in order to confirm their message as God’s Word:

2 Corinthians 12:12 ESV  The signs of a true apostle were performed among you with utmost patience, with signs and wonders and mighty works.

Now, how does anyone put on a disguise that is such a convincing imitation of all this? True Apostles (see Acts 1) even had to have personally seen the risen Christ and been taught by Him. So these counterfeits necessarily had to make that claim as well. But Paul’s reasoning here is from the greater to the lesser. If the most evil being in all creation can appear as an angel of light, then we must not be shocked that his sub-devils are able to appear to us as sons of righteousness. That is, as apparently righteous, godly, holy people.

Now, Paul tells us something here that we can tend to skip over, but we must not. Here it is: So it is no surprise. If we are informed and taught properly from Scripture, we will not be surprised when one of these minions is exposed.

You know how these things play out, right? Some guy who everyone believed was the holiest, saintliest, best husband, best church elder, best pastor, best….turns out to be a pedophile, a pervert, or even murders his wife and children (yep, the latter actually happens). And what is the response? “I just can’t believe it. That was not the man I knew. Something must have happened in his brain. We are aghast.” And such people want to still cling to the notion that the evil person exposed is not nor never was the true fellow they loved and respected. If you disagree with them, the fangs come out.  How dare you be so unloving!!

So it is no surprise. If we have a firm grasp on God’s Word, and if we believe it, we will not be surprised. Yes, we may well still be amazed at the devil’s ability to deceive, but we will not be so flabbergasted that we will want to deny the truth.

So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.

When we, for example, move to a new location and begin attending a local church that appears to be sound, let’s not be naive. Or when you listen to a well-known preacher or Christian teacher, do not err by exalting that person to celebrity status. Test the spirits by Scripture and don’t be one of these people who cover their eyes and ears and mouth, insisting that it is impossible for Dr. Jekyl to turn out to be Mr. Hyde.

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