And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
2 Corinthians 11:14-15
Paul wrote these words about men who claimed to be teaching the truth and were received by Christians as gifted "super-apostles" (Paul's own word in 2 Corinthians 11:5). The result in Corinth was that they were turning to a different Jesus, a different Spirit, and a different gospel (2 Corinthians 11:4). These teachers were not sent by Christ. They were false teachers.
It is Satan's strategy to mask his efforts in what looks a lot like a good thing. Some of his most stunning work is done by people who claim to know Jesus. And they destroy the very name that they claim to follow. It is really quite devious when you think about it. But the real test is their deeds. If their work is filled with self-promotion, detracts from the saving gospel of Jesus, or turns from or adds to the teaching of the scriptures, they are false.
Discernment is the key, and Paul was working with a church that had very little such discernment when he wrote to the Corinthians in this letter. He is laying out the case for returning to the pure gospel. He is not defending himself for his own sake, but rather for the sake of the gospel, so that Jesus might be followed by His church once again.
I am concerned that the church is losing the ability to discern in the way that Paul describes it. In fact, I think in large segments, it already has. Evangelicals don't expect the average church-goer to learn basic Bible doctrine. We instead exalt powerful personalities, even if they question biblical teaching that undermines the heart of the gospel (i.e. Rob Bell, Joel Osteen, Benny Hinn, Brian MacLaren and a host of bestselling authors). I wonder if we haven't settled instead for a mask of deception rather than the face of Christ.
- Prepare your minds for action.
1 Peter 1:13