“The Wiles of the Devil” series (post #18)
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workers, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. Therefore it is not surprising if his servants also disguise themselves as servants of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their deeds. (2 Corinthians 11:13-15, N.A.S.V.)
It’s been said, “When you are looking for the devil, be sure to look for him in the pulpit.” Truer words were never spoken. One who holds the title “minister” shouldn’t be ruled out as possibly being a servant of Satan. The devil isn’t afraid of religion. To the contrary, he wields it with devastating effectiveness in his war against God.
In our text passage, the apostle Paul bluntly labels a certain group of men as false apostles and servants of Satan. By reading the entirety of the chapter, we learn that these men were deceivers who preached a different kind of gospel that was centered around a different kind of Jesus and produced a different kind of spirit (2 Corinthians 11:3-4). You see, it’s not that they didn’t throw around the name “Jesus” in their preaching. The problem was that their version of Him was not the true version.
And whose example were those false apostles following to make themselves look and sound so appealing to undiscerning listeners? It was the example of the one who had mastered the art long before them: Satan. One of Satan’s greatest advantages is that people tend to envision him as being fiery red and having horns and a pitchfork. But Paul says that Satan disguises himself (transforms himself, masquerades) as an angel of light. He doesn’t have to fake the angel part because he is and always will be an angel. It’s the light part that forces him to put on the disguise.
Paul’s warning holds special relevance to us today because we are living in a time in which we are bombarded with a vast assortment of ministers preaching a vast assortment of messages. So how can we tell which ministers are in actuality servants of Satan? Paul’s answer is, “The servants of Satan are the ones who preach a different gospel than the one I preach.” As Paul said in his rebuke of the Christians of Galatia:
I marvel that you are turning away so soon from Him who called you in the grace of Christ, to a different gospel, which is not another; but there are some who trouble you and want to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel to you than what we have preached to you, let him be accursed. As we have said before, so now I say again, if anyone preaches any other gospel to you than what you have received, let him be accursed. (Galatians 1:6-9, N.K.J.V.)
You’ll notice that spotting a servant of Satan in the ministry has everything to do with the message. Just because a minister has a large following, makes a hefty salary, lives in a luxurious home, wears nice clothes, and is a great orator, that doesn’t mean that he is God’s man. If the minister’s “gospel” doesn’t align with scripture, he is a servant of Satan disguised as an apostle of Christ and as such should be accursed. That’s strong language, but monkeying around with the gospel is serious business that carries eternal consequences.
As evidence of just how serious this business is, consider the following passages that relate to ministers:
- (Jesus speaking): “Beware of false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.” (Matthew 7:15, N.K.J.V.)
- (Paul speaking): “For I know this, that after my departure savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Also from among yourselves men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves.” (Acts 20:29-30, N.K.J.V.)
- (Paul writing): “Now the Spirit expressly says that in latter times some will depart from the faith, giving heed to deceiving spirits and doctrines of demons…” (1 Timothy 4:1, N.K.J.V.)
By the way, in case you are wondering what Paul defined as the true gospel, he tells us in 1 Corinthians 15:1-4. He writes:
Moreover, brethren, I declare to you the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received and in which you stand….For I delivered to you first of all that which I also received: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the Scriptures. (N.K.J.V.)
Now, are there other elements to the gospel message? Yes. Some of those other elements are: the deity of Jesus, the requirement of belief in Jesus for salvation, Jesus’ ascension back to heaven following His resurrection, and the Holy Spirit indwelling those who believe in Jesus as Savior. But the gospel reduced to its simplest core is: the death of Jesus for the sins of the world, followed by His resurrection. All these other elements extend outward from this central core.
I should also mention that every minister who teaches falsely isn’t automatically a servant of Satan (a false teacher, a false apostle). Sometimes a man can be legitimately called by God to preach and yet be in error on certain interpretations or applications of scripture. Furthermore, it is not uncommon for the God-called preacher to miss God’s will in regards to places of service or specific acts of service. Again, these things don’t make the man a servant of Satan. The mark of a servant of Satan is that he preaches a different gospel.
In closing, let me say that the message of every minister should be judged in the pure light of the true gospel. Satan still disguises himself as an angel of light, setting the example for his ministers to follow, and cults and false religions worldwide have been founded by or are currently led by such ministers. But the end of their story hasn’t been told yet. As our text passage promises, that end shall be according to their deeds. Until then it is your job and my job to vigilantly be on the lookout for Satan’s ministers who follow his example by disguising themselves as angels of light and preaching a false gospel that leads to a false salvation and a false hope of heaven.