The Agony of Deceit

By Marcelo Tolopilo

As I start off this article allow me to cut to the chase and give you the bottom line first. Here it is: You and I desperately need to fill our hearts and minds with God’s truth because it protects us from the enemy’s primary weapon in spiritual warfare, deception. In Paul’s classic passage dealing with spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-20) the great Apostle reminds us, “Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil.” (v 11). Paul tells us we are engaged in a great cosmic battle which requires us to suit up daily with God’s protective armor to shield us from “the schemes of the devil”.

Just what are these “schemes” the enemy launches against God’s people? The Greek work in the text for “schemes” is “methodeias” (plural). It is the term from which we get our word for “method” and which the NASB translates “schemes”. That is actually a good translation because “schemes” in English carries the idea of “craftiness” which is exactly how the word is rendered in Ephesians 4:14. The singular form (methodia) can also be translated “deceit”, and the King James and New King James rightly use the term “wiles” in their translation. And so the main assault Satan perpetrates against the redeemed – and for that matter all of mankind – is deception. Note the term is given to us in the plural which suggests there is a multiplicity of deception the enemy uses to attack us and the world. Satan doesn’t care what he says, or what people believe as long as what he promotes is a lie and what it achieves is deception.

Appropriately, the only offensive weapon mentioned in the Christian’s arsenal to attack Satan’s”schemes” is found in 6:17, “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” In other words we fight the devil with God’s Word, with the truth! In 2 Corinthians 10:3-5 the Apostle Paul speaks of spiritual warfare again. In this polemical passage Paul changes the metaphor a bit but communicates the same basic message. Here Paul compares our spiritual battles to that of attacking strong citadels. He calls them “fortresses”. Interestingly, he identifies these great “fortresses” as “speculations”, ideas “raised up against the knowledge of God”, and “thoughts” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

Let me ask you something, how is it that we fight and bring down false “speculations”, ideas, thoughts? It is with the truth! That’s why we so desperately need to study and apply God’s word to battle the enemy successfully. Do you realize that’s exactly how Jesus engaged the enemy? Three times Satan tempted Him in the wilderness (Matthew 4:1-11). Each time Jesus responded with “It is written.” The end result is given to us in verse 11, “Then the devil left Him;” That’s how we fight and overcome Satan! James, the half brother of our Lord, reminds us in his Epistle, “Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” (James 4:7)

 How do you and I submit to God? By putting ourselves under the authority of His Word. How is it that we resist the devil? We resist him with the truth, by submitting ourselves to God’s word and the victory it affords His children. As we submit to God through His word the enemy is simply overcome and must flee. That’s what God promises. Truth is the most potent weapon we can possibly employ against the devil. God’s truth is greater than Satan is and he cannot stand against it!

 The greatest achievement a combatant can pursue in his quest for victory is to neutralize his foe’s most powerful weapon. Compromise the weapon and you frustrate your opponent’s effectiveness on the battle field. Beloved, that’s why Satan works overtime to diminish the value of the word of God in our eyes and in the life of the church! And it is at that very point of conflict that this ministry is engaged continually. God has called us to preach the truth, to tell of the excellencies of Christ revealed in the word, but also to call God’s people back to the sufficiency of scripture. There are some today who are telling us that we don’t need to study the Bible in-depth. Serious Bible teaching and expository preaching are archaic methods of days gone by. Well, faithful, in-depth Bible study is a method. It is Jesus’ method, and the call to abandon it is a “methodia”, a “scheme”, “deceit” hot with the breath of hell itself

Consider Your Foe

If I were to ask the average Christian, “What is the chief way Satan attacks people (believers and unbelievers)?” For many this question would resurrect images of a besieged Job assailed by the devil with wave after wave of physical cataclysms. And so the answer to the question for most would focus on physical affliction, e.g., sickness, loss, persecution, and perhaps even death.

While it is true that *the Lord allows Satan to afflict us in such ways (See note below), I am convinced that the principle way Satan attacks man is not by physical affliction, but through deceit. Lying is the devil’s craft and he plies his trade with manifold creativity and devastating impact. In fact that last sentence does not go far enough in describing the malignity of the devil’s deceitful ways. Jesus Himself taught that the devil, “. . . does not stand in the truth, because there is no truth in him. Whenever he speaks a lie, he speaks from his own nature; for he is a liar, and the father of lies.” (John 8:44) Jesus describes Satan as a being who does not abide in truth because he is completely devoid of truth. Whatever he says is a rot of lies because his essence is deception. He is a malignant liar and the origin of all lies.

Furthermore, as we have said, he works his stock and trade on the created order with ruinous success. A quick glance at redemptive history reveals the amazing power of the devil to deceive. Even so, many would contend, “I don’t really feel an urgency to study the Bible in-depth (“I’m so busy . . . I don’t have the time . . . I’m not a theologian,” etc., etc.). I know enough about God to recognize the enemy’s schemes and to keep myself from being deceived.” If you have ever entertained that notion consider your foe and his remarkable, devious ability to beguile.                    ————-* the Lord allows Satan to afflict us – It is always helpful to remember that Satan cannot afflict the believer apart from God’s sovereign control (Job 1:12, 2:6, 1 Corinthians 10:13), and while the enemy seeks to destroy us, God’s design in allowing the enemy to afflict His people is always for their good and His glory (Job 42:5; 2 Corinthians 4:17; 1 Peter 1:6-7; 4:13-14; 5:10).

Deceiving The Holy

Sometime before God created the heavens, the earth, and man He created angels. It is not the intention of this article to present a study on angels but suffice it to say that angels are remarkable creatures. God imbued them with pristine, lucid intellects, untainted moral purity, and a supernatural beauty so overwhelming in its raw resplendent glory that limited exposure to these creatures induces two common responses in men – even redeemed men! The first is utter terror (Daniel 8:16-17; Luke 1:12, 2:9, 24:4-5), the second is worship which they reject and reflect back to God (Revelation 19:10, 22:8-9). All angels when first created were in a word, glorious!

The entire order of angels were created in holiness and innocence. Their state was such that they were able to stand before the unmitigated glory of the Lord without shame or fear. All the angels initially basked in the holiness of God and partook of His perfect goodness. Their minds were attuned only to the truth and perceived it with a lucidity that we can’t even imagine. Their hearts rejoiced in perfect purity and knew nothing of sin. Their unmarred visages reflected the holy beauty of the Lord continually. They had a perfect environment, they relished in the unadulterated goodness of a perfect Creator, they had want of nothing and unfettered access to the unthinkable treasures of heaven.Yet today not all angels are holy angels. Although they were created in perfect holiness at one point, fallen angels today are completely and hopelessly corrupted. They are behind the most perverse and insidious forms of sin. Whether you are talking about the eternally damning lies of false religion, or the most reprehensible and degenerate forms of sexual predation, demons (fallen angels) are behind it all, and I believe, revel in it all!

How were angels, who once basked in the refulgent light of God’s presence, transformed into the hideous creatures of darkness they are today? As you no doubt know, “fallen” angels “fell” with Satan. Revelation 12:4 tells us that one third of the angelic host rebelled with the devil. How did Satan achieve such a stupifying turn of events? What would make holy angels reject the tangible, unquestionable goodness of God? I can think of only one thing, Satan’s amazing power to deceive.

For reasons we do not completely understand (other than pride) these dazzling creatures chose to believe Satan’s lies (which germinated pride in their hearts) over God’s proven goodness and truth. That, my friends, is powerful deception!

Deceived From Innocence

Much the same story could be told of our first parents, Adam and Eve. They too were created in holy innocence. Adam and Eve enjoyed unhindered sweet fellowship with the Lord in the garden. They experienced God’s abundant provision and fatherly care – and nothing else! There was absolutely no rationale for either one to question God’s character or wisdom. They had no reason to believe God was withholding any good thing from their lives.

Furthermore their minds were untainted by the effects of the fall and so they had full run of the amazing faculties the Lord intended for man to have. They were supremely intelligent and rational beings who knew nothing but God’s generous goodness. They too had a perfect environment, a perfect Father, perfect lives (not even Martha Stewart can claim that now). How is it that they fell and subsequently cast the human race into the life and death struggle we fight today?

The answer is profoundly simple and tragic isn’t it? The great fire that consumed man’s innocence and marred the human race was ignited by Satan’s lie. Eve was deceived by the snake, Adam joined in her rebellion and thus sin and death burned in their loins and infected every one of us (2 Corinthians 11:3; 1 Timothy 2:14; Romans 5:12, 6:23a). But again, man’s fall was engineered by Satan’s powerful ability to deceive even in a ideal environment. He was able to distort the perfect, to twist the truth and get both Adam and Eve to embrace the contorted counterfeit. Now that is some piece of devious salesmanship!

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