The Danger of Deception
Tim Temple

Introduction

We have seen as we have studied I Corinthians that the focus of the book of I Corinthians, the focus of the lordship of Christ in the local church, is really the lordship of Christ in our individual lives. We cannot expect this to be a God-honoring church if we are not God-honoring people. We cannot expect Christ to have the lordship in our church if He does not have the lordship in our lives. So even though these things are addressed to us corporately as a church, as a group, they are also addressed to us by application as individuals. The Christian life is full of wonderful blessings, and the longer you have known the Lord, no doubt the more aware of those blessings you are.

What many Christians don't realize, and what most evangelists don't tell us, is that there are also many dangers in the Christian life. Although we don't have the time to detail all of those, we do have a chapter before us that lists several of those dangers. I Corinthians, chapter 10, deals with three dangers. They may not be the ones you would expect at first glance. We have looked in verses 1-13 at the danger of disapproval. Today in verses 14-22, we want to look at the danger of deception. The third part of the chapter is the danger of dependency in verses 23-33.

In our last lesson in verses 1-13, we talked about the danger of disapproval, the danger of finding ourselves in the presence of God at the end of this life and the beginning of our life in Heaven and finding that much of what we have done in this life as Christians is disapproved–not that we don't get into Heaven, but that we find that we have lost rewards that we could have had for bringing honor and glory to Jesus Christ, bringing people to Jesus Christ.

An Appeal to Flee Idolatry

Today we want to think about the danger of deception in verses 14-22. In verses 14 and 15, we find an appeal with which Paul begins talking about this danger of deception. Open your Bibles to chapter 10, and notice in verse 14:

I Corinthians 10

14Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.

One of the basic rules of Bible study is that any time we find the word “therefore”, we need to pay special attention to it. It causes us to realize that what we are about to study is based on what we have been looking at. In our last lesson, we talked about the fact that there are a number of kinds of things that can keep Christians from being what they ought to be, and those are illustrated for us in the Old Testament–the wanderings of the people of God in the Old Testament. We saw how they murmured against God and how they complained and how they committed fornication and various kinds of things that keep us in this generation from being what God wants us to be. The warning in those first thirteen verses is that we should be very careful that we not find ourselves disapproved in the same way that those Old Testament people did. Those Old Testament people were saved. They got to Heaven, but they didn't get to the promised land. The majority of them died out in the wilderness before they ever got into the promised land.

The large majority of Christians in this generation do not know all of the joy and blessings that God really has available to us because of those same kinds of things that kept that wilderness generation from knowing God as fully as He wants. On the basis of that, therefore, the Scripture says, here is an appeal. Because those things are true, therefore, flee from idolatry.

Incidentally, notice in verse 15 that he addresses this appeal to wise men:

I Corinthians 10

15I speak as to wise men; …

That is a little example of Paul's sense of humor, because, if you will remember, in the first part of this book, one of the big issues in Corinth was emphasis on wisdom. It is still an issue today; it is still a problem in the Church today, the exaltation of intellect. Remember that in the first part of the book, Paul pointed out that we can be wise, that every Christian can have the wisdom of God because it is revealed to us in the Scripture; so we don't need to worry about how much education the preacher has or where he got his degrees or how much information some other Christian has. The thing that we have to focus on as Christians is: Is a person coming to us from the Word of God? Education, intellect, mental brilliance all have their places, and God can use those things, but the real wisdom is in the Word of God. So, when Paul comes back here in verse 15 of chapter 10 and says, “I speak as to wise men,…” he is saying, “Look, I am coming to you from the Scripture. What I am saying to you is the Word of God. You have the wisdom of God in your hands. Be careful what you do with it.” So the specific appeal on that basis is to flee from idolatry.

The Principle Involved In Idolatry

Let me remind you again what we have talked about several times in the last few weeks as we have worked our way through I Corinthians. We have a tendency to say, “Oh well, idolatry doesn't apply to us. We don't have any idolatrous religions any more. No one bows down and worships idols any more.” We have seen that idolatry is not just a physical practice; idolatry is a mental attitude. Idolatry is anything that takes the place of God in your heart. You may not bow down and worship that thing physically, but whatever it is that the focus of your life is upon, what determines what you do with your time, what determines the activities that you choose, is your idol. Only God should have that place in our lives. Again, there is nothing wrong with knowing what the latest styles are and keeping ourselves clean and wearing perfume, etc. All those things have their place, but the question is why do we do those things? Is it to impress a particular person? Is it to achieve a particular goal? Or is it to honor the Lord Jesus Christ and to be obedient to Him? Anything that takes that place in our lives that God ought to have, anything that becomes our motivation, that determines what we do and who we go with and who we emulate and all of those kinds of things is who we are really worshipping. So idolatry is a very, very important subject, and Paul says to flee from idolatry. In Corinth, it was the specific problem of people worshipping idols, of people bowing down to idols, but in our day it is important from the standpoint of the principle involved.

Why is that appeal so important? Why, out of all the things that God could include in the Scripture, would He include this particular thing in the Scripture? Verses 16-20 give us the argument on which the appeal is based. The summary of the argument is that to participate in that idolatrous temple worship which was going on in Corinth is to have fellowship with the false teaching that those idol temples represented. There were Christians in Corinth who were saying, “Well, I can continue to worship Jesus Christ, and I can continue to go to the temple because after all, my family is involved in this idolatrous worship. They just wouldn't understand if I just cut them off.” So there were many Corinthians who were compromising and who were trying to walk both sides of the fence at the same time.

Fellowship In the Lord's Supper

The argument against that is developed by giving an analogy in verses 16 and 17. There he talks about the Lord's Supper. Notice:

I Corinthians 10

16The cup of blessing which we bless, is it not the communion of the blood of Christ? The bread which we break, is it not the communion of the body of Christ?
17For we being many are one bread, and one body: for we are all partakers of that one bread.

Think about what he is saying here. First of all in verse 16, he says that to participate in the Lord's Supper is to have fellowship with the Lord. The “cup…which we bless” is the communion, the fellowship of the Blood of Christ. The bread is the communion of the Body of Christ. One of the most wonderful times of fellowship that we can have is the Lord's Table. One of several reasons that we observe it every Sunday morning is that it focuses us on the Lord Jesus Christ that perhaps nothing else would do. It is a fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Verse 17 says that not only is it fellowship with the Lord Jesus, but it is also to have fellowship with other believers. There is something special about partaking of the Lord's Supper together, participating in it as a group. Certainly it would be permissible to take the Lord's Supper all by yourself. Sometimes when people are sick for a long time, someone will take them the elements of the Lord's Supper, and there is nothing wrong with that; but the real blessing comes from doing it together, from reminding each other of Who Jesus Christ is and what He did for us. It gives us the opportunity to proclaim that to other people who may be present or who may see us observing the Lord's Supper. His point is that to participate in the Lord's Supper is fellowship with the Lord; it is also fellowship with the Lord's people.

Identifying With God's People

That argument is further developed in verse 18 with another example, which is the nation of Israel. Notice:

I Corinthians 10

18Behold Israel after the flesh: are not they which eat of the sacrifices partakers of the altar?

We need the background here that some of the Jews in Corinth might not have needed. In some of the Old Testament sacrifices, part of the sacrifice would be given to the priest, and part of the sacrifice would be given to the offerer. The priest and the sacrifice offerer would both eat that part of that sacrifice. It was a part of that observance. The purpose of that was to show fellowship between the offerer and the priest (representing God) and the nation of Israel. Here is the principle in summary: When we participate in a religious ceremony, we are having fellowship with everything that that ceremony stands for. We are identifying ourselves with everything that that ceremony stands for, and therefore to participate in false worship is to have fellowship with that particular form of false worship and all that it stands for.

There were people in Corinth who were saying, “Well, it doesn't really hurt if I keep going with my mother to the idol temple. She doesn't know the Lord, and it would just hurt her feelings if I didn't go with her to the idol temple.” Paul says, “No, no. You can't do that. If you attend services at the idol temple, you are, by your very presence there, identifying with all that it stands for.” That is the appeal that he makes. Flee from idolatry in verses 14 and 15. The argument which is behind it is in verses 16-20.

Separation From False Worship

If those two things are true, then there are only two alternatives for us as believers. I want us to spend some time thinking about applications of this relatively simple principle that we find here in verses 14-20. Verses 21 and 22 give us the alternatives that are available to us if that principle is true. The first alternative is separation from the temple. Notice in verse 21:

I Corinthians 10

21Ye cannot drink the cup of the Lord, and the cup of devils: ye cannot be partakers of the Lord's table, and of the table of devils.

A person cannot sincerely partake of the Lord's Supper on Sunday morning and then on Sunday night or Monday night or any other night go and sincerely partake of something sincerely designed to take people away from God. There must be a separation from all kinds of false worship. That is the first alternative–separation from the temple.

Giving God His Proper Place

If a person is not going to give up his idols–let's think in terms of application, not just to worship services in an idol temple, but to whatever that thing is that is our idol in our lives–then the other alternative is to, in verse 22, subject the Lord to jealousy. Notice:

I Corinthians 10

22Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?

This is an interesting verse. In the whole gamut of the Bible, verse 22 is interesting because jealousy is a very significant emotion, a very unique emotion. Jealousy is usually spoken of in the Scripture as sinful. It is usually listed as among those things that are mental attitude sins. It is listed a number of times in that category. The only time jealousy is spoken of positively is when it is addressed to God, when it is tied in with an emotion which God has. Here it says that we can provoke the Lord to jealousy.

Another interesting thing about jealousy is that it is always tied in with love. In human beings, it becomes sinful because it becomes a selfish manipulation of love. I think that is the reason that it is always listed among humans among sinful attitudes. With humans it is sinful because it is based on “what I want, no matter what”–sinful desire. With God it is not sin because obviously in the first place God does not sin; but also it is not sin because God has a right to whatever He wants. Anything God wants, He has a perfect right to. In this case, He wants, and He has every right to, our whole-hearted allegiance as believers. God has every right to be the center of our lives. God has every right to be that which motivates us, to be that upon which all of our decisions are based as to what we do and where we go. God has every right to have that place in our lives.

The last part of verse 22 makes an interesting question. “…are we stronger than he?” Do you think that you are strong enough to deny God what He wants? Many of us try to do that, don't we, in the things that we hold dear, in the things that become the center of our lives? Those are the basic principles that are covered in these verses, but to really get the value of these passages we need to look at an analogy for today. I think that there are at least three things we can learn from the simple principle that is expressed in these verses. First, this principle applies to the kinds of things that we talked about in our last lesson–looking at your business, your family, your hobby, your glamour, your education, etc., to fill that place that God wants in your life, to make God jealous by building our lives around something other than Him. To be motivated by those things is to worship those things; and these verses say that it cannot be done. It makes God jealous. It is wrong because God has the right to have that place in our lives.

Liberalism In the Church

There is a second application in these verses. I am just mentioning that first one in passing because it is an underlying principle. I would like to spend more time on the second, maybe more direct, application of these verses. As I say these things, I realize that for most of you, it probably does not apply specifically, but it may apply to someone who is visiting with us today or someone that you know that you might be able to share the Word of God with. It has to do with the nature of liberalism in the Church today. I believe that Satan is behind liberal theology just as surely and just as much as he was behind idolatry in Corinth.

We shudder to think about a group of people in Abilene bowing down and worshiping idols. As crazy as this world is and as crazy as this town is, there may be some people doing that, but I am not aware of it. If we did know that, we would think that was really odd, really off-the-wall. Listen, the principles that God has outlined here apply very specifically to groups of people who are meeting in other buildings in this town even this Sunday morning, and we just live with it. A church that denies the deity of Jesus Christ is just as much Satan's church as the idol temples in Corinth were.

Satan has many diversions from his frontal attack. His diversions are very serious–things like drug abuse, moral laxity, alcoholism, abortion. We get all upset about those things, and we should; but those things are side issues from his frontal attack. His major line of attack in the world today is false religion. Turn to I Timothy, chapter 4.

I Timothy 4

1Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils;

That verse establishes the fact that Satan plans to work through religion. Idol religion all through the Old Testament was Satan's doing. It was an organized way of getting for himself that worship that God deserves. As I have said, there are many subtle ways without bowing down to an idol; but there is also organized religious activity that Satan uses. The Scripture tells us clearly that that is going to take place. It has always taken place, and it will be a part of the end times in which we live. Let me remind you again that Hebrews, chapter 1, tells us that in the broadest sense, the last days are the days since the time of Christ. There is sometimes just a segment at the end of the last days that is referred to as the last days. You have to read the context to see exactly how specific he is being about that last days, but I Timothy, chapter 4, verse 1, tells us that one of the characteristics of the time after the time that Christ was on the earth would be false religion, doctrines of devils (demons).

Doctrines of Satan

Like any counterfeit, Satan's worship is almost exactly like the real thing. The value of any counterfeit is in how similar it is to the real thing. Someone may be thinking, “Oh, now come on, Tim, you don't mean that Satan is behind the statements that I have heard attributed to liberal preachers, do you?” Yes, I do mean that. It may be hard for you to believe because you might be thinking, “I have good friends that go to that church. That church is just like our church. They have an organ and a piano, and they sing the same hymns that we sing. Surely you can't mean Satan is behind all of that!” Yes, I do. A counterfeit is only as good as its similarity to the real thing. For example, the Scripture tells us that Satan has his own doctrines. Did you see in the last phrase of I Timothy, chapter 4, verse 1, “doctrines of devils”–doctrines of Satan.

Some of Satan's doctrines are just a denial of the true doctrines of the Word of God. The most prevalent doctrine of Satan, in my opinion, is the question of the inerrancy of the Scripture. Again, I don't want to step on anyone's toes today; I hope I don't offend you; but I want to say as clearly as I know how that to question the inerrancy of the Word of God is a doctrine of Satan. I don't care how much you like the pastor who has that tendency; I don't care how many of your friends go to his church. It is a doctrine of Satan. The Word of God is the basis of everything that we believe. If you believe it is not inerrant in any place, then you have no real basis to trust Jesus Christ. If someone can find a flaw with the Word of God, then all hope is gone because how do we know that there is not some other flaw that some future generation is going to discover about what we have put our faith in?

If scholarship is where it is at, one of the big arguments is that we now know with our more advanced scholarship that these things were mistakes–what are they going to discover twenty-five years from now or a hundred years from now about those things that we are confident about right now? To question the inerrancy of the Word of God is a doctrine of Satan, and it is the basic doctrine of Satan because all he has to do is get us off balance about what we believe about the basis of what we believe, and then we have no basis for confidence in anything else. Any preacher or any church who endorses a preacher who says that there are mistakes in the Bible is a place of Satan's religion, and there are some of those churches right here in this town.

Some of those doctrines of demons don't just deny the truth, but they distort the truth. For example, there are those who say that the value of Christ's death was that He showed us how to face death bravely, that He died as a martyr to show us the importance of martyrdom, that we should be willing to follow Jesus' example even to the point of being martrys if we have to. There are churches that tell us we must believe in Jesus Christ. By that, they mean that He was a literal man who lived on the earth and who walked among men and who did many good things. There are churches who say, “Well, really sincerity is all that matters, and if you sincerely believe in Jesus Christ, then that is your hope of salvation; but if you sincerely believe in the tenets of Buddhism, that is all right, too, because sincerity is all that matters.” Those are the doctrines of Satan.

Satan's False Teachers

Not only does he have his own doctrines, he has his own clergymen. Turn to II Corinthians, chapter 11, verse 13. In the verses above this, Paul has been talking about false teachers, and verse 13 is sort of a transitional point. He says:

II Corinthians 11

13For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ.
14And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light.
15Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.

Listen carefully: The finished product of Satan's art is not the bum in the gutter. The achievement of Satan's goal is not the business man who gets addicted to cocaine and loses everything he has ever had. The finished product of Satan's art is not the teenager who becomes a drug addict and ruins his parents' life and breaks their hearts. We think of those as works of Satan, and they are; but that is really not what Satan is after. I think those are really aberrations and that Satan is really a little embarrassed about those kinds of things. The finished product of Satan's art, the thing that Satan is really after, the thing that is most potent in Satan's hands is the false preacher in the pulpit. These are men who try to demythologize the Scripture. “We know that those miracles that Jesus did are just myths that have been added by His followers through the years. They were so impressed with the things that He did that things got a little out of hand, and there are some myths in the Scripture, so our focus is to demythologize the Scripture.” That is Satanic. I personally heard a man say to a young person, “Listen, don't quote so much Scripture. Use your own head. Think these things through. Don't be burdened down with what the Scripture says.” That is a minister of Satan!

Congregations of Satan

Satan has his own doctrines, his own clergy, but Revelation, chapter 2, verse 9, points out something else that Satan has. Verse 8 tells us that this message is addressed to the church at Smyrna. Speaking to Smyrna, Jesus Christ dictates a letter:

Revelation 2

9I know thy works, and tribulation, and poverty, (but thou art rich) and I know the blasphemy of them which say they are Jews, and are not, but are the synagogue [congregation] of Satan.

Let me say that I am aware and we all should be aware that there are churches that do worship Satan, and that is a growing phenomenon. It has always been with us, but it is becoming more and more open and more and more practiced. It goes on right here in Abilene. Notice how Jesus defines those Satan worshipers. That is not to discount that there are people who are worshiping Satan, but the kind of thing he is talking about here in the last part of verse 8 is those who say they are Jews and are not, those who say they are God's people, but are not. He says that they are a part of the congregation of Satan. You see, it is possible to be a Satan worshiper without really praying to Satan and without really exalting Satan. What is a Satan worshiper? Someone who claims he is a Christian, to use today's terminology, and is really not, churches that explain that we can still accept Jesus Christ as a great teacher even if He did believe in angels. These examples are all things that I have heard said or that I have seen in print.

There are churches who claim to be Christian churches. There are churches that claim to be worshiping Jesus Christ, and in most cases, they are parts of denominations that we all know and would recognize. These are not some kooks, some cult, some little clan meeting somewhere secretly. These are prominent preachers, members of mainline denominations who say that we can still believe in Jesus if He did believe in angels.

Let me read to you an ad that was in the Dallas Morning News, placed there by a denominational church a few years ago. It said, “What should children be taught in Sunday School? That God created the world in six days? That man is not a creature of evolution? That Jesus was virgin-born, did miracles, and was literally raised from the dead? That Jesus may come down from the sky just any day now? That only those who believe such assertions with all their hearts are saved while everyone else will burn in Hell forever? Or that creation should be studied from all the world's religious viewpoints plus the views of modern science? That man is evolved from a wonderful evolutionary process and is part of the beautiful process of nature? That Jesus was most likely a man who did many good things whose followers invented myths and legends about him? That religion should deal with the here and now with a complete trust in the process that brought us into existence without a morbid fear of death?” That, my Friends, is the church of Satan. It is infinitely more serious, infinitely more dangerous, than those who openly worship Satan.

The Unequal Yoke

We have been talking about the true nature of liberalism. Let's go back to I Corinthians, chapter 10. There is one other thing that we need to think about and that is the true nature of a relationship between a believer and a liberal church. Look at verse 14 again:

I Corinthians 10

14Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.

If Satan is at the heart of liberalism, this verse could be construed to say, “Therefore, flee from liberalism or apostasy.” This is emphasized more in II Corinthians, chapter 6, verse 14:

II Corinthians 6

14Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?
15And what concord hath Christ with Belial? or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel?
16And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? for ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people.

Obviously the context here is church, religious relationships. We often apply that verse to marriage. It is a legitimate application of the principle. You should not marry an unbeliever, but notice that the context of that well-known verse is really church relationships. Clearly what this passage is saying is to get out of that liberal church. Don't be a part of that church that denies the deity of Christ or any of the other basic doctrines of the Word of God.

The question often comes up: What constitutes a yoke? Someone might say, “I am attending that church, but I understand the things that are there, and I don't accept all that. My friends are there; my parents went there; I have given a lot of money to it; my parents have given a lot of money to it. Besides that, I can be a testimony there. They let me teach a Sunday School class.” This may be unfair, but I am going to tell you: You have to make that decision for yourself, where to draw the line, what constitutes a yoke. Let me say, too, that I feel deeply for those who are in that situation. I know that there are some sincere believers in Jesus Christ who find themselves in those kinds of situations. Through the years I have had people to whom I felt very close face those kinds of decisions. The church that their parents built and the church that they have grown up in, the church that they have invested great amounts of time in and contributed large amouts of money to has now begun to teach things that they don't believe and teach, that their parents didn't believe and teach. God says that it doesn't matter how good that church may have been in the past. If the current leadership is denying the Word of God, then that is a Satanic church. That is what the Word of God says.

What constitutes a yoke? That is what each believer in that kind of a situation has to decide. Inevitably the question comes up, “What about the couple that has stayed in that kind of church and taught a Sunday School class and seen great results from that?” I don't deny that. There are wonderful, godly people in those kinds of churches, and some of them are very effective teachers of the Word of God. It might be that God would lead them to stay there. The only thing I would say is that if God leads you or someone you know to stay in that kind of situation, you had better be sure that you keep teaching the Word of God because God blesses His Word no matter where it is given out. In that kind of church, that is the only thing God will bless.

It has been my experience that those who do stay in those kind of churches and who do continue to teach the Word of God eventually lose that opportunity because if a church is committed enough to the denial of the truth of God's Word, eventually it will not tolerate the teaching of God's Word. I have seen that happen over and over again. The thing I want to stress is that you be careful that you don't mistake God's blessing of your teaching of His Word with God's approval of that church in which you are teaching it or even necessarily His approval of your continuing to be in that church. It is a very difficult decision. God does not approve of those churches.

The bottom line is that to continue that kind of a relationship even for good purposes is dangerous to your spiritual health. You can't walk through a coal mine without getting dirty. In the same way, you cannot regularly sit under false teaching without being affected to some degree. Even if you as an adult, as a parent, might not be hurt–and that is a big if–what about your children? Can you bring up your children under that kind of false teaching if you regularly submit them to that kind of thing taught from the pulpit, espoused by the leaders and not expect to see some dangerous consequences?

Conclusion

The most important point by far is brought out in I Corinthians, chapter 10, verse 22:

I Corinthians 10

22Do we provoke the Lord to jealousy? are we stronger than he?

The important thing is not what you think, what your friends think, what your family will think. The most important thing is what the Lord will think if you continue in that kind of relationship. That is the overall application of this whole passage. It is not the liberal church, though that is what I have been focusing on in the last few minutes, but about whatever else it might be. Maybe you are not even involved in a liberal church, but what is your idol? What is it that is taking the place that God deserves and wants to have in your life? The word of the Scripture is:

I Corinthians 10

14Wherefore, my dearly beloved, flee from idolatry.


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