“For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no wonder! For Satan himself transforms himself into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also transform themselves into ministers of righteousness, whose end will be according to their works” (2 Corinthians 11:13-15).
While many things have changed since the letter of 2 Corinthians was first written, some things that haven’t changed much at all. One thing that hasn’t changed is the presence of those who claim to be ministers (or followers) of Jesus but are something different in reality. At best, such individuals fail to accurately represent Christ. At worst, they serve as representatives of the enemy disguised as men and women of faith.
Such was the case in first-century Corinth for as one source comments, “Paul’s opponents at Corinth were not just fellow Christians who differ in certain nonessential matters; they were actual servants of Satan inside the church, competing for its leadership.” (1) Unfortunately, it appears that the Corinthians failed to recognize this danger. This may explain why Paul the Apostle said earlier, “…if someone comes to you and preaches a Jesus other than the Jesus we preached, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it easily enough” (2 Corinthians 11:4 NIV).
We can learn from the experience of the Corinthian church by seeking to identify those who distort the truth about Christ. These are several strategies we can use for this purpose and the first involves an important recognition: the “Jesus” that some claim to represent may not be the Jesus found within the Bible.
Its often possible to discover what someone really believes about Christianity simply by asking the following question: “Who is Jesus?” For instance, a person who self-identifies as a Christian may believe that Jesus was “a” God. Another might believe that He was a messenger for God. These beliefs may sound compelling but they do not align with the Jesus we find within the pages of the Scriptures.
Its important to remember that Jesus isn’t simply a god- He is the God (John 1:1, Titus 2:13). Jesus was fully human and fully God (John 1:14) and claimed to be God (John 8:58). He possesses all authority (Matthew 28:18), has the right to forgive sins (Luke 7:48), and will judge everyone (John 5:22). These distinctions are important, for those who do not hold to these basic truths about Christ may not accurately represent Him.
We’ll consider another strategy to help protect against false teaching next.
(1) Sproul, R. C. (Ed.). (2015). The Reformation Study Bible: English Standard Version (2015 Edition) (p. 2064). Orlando, FL: Reformation Trust.