Camouflaged Deceivers

by Wayne Barber

Wayne BarberEditor's note: This month's column concludes Wayne's series of studies on 2 John.

All of us are up against those who suppress Truth; distort Truth; exchange Truth for a lie; and who reject Truth with their error.

Walking in Truth, which is living under its influence, is our first line of defense against such false teachers.

We have nothing to stand on or even say if we profess to believe Truth and do not live according to it. In 2 John 7, John says, "For many deceivers have gone out into the world." The word "many" is pols in the Greek. It means a great multitude, too big to even count. "Deceivers" is just another word for false teachers who have distorted the Truth. These deceivers were con artists who masqueraded as teachers of God's Word.

Let me illustrate: I'm a hunter. When I go hunting, I sometimes masquerade as a tree!-or at least as a harmless part of the woods or landscape. If I'm camouflaged correctly, the deer are clueless.

We must understand deception. A deceiver looks so much like the real thing that at first glance without careful examination his deception is easily overlooked. I was hunting in South Carolina one year and was wearing a pattern of camouflage that was known as "tree bark" camouflage. I was coming out of the woods after dark and was walking next to the tree line. When I got to the car my partner was looking right at me but didn't say a word. I thought maybe he was asleep but I could see that his eyes were open. I said "Boo," and he jumped and almost fainted. He hadn't seen me coming, though he was looking right at me. That's the way deception works. If we are not walking in the Truth, deceivers can walk right up to us and we never see them.

The actual Greek word for deceivers is plnos. We get the word planet from it, referring to that which seems to wander in space. But here it means to lead one astray.

"For many (a great innumerable multitude) deceivers have gone out." The Greek verb translated "have gone out into" is one word, eisérchomai; it is in the aorist indicative active. This tells us much! The indicative means that they were so committed to their task that they actually made the move and are already out there. The active voice means that this was their conscious choice and infers that it was with a plan.

John wants his audience to know that it is a fact that not only have a great number of these camouflaged deceivers already gone out into the world, but also that they have a strategy to distort and to destroy God's Truth.

"For many deceivers have gone out into the world." The word for "world," ksmos, can mean a number of things. It can mean the evil system of the world; or it can mean the populace of the world. Here it seems to mean the populace of the world, including the church itself.

John wants to make certain that there is no mistaking who these "dangerous" people are to whom he is referring: "...those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh" (v. 7b). The word "acknowledge" is homologéo , which means to confess, or literally, to say the same thing (from homo, the same, and logéo , to say). These deceivers did not confess that Jesus is the Christ the Son of God who came in a body of flesh.

What about that! These deceivers were the same ones who were deceiving those John wrote to in his first epistle. Their ill-fated doctrine was the pre-cursor to full blown Gnosticism. They taught that "Christ" came upon the man Jesus, son of Joseph and Mary, at His baptism and left His body at His death on the cross. John goes another step in identifying them when he says, "This is the deceiver and the antichrist" (2 John 7).

When you look at the heart that John has concerning believers not just knowing Truth but actually walking in it, it seems to me that he is warning them so vigilantly because the PREY for these false teachers are those believers who are all talk and no walk, when it comes to loving God and His Word. I wonder how much distorted truth, how much deception, is in the church of Jesus Christ today?

Hopefully every believer reading this will understand why it's so important to walk in the Truth. Every day of our lives should be submitted to the authority of Christ as our Lord and to the Scriptures as His Word to us. We have nothing to say if we are not willing to do just that.

"Watch yourselves!" John says in verse 8, as a continuing reminder to live by.

Wayne Barber is senior pastor of Hoffmantown Church in Albuquerque, New Mexico

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