Avoiding deception is important for God's people. Jesus warned His followers about deception and the Bible predicts an increase in deception as we approach the end of the age (Matthew 24:22-25).
We are told that Satan presents (or transforms) himself as an angel of light in 2 Corinthians 11:14. The transformation here should be understood as putting on a type of disguise or false outer appearance meant to hide the true identity. An angel of light is the deceiver coming as a messenger of truth.
Looking at the larger context of 2 Corinthians 11, we can see this is a warning to Christians about false teachers in their midst. By teaching falsehoods, they are furthering Satan's agenda, which is to promote an alternative to God's truth—a lie.
Jesus Himself warned about deception, specifically addressing people who would present themselves as people who are speaking God's truth but actually teaching falsehoods (Matthew 24:5).
Satan can interact directly with humans on the level of thought but his actions are accomplished primarily by working through physical, flesh and blood people who turn those thoughts into action.
So, Satan may be active behind the scene, but it’s other human beings who teach falsely that we need to be wary of.
How Can You Know What Is of God and What Is Not?
Teachers of falsehoods may even have the ability to perform miraculous signs and wonders. So, we cannot rely on only miracle-working to validate the message and teaching we hear.
The Bible tells you to verify teachers who claim to speak for God by comparing them to the written word of God (Isaiah 8:19-20).
When we want to know what is truth versus what is falsehood, Jesus also directs us to the written word of God (John 17:17). At the point in history in which He spoke these words, Jesus would have been referencing the writings of the Old Testament. However, we now also have the New Testament writings to refer to as well.
The Bible is your go-to source when you want to know God's will. Here are some good reasons to consider the written word as a reliable source of information:
1. The Bible is a document validated by archeology and the records of human history.
2. It is a document validated by fulfilled prophecies which have been carefully recorded.
3. It is a document validated by the testimony of hundreds of witnesses to the events recorded
For more discussion on these important points and more see our publication, "Is the Bible True?"
God Provides Instruction
Understanding and faith are built through careful instruction and guidance (Romans 10:14-17). Without guidance and instruction each of us is susceptible to hearing only what we want to hear from God's Word. But, our Father has made Christ the head of the Church and Christ has appointed some to teach (Ephesians 4:11-15).
A person who teaches truth will continually point you back to Scripture. Such a teacher may provide context, background and insight but you must always take what you are hearing and compare it against Scripture to see if what you are hearing is true. The people of Berea received special commendation for taking what they heard God's minister saying and checked it our for themselves in Scripture (Acts 17:10-11).
The Moral Example of Teachers
A quick way to evaluate a teacher of truth versus a teacher of falsehood is to look at how they live. Does this person teach and obey the commandments of God? Jesus taught the keeping of the commandments and expects His ministers to do likewise (Matthew 5:17-19).
Pay special attention to the Fourth Commandment (Exodus 20:8-10). If the person teaching you is not obeying God by observing the seventh-day Sabbath and teaches others to not rest on the seventh day, then they are missing a large commandment given by God. This person may be teaching you a number of other errors.
As we read earlier, a person who teaches against any of God’s commandments has zero authority in the Kingdom of God. Why then should you, or anyone else, accept them as teachers and guides in the present?
A person may preach about all sorts of wonderful uplifting subjects. However, if they are not speaking from a firm foundation of obedience to God as found in the written word, then they are simply masquerading as ministers of light and truth.
The United Church of God has congregations of believers, led and taught by faithful pastors, all across the U.S. and internationally. Learn more about UCG here.