Status of the Deceived?


Status of the Deceived?

Question

“There is so many different ways of looking at things these days and so many false teachers in the religious world, what if someone does follow a false teacher?  What if he does this ignorantly?  How does God look at him?”

Answer

Scripture says that there are different degrees of responsibility, thus different consequences to what we do.  In regard to this specific question, the status of a follower of a false teacher, God has not left us without guidance.

The Bible says that we are responsible to “test the spirits” before we follow any man or woman and any teaching (1 John 4:1-6).  We must even test ourselves spiritually (2 Corinthians 13:5). We must “examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good” (1 Thessalonians 5:21).

Furthermore, Jesus said that we must keep from being deceived by others, thus we must beware of this possibility.  He declared, “See to it that no one misleads you” (Matthew 24:4).  He continued with His warning: “Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many” (v. 11).  Later in this same context, the Lord said, “False Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect [chosen]” (v. 24). 

This shows the need for Christ’s warning in the Sermon on the Mount, “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves.  You will know them by their fruits” (Matthew 7:15-16).  Many will be surprised in the Judgment, for Christ will say that regardless of their religious activity, Jesus never knew them (vv. 21-23).  We are all responsible to examine any preacher, teacher, elder, or anyone else who promotes a doctrine, teaching, or way of life that is false and not according to the sound words of Scripture.  Many religious leaders will be false and will seek to deceive as many as possible.  In our day, many of these religious leaders will be preachers, teachers, pastors, professors, priests, and others in clerical garb and with religious titles before or after their name!

Many times in the letters written by the apostles and prophets, the writer warns of the need to beware so that we might not be deceived by false teachers and false prophets.  For example, Paul writes, “Now I urge you, brethren, keep your eye on those who cause dissensions and hindrances contrary to the teaching which you learned, and turn away form them.  For such men are slaves, not of our Lord Christ but of their own appetites; and by their smooth and flattering speech they deceive the hearts of the unsuspecting” (Romans 16:17-18).  Since we are not directly dealing with false teachers in this answer, we need not belabor this point, but there are definitely dozens of references to false teachers and false teachings in the New Testament—thus we need to beware! 

Paul and other New Testament writers often wrote, “Do not be deceived” (1 Corinthians 6:9; cf. 15:33; Galatians 6:7; James 1:16; 1 John 3:7). They knew that even truly saved people could be deceived by false teachers, false doctrines, and even by themselves (1 Corinthians 3:18). We are in need of such admonitions ourselves.

Now what about those who are deceived or are led astray?  Jesus declared, “Every plant which My heavenly Father did not plant shall be uprooted.  Let them alone; they are blind guides of the blind.  And if a blind man guides a blind man, both will fall into a pit” (Matthew 15:13-14; cf. 23:16, 24; Luke 6:39).  Notice that both the “blind guide,” as well as those blind people who are led by the blind guide, will “fall into a pit”!  While the guide may have special blame for his nefarious work of deception, those who are deceived by him will likewise suffer serious consequences!  No wonder that there are so many warnings against false teachers and false teaching.  If we succumb to all of this falseness, we also will perish!

We must remember one point about this.  While the deceived will suffer the judgment of God, surely the one who does the deceiving will be more greatly punished.  Scripture teaches degrees of punishment.  Jesus explained, “That slave who knew his mater’s will and did not get ready or act in accord with his will, will receive many lashes” (Luke 12:47).  This speaks of known sin.  But Jesus goes on to say, “But the one who did not know it, and committed deeds worthy of a flogging, will receive but few.  From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more” (v. 48).  Those guilty of unknown sin will also be punished, but will not receive the degree of severity.  From this we would conclude that the blind guides who lead others astray will suffer far greater punishment than those he deceives.

This should be a warning to us today.  There are countless false teachers—blind guides—in the religious world today.  We must not be taken in by them. We must not be deceived. We must always “test the spirits” and “test all things” so that we might not yield to false testimony of false leaders.  As Peter warns us, “Be on your guard so that you are not carried away by the error of unprincipled men and fall from your own steadfastness” (2 Peter 3:17).

Richard Hollerman

 

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