Satan & Demons

10. When Is Satan At His Most Dangerous?

By Dr. Paul M. Elliott
The "angel of light" is even more dangerous than the deceiving serpent or the roaring lion.

From the TeachingtheWord Bible Knowledgebase

Part ten of a series. Read part nine.

The "angel of light" is even more dangerous than the deceiving serpent or the roaring lion.

In previous articles, we have discussed Satan's origin as Lucifer; his essential nature as the adversary of God and the saints, and the father of lies; his role as the destroyer; and his relationship to this present world. In more recent articles, we've addressed questions regarding Satan's adversarial relationship to believers in Christ.

In our final installment in this series, we will look at Satan in his most subtle and most dangerous form - operating from within the church itself, masquerading as an angel of light.

The Angel of Light

The great enemy of Christ and His church not only attacks the church from the outside. One of his most subtle and effective strategies is to work from within, through people and even leaders who are part of the visible church. The Apostle Paul warns of them in 2 Corinthians 11:13-15 -

"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."

The three uses of the word "transform" in these verses are all derived from the Greek verb metaschematizo, which means "to change one's outward appearance by assuming an appearance that does not proceed from, nor is representative of, one's true inward nature." A close English equivalent is masquerade. So it can truly be said that false apostles come into the church "masquerading as apostles of Christ." But this is nothing extraordinary, Paul says, because Satan himself "masquerades as an angel of light."

Paul calls false apostles Satan's ministers. The Greek word here is diakonoi, translated in other places as "deacon", but in this context speaking of someone who executes the commands of another person. Paul is saying that those who come into the church masquerading as the ministers of righteousness are in fact doing the bidding of their true master, Satan.

The "angel of light" is even more dangerous than the deceitful serpent or the roaring lion.

Looking for the Wrong Things

Far too often, Christians are looking for the wrong thing. It's ridiculous to expect that people will come into the church wearing orange labels on their foreheads that say, "I Reject Justification by Faith Alone" or "I Don't Believe the Bible is Inerrant" or "I Believe Our Worship Has to Look Like the World." The actual threat comes from those among the flock who claim to believe and preach justification by faith alone, who claim to believe and preach the inerrancy of the Bible, who claim to believe in reverence in worship, but un-Biblically redefine the terms. The most dangerous error is an inside job.

Watchfulness is the Watchword

How, then, shall we guard against Satan's ploys to introduce doctrinal deviancy from within? The Apostle Paul gave the answer to the elders at Ephesus in Acts chapter 20, and it's the same answer today. The apostle said, beginning in verse 30, that "from among yourselves" - not from the outside, but from among yourselves - "men will rise up, speaking perverse things, to draw away the disciples after themselves." And then note carefully the next two words of the Apostle Paul. He says, verse 31, "Therefore, watch."

In the original language, this word "watch" is the word from which we get our English name Gregory. We all need to be Gregories. The word in the original language means, "Be wide awake about what is going on around you" - "be on the alert" - "keep your eyes open." But don't be looking out over the walls of the fort, while ignoring the very real possibility that the enemy is already at work inside the gates.

How to Detect a Counterfeit

People who work in banks have to watch for counterfeit money. How are they able to tell counterfeit money from the real thing? It is because they study the real thing. They know the real thing, front and back, intimately. That is how they come to understand how the counterfeit differs from the genuine article. Often the differences are subtle to the untrained eye. But they learn the real thing, intimately. And then they keep their eyes wide open for the counterfeit. They never know when it's coming. So, they watch.

We need to be immersed in the real thing, spiritually speaking. Authentic Biblical Christianity. The Word of God, that lives and abides forever. Sound doctrine. And we need to have our eyes wide open for counterfeits. It needs to become second nature for us. Like the Bereans of Acts chapter 17, we need to compare everything that we hear, and read, and see, with Scripture. The Word of God is the arsenal of the believer's warfare against the "angel of light" and his ministers (Ephesians 6).

A Zero-Tolerance Policy Regarding Error

The most effective defense against Satan's "inside jobs" is to cling tenaciously to the Word of God, and to utterly reject any teaching and any teacher who is not completely in accord with the doctrines of the faith that are given to us in the Word.

In other words, we must have a zero-tolerance policy regarding doctrinal deviancy and those who propagate it.

First, we must recognize that doctrinal deviancy starts because of liberalizing influences in Bible colleges and seminaries. Therefore, trustees, administrators, and faculty members must be watchmen on the walls, careful in their recruiting of leaders and instructors, watchful for the first sign of divergence from the truth in the classroom.

Second, we must recognize that doctrinal deviancy moves from the seminaries into the pulpits, and from the seminaries onto the mission fields. Therefore, churches and mission organizations must be constantly vigilant in the oversight of missionaries on the field, and in promoting godly, watchful oversight of indigenous churches by their newly-trained leaders as those churches are planted and grow.

And finally, we must recognize that doctrinal deviancy, if it is not stopped, goes from the seminaries and the pulpits into the pews much more rapidly than we often imagine. So church leaders must be constantly guarding the flock, and equipping godly pastors and elders and church members both at home and on the mission fields to "watch" - to be Gregories.

Over the years it's been interesting to me to observe that, very often, the people who most readily recognize the cancer of doctrinal deviancy in our churches are godly women. Often they see the problems - in books, in Sunday School literature, in video materials, and so on - long before the men do. And they bring these things to the attention of the men of the church, so that they can act. And men, you do need to act. You must take the spiritual leadership. Souls are at stake.


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