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Author:Rev. Ted Gray
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Congregation:First United Reformed Church
 Oak Lawn, Illinois
 www.oaklawnurc.org/
 
Title:Disguised as an Angel of Light
Text:2 Corinthians 11:13-15 (View)
Occasion:Regular Sunday
Topic:Spiritual Warfare
 
Preached:2018
Added:2020-04-23
Updated:2020-04-23
 

Order Of Worship (Liturgy)

* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.


 
 “Disguised as an Angel of Light”
2 Corinthians 11:1-33; text: 13-15
 
It might seem as though the apostle Paul sounds like a broken record; it may seem that he repeats the same warnings over and over. For instance, in this passage he once again addresses the danger of false teachers, a warning he has given throughout the letter. It might seem surprising until we realize just how serious a problem false teachers were in Corinth – and what a serious problem false teachers have been throughout the history of the church.
 
Still today, one of the biggest obstacles facing the church is not from political regimes that threaten persecution, it is not from the ridicule of the post-Christian culture such as we have in the United States and many other nations, but rather, one of the biggest obstacles the true church faces comes from those who infiltrate the church and seek to lead astray God’s people by teaching false doctrine.
 
The situation in Corinth was especially grievous to the apostle Paul because he had the privilege of planting that church. On his first missionary journey he had gone to Corinth, and by God’s grace and Spirit, established the church there. As he points out in verse 2 he desired to present the church as a pure bride to the Lord, but now the Corinthians had been led astray. False teachers had come into the church; they ridiculed the apostle Paul and they preached themselves rather than preaching Christ.
          
As verse 4 points out, they preached a different Christ than the one revealed in Scripture. They did not proclaim the true gospel, but instead they were professional orators who impressed the Corinthian church with their oratory skills as they led them astray with false doctrine. Orators were in high demand in Greek society. Since they had none of the electronic media that entertain so many today – most often to their own detriment – orators would give grand speeches which people found interesting and entertaining. The orators were paid well for their services, and so when the false teachers used oratory skills to entertain the church at Corinth, they also charged a high price for their speaking engagements.
 
That is another reason why the apostle Paul preached without receiving pay from the Corinthian church. He wanted to contrast himself from those who were speaking to make money for themselves without regard for the truths of the gospel, and without any love or concern for the spiritual nourishment and edification of the congregation at Corinth.
 
But because the apostle did not accept pay from the Corinthian church, the false teachers – the orators – said that his speaking was unimpressive, and not even worthy of pay. They said, in effect, “If he has anything worthwhile to say, then it is worthy of pay, just as we are worthy of pay. But obviously,” they said, “the apostle Paul is not worth being paid; he is not an impressive speaker the way we are.”
  
As you can imagine, this intensely grieved the apostle Paul. He had a deep love for all the churches, and he certainly had a deep love for the church at Corinth. He expressed his love for the Corinthians in verse 11 where he describes how God knew of his love for them.
 
He had planted the church, it was doing well, the Lord had called him to other areas of service, and then he received reports of what was going on in Corinth. He heard about how skilled orators were leading the people astray and were ridiculing the apostle and the truths of the gospel that he had proclaimed.
 
And so in this passage, as he defends himself, he also gives one of the most serious warnings in Scripture against false teachers. It is a warning so applicable, not only to the church at Corinth so long ago, but to the church of all ages including our church today. In verse 14 and 15 he warns: “…Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness…”
 
It should not be surprising that Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. He really has no other choice. If anyone, whether the Corinthians back in the first century, or you and me today, if anyone saw Satan as he really is – full of hatred and deceit, cruel to the core – no one would listen to him or be tempted by him. If people truly saw him for who he is they would take seriously the injunction of James to flee the devil and draw near to God to God (James 4:7-8).
 
But Satan fully understands that he must disguise himself to do the work that he desires to do, to deceive, mislead and destroy the church – the Bride – of Jesus Christ. And he is the master of deception. Jesus described him as the father of all lies and warned that there is no truth in him (John 8:44). So instead of presenting himself as he really is, he masquerades as an angel of light. Using every scheme possible he goes to work in the visible church.
 
Schemes and Disguises
 
Some of the many schemes of the evil one include mixing error with truth. In verse 3 the apostle writes: “But I am afraid that as the serpent deceived Eve by his cunning, your thoughts will be led astray from a sincere and pure devotion to Christ.”
 
When Satan appeared to Eve he mixed error in with some truth. It was true that the Lord had commanded Adam and Eve not to eat the fruit from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. And the devil used that truth, but he twisted it. He twisted the truth, mixing in error, in order to plant the seed of doubt in Eve’s mind and heart. His first words to Eve, were “Did God actually say, You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” (Genesis 3:1).
 
Those seeds of doubt have been used on countless Christians over the course of history. Those seeds of doubt have been nourished and proclaimed by false teachers who follow the example of the evil one. They mix in error, but they give just enough truth so that those who are not discerning are led astray by their cunning. The question given to Eve is still spoken repeatedly, “Did God actually say…?” And the question is raised to cause doubt concerning the veracity of God and the truth of His word, just as it was used by the father of lies back in the Garden of Eden.
 
Still today some truth is taught, even by the cults. And because some truth is taught many people do not catch on that mixed in with some truth is a lot of error. And many people are led astray because the false teaching is patterned after the false teaching of the evil one, for “…Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness…”
 
Another strategy of the evil one, and the false teachers who follow in his footsteps, is the strategy of being where least expected. That has always been the strategy of Satan. He knows that it is a remarkably effective strategy. Every fighter knows the value of being in the unexpected place. Those who fought in the Vietnam War realize the enemy was not where we expected him to be. The people in a village, the workers in the rice patties, even the mothers and grandmothers could give a quiet nod as soldiers approached, but then would deliver the deadly shot from behind as they passed by.
 
Satan also knows that trick so very well. He often appears where least expected. Yes, Eve fell, but to understand her position, who would expect Satan to be in the paradise of God? Who would expect him to present himself as the most elegant and wise of all creatures? Is it any wonder that Eve was deceived by the serpent?
 
And by the same token today, who expects Satan and his followers to be in the pulpit? Who would expect his followers to be seminary professors and church leaders? But that is what has happened in many seminaries. As an example, we support Westminster Seminary, both in California and in Philadelphia. But do you realize that the formation of Westminster Seminary was a direct result of Princeton Seminary becoming a liberal seminary?
 
Princeton Seminary had a long and rich history as a biblically Reformed seminary that faithfully taught its students how to proclaim the truths of God’s inerrant Word. But in the early years of the twentieth century liberalism made huge inroads into the large Presbyterian Church in the United States. In 1924 over 1200 Presbyterian ministers signed the Auburn Affirmation, a document which denied the inerrancy of Scripture, the virgin birth of Jesus, the teaching of His substitutionary atonement, His bodily resurrection, and the authenticity of Jesus’ miracles.
 
J. Gresham Machen, who was a professor at Princeton and a minister in the Presbyterian Church, wrote a classic book entitled, Christianity and Liberalism. In that book he pointed out that liberalism is not a form of Christianity with a slightly different view, but that liberalism is an entirely different religion from historic, biblical Christianity. He was expelled from Princeton Seminary and defrocked as a minister. Those events led to the formation of Westminster Seminary, and a few years later, to the formation of the Orthodox Presbyterian church.
  
We should not be surprised by those events. We should not be surprised that in 1924 already over 1200 ministers signed a document that teaches blatantly heresy. Verse 14 and 15 clearly warn that since Satan disguises himself as an angel of light, his servants will disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. The Puritans gave a serious and pointed warning; they said, “When you look for the devil, don’t forget to look behind the pulpit!”
 
In Matthew 24:15 Jesus warns about the evil one and describes the last days this way: “When you see standing in the holy place, the abomination that causes desolation…”  Do you see were the evil one is? He is in the most holy place – he is in the church – the bride of Christ.
  
Likewise, 2 Thessalonians 2:4 describes the Antichrist this way: “He opposes and exalts himself against every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, proclaiming himself to be God.”
 
No wonder the apostle Paul was so concerned for the church! No wonder he defended himself time and again against the false teachers and repeatedly warned the Corinthians – and warns us – to be on guard against false teaching within the church.
 
Another tactic of Satan within the visible church is that he quotes – and misquotes – Scripture. After all, he knows the Scriptures through and through. There is not a verse in the entire Bible with which he is not familiar.
 
When Jesus was tempted in the desert, Satan quoted from Scripture, urging Jesus to jump from the highest point of the Temple. He quoted from Psalm 91:11-12, “‘He will command his angels concerning you, to guard you,’  and “‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’”
 
But Jesus replied by quoting Scripture Himself. He quoted Deuteronomy 6:16, It is said, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’”
 
When Jesus was in the desert, famished from the time of fasting, the devil tempted Him by using Scripture against Him. But each time that Satan tempted Jesus, in a vain effort to cause Jesus to stumble from His mission, Jesus quoted Scripture to rebuff the devil.
            
That is just one more example of why it is so important to know the Bible and to memorize the verses in the Bible. The Bible is the sword of the spirit, as Ephesians 6 so accurately describes. And in the spiritual warfare that we all face how crucial it is to have a sword ready to use against the many schemes of the evil one.
 
Satan's temptation of Jesus in the desert reminds us that the devil knows the Bible better than any of us. He knows it better than even the greatest theologians. Augustine, Calvin, Luther – name any theologian from the past or present and you can be sure that none of them know the Bible as thoroughly as the devil.
 
Is it any wonder that that he used Scripture to tempt Jesus? And is it any wonder that he still uses Scripture today, twisting it out of context and using it to mislead millions of people?
 
Another tactic of the evil one is to imitate God by using counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders. Satan’s goal has always been to receive the glory that belongs to God alone. Because he has that goal he imitates God, much as an ape or monkey at the zoo will imitate you.
 
I’m sure you’ve been to the zoo and have seen a monkey beat his chest if someone beats their chest. Or if someone else makes a face then the monkey will make a face, or if someone else makes their biceps bulge the ape or monkey will do the same. We have that expression “Monkey see, monkey do.” And in much the same way, Satan strives to imitate the work of God.
 
2 Thessalonians 2:9 describes how the work of Satan is displayed in all types of counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders. In the church today we see the popularity of those preachers who supposedly are able to perform miracles, signs and wonders, healing people from sickness, reading their minds and meeting their needs in ways that are supernatural.
 
And many people are captivated by those ministries, often to their own destruction. 2 Thessalonians 2:9-12 warns: “The coming of the lawless one is by the activity of Satan with all power and false signs and wonders, and with all wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. Therefore God sends them a strong delusion, so that they may believe what is false, in order that all may be condemned who did not believe the truth but had pleasure in unrighteousness.” 
 
It Is Crucial to Be on Guard
 
How do we apply these warnings of the apostle Paul to the Corinthian church? We apply the warning by realizing that it is a warning for the church of all ages, a warning for the church today, and even more specifically a warning for you and for me.
 
It is crucial that we guard against Satan’s cunning. At times he attacks ferociously. In the words of 1 Peter, 5:8: “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour.” Yet, at other times, he beckons so subtly just as he did with Eve back in the Garden of Eden.
 
Either way, you must be on guard against him. And the best way to be on guard against the evil one is to read the Scripture so that you know what you believe. In Acts 17 we read about the Bereans, of how they tested what the apostle taught them by comparing it to the word of God. Still today, our understanding of God’s word, and the memorization of Bible verses, form a mighty sword against the evil one.
 
So many years ago, as he wrote to the Corinthian church, the apostle Paul was concerned. He knew the cunning and the power of Satan to mislead. And he knew that since the evil one disguises himself as an angel of light, his servants disguise themselves as servants of righteousness.
 
May you and I have the same concern for the bride of Christ as the apostle Paul had. And with that concern and love, may we stand firm, always grounded in the truths of Scripture. Amen.
 
                                     
                                             - bulletin outline -
 
 
 
“…Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also,
disguise themselves as servants of righteousness…”2 Corinthians 11:14b-15
 
                                 “Disguised as an Angel of Light”
                                   2 Corinthians 11:1-33; text:13-15
 
I.  As Paul warned the Corinthians about false teachers he pointed out that
     they disguised themselves as servants of righteousness, just as Satan
     disguises himself as an angel of light (13-15). Satan’s tactics include:
     1) Mixing error with truth (3; Genesis 3:1-7)
 
 
 
 
     2) Appearing where least expected (4; Matt. 24:15; 2 Thess. 2:4)
 
 
 
 
     3) Quoting and misquoting Scripture (Luke 4:1-13)
 
 
 
 
     4) Performing counterfeit miracles, signs and wonders (2 Thess. 2:9-12)
 
 
 
 
II. The warning to the Corinthian church applies to the church of all ages:
      We must guard against Satan’s cunning (3) and against false doctrine
      (4) by studying the Word, so that we know what we believe (Acts 17:11)
 

 

 

 




* As a matter of courtesy please advise Rev. Ted Gray, if you plan to use this sermon in a worship service.   Thank-you.
(c) Copyright 2018, Rev. Ted Gray

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