Warnings from Paul Against Being Deceived

In Paul’s second letter to the Thessalonians, we find instruction for our lives and time today. His letter cautions against falling prey to wrong beliefs and idleness, both of which he knew were poisons to faith and death to witness. The wisdom has always been for all time, but seems especially applicable today. We are confronted by false teaching and calls to false beliefs on all sides, including in the church. What are we to do? Paul instructs …

Do not be deceived. Pursue truth and God’s heart.

Don’t let anyone deceive you in any way. Before that day comes the rebellion must occur and the “outlaw”—the destructive son—will be revealed in his true light. He is the opposing counterpart who exalts himself over everything that is called “God” or is worshiped and who sits enthroned in God’s temple and makes himself out to be a god. 2 Thessalonians 2:3,4 (The Passion Translation)

The presence of the “outlaw” is apparent by the activity of Satan, who uses all kinds of counterfeit miracles, signs, spurious wonders, and every form of evil deception in order to deceive those who are perishing because they rejected the love of the truth that would lead them to being saved. 2 Thessalonians 2:9,10 (The Passion Translation)

So then all who found their pleasure in unrighteousness and did not believe the truth will be judged. 2 Thessalonians 2:12 (The Passion Translation)

The very first exhortation to us is “don’t let anyone deceive you in any way.” We may be surrounded by incorrect and false teaching, but the first responsibility is our own. We are responsible for what we choose to accept and believe. The “outlaw” will be revealed at Christ’s coming and the darkness of his own character and purpose will be his undoing. Those who reject the love of truth, who choose for their own reasons not to pursue it as they pursue the desires and intents of their own hearts, allow themselves to be deceived and will be held accountable. The counterfeit who sits on God’s throne in 2:4 is both the deceiver and our own sin. When we sin, we place our own desires and thus ourselves above God, supposing that our desires are greater than His.

Do not be idle. Do the work you are called to as a sacrifice to God and a witness.

Beloved brothers and sisters, we instruct you, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, to stay away from believers who are unruly and who stray from all that we have taught you. For you know very well that you should order your lives after our example, because we were not undisciplined when we were with you. We didn’t sponge off of you, but we worked hard night and day to provide our own food and lodging and not be a burden to any of you. It wasn’t because we don’t have the right to be supported, but we wanted to provide you an example to follow. 2 Thessalonians 3:6-9 (The Passion Translation)

Verse six cautions against aligning ourselves with “unruly” believers, those who stray from truth in doctrine, principle, and action even though they have believed. Later, Paul goes further, instructing us to separate ourselves from them, not to punish them but to open their eyes to their true condition (v14). When they repent then relationship can be restored. In this, we see that relationship is a tool of the Spirit. It is a call for us to be intentional about which relationships to engage with and in modeling truth and righteousness within the relationship. If we value an ungodly relationship, we do not value our relationship with YHVH.

Verse seven instructs us to “order your lives.” The opposite is translated as being “undisciplined,” “lazy,” “not in battle order,” and “not in your duty station.” Living right ordered lives puts us in our proper battle order and in our called duty station as we walk our daily life. When we honor this command, we become tools God can use, weapons He can deploy, and we operate from His strength, peace, and confidence, not our own. One way we order our lives correctly is by pursuing truth and using wisdom, understanding, and discernment to judge for ourselves what we are being taught, judging it against God’s truth and not the wishes and desires of our own hearts (Proverbs 25:2). Deceivers will be held accountable for what they propagate, we will be held accountable for what we accept into our belief system.

Don’t be lazy. Do the work you have been called to. Judge what is true and untrue not through the desires of your heart, but through the desires of God’s heart. Listen to Him, not to man, and judge for yourself.

Father, remind me to seek Your call upon my day each day. Fill me with recognition of Your Spirit and His prompting, and with courage to believe and walk in faith no matter the task. Give me the wisdom, understanding, and discernment I need to know what is true according to Your heart. Give me the strength, Lord, to honor you with every breath, every thought, every desire, every word, and every act. Give me the strength, Lord, to be your good and faithful servant with joy and peace in my heart. Amen.

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