“To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. ” – Isaiah 8:20
Our enemy never sleeps. Always on our track, the adversary of souls with cunning craftiness plies all of his deceptive arts against the people of the Lord. Every instrument of warfare the enemy is capable of mustering is turned on the Church, that it may be destroyed from the inside out. One volley after another of deception and falsehood is hurled at the Lord’s most earnest children, that he may cause their ruin. Propagandized from the pulpits of the land by instruments of the enemy, smooth fables are fed to the people by the spoon-load.
My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord, I implore you to carefully consider this matter. By nature deception is slick and smooth. Were the enemy of all righteousness to outright approach you, offering you pills of cyanide, few would accept or listen to his proposal. In like manner, were the puppets of the enemy to outright proclaim that sin is an okay thing or that the devil is not real few in the Christian world would readily receive such fables. However, were the true character of these fables to be cloaked and coated with sugar the congregations of the land would feast upon them.
When the true character of such teachings is concealed, that it may not be detected by the scrutiny of the casual observer; than there are few who would readily discern their deceptive nature. It is only by the test of the word of God that we may be enabled to see the hideous monstrosities of false teaching beneath their deceptive guise. My dear friends, we must be diligent students of the word that we may more easily detect the deceptions of the enemy. Unless we possess a keen familiarity with our Bibles, we may find ourselves in a position where we are unable detect deception. In which case we would therefore find ourselves much more inclined to accept and believe the worst of fables.
It is important then not only that we become well-acquainted with our Bibles, but also that we study the word of God for ourselves. The testimony of Scripture upon this point is very plain. We are not to rely on or trust in men to show us what is truth. We must be prepared to search for and find the answers for ourselves from the word of God, placing our trust in no one but God alone. It has been said, “Thus saith the Lord; Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord.” – Jeremiah 17:5.
My dear friend, let us take a moment to think about the above passage of Scripture. What does it mean to “make flesh our arm?” When we lean upon God, we make him our arm. We are dependent on him and trusting in him. When we have made flesh our arm, we have done the opposite of that which we should do. Instead of placing our trust and dependence on God, we have placed it on men. There is a curse pronounced upon those who do this. Yet the question remains, why is there such a curse? Consider sinful man with all his frailties and weaknesses. The idea of infallibility attributed to a man is an utter impossibility. With this fact in mind, it is clear that men are capable of making mistakes. Yet even worse is the thought that men are just as capable of wickedness as they are mistakes, in which case you never know when men lie.
Since there are no specific effects mentioned with this particular curse in question, it is logical to conclude that this thought is in reference more to the consequences of trusting in men. In which case, this particular passage is a very solemn warning in regards to placing your trust in man. It is clear than that if you do this, you will reap the consequences of your actions. Men will lie to you and fail you. While this particular passage of Scripture in question is a strong warning against looking to men for anything, it is also logical to conclude that it covers receiving all of your instruction strictly from men. In light of such a warning, do we rely upon men to teach the Bible to us or do we study it for ourselves?
Make no mistake, there is no evil in studying together or with some one else. It is my firm belief that we as Christians should gather together to search the word of God. Yet if we study with a friend and they bring to us strange teachings, do we believe every word without searching the Bible for ourselves? It has been said in the book of Proverbs, “The simple believeth every word: but the prudent man looketh well to his going.” – Proverbs 14:15. My friends, we must not trust in and believe every single word that comes from the mouth of anyone. Whoever they may be, whatever position they may hold in the Church, however close a friend we may consider them, or whatever title may be attached to their name, we can never trust in the words of men and expect to be in safe paths.
The passage of Isaiah 8:20 is a test applicable to a wide variety of circumstances and situations. Were some one to come to you claiming to be a prophet of the Lord, they would have to meet the criteria given in this passage in order to pass the test. Their teachings and claims would need to be in harmony with the word of God. In like manner, the test given in this passage of Scripture is sufficient to detect wolves in sheep’s clothing. If the teachings of such individuals are not in harmony with the word of God, than they are obviously false.
As if the threat of false teachers itself were not solemn enough, the testimony of Scripture has left us with a sobering example of that which we face. When Jesus was tempted in the wilderness for the second time, Satan quoted scripture at him. This suggests that the enemy of all righteousness is familiar with the Bible. I find myself wondering if Satan is a more diligent Bible student than we are. Take a moment to ponder this thought. What advantages would a familiarity with Scripture afford to the enemy? How important than is a diligent search of the Scriptures, that we may detect Satan’s devices?
Yet it would seem that so few study their Bibles regularly, and so many are too trusting of the words of men. My dear friends, my heart aches as I contemplate this fact. As Christians we should be prepared to test everything by the word of God. Yet if our Bibles are rarely studied, how is it that we may do this? It would seem our ability to put any teaching brought to us to the test would fall short of our reach. It is imperative not only that we study our Bibles diligently on a regular basis, but that we obtain a preparation to test everything by the word of God that we not slip into a state of spiritual laxity.
The importance of diligent watchfulness in these matters is increased by some of the warnings in regard to the last days within Scripture. The very first thing that Jesus told his disciples when speaking upon the subject of his second coming was, “Take heed that no man deceive you.” – Matthew 24:4. In light of this statement, how important is it to beware of that which men teach us? If deception is a great enough threat in the last days for our Lord and savior to make this statement, then we must be on our guard and test the sayings and teachings of men by the word.
In his second epistle to the Thessalonians, Paul makes the following sobering statement. “And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders,” – 2 Thessalonians 2:8-9. Whose coming are these passages in reference to? Paying close attention to the structure of these passages, 2 Thessalonians 2:9 is a very clear reference to the second coming of Christ. This is especially evident when read in connection with the previous verse, in which the last event mentioned is the destruction of the antichrist power by the “brightness of his coming.”
With this thought in mind, we see very clearly that the second coming of Christ takes place after the working of Satan with all “power and signs and lying wonders.” The implications of this phrase are startling. These words in of themselves are mighty. They strike with overwhelming force and imply that the deceptions of the last days are beyond measure. It should be clear to us that the deceptions of the last days will be sufficient to sweep up anyone who is not making Christ their defense during that time, yet if we are not thoroughly grounded in our Bibles and Satan is a superior student of the word than we are than we are certainly in trouble.
It is urgent that we as Christians become well conversant with our Bibles and that we be spiritually awake, that we might detect deception. Especially should we be prepared to bring everything bearing the mark of ‘new light’ to the test of the word of God. There is no light in that which has no foundation in the teachings of the Scriptures, and therefore such things must be rejected. Even miracles and those who seem to perform them should be put to the test of the word, that we might discern their true character. The above passage speaks to us of one day in which Satan will employ the miraculous in an effort to lead the world captive. We cannot safely trust to the apparently miraculous for guidance, for we know not the source of such phenomenon until it is brought to the test of the word of God.
My dear friends, it is my most earnest appeal that you trust in the Lord alone, search the Scriptures for yourselves, and stand on nothing but a plain “Thus saith the Lord.” Let us all diligently obtain a preparation to test everything by the “law and the testimony.”