Be not deceived [=led astray]; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting. And let us not be weary in well doing: for in due season we shall reap, if we faint not. As we have therefore opportunity, let us do good unto all men, especially unto them who are of the household of faith.
In verse 3 we read if a man thinketh himself to be something when he is nothing he deceives himself. For a second time the word deceive crops up. The idea is simply one of delusion, thinking one thing when the opposite is in fact true. We saw in Rom. 12:3 that we are to think soberly and not beyond our measure. In other words we have to think correctly and not allow ourselves to go astray in what we think.
In scripture the phrase ‘be not deceived’ occurs five times. We will look at each one and relate it to our theme in Galatians.
D6.1 Other gods
Take heed to yourselves, that your heart be not deceived, and ye turn aside, and serve other gods, and worship them;
This command to Israel was given as they were about to enter the promised land. In short the instructions to the nation was that once in the land they were to serve God alone and not get dragged into the idolatry of the nations round about, nor even to enquire as to how they served their gods! (Deut. 12:30) For in doing so they would be snared into following them.
In an illuminating passage in the Psalms we see the following thoughts.
The idols of the heathen are silver and gold, the work of men’s hands.
They have mouths, but they speak not; eyes have they, but they see not;
They have ears, but they hear not; neither is there any breath in their mouths.
They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trusteth in them.
The gods of the heathen round about Israel were expressed as idols, whether they were in the form of statues, icons or whatever, there was an outward form of their gods. These idols were not alive, they had no power of thought, speech, sight or hearing. This we are all familiar with as Isaiah makes the same point (Isa. 44:9-20) and adds that it is a deceived heart that has turned people aside – thinking that their gods can save them when all along it is just a bit of wood, and have no power whatsoever!
The last part of the passage quoted above is of particular interest. They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trust in them. Those that make them are like them, and those that trust them also become like them. There seems to be spiritual principle: namely we become like what we worship!
In the context of Galatians we can see how this works. False teachers come in with ideas that are contrary to the gospel of Jesus Christ. They make them the be all and end all of truth. In the case of the NT it was the Judaisers who insisted on circumcision. This takes our eyes off Christ and onto the external ( the flesh) and slowly by trusting this one becomes like to them, and end up in a false gospel, and eventually become what they really are: having a form of godliness but denying the power. Hence the danger of the NT ordinances of baptism, the Lord’s supper, head covering, laying on of hands, if we make them more than what God intended them to be.
It doesn’t have to be circumcision, it could be anything. Once we make something else the ‘idol’ of our thought pattern and trust it, we eventually become like it; we become the very image of that idol. It could be an ‘one issue ministry’, or one particular doctrine to the exclusion of others, or it could be an ideal we are pursuing at all costs. None of these things have power in themselves, they do not speak, nor hear. Doctrines don’t, ideals don’t neither do ministries. Only the living God lives, speaks and hears
Whatever it is when it takes our eyes and trust off the living Christ and serve other things, such as doctrine, ideals etc. then we have fallen into that trap, we have become deceived in our thinking- we have gone astray.
D6.2 False Christs
And he said, Take heed that ye be not deceived: for many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and the time draweth near: go ye not therefore after them.
But be not ye called Rabbi: for one is your Master, even Christ; and all ye are brethren. And call no man your father upon the earth: for one is your Father, which is in heaven. Neither be ye called masters: for one is your Master, even Christ.
One of the signs of last day things is that many shall come saying that they are Christ, that is the anointed one from God. We must bear in mind that the last days, according to Peter began with the outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the day of Pentecost ( Acts2:16-17).
In the other passage quoted above, when talking of the Pharisees Jesus tells us that we are not be be called Rabbi or master and to call no man father (of course, we are talking in the spiritual sense.) He gives us two reasons: firstly, because we are brethren, no one is superior to another- we are equal. In fact in another part of scripture Jesus commands us not to have hierarchies amongst us!(Mk.10:42-45) Jesus makes is quite clear and unmistakeable. Secondly, because there is only one who is master, and that is Jesus Himself, and no one else.
From the above considerations we can see immediately that any organisation calling itself a ‘church’ is in disobedience to Jesus if it has any form of hierarchy amongst God’s people. We are all brethren and on equal terms. Jesus alone is our head both of the body corporately, and individually. No man, or woman, has any right to usurp that position in any one’s life. But despite that clear teaching of scripture Jesus said many will still come claiming to be Christ, and by implication, master. We are all too familiar with the many claims some preachers make: such things as they being the ‘last prophet of the age’; they are the ones with the latest revelation or idea from God and so on. Jesus makes it quite clear – do not go after them!
An example of such an one is found in III Jn.
I wrote unto the church: but Diotrephes, who loveth to have the preeminence [=desire to be the first] among them, receiveth us not. Wherefore, if I come, I will remember his deeds which he doeth, prating against us with malicious words: and not content therewith, neither doth he himself receive the brethren, and forbiddeth them that would, and casteth them out of the church.
And he is the head of the body, the church: who is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead; that in all things he might have the preeminence.[=hold first palce]
In the church of which John was writing, this man Diotrophes was desiring to take Christ’s place by wanting to hold the first position. A careful look at his actions and we see the following actions of this man.
In the first place he refused the apostolic authority of John. Now we don’t have the original apostles with us but we do have the written Word of God, which is our final authority. It is a sad fact of life that many people stand up and claim to be the final word on spiritual matters; perhaps they have had a ‘revelation’ and insist that has precedence over all else. It should go without saying that this is dangerous and leads many into error. No one is above correction, everything has to be checked with Scripture. Jesus tells us not to go after such people.
Secondly he talked foolishness. His talk was not profitable but just talking and running the apostle down. One thing worthy of note here that seems to link with the previous section on idols. It is an observation that those who engage in what one could call ‘one issue ministries’ can end up with just been merely negative about everything else. They become an expert, at least in their own eyes, and just critical of everything else, just empty and unedifying talk. Now this is not true of everyone, of course, there are genuine ministries, which do not fall in this category, and we bless God for them. But there are some and we do have to be very careful. Let me repeat, our final authority is the Word of God and not any man, or woman no matter what ‘revelation’, position or pet doctrine they have.
Finally Diotrophes forbad others who didn’t fall in line with his stance.
There is only one Lord and Master: the man Jesus Christ. And it is only He who has Lordship over his people. We are not to follow others as our master, despite the claims they may or may not make we are not to go after them. Jesus alone is the one to whom we owe our allegiance. We are not to be deceived in these matters, but rather to think aright.
D6.3 The Kingdom of God
Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God? Be not deceived: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, Nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor extortioners, shall inherit the kingdom of God. And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God.
The above verses is in the middle of a passage where Paul is talking about believers taking each other to court. He is amazed that they can not judge matters between themselves. Paul’s whole point is that the unbelievers have nothing to do with matters within the assembly. There is a clear line between the world and God’s people. He then makes this statement that those who are fornicators, effeminate etc. will not inherit the kingdom of God.
It is amazing that despite scripture’s clear teaching, and emphatic statements many accept such people as being part of God’s church! Whilst they are loved and they are people for whom Christ died, until and unless they repent and are born anew they are NOT part of God’s kingdom. Indeed Paul makes this point clear by saying that the some of the Corinthians were like this but now they are cleansed and sanctified.
By ignoring such clear distinctions we allow an uncertain message to be proclaimed, and confusion in thought and practice amongst God’s people. No wonder the world doesn’t know the gospel message of repent! We are not to be deceived, that is not to think otherwise that what is plainly taught in scripture. There are two bodies of people in the world: God’s people, who have been washed with the blood of Jesus and renewed by the Holy Spirit; the other group is the rest of mankind. People are either in one group or the other, there is no mixture.. Despite the political correctness of the day we are to stand firm on what scripture teaches, for it, and not man made ideas or philosophies, is the final authority.
We can link this Corinthian passage up with Gal.5:15 But if ye bite and devour one another take heed that ye be not consumed one of another. By taking each other to a worldly court the Corinthians were in danger of devouring each other. They were behaving just like the world, hence the accusation Paul made that they were carnal. I Cor. 3:1-4. Now why would Paul add in this list of immorality? Some of them were like that before they were born anew. Would it not be a valid conclusion to say that, because of their carnality, their walking in the flesh, on this and other issues some of them might had gone back to it? Certainly in Gal.6:19-21 we are told that these things are part of the horrible works of the flesh. And we do know that, as recorded in Gal. 2 Peter went back to his old ways when he was to blame by walking in the flesh. So it is possible. Whatever the case it is clear that such internal divisions amongst God’s people lead to some dire consequences.
We are not to be deceived, divisions amongst God’s people leads to noting but trouble.
D6.4 Evil communication
Be not deceived: evil communications [=companionship] corrupt good manners.
I Cor. 15:33
Moving onto our next reference we find ourselves in I Cor. 15, where Paul is stating with complete clarity the absolute truth of the resurrection demonstrating its foundational part in the Christian faith. In the middle of his argument Paul comes up with this statement that evil communications corrupt good manners. It is not a saying that is just thrown in for good measure it is part and parcel of the apostle’s argument in this chapter.
It would seem apparent that there were some, if not many, in the Corinthian assembly who had started to question and indeed doubt the resurrection. It can not be stressed enough that the resurrection of Jesus from the dead is central to the whole gospel. One only needs to consider such passages as: Acts 2:29-36; 17:16-34; Rom.1:3-4; 4:24 to name just four to see its truth and centrality. So one can understand Paul’s treatise of the resurrection when some of the Corinthians were saying that there is no resurrection. The question is: how did these people get into such a way of thinking ?
The quote from verse 33 above gives us the clue.( Paul is actually quoting the Greek dramatist Meander) It would appear therefore that some of the assembly at Corinth had somehow got involved with some false teachers to such an extent that they ended up been so influenced that they were doubting, if not denying the resurrection.
One may asked how is it that being born anew one can deny such basic truths? We must remember that Paul’s accusation to the Corinthian church was not they were not saved, but rather they were carnal, and Paul defined this as walking as men. I Cor.3:1-4. In other words by being carnal, walking in the flesh the Corinthians, some of them at least had fallen to false teaching. All this because they had companionship with false teachers. They had walked in the flesh and had works of the flesh manifested.
A lesson to us all. None of us are immune to error and falling away from the truth. We are to see to it that we walk in the Spirit and not the flesh. Least of all to have companionship with false teachers. After all if we live with a lie long enough we’ll believe it. Or to put it in terms of a previous verse: They that make them are like unto them: so is every one that trust in them.
D6.5 Sowing and reaping
Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap. For he that soweth to his flesh shall of the flesh reap corruption; but he that soweth to the Spirit shall of the Spirit reap life everlasting.
So we finally come to the phrase in Galatians, which sums up the other four passages quite well. Not only that it also sums up the whole of the message of the Galatian letter. Just as Gal.1:20 is the key verse, unlocking the epistle’s message, so Gal. 6:7-8 sums it up at the end.
If we look at all the four scriptures above we see the result of walking in the flesh, that is the harvest of what is sown. By making and trusting idols, one becomes like them; by going after others who claim to be Christ and Master we reject scripture as our final authority. By confusing the distinction of the world and God’s kingdom false practice and division arise, and finally by having companionship with with false teachers there will be denial of the very foundations of the Gospel.
These verses show a basic spiritual principal: we reap what we sow. This is common sense really. If in our gardens we sow, say tomato seeds we will get tomatoes and not lettuces! If we wanted lettuces then we need to sow lettuce seeds. Likewise if we want the fruit of the Spirit in our lives we need to sow to the Spirit, or to put it in terms of the previous chapter: to walk in the Spirit.
Let us not be deceived. Thinking that an action is okay will not change the consequences of that action, whatever they are. To think otherwise is deception. We need to think soberly and correctly, for what we sow that we shall reap.