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2 John 1:7-8 Deceivers

One of the reasons 2 John was written was to warn about deceivers who deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. In order to understand what the author of 2 John was warning against, we need to understand what the Bible means by deceivers.

In this lesson I look at various verses in the New Testament that help us understand the concept of deception. We’re going to see two things. We’re going to see that in deception, the person who is deceiving others appears to be something that he is not. We’re also going to see that deception is usually something that happens incrementally. When people are deceived, they generally do not go from truth to error in one big step. Instead, they incrementally move from truth to error.

After I look at the verses that explain the concept of deception, I’ll come back to 2 John to see what you and I should learn from 2 John in regards to deceivers and Jesus Christ coming in the flesh.

Watch the video below or scroll down to read a transcript.

Transcript:

Hi, thanks for visiting Bible Mountain. One of the reasons 2 John was written was to warn about deceivers who deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. Here is the warning.

2 John 7  Now many deceivers went out into the world, the ones not acknowledging Jesus Christ coming in flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, so that you do not lose the accomplishments, but instead receive a full reward.

Notice the command in verse eight to watch. The command is to watch and guard against the deceivers. In order to understand what the author of 2 John was warning against, we need to understand what the Bible means by deceivers. 

What I’m going to do in this lesson is look at various verses in the New Testament that help us understand the concept of deception. We’re going to see two things. We’re going to see that in deception, the person who is deceiving others appears to be something that he is not. We’re also going to see that deception is usually something that happens incrementally. When people are deceived, they generally do not go from truth to error in one big step. Instead, they incrementally move from truth to error. After I look at these verses that explain the concept of deception, I’ll come back to 2 John to see what you and I should learn from 2 John in regards to deceivers and Jesus Christ coming in the flesh.

There are two Greek words I’m going to talk about as I explain the Biblical concept of deception. The first word is planos. Planos is a noun. Planos is the word used in 2 John 7.

2 John 7  Now many deceivers went out into the world, the ones not acknowledging Jesus Christ coming in flesh.

The word deceivers is a translation of the Greek word planos. This greek word is only used five times in the New Testament. The first two occurrences don’t tell us much about the definition of deceivers, but the third one does.

1Tim. 4:1  But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons,

The word deceitful is a translation of the Greek word planos, the same Greek word we saw in 2 John 7. The Spirit said that in later times some people would pay attention to deceitful spirits. 

As a result of the deceitful spirits, they were going to fall away from the faith. Let’s think about the concept of falling away from the faith. When people fall away from the faith, it generally is not something that happens all at once. It’s not like one day they believe, and the next day they don’t. Instead, when people fall away from the faith, they start at faith, but then over time they have doubts and they move step by step away from the faith until eventually they don’t believe the faith at all. Falling away from the faith is incremental.

The second greek word I’m going to talk about to explain deception is planao. Planao is the verb form of planos. Planao is used 39 times in the New Testament. Since planao is the verb form of the noun planos, planao can help us understand the concept of deceit. Let’s start in Matthew.

Matt. 18:12   “What do you think? If any man has a hundred sheep, and one of them has gone astray, does he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go and search for the one that is straying?

The word planao was used two times in this verse. It is translated gone astray and straying. In this verse there is a shepherd who has 100 sheep. One of the sheep goes astray. The greek word translated gone astray is the same greek word that is often translated deceived. In other words, you could say the sheep is deceived. 

If you think about the concept of sheep going astray, it’s not like one second a sheep is with the flock, and then the next second it’s lost. That’s not what happens when sheep go astray. Instead, sheep gradually get separated from the flock. Maybe the flock is moving along and one sheep gets distracted and moves five feet away from the rest of the flock. The sheep continues to be distracted while the flock keeps moving. The sheep falls ten feet behind, and then 50 feet behind. Eventually the flock moves out of eyesight. At that point the sheep is lost. The concept of planao, the concept of going astray, the concept of deception is something that happens incrementally. Let’s look at another verse in Matthew.

Matt. 24:4   And Jesus answered and said to them, “See to it that no one misleads you. 5 “For many will come in My name, saying, ‘I am the Christ,’ and will mislead many.

The word planao was used two times in this passage. Here it is translated mislead. We see in verse five a warning from Jesus that many would come in His Name and claim to be the Christ. Their false claim would enable them to mislead people. Another way to say it is their false claim would enable them to deceive people. 

This is the concept that a deceiver is someone who appears to be something that he is not. The deceivers would claim to be Christ, even though they were not Christ. We see something similar later in this chapter. 

Matt. 24:24 “For false Christs and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect.

We see the word mislead again. This is a translation of the greek word planao. We see here that the people doing the deceiving are false Christs and false prophets. Again, this is the concept that they appear to be something they are not. They claim to be Christ or a prophet, they appear to be Christ or a prophet, but they are neither Christ nor a prophet. Since they appear to be something they are not, they are able to deceive or mislead people. Let’s go to the book of Mark.

Mark 12:24 Jesus said to them, “Is this not the reason you are mistaken, that you do not understand the Scriptures or the power of God?

The word mistaken is a translation of the greek word planao. This verse is not necessarily a definition of deceit as much as it is the remedy for deceit. Jesus was talking to religious leaders. He told them the reason they were mistaken, the reason they had been deceived was they did not understand the scriptures or the power of God. 

Likewise, if you and I fail to understand the scriptures or the power of God, we might be deceived also. Therefore, the key to making sure we are not deceived, that we’re not mistaken, that we don’t go astray, is to understand the scriptures and the power of God. Let’s go to 1 Corinthians.

1Cor. 15:33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.”

The word deceived is a translation of the Greek word planao. There’s a command to not be deceived, but notice the concept is bad company corrupts good morals. This is a warning that believers should not hang out with bad company because bad company can corrupt good morals. 

This is not something that happens instantly. If you start hanging out with the wrong crowd, you’re not going to be corrupted instantly. Instead, it’s a gradual process. It’s an incremental process. If you hang out with the wrong people, gradually, over time, they’re going to corrupt your morality. Gradually, over time, they will deceive you. Let’s look at 2 Timothy.

2Tim. 3:13 But evil men and impostors will proceed from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived.

The words deceiving and being deceived are translations of the greek word planao. This verse says evil men and imposters will proceed from bad to worse. The concept of proceeding is a step by step process. The evil men and imposters didn’t go instantly from bad to worse, they proceeded from bad to worse. They went step by step from bad to worse. This shows that deceit is incremental. Next is 1 Peter.

1Pet. 2:25 For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls.

The word straying is a translation of the greek word planao. In this verse Peter said Christians were straying like sheep, they were wandering, they were being deceived. When we think about sheep going astray, this is an incremental process. Peter was talking about Christians incrementally straying away from truth into error. Now let’s go to Revelation.

Rev. 2:20 ‘But I have this against you, that you tolerate the woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess, and she teaches and leads My bond-servants astray so that they commit acts of immorality and eat things sacrificed to idols.

The words leads astray are a translation of the greek word planao. Throughout this lesson, I’ve been talking about two concepts. We see both concepts in this verse. First, Jesus said the woman Jezebel called herself a prophetess. The implication is she was not a prophetess. This is the concept of a deceiver appearing to be something she is not. Second, Jesus said Jezebel was leading His bond-servants astray. This is the concept of incrementalism. Jezebel was teaching people and leading them astray. They were not going astray in an instant. It was a gradual process. It was an incremental process.

We have looked at two greek words: planos and planao. Planos is a noun. Planao is a verb. Planos is a person who deceives. Planao is the act of deceiving. 

We saw in the verses we looked at that the concept of deception is the person who is deceiving people appears to be something he is not. We also saw that the process of being deceived is an incremental process. When people are deceived, they generally don’t move from truth to error instantly. Instead, they gradually, step by step, move from truth to error. 

Now that we have some background on the concept of deception, let’s go back to 2 John and look at what the author of 2 John had to say about deceivers. 

2 John 7  Now many deceivers went out into the world, the ones not acknowledging Jesus Christ coming in flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. 8 Watch yourselves, so that you do not lose the accomplishments, but instead receive a full reward.

Notice what the author of 2 John did not say. The author of 2 John did not say that there were non-Christians out there who did not acknowledge Jesus Christ coming in the flesh. He did not warn them about atheists who deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. Instead, he warned them about deceivers who deny that Jesus Christ came in the flesh. 

Non-Christians or atheists would be overt in their opposition to the Gospel. True Christians would know right away to be on guard against them because it would be obvious they were teaching error. However, the warning in 2 John is actually about deceivers. Deceivers are subtle and misleading. It is not obvious that deceivers are against the gospel. Therefore, it’s easy for true Christians to be misled.

The warning in 2 John is against people who appear to be teaching truth, and who appear to be genuine Christians, but the reality is they do not acknowledge that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, and so they are actually leading people astray. 

What should you and I learn from this passage in 2 John? I suspect most evangelicals think this is not a problem in evangelicalism. I think most evangelicals would say that evangelicalism clearly believes that Jesus came in flesh and rose from the dead; therefore, we’re not at risk of what the author of 2 John was warning against. However, I think this is a problem in evangelicalism. Within evangelicalism, the problem is not that we are denying Jesus came in the flesh. Instead, we are trivializing the fact that Jesus came in the flesh. We are downplaying the importance of the resurrection. 

Here’s what I mean by that. I grew up in a Christian home. I’ve been going to church all my life. I grew up in a solid Baptist Church that clearly taught that Jesus is God, and that He died and rose again. However, my church, and many other churches like it, presented the gospel in a way that wasn’t quite accurate. I was always taught that in order to be saved, we have to ask Jesus into our heart.

The problem is the Bible doesn’t use that terminology. The Bible says in order to be saved, we have to believe in Jesus. We have to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. We have to confess that Jesus is Lord. Telling people to accept Jesus into their heart doesn’t address those key concepts that are required in order to be saved. 

In the 21st century we have the same problem, but the terminology has changed. What I hear frequently in 21st century evangelicalism is that in order to be saved we have to have a relationship with Jesus. Again, the Bible does not present salvation that way. The Bible doesn’t say we need to have a relationship with Jesus in order to be saved. Saying you need a relationship with Jesus to be saved is inadequate. You can have a relationship with Jesus and not be saved. Satan had a relationship with Jesus, but Satan is not saved. 

Furthermore, as I said, in order to be saved we have to believe that Jesus rose from the dead. We have to confess that Jesus is our master. Part of being saved is acknowledging the authority of Jesus. However, the word relationship doesn’t communicate anything about authority or submitting to Christ. I have a relationship with my neighbor, but that doesn’t mean either one of us has any authority over the other. Using the concept of relationship to talk about salvation is inadequate. 

Within evangelicalism, we are being deceived. We’re not being deceived into denying that Jesus Christ came in flesh. We’re not being deceived into denying that Jesus rose from the dead. Instead, we’re being deceived into minimizing the importance of Jesus Christ coming in flesh, and the importance of the resurrection. We are being deceived into presenting an inadequate concept of salvation. 

We need to heed this warning in 2 John 7 because there are deceivers in our midst who are diluting the truth. They are watering down the gospel. We have to watch ourselves. We have to proclaim a true gospel. We have to make sure we emphasize and proclaim the fact that Jesus Christ is God the Creator. He came to earth in flesh. He was crucified. He died. He rose again from the dead. He is our Master. We have to tell people that in order to be saved, we need to believe Jesus rose from the dead and confess that He is our master.

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