Elon, North Carolina
This morning, I want to look at spiritual deception today. Let’s begin by reading a classic passage on the fall of man. It is one of the most important chapters of the Bible. It is extremely important theologically.
Adam’s sin has theological implications for original sin. This section is dripping in applications. is a lot in this passage about spiritual deception today. It still takes place. People all over the planet are deceived. They have believed lives. Many have believed lies all of their lives.
Genesis 3:1-3 shows us some of the ways that Satan tempts people today. He uses some of the same tactics he used in the garden with Adam and Eve (cf. II Corinthians 11:3). He deceives people the same way.
Nine Tactics of Spiritual Deception
1. Raise doubts about what God has said
“Hath God said?” Did God really say this? (Genesis 3:1). Is the Bible really God’s Word? Did Moses really write the Pentateuch? Did Isaiah really write the book of Isaiah? Was the world really created by God, just as Genesis says? Did Jesus really say the things that are attributed to him in the Gospels? That is the whole point of the Jesus Seminar.
Now we should read the Bible with an open mind and even raise questions as to what it means and how to apply it to our lives and how one passage relates to another passage. God expects us to use our minds when we read and study the Bible but others go a step further and question the inspiration or authority of the Bible. That comes directly from Satan. Beware of this tactic.
2. Misquote and misapply Scripture
This is a common tactic today. Satan said, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from ANY tree in the garden’?” (Genesis 3:1). Did God say that? No. He said that they could eat “from ANY tree in the garden” (Genesis 2:16). There was one and only one exception to this prohibition. Satan still does that today. He distorts the Word of God. Cultists do this all the time.
How many times do we hear people quote Bible passages completely out of context? They will use words “Thou shalt not kill” (KJV) as proof that capital punishment is wrong. Serial killers and mass murderers cannot be put to death because the Bible says, “Thou shalt not kill”. It is actually not what the Bible says. The Bible does not say, “You shall not kill”. It says, “You shall not murder”.
People also say that it is always wrong to criticize someone no matter how evil they are or wrong they are, because Jesus said, “Judge not lest ye be judged” (Matthew 7:1).
The only way not to be deceived when someone misquotes Scripture or takes it out of context is to thoroughly know Scripture inside and out. If we don’t know the Bible, we will not know when someone is taking it completely out of context.
That is why Paul tells us that we need to “rightly divide” the Word of Truth (II Timothy 2:15), because it can be wrongly divided. When taken out of context, the Bible can be used to justify anything. It was used to justify slavery in the 19th century.
Why did Satan misquote Scripture here? He does this to make his question a little biased. A biased question or a leading question is worded in a particular way that one answer is favored or it makes an assumption. Is it really true that you are not allowed to eat from any tree here? The implied answer is, “of course not”. Satan uses a leading question.
A leading question suggests an answer to the question. The media uses leading questions all the time. If Satan would have asked a non-leading question, he would have asked, Is there anything you are not allowed to do in the garden? Do you have any prohibitions? That question would have been open ended.
3. Directly contradict what God has said
God said, “If you eat from the fruit of the tree, you shall surely die”. Satan takes those very words, turns them around and says, “If you eat from the fruit of the tree, you shall NOT surely die”.
He directly contradicted what God said and he still does that today. It is very common to hear people in society do this today. The Bible teaches very clearly that Jesus is God, God is a Trinity and Hell is eternal and yet many will say that Jesus is not God, that God is not a Trinity and that an eternal Hell does not exist.
The Bible says that homosexuality is a sin. The Book of Leviticus two times calls it an “abomination” (18:22; 20:13). An abomination is not just any sin, it is a really bad sin, one of the worst types of sins.
Others today say it is not only not one of the worst types of sins, it is not a sin at all, just an alternative lifestyle. It can’t be wrong, because some people are born that way. If you do not know the Bible very well, you will not know which is correct.
If you don’t know the Bible, you will not have a clue how to answer the Jehovah’s Witnesses when they knock on the door. Now you can’t master the Bible overnight.
It takes a lifetime to study but we do need to be studying it every day. What I find astounding is that Eve did not question Satan when he directly contradicted God’s Word. She accepted what he said very uncritically.
4. Encourage disobedience to what God has said
“You will be better off if you disobey, than if you obey” or “It is okay to disobey because there are good reasons to do so.” If you follow the Bible and live a holy life, you will miss out on some things. God clearly says that it is wrong for a believer to marry an unbeliever but Christians do it anyway in disobedience to a clear command of Scripture.
Scripture says, “Do not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers” (II Corinthians 6:14) but many do it any way. Why do they do it? Satan has somehow convinced them to put their will above God’s will. Perhaps they justify it by thinking that they will somehow lead their unbelieving spouse to Christ.
Of course, as you know, even if they do this, it is still the wrong thing to do. Nothing ever justifies disobedience to a clear command of Scripture. King Saul learned this painful lesson. Saul was given very clear instructions from the prophet Samuel.
He was ordered to kill a group of extremely wicked people and animals in divine judgment for sin. He killed some people and some animals (I Samuel 15). He saved a few animals, so he could use them for worship. He came up with an excuse why he could disobey God.
Samuel was not impressed. He said, “Because you have rejected the Word of the LORD, he has rejected you as king.” (I Samuel 15:23). Anyone that encourages you to disobey God, disobey the Bible is speaking through Satan. Remember Job’s wife (Job 2:9-10)?
Remember Peter’s comment to Jesus which came directly from Satan (Matthew 16:21-23)? How about friends that say, “Don’t do what your parents told you to do”? They are encouraging kids to flat-out disobey one of the Ten Commandments. That is demonic. Beware of this tactic.
5. Make God look bad
Satan tries to make God look bad to Adam and Eve. “There’s this great tree right in the middle of the garden. There’s nothing wrong with it. It looks good.
It taste’s good and God won’t let you have it. If the tree is good for you why would God withhold it from you? If God really loves you, would he withhold anything good from you?” Satan wanted Adam and Eve to think that God was unloving. He still tries that tactic today.
People today say that a God who sends anyone to an eternal Hell cannot possibly be a God of love. They say that a God who does not accept sincere people from other religions is just plain intolerant. They say that a God who ordered the execution of the Canaanites, as the OT says that he did, is guilty of sheer genocide.
Whenever you hear anything like this, you know that it comes straight from Satan. It is a doctrine of demons (I Timothy 4:1). The demons in that passage were trying to make God look unfair by forbidding marriage.
6. Make sin look good
Satan does a good job of making sin look very attractive. Society does this today. Satan made Adam and Eve think that they would be better off if they sinned, than if they didn’t sin.
The Devil said, “The tree looks good. It tastes good and it will make you smart. You will be as smart as God.” Satan has a way of making sin look good. The Bible says that sin has pleasures (Hebrews 11: 25; Proverbs 9:17).
The evangelist John R. Rice used to say that the devil has some beautiful apples. They are red and shiny. They smell good and their first bite is sweet but all of Satan’s apples have worms in them.
Satan uses bait to get people to sin (addictive substances, pornography, sexual immorality, etc.) but when we take the bait, we get the hook as well, to use a fishing analogy .
If one temptation doesn’t work, Satan will change his baits to get people to sin. All of us have a weakness for something. That is where Satan will try to get us. We saw that with Samson. Satan could not defeat him physically but was able to defeat him in his area of weakness, his love of pagan women.
7. Use half-truths to deceive people
Jesus said that Satan is not only a liar, he is the “father of lies” (John 8:44). He invented lying. The first lie in the Bible was found on the lips of Satan and every lie since then comes from Satan. Satan does use pure lies but most of the lies he told to Adam and Eve were actually half-truths. Satan still uses half-truths today.
In fact, they are much more effective because they have an element of truth in them. Beware of those who use the truth to deceive people, who tell you something that is true, but leave out important information that should be included, to create a false impression. Advertisers sometimes do this all the time.
The Half Truths of Satan in Genesis
1) He told them that when they ate from the forbidden tree that they would not die (Genesis 3:4).
After they ate from the tree, they did not immediately drop dead. In fact, they lived about a thousand more years. What he did not tell them was that the second they ate from the tree, they both died spiritually and would eventually die physically.
2) Satan promised Adam and Eve that when they ate from the forbidden tree, their eyes would be opened (Genesis 3:5).
They did eat from the tree and their eyes were opened (Genesis 3:7) but what did they see? They saw their nakedness, their guilt, their shame and their helplessness.
3) He told them if they sinned that they would become like God (Genesis 3:5).
In one sense they did become like God. They became morally independent. They began to decide for themselves what is good and bad, rather than letting God decide. This was only a half-truth because, when they sinned, they actually became less like God.
God is sinless. God does not know good and evil by experience. When they sinned, they became more like Satan than they became like God. In one sense, they were already like God, because they were both created in God’s image.
4) Satan told them what they would get if they ate from the forbidden fruit but he didn’t tell them what they would lose.
He didn’t tell them that, if they ate from the one tree, they would get kicked out of the garden and not have access to any of the trees of the garden anymore. If he told them that, they would never have eaten from the forbidden fruit.
8. Use tact to deceive people
This is a tactic that Satan still uses today. Satan used tact in two ways in the Garden of Eden.
- He used tact in how he got Adam to sin.
Satan didn’t tempt Adam directly but tempted him through Eve. Satan’s goal was to get Adam to sin. He was the head of the race When Adam fell, the whole race fell (I Corinthians 15:22).
There were a couple of different ways he could have done this. He could have tempted Adam first. He could have tempted Eve first or he could have tempted them both at the same time. What Satan did was to tempt Eve first and then used Eve to get Adam to sin . It was a brilliant strategy in more ways than one.
Eve was the weakest link. She was not told the prohibition of 2:16-17 directly but probably heard it from Adam . Eve would have been more open to the serpent’s words and Adam would be more open to a suggestion by his wife than by the serpent directly. It also shows the effect that wives can have on husbands.
God cursed the ground because Adam listened to his wife and ate from the tree (Genesis 3:17). Is Adam not supposed to listen to his wife? She was created as a helper. He should listen to her, except if she tells him to flat-out disobey a clear command of God.
- Satan also used tact in what he said to Eve.
He starts the conversation with a question. The first thing he said to Eve was not “I am Devil. I hate God and I am here to deceive you and hurt you”. Disobey God. The Bible is false.” That would not have convinced Eve to sin. It would have convinced Eve to get completely away from him.
9. Use disguises to deceive people today.
He speaks through other people and things. We already saw how Satan spoke through Peter. Apparently, Satan can not only speak through a Christian, as well as a non-Christian but he could also speak through an Apostle.
He disguised himself as an animal but not just any animal. He didn’t appear to Eve as a roaring lion. He appeared as a serpent, the most attractive and wise creature that God made (Genesis 3:1a).
He disguised himself as a snake but not the slimy, repulsive creature we think of a snake today. Paul said that he disguises himself today as an angel of light, not an angel of darkness, to trick and deceive people (II Corinthians 11:13-15).