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Realizing the presence, promise, and power of the Kingdom of God.

The Art of Deception

Use camouflage.

2 John 7–13 (ESV)

For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. Such a one is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, so that you may not lose what we have worked for, but may win a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God. Whoever abides in the teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house or give him any greeting, for whoever greets him takes part in his wicked works.

Though I have much to write to you, I would rather not use paper and ink. Instead I hope to come to you and talk face to face, so that our joy may be complete.

The children of your elect sister greet you.

This passage stands in notable contrast with the previous one. The love for one another that John repeatedly advocates does not apply to those who do not confess the coming of Jesus Christ in the flesh. John advocates unity in Christ, and they are not in Christ.

This is harsh but important. The disagreement at the heart of this is not over whether Jesus came at all; it’s about whether His coming was in the flesh.

As we’ve mentioned before, thinking His coming was not in the flesh is Docetism. This error is so severe that John labels someone who advocates it the deceiver and the antichrist.

This leads to an advanced lesson in the art of deception and how Satan opposes truth. The most effective lies are the ones that camouflage themselves to look like the truth. Saying that Jesus didn’t come at all is too obviously false to fool anyone. But saying that Jesus came but had a “special,” different body is trickier.

That trickiness is why the label the deceiver is so apt.

But how does this fit with Romans 10:9?

because, if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. (ESV)

Is Docetism a minor doctrinal error? Aren’t we called to love people we have doctrinal disagreements with?

No, this goes beyond minor doctrinal issues. This error amounts to worshipping some other guy named Jesus. The Jesus you confess as Lord has to be the real, incarnate Lord Jesus, not some figment of your imagination who happens to be named Jesus.

Just getting the name right isn’t enough.

These Monday—Friday DEEPs are written by Mike Slay. The Weekend DEEPs are written by Matt Richardson. To subscribe to all the DEEPs click here:

The weekly study guides, which include the Monday–Friday devotionals plus related questions for discussion or meditation, are available for download here:

Except as indicated, Scripture taken from the New King James Version. © Copyright 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved. ESV stands for the English Standard Version. © Copyright 2001 by Crossway. Used by permission. All rights reserved. NIV stands for The Holy Bible, New International Version®. © Copyright 1973 by International Bible Society. Used by permission. All rights reserved. KJV stands for the King James Version.

Mike Slay

As a mathematician, inventor, and ruling elder in the Presbyterian Church in America, Mike Slay brings an analytical, conversational, and even whimsical approach to the daily study of God's Word.

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