Deception & Discernment

October 19, 2018 Preacher: Gareth Franks Series: Letters of John - Knowing, Walking & Living the Truth

Topic: Foundations Scripture: 1 John 2:18–23

Home Group Study

Sermon Date: 19 October 2018

Text: 1 John 2:18-23

Opening Discussion: It seems that the Internet and other modern technologies have opened many doors of opportunity for con artists who are after your money. To avoid being ripped-off you must stay alert. Have you or someone you know fallen prey to these criminals? Share your story…

Observation - What does God’s word say?

It’s traumatic when thieves steal your identity and your money, but there is something far more traumatic and tragic, namely, when spiritual con artists, who claim to be Christian, deceive the unsuspecting. The stakes are much higher than someone’s life savings. The eternal destiny of souls is at risk! Since the days of the New Testament, Satan has planted these deceivers in Christian churches, where they prey on the untaught or on those who are disgruntled. To avoid spiritual deception, you must develop biblical discernment and be vigilant at all times.

What are your observations?


  • Colossians 3:16
  • Ephesians 5:18-19
  • 2 John 9
  • 1 John 2:18-23

Meaning - What does God’s word mean?

In this letter John is concerned about his spiritual children, that they should not be deceived by false teachers as well as they be assured of their faith in Jesus Christ. He provides a number of test for Christians to examine themselves as well as examine other professing Christians who are being deceived by Satan, to know for sure whether they are believers or not. In this passage (2:18-23), he provides another test...the doctrinal test of truth about the person and work of Jesus Christ. He says,

To avoid spiritual deception, be discerning of false teachers and their false doctrines.

We live in a day when the whole idea of spiritual discernment is minimized because spiritual truth is minimized. The slogan is, “Doctrine divides. Let’s set aside our doctrinal differences and come together on the areas where we agree.” Another popular mantra is, “Jesus said that they will know that we are His disciples by our love, not by our doctrine.” The implication is, “Set aside your doctrinal views and accept anyone who says that he believes in Jesus.” Tolerance, unity, and love are viewed as much more important than doctrinal truth, which often smacks of pride. It is highly significant that John, the apostle of love, who has just written that love is an essential mark of the true Christian (2:7-11), now calls these false teachers “antichrists” and “liars”! He doesn’t call them “brothers in Christ,” who just have different ways of understanding things. He makes it plain that they were trying to deceive the true Christians and that they were not Christian in any sense of the term. True biblical love is not separated from an emphasis on biblical truth. To compromise the truth about the person and work of Jesus Christ is to be hateful to the core, because such error results in the eternal damnation of those who embrace it.

Read:  2 Thessalonians 2:1-12

What are your observations from these verses?

Application - How must I change?

  • Is there a Truth to be believed?

Do you agree or disagree that we live in a period of time where God in his sovereignty allows deception to spread? Discuss and give some bible references to support your answer. (c.f. Acts 2:16-17, 1 Corinthians 10:11, Hebrews 1:1-2, Hebrews 9:26, 1 Peter 1:20, Matthew 24:5, 24) 

  • Is there an Attitude to be fostered?

What is the difference (if any) between being discerning and being distrustful? Is it wrong to be distrustful of someone? Can you be discerning without becoming skeptical of everyone and everything?

  • Is there a Behavior to be changed?

“It makes no difference what you believe, just as long as you are sincere!” Is this a true or false statement? If it is false, how do you then determine which doctrines are core doctrines, worth dividing over, and which are more peripheral?


The only way that we can know the Father is through the Son (John 14:6). These false teachers were denying that Jesus is the Christ (2:22). Biblical unity is to be built around the truth of scriptures. We should be diligent to preserve the unity of the body of Christ, but not at any cost. There is no room for compromise on the core beliefs of Christian orthodoxy, especially the truths about the person of Christ and the gospel.

During World War Two, Neville Chamberlain, Prime Minister of England tried to keep the peace by appeasing Adolf Hitler. After giving Poland to Hitler, Chamberlain went back to England proclaiming “peace in our times.” But Winston Churchill wisely observed, “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” Sure enough, Hitler later tried to eat Britain, too.

If we compromise truth to appease a heretic or to keep him in the church, it will lead to our ultimate spiritual demise. Biblical fellowship is also built around the truth. Do you understand who Jesus is and what He did and what He meant to accomplish by His life and death and resurrection? 


Closing Prayer: Thank you Lord, for the unity we enjoy through Jesus Christ our Lord.  Lord your words are rich, even when they are hard. Grant us truth and light from Your word, and by Your Spirit enable us to be obedient to it and faithful to proclaim it.  Amen

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