One matter upon which the Bible is unmistakably clear
throughout is that of man's deception. All God's
methods with man have had this fact behind them.
With and ever since the Fall the race is regarded as
being a deceived race. Not only was the race
initially deceived in Adam, but it is ever led on in its
deception to deeper depths. Rather than escape from
this deception by what is called 'enlightenment', i.e.
civilization, education, culture, etc., these are only
making the deception stronger. This is seen in the
fact that the most 'enlightened' and 'advanced'
nations are, at this late hour of the world's history,
locked in the grip of a force which compels them to use
all their enlightenment for producing the means of mutual
destruction on such a scale and by such devilish and
barbarous ways as have never been known before. Let
us here introduce one or two passages of Scripture.
"Now the serpent was more subtile than any
beast of the field... And he said unto the woman, Yea,
hath God said..." (Gen 3:1).
"But the Spirit saith expressly, that in
later times some shall fall away... giving heed to
SEDUCING SPIRITS. and doctrines of demons" (1 Tim
"This wisdom is not a wisdom that cometh down
from above, but is earthly, sensual (soulical),
devilish" (James 3:15).
"And the great dragon was cast down, the old
serpent, he that is called the Devil and Satan, the
deceiver of the whole world; he was cast down... and his
angels... with him" (Rev. 12:9).
"And cast him into the abyss... that he
should deceive the nations no more" (Rev 20:3).
"And the devil that deceived them was cast
into the lake of fire..." (Rev 20:10).
In these passages, Satan is seen to be the deceiver,
first of the woman and finally of the whole inhabited
earth. Deception was his first method, and deception was
the very heart of the Fall.
Man is by nature now a deceived creature. Deception is
deception, and the deceived never know it until they are
enlightened or delivered. It is like a disease. There are
forms of mental sickness which cause those who are so
suffering to believe certain things which to the healthy
mind are ridiculous and impossible. It is useless to
argue with them, and futile to try to convince them of
the untruth of their beliefs. Indeed, it is cruel at
times to oppose them. If you are to live with them in any
measure of peace and be at all helpful you have to take
the attitude of agreeing with them and deal with the
situation along some other line. Otherwise it is going to
be continual clash. The only way to change their
convictions is to heal their sickness.
So it is with man. He believes many things as to
himself, his ability, potentialities, destiny, about God
and about the world, which are not true. He mistakes
certain things for other things, but he cannot see that
he is deceived. It is useless to hold objects before a
blind man, and to tell him to see them; and it is foolish
to be surprised or annoyed that he does not do so. So the
Scriptures say, "The natural (soulical) man
receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they
are foolishness unto him; and he cannot know
them..." (1 Cor 2:14). And again, "The god
of this world hath blinded the minds of the
unbelieving" (2 Cor 4:4).
Now, when we go to the source of this deceived
condition, we find that it originated in the soul. The
Deceiver assailed the soul—desires, reason,
will—and drew this out as a basis of life apart from
and independent of God. The motive was to have things in
the ego, the self, instead of in God by
dependence. Having succeeded in getting man to so exalt
the ego to independence and superiority, he
captured man as now a suited instrument for his purposes.
Man ceased to be suited to the purposes of God, for his
very nature was changed. This man, changed by complicity
with Satan, is a false man, not a true man according to
God's mind; and is now suited to Satan's false kingdom.
The history of man in his natural state is the history of
a lie, a false nature, a false expectation, a false hope,
a false faith and a false world. The end of that
man and that world is sorry, tragic
disillusionment. By the aid of a spirit which, while
still existing, is no longer in the place of living
fellowship with God, this man faintly glimpses or senses
something more of intention and purpose in his being than
he can grasp. It eludes him, he cannot come into real
touch with it; and so life mocks him, and he seeks
satisfaction in other and further deceptions and
illusions. Thus he is a part of the creation which the
Word of God says is "subjected to vanity" (Rom
8:20). Conscience still is more or less active, but
always accusing or excusing, never approving.
As we have said, not only was deception an initial
work of the enemy in the soul of man; he presses this
advantage, or works on this vantage ground; and whenever
he has this ground of nature he seeks to advance his own
government and power thereby. As we shall see, the
stronger the soul-life in a person, the greater the peril
to that one, and the greater the advantage to Satan and
the evil powers. The pursuit of this course is by a
multitude of ways, always adapted to the people with whom
he has to do. With the ungodly he employs one method;
with the religious, who recognize God, another. With the
spiritual he resorts to yet other ways, and for them his
whole system of deception is by counterfeiting God's
system of truth.
He counterfeits God Himself. He "fashioneth
himself into an angel of light" (2 Cor 11:14). He
counterfeits the Church of God with his "synagogue
of Satan" (Rev 2:9). He counterfeits the works of
God with his "signs and lying wonders" (2 Thess
2:9). There is a counterfeit life, and there are
counterfeit "gifts" (as of the Holy Spirit).
There is counterfeit Divine (?) power. There are
counterfeit conversions, spiritual (?) experiences,
guidance. He uses Scriptures in a false way to counter
God's meaning by them. There is counterfeit worship of
God, counterfeit teaching, "doctrines of
demons". There is a counterfeit baptism of the Holy
Ghost with "tongues", etc. To those who know
the Word of God, all these things are not strange, but
are exposed therein.
The point is this. Satan, as the Deceiver, could not
bring all that upon man from the outside. Man must first
be constituted so that Satan can find in him that which
responds to his deception. There must be, for all that,
something in man which is the organ to be used. The play
of Satan upon the soul of Adam drew that soul out as the
ground of procedure. It stretched itself beyond its
legitimate measure, and Satan impinged upon it. Thus an
alliance came about between man's psuche (soul)
and the powers of evil, "deceiving spirits".
The object was gained—the ability to know good and
evil—and God admitted this. "The man is become
as one of us, to know good and evil" (Gen 3:22). But
at what a cost! Knowledge in itself is not evil, although
it would be well for man if he did not know some things.
It is knowledge apart from God that has rendered
man a prisoner, a slave, and has cost him that knowledge
which is eternal life. "This is life eternal, that
they should know thee the only true God, and him whom
thou didst send, Jesus Christ" (John 17:3). The cost
was a "darkened understanding" (Eph 4:18). The
Apostle Paul, who said that "it pleased God... to
reveal his Son in me" (Gal 1:15,16), also
placed on record that that revelation was intended by the
Lord to constitute him an instrument "to open their
eyes, that they may turn from darkness to light and from
the power of Satan unto God" (Acts 26:18).
As to this, he further said: "God, that said, Light
shall shine out of darkness... shined in our hearts, to
give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God
in the face of Jesus Christ" (2 Cor 4:6).
Whenever God in Christ is revealed in the inner man,
deception and Satan's power are destroyed, and the man is
set free. Against this inshining, Satan works by every
conceivable means, ranging from open assault to destroy
the messengers, to beautiful substitutes for the truth.
But let us return to the principle.
To extend and consolidate his work of deception, and
to build his rival and false kingdom, the Deceiver must
have ego—soul or self-life. Herein lies the
greatness of the peril of believers leaning
toward their own self-life, for his occasion against God
is greatest in their case. Herein, also, lies the
explanation of many other things, as that called
'spiritualism' or 'spiritism' and dictatorship, etc.
Children of God who lean to the soul on any or all of
its sides—reason (intellect), emotion (feelings) or
will (volition)—will be a ready prey for deception.
First of all, such people are already a contradiction of
their essential nature as now—by new
birth—spiritual. It becomes clear at the outset that
they are locked up and a law unto themselves. Their
way is the way, and they see no other. As to
further light, they are largely unteachable; as to
further experience, they are content; as to another
course, they cannot conceive of it.
Christians who live in their own mind will often be
found occupied with a question. They cannot live without
a question or a problem. If one is shattered, they will
soon have another. Thus they go ever round in a circle,
and come back to their starting point, making no real
spiritual progress. Like a horse in the ring, they are
whipped and driven, and there is no expanse of life or
vision. Or they lash others with their ideas and seek to
subject other minds to their own. It may eventuate in
some very weird, unsound and untrue conclusions. At
length somewhere in this occult position—for it is
nothing less—a deception will be found, and Satan's
hand will be seen.
The same thing is true with regard to Christians
living on the emotional side of the soul. This side
demands experiences, evidences, manifestations. Indeed
the whole realm of sense-life governs here. If we
intensify and project our emotional side sufficiently, we
can have any experience that is possible. The
whole body and mind can be involved. Vocal cords or solar
plexus may be affected. There may be facial distortions,
rigidity, 'second sight', visions, extra capabilities,
prodigious strength, mirth, ecstasy, etc. All these, from
simple beginnings, may come through the psychical or
soul-life as extended and strained along the line of
If this is true in these two directions, how true it
is on the side of the will. A forceful, dominating,
assertive soul, not under the government of the Holy
Spirit, is a terrible menace to the interests of
God. Decisions will be made, courses adopted, objectives
secured, positions occupied, in the name of devotion to
God, which will be Towers of Babel, Pyramids of Egypt,
Ishmaels of Abram (not Abraham). There will be a
good deal of remorse bound up with these achievements
eventually, and a wish that they had never been. The
result will be something false, and many may be involved
in the tragedy.
If there is a combination of a strong soul-life with
an acute and needle-like brain the supreme peril is that
of grasping the deeper implications and meanings of
Divine truth, so that it seems to be revelation. Thus,
through the soul there is an imitation revelation, which
is really only keen natural insight. Usually, when the
soul is strong along one line, we shall find it strong in
other directions, and so the craving for a sense of power
will not be far away. This keen insight, this quick or
acute grasp of things, will demand as its complement an
opportunity to exhibit itself, and this in its outworking
will be to bring others under its influence. The test of
genuine revelation is as to whether the one concerned is
manifestly well crucified to a desire for power,
position, influence. Can that one be resisted, assailed,
thwarted, rejected, without in some form seeking
to come out even or on top? An element of personal
domination or self-vindication will destroy the ministry
and discredit the 'revelation' of such an one. Oh, the
peril of getting hold of Divine truth in order to use
God has laid down every safeguard against this kind of
thing in what is truly of Himself. Fellowship,
relatedness, interdependence, in the Church which is His
Body, are not only privileges or extra factors in a
Christian life; they are basic laws for safeguarding
Divine interests from the dangers of independence and
personal dominance. This is why one who is in a doubtful
position is called upon to "hear the church"
(Mark 18:17). That means ultimately the surrendering of
their own judgment and way to the spiritual judgment of a
spiritual church. This in turn—provided the church
is walking in the light—is coming under the headship
of Christ as head over all things to the church, which is
his body (Eph 1:22,23). "Subjecting yourselves one
to another in the fear of Christ" (Eph 5:21) is
something which cuts the ground from under Satan's feet.
In keeping with this principle, the Holy Spirit never
made an individual the sole overseer of a church.
Elders, not an elder, were made in every city and church.
God will not have anyone lording it over His heritage.
This opens up the whole subject of Divine order which
would require too extensive a deviation for our present
intention. But let us emphasize that the law of mutual
subjection is but the outworking of that subjection of
Christ to His Father which led to the complete
nullification and discomfiture of Satan in His own case.
All of Satan's temptations of Christ were intended to
seduce Him by deception, even to quoting Scripture. If
Christ had asserted Himself, instead of referring and
deferring to the Father, Satan would have triumphed. What
a great deal there is in letting go to God!
What we have said has been mainly on the positive
side. The soul can be passive; but this is only another
form of soulishness. There is the weak passivity of soul
which makes it easy for Satan to just play with those
concerned; or which means that, being altogether
negative, they count for nothing, and it may be that,
sooner or later, he will crush them out of simple trust
by producing an inferiority complex. On the other hand,
there is that more positive passivity—if we may put
those two words together. This is that deliberate
rendering of the mind and will negative, so that a
mediumistic state is produced. It is not necessary to say
what the results of this are in the direction of
When all has been said about the peril of soul-life as
such, we have to recognize that the end is death.
Injury is done in the mind, in the nerves, in the
spiritual life, in the work of God. How necessary, then,
it is that the Cross should have done its work in
relation to ourselves as well as our past sins!
How tremendous a principle is embodied in Paul's words,
"I have been crucified with Christ, and it is no
longer I..." (Gal 2:20)!
Strong-mindedness may be thought to be a praiseworthy
or excellent thing, but let it be recognized as an
infinitely dangerous thing if the one who has it is not a
crucified man or woman so far as self is concerned.
"The heart is deceitful above all things, and it is
exceedingly corrupt" (Jer 17:9).
Many movements have swept over this earth with the
name of Christ attached to them. They claim to be for
Him, and multitudes are swept into their nets. There are
'conversions' and experiences. There are supernatural
features connected with them. But they are psychical in
their foundation. Physical persons with psychical
experiences and powers, abnormal and uncanny personal
influence, are behind them; and a cult is developed by
certain methods being standardized. These methods or
soul-tactics are employed to draw out soul-expression
in certain forms. It may be a religious form of
psychotherapy or psychoanalysis, and it has remarkable
effects upon those who respond to it.
The infallible test of all such things is as to what
place they give to that fundamental aspect of the Cross
of Christ which sets man by nature wholly aside and gives
him no place at all—that is, the death of the man,
not only the remission of his sins. Try this truth in
such movements and they will collapse, and be popular no
It is a matter of very great importance to be able to
discriminate between what we have just mentioned and
Paul prayed for saints that they might "be filled
with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom
and understanding" (Col 1:9).
Understanding implies a sense or apprehension of the
fuller meaning of what is known, with the ability to
apply that knowledge to adequate value. It is a matter of
intuitive recognition or perception of the hidden nature
and trend of things, and differs from the merely outward
impression made upon the senses which calls for thought
and reasoning. There may be something of this, as we have
seen, in people of good and quick intelligence naturally,
but spiritual understanding is something more. It is that
faculty of the renewed spirit—an insight,
perception, sense, appreciation in relation to Divine
matters—which is the work of the Holy Spirit. It is
the faculty which makes its possessor assured in an
inward way of what is of God and what is not so, when
very fine questions are at issue and when things are not
by any means obvious. This 'discernment' or 'judgment'
cannot always at first be explained or given a reason; it
is just there, and very real to those who have it.
Spiritual understanding is one of the most important
things in the equipment of any Christian for
responsibility. To put anyone into a position of
responsibility in the things of God, or for anyone to
take such a position, without this qualification will be
to jeopardize the work of God and to put all related
thereto into a false and dangerous situation. Something
much more than just good 'common sense' and natural
judgment is required in things eternal and spiritual. The
one pre-eminent object and goal of this spiritual faculty
is the knowledge of God, and it does not matter how great
and complete may be a man's knowledge otherwise, the one
indispensable requirement for responsibility in spiritual
work is that he knows God in a measure beyond all natural
capability or possibility. No efficiency can substitute
for spiritual understanding!
It must be possible for all who are affected by what
is said and done to find in the one who speaks and works
a personal, living and true knowledge of God, a deep
spiritual understanding. It is significant how much
people themselves are brought into the limelight by some
forms of Christian work; but it is not the Christianity
of Romans 6!
Any movement which would make for self-consciousness
is missing the way. Self-consciousness, whether it be bad
self or good self, big self or little self, is weakness
and evil. While all that we write here is necessary, we
believe, to enlighten as to a great fact, it is not to
turn people in on themselves for self-analysis,
introspective occupation. This would be fatal! Christ is
our only safe and healthy occupation; and He is the
deliverer from ourselves. A basic and crisic thing must
have taken place, so that we know by an established law
and an inward government when we cross the line from
Christ to self in our own souls. A simple, humble and
selfless way is safe; so let us not refrain from
stepping out on the Lord in conscious weakness, for fear
of moving in the soul and not in the spirit.