Verse 26: Those Trying to Lead You Astray
I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.
The apostle John is doing battle with the word of God against the lies of Satan in order to stop the Devourer by reaffirming the true apostolic declaration about Christ.
“Those who are trying”: there are people who trying to deceive the Church with false doctrine and deceptive signs and wonders to deceive us:
Matthew 24:24 (CSB) For false messiahs and false prophets will arise and perform great signs and wonders to lead astray, if possible, even the elect.
2nd Peter 2:1-3 (CSB) There were indeed false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will bring in destructive heresies, even denying the Master who bought them, and will bring swift destruction on themselves. 2 Many will follow their depraved ways, and the way of truth will be maligned because of them. 3 They will exploit you in their greed with made-up stories.
The word of God determines truth, not human reasoning, philosophy, or powerful signs and wonders. The testimony that the apostle John offers in this epistle is meant to establish and confirm the truth that has already been delivered by the Lord Jesus Christ.
“To lead you astray”: these false teachers and false prophets lead souls astray by sending them down the broad-way that leads to destruction, therefore, we must be alert and sober-minded because we know our souls are under attack:
1st Peter 5:8 (CSB) Be sober-minded, be alert. Your adversary the devil is prowling around like a roaring lion, looking for anyone he can devour.
2nd Thessalonians 2:9-10 (NIV) The coming of the lawless one will be in accordance with how Satan works. He will use all sorts of displays of power through signs and wonders that serve the lie, 10 and all the ways that wickedness deceives those who are perishing. They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
Jesus warned about the danger of false prophets who come disguised as authentic Christians:
Matthew 7:15-16a, 21-23 (CSB) Be on your guard against false prophets who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are ravaging wolves. 16 You’ll recognize them by their fruit… 21 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father in heaven. 22 On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, didn’t we prophesy in your name, drive out demons in your name, and do many miracles in your name?’ 23 Then I will announce to them, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!’
In this pericope, Jesus says that false prophets disguise themselves as true Christians, but are evident by their fruit. He then warns of two false paths that lead to destruction: first, “confessionalism”, and second, “spiritualism”. The first false path says that you will be saved simply by professing Jesus as Lord, and the second false path says you know that you are saved by performing signs and wonders. In both instances Jesus says “I never knew you. Depart from me, you lawbreakers!”
One of the central reasons the apostle John gives for writing this first epistle is that Christians must test themselves and ensure that they are walking in the true and everlasting gospel of Jesus Christ.
Use this epistle to examine your own life: do you keep the doctrines taught to the Church by the apostles? Do you live in the light of the darkness? Do you love God in obedience and service to those whom he loves?