The counterfeits are produced by either removing something vital from the message, or adding something destructive to it. These counterfeits have multiplied. False teachings producing groups like Jehovah’s Witnesses and Mormons are easily discernable to even new believers. However, the enemy is subtle, and Paul’s warnings were about “ministers” and “messages” that were much closer to the truth There are messages so close that they may even deceive genuine believers for a time.
We are to guard against obvious counterfeits. We are also to be on guard about messages that contain 90% truth and only 10% error. Paul says just a little leaven will leaven the whole lump. I remember in one church I noticed a tendency toward falsehood along the periphery – something that I kept my eye on but didn’t feel was contaminating the central flow. However eventually I witnessed that thing become the very center – shoved down our throats and made the decisive factor for determining if someone was “in” or “out.” This is an example of a “little leaven leavening the whole lump”. The spirit of error is not from God. As someone has said, the most dangerous cult can be a church in which the teaching seems biblical and correct, and yet the gospel is omitted or distorted in the subtlest ways.
Being deceived does not merely come from a lack of academic understanding. Error originates from the enemy’s sowing of bad seed to produce counterfeit gospels and tares. Satan also wants to use the counterfeits that he creates to stumble, offend, paralyze, persecute and limit the function of the genuine believers in this age so that he can further silence the truth of God’s word. Therefore it is so important to be in a constant pursuit of a thorough grounding in the Gospel and in truth. We have to put on the whole armor of God, and we have to really come into what Paul called the “full assurance of understanding” about the truth of the Gospel. Because the counterfeits are subtle, we cannot know if we have embraced a counterfeit unless we are diligent to compare what we believe with scripture and always be willing to submit our understanding to the authority of the Word. Remember what Paul said about our weaponry and our warfare:
2Co 10:4 (For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strong holds;) Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
Discernment is so critical and is a protection to us is because it is part of building a solid foundation. We must continually examine the things we believe and the things we are embracing to make sure that we are truly on the path of salvation. We also must be careful to be honest with in our hearts before the Lord and remain “up to date” in terms of confessed sin and no unresolved issues of conscience. Deception is a matter of the heart, and usually when we embrace a deception it is because something in our heart is inclined toward it. In my experience the Lord has helped me to untangle theological snares I had been trapped in, but along with that has to come an acknowledgement and repentance regarding what attracted me to it in the first place.