1.         “Make no mistake....”  You’ll hear that phrase when someone wants to emphasize a point, or to indicate that he’s serious about it, or to assure hearers that they can count on it.


2.         The New Testament does about that same thing with the phrase “do not be deceived.”

a.         Even in the original, it gets your attention as a striking charge: me planasthe.

b.         The word for “deceived” has a history of describing a blind person being led astray, or a person staggering because of strong drink, or a sheep wandering without a shepherd.  (NIDNTT, 2, 458)

c.         To be deceived, then, means to “be removed from...the shepherd, wander about without guidance or protection and so be in danger of getting lost.”  (459)

d.         A deceived person has – either through a mistake, or because of a sense of confusion and error, or by a lack of discipline or restraint – gone astray from the way that is true and good and is at risk.

e.         No wonder we are so often urged to not get in that condition!


3.         The thing is, “do not be deceived” gets used in specific settings in the New Testament, as if to say, “Here is why this is a threat to you, and here is what is most likely to cause it.”  That’s how we want to pursue the thought.




1.         Why are we vulnerable to being deceived?

a.         There are people around us.

i.          We are social beings, subject to influence, and we have to live in an environment where people may “go on from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13).

ii.         John pointed out that “many deceivers have gone out into the world” which does not believe Christ has come in the flesh (2 Jn. 7), and that “the spirit of error” is the prevailing philosophy of the age (1 Jn. 4:6).

iii.        In an atmosphere like this, we can drift into a mistaken way of looking at the world without ever intending to do so.  Someone can take us captive through empty deceit, according to human tradition (Col. 2:8).

b.         There are enticements before us.

i.          We have longings that are easily directed toward inappropriate goals, and they want to be satisfied.

ii.         In fact, when an enticement captures our imagination it presents arguments and rationalizations to convince us to give in.  We end up doing the wrong thing – and thinking we are justified in doing so!

iii.        Some of the things we have to contend with are “the deceitfulness of riches” (Matt. 13:22), “deceitful desires” (Eph. 4:22), and “the deceitfulness of sin” (Heb. 3:13).

c.         There are weaknesses within us.

i.          “The heart is deceitful above all things,” Jeremiah said, “who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9).

ii.         We are capable of deceiving ourselves!  In one place Paul urges, “Let no one deceive himself” (1 Cor. 3:18).  In another, he says, “For if anyone thinks he is something when he is nothing, he deceives himself” (Gal. 6:3).

iii.        It happens gradually as we convince ourselves that we’re on the right track while we’re actually ignoring reality.  It happens because it’s so hard to really know our own hearts and motives.  Being deceived is a threat to any human being because there are people around us, enticements before us, and weaknesses within us.


2.         What are the ways in which we are most likely to be deceived?  There are four cases in which the phrase “do not be deceived” is employed.  We will simply take them in the order in which they occur.

a.         We may be misled by the thought that we can live for one kingdom but inherit another, one of a very different character.

i.          It may be that we wouldn’t state it intellectually, but this is an easy position to take practically: “We all make mistakes...God is long as we recognize that, it doesn’t matter what we do...”

ii.         A lifestyle develops that has no purpose and no standards, but when hardship hits we want to say, “Everything happens for a reason,” and when it’s all over we want to conclude, “He’s gone to a better place.”

iii.        1 Corinthians 6:9-11

iv.        None should be deluded into assuming that a person can let his way of life be fashioned by the kingdom of darkness and then inherit the kingdom of light.  Notice that the apostle says so twice.

v.         But all should realize that, in the name of Christ, repentance and cleansing and a new way of life is possible.  Thanks be to God!

b.         We may go astray by thinking that we can live in close fellowship with wickedness and not be effected by it.

i.          We’re not talking about just living in the world and being in the presence of unbelievers; the Lord expects us to do that in order to serve him, to be neighbors, and to be an influence for good.

ii.         We’re talking about admiring those who ignore God, agreeing with their outlook, and making them our closest company.  Sooner or later, that is bound to impact a person for bad.

iii.        1 Corinthians 15:33-34

iv.        One writer summed up the point this way: “The Corinthians will ruin their Christian lives by mixing with those who live merely for selfish pleasures because they deny any resurrection or final judgment.”  (N. Hillyer, New Bible Commentary, 1072)

v.         These first two thoughts are tied together by what Paul says in Ephesians 5:4-7.


c.         We may wander off into the way which assumes that seed can be sown with no thought of a harvest.

i.          One of the principles God has woven into the fabric of his universe is that the life is in the seed, and that seed brings forth fruit according to its kind.

ii.         What is true in the natural world is also generally true in social interactions  and in the spiritual realm, and “a man deceives himself when he supposes that he can turn up his nose at God with impunity.  No one can hood-wink God.”  (S. Mikolaski, New Bible Commentary, 1104)

iii.        Galatians 6:7-8

iv.        We have to face the fact with open eyes: every person is sowing seeds, either of fleshly indulgence or of spiritual devotion, and as he does he is choosing his harvest, either of corruption or of eternal life.

v.         It is essential to observe that this principle has both a positive and a negative application: what keeps us from sowing to the flesh also keeps us going in doing good!

d.         We may be carried away with the view that we are not responsible to a good and righteous God.

i.          James 1:16-18

ii.         This goes with what comes before it: resentment at the difficulty involved in some trial produces questions about the God who allowed it, and the person begins to excuse himself for being attracted to evil when he is tempted.  But if God tempted anyone, he would be nullifying his own work and contradicting his own nature!

iii.        This also goes with what comes after it: God wants us not to deceive ourselves into satisfaction with having been to church and heard the lesson; he wants us to receive his instruction so that it impacts our will, then to be doers of it, even to the bridling of our tongue and being a blessing to the helpless and keeping ourselves unspotted from the world.

iv.        John agreed with James about who is responsible for the sin in us: “If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us” (1:8).

v.         Leon Morris noted, “This has relevance for the modern man, who says that sin is a disease or a weakness, and claims that it is due to heredity, environment, necessity or the like, so that he regards it as his fate, not as his fault.”  (New Bible Commentary, 1262)




1.         Another way of saying this is that these are the practical challenges that an overcomer has to overcome.


2.         Titus 3:3-7 – “For we ourselves were once...But when the goodness and loving kindness of God appeared...”


3.         1 John 5:20 – “ that we know him who is true; and we are in him who is true...”