Q. Your explanation of “Satan the hinderer” the other day caused me to wonder…how are we to determine whether the false apostles quoted in 2 Cor. 11: 13-15 are simply sincere Christians being deceived by false doctrines, or genuinely evil workmen? Is it our responsibility to even know the difference? How should we handle them, if they arise in our local congregations? Thank you, for your insight.
A. In 2 Cor. 11:13-15 Paul accused false apostles transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. He used the same word in referring to Satan transforming himself into an angel of light. By the use of this word Paul revealed that these false apostles knew they were being deceptive, just like Satan does. If so then they’re not just misguided, but actually evil.
Personally I worry just as much about misguided people who’ve been deceived. These people have an air of sincerity about them that fools people who would not be fooled by an impostor. Anyone who’s in a teaching position should encourage his listeners to test what he tells them against the Word of God to see whether they agree with his interpretation of Scripture. (Acts 17:11)
The leaders of a local congregation are responsible for the teaching that takes place. A sincere but deceived person will usually be open to correction, while someone who’s purposely deceiving people won’t. In either case, someone whose teaching cannot be confirmed by Scripture should not be permitted to teach.
There are cases where knowledgeable people will disagree on the interpretation of a passage of Scripture. If the leaders are comfortable with a differing view being taught, then the teacher can proceed, as long as members know that the view being taught is not consistent with the view of their leaders.