Be Wise as Serpents

The Bible tells us plainly that “the Serpent” is Satan, our adversary the Devil. And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him. Revelation 12:9. Satan is called “that old serpent” because he is so crafty and cunning, the most subtle of all creatures. Now the serpent was more subtle than any beast of the field which the Lord God had made. And he said unto the woman, Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden? Genesis 3:1.

What makes the Serpent so deceptive is the fact that he never looks like a serpent. The Serpent and his brood of serpents always appear to be men of God. For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness. II Corinthians 11:13-15. Satan and his workers always come on the scene in a religious way: a messenger of light and ministers of righteousness.

John the Baptist identified the Pharisees and Sadducees as serpents. But when he (John) saw many of the Pharisees and Sadducees come to his baptism, he said unto them, O generation of vipers, who hath warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Matthew 3:7.

Jesus also identified the religious leaders as serpents. O generation of vipers, how can ye, being evil, speak good things? for out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaketh. Matthew 12:34. Ye serpents, ye generation of vipers, how can ye escape the damnation of hell? Matthew 23:33.

As those who are earnestly contending for the faith which was once delivered unto the saints (Jude 3), we must have a good defense as well as a good offense. We cannot stand against the wiles of the devil (Ephesians 6:11), if we do not know how he operates. That “old serpent” is always well hidden behind the scenes of any of his particular situations. So it is necessary for us to recognize his maneuverings even when they are not obvious. Paul said he did not “fight as one that beateth the air” (I Corinthians 9:26), and we don’t want to beat the air either. When we swing at the devil with an uppercut, we want to hit him square on the chin. That means that we must know how he operates. We must be aware of his tricks-of-the-trade.

Matthew 10:16-17 Behold, I send you forth as sheep in the midst of wolves: be ye therefore wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.
17 But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues.

Have you ever wondered why Jesus would tell His disciples to be wise as serpents? He is telling us that we should know our enemy; we must know his cunning ways. If you don’t want to be deceived by the serpents, you must know their tricks. You can’t crush “Satan under your feet” (Romans 16:20), if you can’t see where he is lurking.

Satan always moves in a religious way, and his field of operations is the Church. So it is there that we must learn to discern his activity. We are in the days when the “wicked one” is being revealed (II Thessalonians 2:8). Revelation, as never before, is coming to God’s elect. At the same time it is also days of great deception. While some are receiving spiritual insight, many of God’s people are being deceived by the antichrist spirit. And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the Spirit of His mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of His coming: even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, and with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. And for this cause God shall send them strong delusion, that they should believe a lie. II Thessalonians 2:8-11.

I have heard many preachers, while holding their Bibles in the air, tell their congregations, “This is the plumb line. If what someone speaks doesn’t line up with this, it is not of God.” That sounds very good to the untrained ear, but if that is the only way he has of discerning what is true or false, he can be easily deceived. What he is actually saying is: “If what is spoken doesn’t line up with my interpretation of the Scriptures, it is not of God.” He is making his interpretation of the Bible the plumb line, and that puts him right in Satan’s trap. The Devil is not so stupid as to think he is going to deceive a Christian with doctrines that he doesn’t believe. He is going to use your favorite doctrines to deceive you. Listen, it is not so much whether the words spoken are correct or not. It is the spirit riding on the words that makes the difference. Are the words carrying the Spirit of Christ or the spirit of antichrist?

We must understand the scriptural definition of true and false. In the natural world we say that one speaking correct facts is speaking the truth, and one that doesn’t is speaking lies and is false. But it is not the same with the Scriptures. The Scriptures deal with the spirit realm. So the spirit behind the words is the greater issue. In John 14:6, Jesus said, I am the way, the truth, and the life. He is Truth! Words that are freighted with His life are truth. Correct facts can be spoken without His life in them, and they would not be truth. In John 8:44, Jesus said that the devil is a lie. The determining factor, then, of what is true and false is the kind of spirit riding on the words. Now let’s go one step further. After Jesus was baptized by John the Baptist, He went into the wilderness and was there tempted by the devil (Matthew 4:1-11). Satan did not tempt Jesus with false doctrines; he spoke scriptures to Him. Were the scriptures the devil spoke the Word of God? No!! They came out of the mouth of the devil, and what comes out of his mouth carries his nature, and is a lie. The devil cannot speak truth, because truth is Jesus Christ, and Christ does not reside in him. Just because someone speaks scripture doesn’t mean they are speaking the Word of God. Are their words carrying the Spirit of Christ? Everything they say may line up with the Bible and still be a lie from Satan. If you can’t discern the spirit behind a word, you won’t know whether it is of God or not. And if you don’t know you can easily be deceived.

Matthew 23:13 But woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye shut up the Kingdom of heaven against men: for ye neither go in yourselves, neither suffer ye them that are entering to go in.

This verse gives us insight into one of Satan’s most effective tactics of deception. He has tricked a vast number of well-meaning preachers into ministering this deception to God’s people.

The scribes and Pharisees had unwittingly become channels for the antichrist spirit, and even though they may not have realized it, they were shutting up the Kingdom of heaven. Many sincere, well-meaning preachers today are also closing the door to the Kingdom of God. And they are doing it in the same way that the Pharisees did. They are taking the Lord Jesus Christ and His kingdom out of the present and making it future only.

The ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus Christ, and the apostles is an example of true ministry. The ministry of the scribes and Pharisees is an example of how the antichrist ministers deception. John the Baptist preached, Repent ye: for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 3:2). Jesus also preached, Repent: for the Kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 4:17). And when He sent out His disciples, He told them to preach, The Kingdom of heaven is at hand (Matthew 10:7). Thus, the ministry of John the Baptist, Jesus Himself, and the apostles was a ministry of the Kingdom in the present. They were opening the door to the Kingdom, but the scribes and Pharisees were closing the door.

Just how did the Pharisees shut up the Kingdom of heaven against men? Their teachings were historic and futuristic only. They honored the prophets of the past, but claimed none for the present. They spoke of the Messiah that was to come, but they always kept Him in the future. Con-sequently, when Jesus the Messiah appeared, He was rejected – their Messiah was in the future, not in the present.

The antichrist is using that same tactic of deception quite effectively today. Many pastors are only preaching about a historic and a futuristic Christ. Consequently, many Christians are being robbed of a real walk with the Lord. The hope of glory for them is going to heaven; their Jesus is in the future. But the Bible says, Christ in you, the hope of glory (Colossians 1:27).

Deuteronomy 13:1-4 If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder,
2 And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them;
3 Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the Lord your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul.
4 Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear Him, and keep His commandments, and obey His voice, and ye shall serve Him, and cleave unto Him.

There are three points of interest in this passage. (1) Signs and wonders are not necessarily an evidence of truth. Many people are led astray by the miraculous. Jesus said, False christs and false prophets shall arise, and shall show great signs and wonders (Matthew 24:24). But neither should you reject all works just because they are in the realm of signs and wonders. Jesus also said, The works that I do, bear witness of Me (John 5:36). And in John 10:38 He said, Though ye believe not Me, believe the works: that ye may know, and believe, that the Father is in Me, and I in Him.

If the antichrist spirit works signs and wonders through someone and instead of rejecting them you accept them as being of God, you have been deceived. Also, if the Lord works signs and wonders through someone and you reject them, you have been deceived again. The only way you can know for sure if works of signs and wonders are of the Lord or not is to tune-in to the spirit of the work. The spirit working through a person is also in the work he does. If it is the Holy Spirit, then there will be an anointing of the Lord upon the work. If it is an antichrist spirit, then the same spirit will be in the work done. Also, you can’t just assume that a work of a sign or wonder is anointed of the Lord because the person is a Christian. It is possible for an antichrist spirit to function through a Christian at times. Peter is an example (Matthew 16:21-23; Galatians 2:11-13). However, that doesn’t have to be true for every Christian. You can come to the place where you have no openness to demonic activity (John 14:30). The bottom line is this: if you do not want to be in danger of deception, then you will have to be spiritual enough to discern the spirit of what is said and done.

(2) Regardless of how godly a minister seems you are not to allow him to lead you to other gods to serve them. On the surface, that would seem to be easily detectable. A Christian straying from God to serve a Baal or some such false god is very unlikely. Satan is aware of that, and he is much too subtle and cunning to try to deceive with something so obvious. So he endeavors to lead you to another god by causing you to think you are worshiping the Lord Jesus Christ. If you worship a false concept or false image of Jesus Christ, it is the same as worshiping a false god. So he presents to you a false Jesus that looks real.

The Lord Jesus Christ is eternal. His reality is found in the past, the present, and the future. Jesus Christ, the same yesterday, and to day, and for ever. Hebrews 13:8. A Jesus of the past or of the future without a present reality is a false Christ. Many preachers of Christian churches are not ministering a present reality of the Lord. And they are guilty of leading the people astray to serve other gods. We must “believe that He is” (Hebrews 11:6). And “He is” when you are aware of His presence in your life.

The Apostle Paul said, It pleased God…to reveal His Son in me, that I might preach Him…(Galatians 1:15,16). Paul did not just preach about Jesus. He did not just preach of a Jesus of the past or of the future. He ministered the presence of the Lord. God revealed His Son in him, and he preached Jesus. His words were Christ (II Corinthians 13:3). I dare say that many preachers today are not ministering the presence of the Lord. They are ministering their opinions of Christ, their mental concepts of Him. And, consequently, they are ministering false christs. They are leading the people to false gods. An indication of false ministry is when they tell you that you should pray but do not teach you how, that you should worship but don’t teach you how, that you should be led of the Lord but do not teach you how.

Verse four tells us what it means to know and serve the Lord Jesus Christ who is the same yesterday, today, and forever (Hebrews 13:8). Ye shall walk after the Lord your God, and fear Him, and keep His commandments, and obey His voice, and ye shall serve Him, and cleave unto Him. Notice that everything is in the present tense. Ye shall walk after the Lord your God – That can only be done in the present.

Fear Him - You can only fear the Lord when you are faced with His presence. There is no fear of Him when He is only in the past or in the future.

Keep His commandments – The Word of God is eternal, the same as He is. To keep His commandments is to live in a present Word.

Obey His voice – Not a voice of the past, but His voice in the present. Jesus said, He that heareth (present tense) My Word…hath everlasting life (John 5:24).

Ye shall serve Him, and cleave unto Him – You can only serve and cleave to the Lord when you have a present relationship with Him. You cannot serve or cleave to a Jesus of the past or of the future, that is not the “same today.”

(3) Everyone is tried. God lets antichrists present false signs and wonders to us. He lets them try to lead us to false gods. He does it to prove us, to know whether we love the Lord our God with all our heart and with all our soul. Our greatest protection from deception is to love Him with all our heart. The depth of our spiritual perception and discernment is in direct proportion to our love for the Lord. I’m going to tell you something you need to think about. Many Christians love their religion more than they love the Lord, and for that reason they are in deception. The antichrist is religious (II Corinthians 11:13-15); God is not – He is Spirit (John 4:24).

That “old serpent” the devil is very subtle and cunning. He does not have to get you to forsake the Lord altogether, just get you off-center some, so that you’re ineffective in the priorities. For example, many churches have made soul winning their primary ministry. It is an important ministry, but when it replaces the more important ministry of Ephesians 4:11-16 (the perfection of the Body of Christ) it is off-center. Not only does the church remain immature, but also its effectiveness in soul winning is reduced to a minimum. We must remember that the Lord values quality above quantity (James 5:7).

Another subtle trick of Satan is to get you to do good works for the Lord instead of becoming a channel so the Lord can work through you. Works that we do for the Lord are dead works; works that the Lord accomplishes through us are living works. It is so easy to get off-center. We must “wise as serpents, and harmless as doves.”

Copyright © 2004 by Henry DuBose