THE SIN OF SELF DEIFICATION

A STUDY BY

GARY RAY BRANSCOME


  "How art thou fallen from heaven O Lucifer… For thou hast said in thy heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God… I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High. Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit" (Isaiah 14:12-15).

   Because sin began with Satan's desire to be God, that desire is at the root of all sin. For that reason — although it is not as obvious with some sins as it is with others — the desire to be God is in some way manifest in all wrongdoing. It is relatively easy to see that those who create idols are attempting to make themselves into God’s creator. However, those who teach false doctrine, prophesy falsely in God's name, or write false scriptures are also attempting to make themselves God, by making their own word into the Word of God. Likewise, those who lie, steal, kill, or commit adultery are attempting to make themselves God, for they are exalting their will over the will of God. Therefore, since the sin of self-deification manifests itself in so many ways, I want to call your attention specifically to the way in which it affects our interpretation of God's Word.

    To put it briefly, those who twist the Bible to support their own ideas, read assumptions into the text, and teach man made explanations of the Bible as doctrine, while explaining it away when it contradicts their theology, are trying to make their own word into the Word of God. Yet such rebellion is so deeply rooted in man's sinful nature that people have a hard time seeing that sin in themselves, even if they recognize it in others.
    By simply getting us to think of doctrine as an explanation of Scripture, rather than the actual words of Scripture, Satan is able to divert our attention away from the words so that we miss what is said because we think there might be some other explanation. In fact, that delusion is such a hindrance to the salvation of souls that I regard it, together with the delusion of works righteousness, as a major obstacle to understanding God's Word.

THE PURE WORD OF GOD


    In order to counter that delusion I want to help you see that there is a doctrine that consists of truths clearly and explicitly stated in Scripture. Those truths do not need to be explained, they just need to be accepted, and once accepted they become the standard by which we interpret the rest of Scripture. In other words, we interpret the unclear passages in the light of the clear passages and reject any interpretations that contradict explicitly stated truths. The Bible tells us that God’s doctrine is plainly stated in words that do not need to be explained when it says, “Whom shall He teach knowledge? And whom shall He make to understand doctrine? … For precept must be upon precept… line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little (Isaiah 29:9-10). And it tells us that we should never interpret one passage to contradict another when it says, “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them (Isaiah 8:20). Those who refuse to accept the doctrine plainly stated in God’s Word are trying to make themselves a higher authority, and those who interpret Scripture to contradict what it says elsewhere are exalting their word over the Word of God. In either case, it is the sin of self-deification.

THE SATANIC DELUSION

    Because God's doctrine is clearly stated in Scripture it consists of facts, not opinions. For example: The fact that the Bible says, “For by grace are ye saved through faith” can be verified by anyone, simply by looking up Ephesians 2:8. Furthermore, you do not need imagination to explain such doctrine, you simply need to accept what is said.
    I once tried to explain this to a cult member, only to have him say, “No that can't be right. We need an organization to explain the Bible. If doctrine was just what the Bible says there would be no need for us to go to church, we could just stay home and read our Bibles.” Of course, that is exactly what the devil wants cult members to think, for that is his way of keeping them from learning the truth (2 Corinthians 4:4).

    Actually, because our flesh gets in the way, learning the true doctrine is not all that easy even though it is plainly stated in Scripture (Jeremiah 17:9, 2 Corinthians 1:13). Since none of us can begin our study of the Bible with a complete knowledge of what it says, it is easy for a student to jump to conclusions. And when those conclusions are shown to contradict what the Bible says elsewhere, it is easy to simply explain away what the Bible says. When that happens, jumping to conclusions becomes a way of making one’s own word into the “Word of God,” and explaining away what the Bible says is a way of exalting oneself over God.
    It is common for people to read their own ideas, popular ideas, or something they want to hear into the text. For example: Some people want the Bible to endorse women preachers. Therefore, they interpret a variety of passages to support that view. However, since God said, through Paul, “I suffer not a woman to teach or usurp authority over the man, but to be in silence,” every interpretation that contradicts that passage is an attempt to exalt man’s word over God’s Word (1 Timothy 2:12). [Interpretations must yield to what the Bible explicitly says.]

    It is easy for those who are not familiar with the Bible’s terminology to be blinded by their lack of knowledge. Often their attention is diverted away from what the words say, by questions as to what those words mean. For example: The statement, “By grace are ye saved through faith” is perfectly clear to those of us who are familiar with the language, yet I can remember how confusing it seemed to me before I understood what grace is. In fact, I can remember thinking to myself, “That does not make any sense at all. What is grace? How can grace save anybody? And how can simply believing something make any difference?” Therefore, when I talk about such passages being clear, I am not saying that everyone will understand them perfectly, I am just saying that they mean what they say. And because they mean just what they say, we should not allow our imagination to place false meanings on the words. In fact, imagination can easily blind us to the Bible’s own explanation. For example: The Bible tells us what grace is by telling us in one place that we are saved “by grace,” and in another place that we are saved by “mercy” – grace is mercy. It also explains what “grace” is when it tells us that “grace” excludes works. In other words, to be saved by grace, is to be saved without works (compare, Ephesians 2:8, Titus 3:5 and Romans 11:6). Furthermore, the Bible tells us what faith is when it tells us that Christ is the object of our faith (John 3:16), or when it describes faith as believing God’s promise (Galatians 3:6-9). While it is only through the work of the Holy Ghost that we trust in Christ, or embrace God’s promises. The Holy Ghost does not enlighten us by giving us new information, but by opening our eyes to see what the Bible plainly says.

OVERCOMING THE SATANIC DELUSION
 
    Although the desire for self-deification can easily blind us, with God’s help we can recognize it and overcome it. However, we must be willing to accept what the Bible says, while changing our thinking to bring it into accord with the Bible (2 Corinthians 10:5). Of course, that is easier said than done. In real life, all too few are willing to root wrong ideas out of their mind, and when a change is made it is often soon forgotten. Furthermore, it is far more common for people to explain away the Word of God, than to change their own thinking (Romans 3:4). Nevertheless, it is only as we bring our understanding of Scripture into accord with what the Bible explicitly says that we understand the Bible correctly (Isaiah 8:20).

    When we have legitimate questions as to what a passage means, instead of letting our imagination run wild we need to wait and see if there isn't some other passage that answers our question. The worst thing we can do is to come up with our own answers to such questions, for man made answers can easily blind us to the answer God has given in Scripture. That is one reason why we need to pay attention to what the passage actually does say, instead of speculating as to what it means. In fact, that only makes good sense. If, in a letter, a friend mentioned that he bought a blue car, would the wisest way of finding out the make and model be to speculate, or to search the letter to see if it reveals the make and model? If you can see that it would be wiser to search the letter, you should be able to see that it is far wiser to search Scripture for answers than to come up with your own answers. However, in saying this I need to warn you that those who cannot distinguish between what they imagine and what the Bible explicitly says, can search the Scripture and still be deceived. They fail to see the truth because they become enamored with private interpretations instead of concentrating on what is actually said (2 Peter 1:20). Therefore, as you study the Bible, if one statement gives you a little information, compare it with other statements that provide a little more information, letting the little bits of information accumulate, “Line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (Isaiah 29:9-10).

    If the Bible does not answer a specific question, accept that fact and don't try to improve on the Bible by making up your own answer. At the same time, you need to recognize the answers that God does give. For example: The Bible tells us how we are “justified” [i.e. absolved of guilt] by telling us that the blood of Jesus Christ “cleanses us from all sin.” To be cleansed from sin is to be absolved of guilt. Furthermore, the fact that our guilt is removed by the blood of Christ, rather than by what we do, explains why Paul said that we are justified “without the works of the law.” [1 John 1:7, Romans 3:28, 1 Corinthians 2:13.]
 
THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH

    When a person refuses to accept what the Bible plainly says it is a sign that they have a “spirit of error” (1 John 4:6). It does not matter which part of the Bible they reject, the very fact that they reject what God has said reveals that their heart is not right (Isaiah 8:20). If the world at large honors them for their learning, then the world at large is helping to deceive, for according to God’s academic standard they are in darkness (1 Corinthians 1:20 and 3:19). Some of them may reject what the Bible says about creation, the virgin birth, Christ’s resurrection, or the last day. Others simply explain away passages they do not understand. However, in either case, they are driven by spiritual forces that are beyond their grasp, and strive to make themselves God without even realizing it.
 
    The Bible makes it clear that those who are educated according to God’s academic standard, will correct their thinking to bring it into agreement with God’s Word (Romans 12:2, 2 Corinthians 10:5). That means, in part, that when one line of the Bible tells us that Christ is “God,” while another tells us that He is “man,” they will accept both statements, instead of believing one and explaining away the other, as some cults do (1 Timothy 2:5, 1 John 5:20).  For that reason, as they learn what the Bible says they will learn that, “Our Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, is God  (Isaiah 9:6, etc.) and Man.” (1 Timothy 2:5).  “Equal to the Father as touching His Godhead (Philippians 2:6) and inferior to the Father as touching. His manhood” (1 Corinthians 15:28). [From the Athanasian Creed.]

[You will notice that the statement I just quoted does not explain what the Bible says, but instead brings together what God has revealed “line upon line” (Isaiah 28:9-11).]
 
CONCLUSION

    Because God is not the author of confusion, all confusion, and controversy over what the Bible says comes from the deceitfulness of the human heart. And that deceit stems ultimately from the Satanic desire to be God.