Some people just look righteous don’t you think? They seem to have an angelic glow about them and always seem to have just left the throne on high. They appear to be people of near constant peace and joy. But we know that looks are not everything. We know the old cliché that “you can’t judge a book by its cover” is powerfully true. You may have been hoodwinked by someone who seemed so pious. Let us consider the question of whether the appearance of piety equals the reality of righteousness.
Arising from an old Latin word, piety simply means reverence for God or a completion of sacred duties or obligations. We can never fully know the quality of man’s heart or his actual devotion to God. But our question here centers on the appearance of devotion and whether or not we should be drawn to someone based only on that appearance.
Appearances Are Deceiving
One of the most chilling passages in the Bible is found in 2 Corinthians 11:11-15:
For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, disguising themselves as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light. So it is no surprise if his servants, also, disguise themselves as servants of righteousness. Their end will correspond to their deeds.
Not even the pulpits of our time are free of false teaching! To look only upon the outer behavior and conduct of a man is not sufficient. He may be a teacher of falsehoods ensconced in a satanic disguise. No one wants to believe their preacher, teacher or mentor is doing the work of the evil one but Scripture is clear that false teaching is found even among the church. Paul speak of false teachers who “slipped in” to the church to lead God’s people back into the slavery of sin (Galatians 2:4-5).
Rely on Truth
If appearances can be deceiving, how then can we choose the people who teach us and guide us in this life?
The only foundation is the faith delivered “once for all “(Jude 3). That foundation is the word of God, inspired (2 Timothy 3:16-17) and given by holy men without any private interpretation (2 peter 1:20-21). We cannot reply on any teaching, any creed or any confession not given by inspiration alone. Only the truth saves (John 17:17; Psalm 119:160) and any departure, regardless of the reason, is indefensible.
So as a practical matter, never trust a preacher, even this one. Place your entire confidence in God and in His ability to communicate to you. Listen carefully to your preacher, very carefully, but then test his words against the truth you possess in the Bible (Acts 17:11; 1 John 4:1).
Some things are priceless. Your soul is priceless. Never entrust your soul to anyone other than the Lord. Those who appear pious may be or they may not be. Only by comparing their words against the divinely inspired Scriptures can we know the truth that sets us free (John 8:32).