The word apatao means to deceive, and is used four times in the New Testament. The first is in Ephesians. “Let no man deceive you with vain words: for because of these things cometh the wrath of God upon the children of disobedience” (Eph. 5:6). The kind of vanity in view here is the vanity that flatters our lusts — that makes us think it is possible for someone to live in sin and yet be in Christ. A similar deception ensnared Eve, our first mother. She was told that it was possible to disobey God, and yet not die. “And Adam was not deceived, but the woman being deceived was in the transgression” (1 Tim. 2:14). And last, James rebukes the man who wants to appear religious, but still keep his heart deceived and his tongue unbridled. Such a man has a vain religion, meaning that it does not accomplish what religion is supposed to do — save you. “If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man’s religion is vain” (Jas. 1:26).
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