Sunday, September 23, 2012

1st John Chapter 4 Part 1

4:1-3 Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.
As we read in 1st John 3:24 the Spirit of God testifies that Christ abides in us. We have deduced through the Scriptures how a believer may receive the Holy Spirit, and what it means not to have Him. Those who have the Holy Spirit are God’s children through adoption; those who do not have Him are natural, unregenerate, unsaved men, 1st Corinthians 2:12-14.

We must at this point forget the man-made insertions for chapter breaks which can sometimes likewise break our train of thought as one chapter “ends” and another begins. When the epistles were written the inspired writer did not insert chapter breaks; this was an invention of expedience that came hundreds of years later, and while helpful in some regards it can also detract from a clearer understanding of the context of a given verse or passage. John wants us to know that we can be assured that Jesus abides in us through His Spirit, whom He has given us. The very next verse informs us not to believe every spirit, but rather to test them, NKJV.

John is not referring to discarnate spirits but to the spirits of men who claim to come conducting a message on God’s behalf. Israel also received such orders concerning prophets. “But the prophet who presumes to speak a word in My name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or who speaks in the name of other gods, that prophet shall die. And if you say in your heart, ‘How shall we know the word which the Lord has not spoken?’ –when a prophet speaks in the name of the Lord, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing  which the Lord has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him,” Deuteronomy 18:20-22.

Prior to this passage Moses declares the type of conveyance that would immediately disqualify a man or woman from speaking in God’s name. He says witchcraft, soothsaying, interpreters of omens, sorcerers, conjurers of spells, mediums, spiritists or those who conjure up the dead are an abomination before God; it was for these reasons among others that the land of Canaan was dispossessed to begin with, Deuteronomy 18:10-11, 14. Later the prophet Isaiah gave this testimony regarding those who presume to speak in God’s name: “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word (the word of God; the Bible) it is because there is no light in them,” Isaiah 8:20.

Paul’s teaching and preaching about Christ was subjected to the acid test of Scripture when he brought it to the Bereans, Acts 17:10-11. They did not accept his testimony about Jesus out of hand, but searched the Old Testament Scriptures to see if there was congruency between Paul’s teaching and the word of God through Moses and the prophets. They tested the word Paul brought with God’s established testament, and the result was entirely natural: “many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men,” Acts 17:12.

In fact, one of the Spirit-given gifts within the church was discerning the spirits, 1st Corinthians 12:10. We are also told how this gift was to be exercised; it was even to be used within church assemblies. I have no doubt that was where it was primarily meant for, so that false doctrine was not disseminated from the teachers appointed over the flock. We read: “Let two or three prophets speak, and let the others judge,” 1st Corinthians 14:29. The rest of the church, every member, was to practice discernment, carefully weighing the teachings of any doctrine or revelation by the revealed word of God to determine the truth of what was being spoken. If the teaching is not compatible with the word of God and this teacher is bringing something contrary to light, it is self-evident then that this man is a heretic, teaching against God’s word, Acts 20:29-30; 1st Timothy 6:3-5; Titus 3:10-11.


  1. This concept of testing the spirit of the message we hear is so critical today because II Peter 2:1 warns, "...there shall be false teachers among you, who privily shall bring in damnable heresies..." The first thing to test is what they believe about Jesus Christ.

    As you pointed out we are to judge the spiritual nature of those who teach. Jesus himself said we would know them by what the driving spirit produced in them, their fruit. Their teaching and belief is one indicator of who that spirit is.

  2. The lack of discernment in our times is nearly as troubling as the vicious ridicule that accompanies those ministries and teachers who attempt to practice it. They are labeled as divisive and quenching the Spirit. Most people fail to realize that the New Testament is largely written to correct doctrinal issues within the church; it is written for our admonition.


"All scripture is given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness," 2nd Timothy 3:16.

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