Translations: Chinese GB Big5

1John 4:1-6 (LIT)

The Evidence from Accepting 
the Apostle's Teachings

vs 1  Beloved, do not be believing every spirit, but be in the habit of testing the spirits,
whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

vs 2  By this, know the Spirit of God:
Every spirit that characteristically confesses
that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God,
vs 3  and every spirit that does not characteristically confess
that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.
Indeed this is the spirit of the Antichrist,
which you have heard was coming for its own sake,
and is now already in the world.

vs 4  You are of God, little children, and have overcome them,
because He who exists in you is greater than he who exists in the world.
vs 5  They are of the world.
Therefore they characteristically speak as of the world,
and the world characteristically hears them.

vs 6  We are of God. He who knows God characteristically hears us;
he who is not of God does not characteristically hear us.
By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

Discussion Questions

vs 1 Why does he say "spirit"?
For example, what's the difference between the spirit of the law and the letter of the law?
Should we simply test what people literally say, or infer and judge their deeper meaning?
How would you go about "testing the spirits"? What questions would you ask?
What are some common characteristics of cults?
vs 2 There are many people in cults today who acknowledge that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh.
So, what is John talking about?
What are the essential things we must believe about the person of Christ to be saved?
vs 4 How have you overcome "them"?
vs 5 Is the popularity of a given philosophy indicative of its truth?
vs 6 "Listens to us". Who is "us" that John is referring to?
From this passage, how would you characterize the difference between Christians and non-Christians,
particularly with regards to truth?


Commentary

Test the Spirits

1John 4:1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.

That is, don't gullibly accept whatever you hear. All teachings are to be examined in the light of scripture. Paul even commended the Bereans for scrutinizing his teachings. He said, "Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true." Acts 17:11 And Jesus  commended the church at Ephesus saying, "I know that you cannot tolerate wicked men, that you have tested those who claim to be apostles but are not, and have found them false." Rev 2:2

Mt 7: 15,16a Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them.

2Peter 2:1-3a But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them— bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute.  In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up.



Acknowledging Jesus

1John 4:2,3  This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.

At the time a predominant cult was that of the docetists which I commented upon in chapter 1. As I said, they denied the incarnation of Christ into human flesh. But they would argue that they do acknowledge and honor Christ. Afterall much of the New Testament associates the word "flesh" ("sarx") with the sinful nature. In fact the NIV commonly translates the Greek word for "flesh" as "sinful nature". To them it was objectionable to consider Christ being born into that which was considered inherently evil. So they would hold that Christ had a spiritual rather than physical body.

But this conflicts with both the historic facts and fundamental doctrines of the Christian faith. What was considered most essential? Paul writes, "What I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures,  that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures." 1Cor 15:3,4 But if Christ did not have a physical body he could not have died. And so he could not have atoned for sin.

Heb 2:14,15 "Since the children have flesh and blood, he too shared in their humanity so that by his death he might destroy him who holds the power of death— that is, the devil— and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death."
The spirit of antichrist is to put a different "Jesus" in the place of the Biblical Jesus. So when people say they believe in or preach "Jesus", make sure they're referring to the Biblical Jesus and not some alternate "Jesus".



The Greater One

1John 4:4 You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.

Christ dwelling in his people is greater than the devil dwelling in the world. While through the fear of death the devil manipulates others (Heb 2:14,15), those born of God are free from the devil's control. The overcoming spirit of the saints is spoken of in  Rev 12:11 saying, "They overcame him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; they did not love their lives so much as to shrink from death."



Does the World Listen?

1John 4:5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them.

The Bible says, "the time will come when men will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." 2Tim 4:3 There's a danger in preachers making numbers and popularity the measure of successful ministry. If you seek popularity, if you seek to be well-spoken of by the world, then just tell them exactly what they want to hear.

But Jesus said, "Woe to you when all men speak well of you" You can bet that there is something wrong with you if you are well spoken of by the world. Consider Jesus - yes he was well-known, but world crucified him. That's what can be expected of the Christian life.

Rom 12:2a Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is



Do you listen?

1John 4:6  We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.

Another evidence that one is born of God is whether they obediently listen to the apostles teachings. Jesus said, "He who listens to you listens to me; he who rejects you rejects me; but he who rejects me rejects him who sent me." Luke 10:16  There are those who claim to believe Jesus, but reject the apostles, or they reject particular teachings of the apostles. Like some feminists among the Christian community today reject Paul's teachings concerning women. Or some will simply misread what the apostles say so as to suit their own ideas or chosen lifestyle.

How we distinguish between the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood is by comparing what is said with the Bible. Do not make your pastor or denominational leader that standard of truth. The Bible should be the standard of truth - everything else is subject to scrutiny.


SOME POPULAR CULTS AND 
THEIR ATTITUDE TOWARDS CHRIST

Jehovah's Witnesses "...the true Scriptures speak of God's Son, the Word, as 'a god.' He is a 'mighty god' but not the Almighty God, who is Jehovah" (The Truth Shall Make You Free, Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1943, p.47)

"In other words, he was the first and direct creation of Jehovah God" (The Kingdom Is a Hand, Brooklyn: Watchtower Bible and Tract Society, 1944, pp46-49)

Christian Science "The Spiritual Christ was infallibe; Jesus as material manhood, was not Christ" (Miscellaneous Writings, p.184)

"Jesus, the Galilan Prophet, was born of the Virgin Mary's spiritual thoughts of Life and its manifestations" (The First Church of Christ Scientist and Miscellany, 1913, 1941, p.261)

"Jesus' students, not sufficiently advanced to understand fully their Master's triumph, did not perform many wonderful works until they saw him after his crucifixion and learned that he had not died" (Science and Health, pp. 45,46)

Mormonism (polytheists) "Each of these gods, including Jesus Christ and his Father, being in possession of not merely an organized spirit, but a glorious body of flesh and bones... (Key to the Science of Theology, p.44, Parley Pratt [1973 ed.])

Mormons hold that Lucifer (the devil) is the spirit brother of Jesus.

"In the beginning, the head of the gods called a council of the gods; and they came together and concorted a plan to create the world and people it" (Teachings of the Prophet Joseph Smith, p.345)

Islam "Admonish those who say that Allah has begotten a son. Surely of this they could have no knowledge, neither they nor their fathers: a montrous blasphemy is that which they utter. They preach nothing but falsehoods." The Koran


Literalized Translation

1John 4:

vs 1  Beloved, do not be believing every spirit, but be in the habit of testing the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
vs 2  By this, know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that characteristically confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God,
vs 3  and every spirit that does not characteristically confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. Indeed this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming for its own sake, and is now already in the world.
vs 4  You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.
vs 5  They are of the world. Therefore they characteristically speak as of the world, and the world characteristically hears them.
vs 6  We are of God. He who knows God characteristically hears us; he who is not of God does not characteristically hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.


Rap

4:1 Do not believe everyone that you hear, but test the spirits to see
If they're from God, or not in which case, feel free to disagree.
For many false prophets have gone through the world, of this you can be sure
Compare what you hear with the Bible, to discern the corrupt and pure.
2 Some teach Christ came in spirit, but not in physical flesh.
3 Such teachers are not from God, and don't with the truth mesh.
AntiChrist is this kind of spirit, which you heard is coming in the end
But even now already, it's in the world ready to contend.
4 You dear children are from God, and have overcome such a spirit.
Because the one in you is greater, than the one in the world (I swear it!)
5 They are from the world, and speak from its perspective.
The world listens to them, so no surprise, that their speech is rather effective.
6 But we are from God so remember, whoever listens to us knows God.
But those who don't listen, to what we say, knows not him nor should you regard.


The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources


Nov 03,2011