1John 4:1 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.
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
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
John commands here Christians to get into the habit of examining
teachings to determine their validity. Consequently one should
beware of those who discourage scrutinizing such things. Yet it's
a very common phenomenon in the Christian community for teachers
and preachers to not allow their messages to be subject to
scrutiny, and frequently such people reject any criticism out of
hand. Similarly many Christians have simply a blind allegiance to
their denominational beliefs, not scrutinizing them, nor allowing
others to scrutinize them. And thus much of the Christian
community is easily lead astray.
So if other Christians discourage you from scrutinize ideas,
they may be sinning against you in doing so.
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.
"Know" here is ambiguous as to its grammatical form. It can be
translated either present or imperative. Here I chose to translate
it as imperative.
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".
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.
A couple of times he previously mentioned this fact in chapter 2. "And you have overcome the wicked one" 1John 2:14 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." Jesus said, "In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world." John 16:33b As He who is in us is greater than he who is in the world, it is not appropriate to fear Satan or his prophets and teachers. In fact they should fear us.
Chapter 5 speaks more on "overcoming". But common among all
these is the fact that he is not alluding to a possibility of
overcoming, but to the reality of it as a measurable indicator of one's salvation status.
vs 5 They are of the world. Therefore they characteristically speak as of the world, and the world characteristically hears 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
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.
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.
"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 infallible; Jesus as material manhood, was not Christ" (Miscellaneous Writings, p.184)
"Jesus, the Galilean 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 concocted 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 monstrous blasphemy is that which they utter. They preach nothing but falsehoods." The Koran
The Berean Christian Bible Study Resources