Test The Spirits, To See Whether They Are From God
(Source: Mission Venture Ministries)
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. 2 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, 3 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. 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. 5 They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 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.
John is telling us that there are two spirits:
- God’s Spirit, which is called the Spirit of truth because it inspires truth (vv. 4:2, 6); and
- The spirit of antichrist, which promulgates falsehood, and does not acknowledge the Lordship of Jesus Christ (vv. 3, 6).
And he warns us how important it is to understand that we cannot believe everyone we hear and that we cannot believe everything that is alleged to come from God, but like the Bereans we need to check the Scriptures. We are to test the spirits, to discern whether a message is the truth that comes from God. So we are not to just accept what some teacher or preacher is saying; we are to examine what is being taught.
We know that God speaks and reveals truth, and the enemy speaks lies and is a deceiver, therefore it is very critical that we be able to discern the difference. If information comes from the Holy Spirit it is life-giving, life-sustaining, life-producing and God-glorifying. If it is not sent and energized by the Holy Spirit, it comes from seducing spirits or false prophets, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This was and continues being a huge problem and those without discernment are being victimized.
It is very sad to realize that many so-called “religious leaders” are false teachers and people are having a hard time finding a church where the Word of God is being taught faithfully. What appear to be “Christian churches” are teaching things that are not in line with the Bible. They are downplaying or removing altogether the doctrines of sin, repentance, the Trinity, Salvation by grace alone, through faith in the finished work of Jesus Christ, and the deity of Jesus Christ, and replacing them by more “seeker sensitive ideas.” For 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 – (2 Timothy 4:3). These false teachers are teaching their followers doctrines and practices that are not in harmony with God’s word, like “contemplative prayer” and “prayer labyrinths” which are actually taken from new age and Hindu practices are being introduced and accepted by many churches that are moving towards the Emergent Church movement today.
These teachers are hypocritical liars and are teaching doctrines of demons motivated by seducing spirits. This is an enormous problem and the world is literally drowning in a sea of demonic lies. We live in a time when we must be so close to the Father and ask Him to fill us daily with His Spirit of discernment.
John continues giving instructions on how to know the Spirit of God: “By this you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.” When someone comes and affirms that Jesus Christ is God in flesh that is the divine truth taught by the Holy Spirit. “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.” False teachers and demons deny the deity of Jesus Christ and therefore as believers and students of the Bible we recognize them as being controlled by the devil and his lies. So: “Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son.” (1 John 2:22)
The false teacher does not believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world. He may accept Jesus Christ as a great teacher and a great religious leader, perhaps the greatest, but he does not believe that Jesus Christ is the Savior and the only way to God. “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6). He believes there are other ways to God. Beware!
The spirit of the antichrist was very much alive in John’s days and today our enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour (1 Peter 5:8). When we think of antichrist, we think of some future person, the beast of Revelation. However, all teaching that presents untruth about Christ is the spirit of antichrist which has been in the world for nearly 2000 years and is yet to come in its final form.
Before we accept any teaching, we need to be sure of the person’s view of Christ, their view of salvation, and their view of Scripture. Do they acknowledge that: “All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness”? (2 Timothy 3:16). Do they manifest a regenerate life? And lastly, do they submit to the Word of God? “By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.” (1 John 4:6)
Wrongly Handling The Word of Truth
(Source: John Henderson)
KJV: 2 Timothy 2:14-17b – “Of these things put them in remembrance, charging them before the Lord that they strive not about words to no profit, but to the subverting of the hearers. Study to shew thyself approved unto God, a workman that needeth not to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth [see footnote “1”]. But shun profane and vain babblings: for they will increase unto more ungodliness. And their word will eat as doth a canker….”
NET: “Remind people of these things and solemnly charge them before the Lord not to wrangle over words. This is of no benefit; it just brings ruin on those who listen. Make every effort to present yourself before God as a proven worker who does not need to be ashamed, teaching the message of truth accurately. But avoid profane chatter, because those occupied with it will stray further and further into ungodliness, and their message will spread its infection like gangrene.”
There are two groups of people who mishandle God’s Word and its message: heretics and misinformed Christians. Both are equally detrimental to the truth. Any straying in that direction will have the same bad effect.
I may lose some friends and admirers here, but that is nothing new. Knowing Christ in His truth means more than any of that. Being able to go into eternity and of standing before His judgment seat without fear of being indicted for carelessness is very important. Therefore, I say:
I can see no difference, for instance, between someone’s saying that the Bible is partially inerrant and contains the inspired Word of God and someone else saying that we must unequivocally accept the notion that only one English translation is valid, and even inspired as a translation. Both notions are grossly erroneous and are bold denials of the true nature and authority of the Scriptures. Both construe words and miss the revelational significance of The Word. Both wrong ideas come from the same source—human reasoning based on false presumptuous suppositions. Something like that never comes from the Holy Spirit who is here to guide us into all truth.
Whatever happened to “test the spirits”? A fine article on that very question has been published by folks I consider as friends. Their opening paragraphs say:
“And he [John the Apostle] warns us how important it is to understand that we cannot believe everyone we hear and that we cannot believe everything that is alleged to come from God, but like the Bereans we need to check the Scriptures. We are to test the spirits, to discern whether a message is the truth that comes from God. So we are not to just accept what some teacher or preacher is saying; we are to examine what is being taught. [Comment: We do that much when we visit a doctor!]
“We know that God speaks and reveals truth, and the enemy speaks lies and is a deceiver, therefore it is very critical that we be able to discern the difference. If information comes from the Holy Spirit it is life-giving, life-sustaining, life-producing and God-glorifying. If it is not sent and energized by the Holy Spirit, it comes from seducing spirits or false prophets, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This was and continues being a huge problem and those without discernment are being victimized.”
They also say a little later: “These false teachers are teaching their followers doctrines and practices that are not in harmony with God’s word….These teachers are hypocritical liars and are teaching doctrines of demons motivated by seducing spirits.”
If it was possible to hang signs on false teachers, that would make it easier to tell the difference. The worst possible kind of false teacher, however, is the one who agrees with God’s revealed Word in ALMOST every detail or who adds to the Scriptures false notions those Scriptures do not state or support. It is just fine to quote good stuff, but even the best must align with the truth of the Bible. Earlier teachers may have said some great things but unless they got their ideas from the Scriptures, they are automatically questionable.
I have little problem with differences in understanding as long as the issues are couched in the authority of the Scriptures by all concerned. I will never agree, for instance, with the Five-Points of Calvinism but will always view those who do as coming from an understanding, not a manipulation, of the Scriptures. That is much different than superimposing human notions onto the Scriptures. Besides, when we all get to Heaven, the Calvinists will finally realize how right I had been all along.
Returning to a more serious tone [sorry about the bad humor, but not enough to remove it], it is of vital importance that we carefully and prayerfully handle the Word of God as we should. We are flawed and will make mistakes, but miscalculations and deceptive inaccuracies are not the same. We must have a reverence for the Word of God that complements our reverence for the God of the Word. God did not speak in English, Japanese, or German. Unless speaking audibly, as He did a few times in ancient history, He never spoke in any human language. He spoke to hearts and spiritual understanding, just as he does today.
His Word comes to us through the leadership of the Holy Spirit, not in languages per se. Languages are only vehicles and nothing more. Languages are limited and imperfect. His Word is neither. His Word IS the accurate message if truth in every detail and in every matter whereof it speaks. It needs no modification and it is not limited to the English language or any other language. God’s Word soars beyond translations and commentaries. God’s Word transcends human comprehension but fits human knowing when the human heart is right with God.
 NET Footnote: “cutting a straight road.” In regard to the message of truth, it means “correctly handling” or “imparting it without deviation.”