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Test The Spirits

by David Johnson

IMG_0666(Transcribed from the Words of Life Radio Program)


It is good to be together again as we look into the Word of God. The title for the lesson, “Test the Spirits,” and our text is taken from the New Testament, the first epistle, 1 John chapter four verses one through six. Let’s listen to the Word of God.

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. 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.   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.   They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world and the world listens to them. 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.  This is the Word of God.

Gold prospectors learn that everything that looks like, glitters like gold is not gold.   Rocks full of golden colored specks are often false treasure, so-called fools gold, which is actually iron pyrite, which gold prospectors need to be careful and test to make sure it is the real thing, not false, not counterfeit. Gold seekers learn to test their finds. One test involves biting the rock.  Real gold is softer than the human tooth, whereas fools gold is harder.  A second test involves scraping the rock on white stone.  True gold leaves a yellow streak, but fools gold leaves a greenish black streak. These tests authenticate the prospector’s find as true or false.

Spiritually Christians must also make tests when dealing with teachings, teachers, doctrinal issues.  All religious teachings, teachers, doctrinal issues.  All religious teachings claim to be true, yet often contradict. And, therefore, all cannot be true.  Those that are contrary to Scripture are certainly false, counterfeit. Spiritual teachings may be alluring and glitter, but there is caution needed, because spiritual fools gold abounds. Just because it glitters does not make it true or precious as gold.   Christians need to test it carefully. And our primary test is to compare all spiritual teachings with Scripture to see if it is, in fact, true, even to test he spirits.  Certainly false, counterfeit spiritual teachings are not new.  Christians today must continue to be vigilant, to test the Spirit of truth versus the spirit of error, of falsehood.

The apostle John warned the Church in the first century AD to test the spirits with reasons and guideline which are equally applicable to the Church today in the 21st century AD.
First there is the command to test.  Consider 1 John chapter four verse 1a that says, in part: Do not believe every Spirit, but test the Spirits.  This is a command not to believe everything we hear or read regarding spiritual matters just because someone says or writes that it is from God. False teacher who intentionally teach that which is against Scripture have unholy spirits, are of the evil one. False spirits deal in deceptions, in doubt and distortion and often claim new revelation and teach from books, from sources other than the Bible.

A second principle from the apostle John is the reason to test. Consider 1 John chapter four and verse 1b that says: To see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. False prophets, preachers and priests can bring great disunity, distress and harm to the true Church.  Beware. Be discerning. Be careful as the Bereans found in Acts chapter 17 and verse 11 that says that they examined Scripture daily to see whether these things were and so are true.   Test all teachings by the Word of God and by the Holy Spirit of God who is our ultimate teacher and who guides and leads the indwelt believer in all truth, indwelt of the Holy Spirit.

The original Greek term translated test was originally used of the metallurgist, assaying of metals to test the purity, the value, the quality of the metal. The apostle John’s use of the present tense in the original language, in the original first century koine Greek indicates that Christians are to continually test whether they are from God. There are blatant falsehoods, but there is also truth mixed with error and the latter can be much more destructive and seductive. But both are dangerous, whether complete falsehood or truth mixed with falsehood. Both can be dangerous and devious.


A third guideline is how to test.  And this is found in 1 John chapter four and verse two.  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.   This is a positive test especially needed in the first century AD Church in which many denied Jesus’ full and ongoing humanity.  In the flesh is from God.  Jesus Christ is not a created being, but God who became fully man also God man, divine and human, the Son of God incarnate. A person’s understanding and acknowledgement of Jesus’ true identity and eternal essence is the ultimate litmus test of saving faith.
On the negative side, consider 1 John chapter four and verse three that says, in part: But every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist.  Spirit of antichrist means anti, against Christ, and evidences itself in false teachings and false religion.  Their spirits are against Christ and serve the evil one whether they understand this or not.  Like in Christendom the cults that diminish the humanity or diminish the deity of Jesus Christ. Anything that attacks the true essence of the God man Jesus Christ is certainly to be rejected.

In 1 John chapter four and verse four it describes those from or of God, which says, in part, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.   That is, the born again believer is indwelt, has the Holy Spirit of God living in us.   His Spirit working with our spirits, working in our hearts, the seat of our emotions, working in our minds, the seat of our intellect, working in our wills regarding our motivation, our aspirations. That is, the Holy Spirit working, guiding, directly our spirits always according to the word and will of God for our habitual, obedient pattern of mindset and lifestyle.

By ourselves we cannot defeat the evil one or the spirit of antichrist, but we are not alone.  We have the indwelling Holy Spirit with whom we can be more than conquerors and have discernment concerning truth.

Indwelt believers, indwelt by the Holy Spirit, may have difference of opinions on secondary or tertiary issues, but not regarding the foundational truths of the faith, not concerning the core, the central truths of the gospel, not concerning the godhead: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Negatively, in 1 John chapter four and verse five it says, in part:  They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world.  False teachers, those with the spirit of antichrist, those against Christ can be recognized and be discerned in at least these following ways. A) or number one, they contradict Scripture.  They are to consistent with Scripture. They add or delete from Scripture. They strive to edit Scripture or they claim to have new revelations beyond Scripture or they claim that other sources, other books are equal to Scripture. All of this is contrary to truth.  Number two, they have a defective love for brothers and sisters in Christ. Number three, these false teachers, their lifestyle are indicating that they live primarily for self, for profit, for self promotion and so forth. And then, lastly, they also lack consistent fruit of the Spirit in their character. They are not Christ like in their servant hood, in their humility, in their love, in their kindness and goodness, in their self control and other fruit of the Spirit.

Since they are of the world, 1 John chapter four and verse 5c says: The world listens to them. That is, they are popular people pleasers, not seeking primarily to please God, but to please people. They are as the apostle Paul wrote to the young man Timothy, they are like a great number of teachers who share what itching ears want to hear.

And, finally, how do we know, how do we discern those who have truly received Christ by his Word? Fait comes from hearing and hearing by the Word of Christ and, conversely, those who reject the true gospel. The answer is found in 1 John chapter four and verse six which says, in part: Whoever knows God listens to us. And here, primarily, the us are the writers of Scripture. But whoever is not from God does not listen to us. That is, does not listen to Scripture, does not follow Scripture. Those are not from God and, of course, are false teachers. Yet they are popular with the world, because, as with the Old Testament false prophets, they told people what they wanted to hear, not what they needed to hear, including the unvarnished truth, whatever it may be, even including the judgment and the wrath of God for those who rejected him, for those who refused to repent of their sins.

And this, of course, regarding all spiritual matters, especially the gospel. And the social gospel can never replace the Savior on the cross.  Knowing the truth is not only vital for ourselves, but also vital for the next generation as we teach truth.
George Whitefield, the great British evangelist of old asked a man: What do you believe regarding your soul? And the man answered: I believe what my church believes. Whitefield persisted and responded: Well, what does your church believe? And the man responded:  The same thing I believe. The evangelist then asked: So what, then, do both of you believe? And the man answered: We both believe the same thing. Probably this man could not explain in his own words what he believed. Moreover, does a church save us?  Can a denomination or a church creed save us? No, none of these. Only Jesus Christ on the cross and through our faith in him and his work on the cross and God raising him from the dead on our behalf by the grace of God can save us, can save anybody.

So do you know your Savior? Do you know the truth? Are you sharing only the truth as it is written in the Scriptures?  May that be our goal.



David Johnson is minister of the Sellersburg Church of Christ, Sellersburg, IN.

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