(1 John 4:1-4 ESV) (1) Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. (2) By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, (3) and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. (4) Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. [Emphasis added.]
Ida Mae mentioned this passage to me the other day and I have been thinking about it ever since. Right now, at this very moment, many ambassadors of antichrist are here. Here. Among us. Not only the world “out there”, but perhaps even primarily in the church. We have to be on our guard. There are many of them. They are anti Christ. “Anti” can mean “against”, but it can also mean “instead of.” Counterfeit representatives of Christ preaching and teaching the Gospel of the dark kingdom.
So we must not be naive, we cannot be blindly trusting. We are to listen with critical thinking, comparing what we are hearing with the Word of God. That’s the test. Notice that we are to test the spirits. That tells us that behind every teacher and teaching, there is some kind of spirit. Either the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of truth, or the evil one, the spirit of error. “Oh, please! Not in my church!” Yes! Many false prophets have gone out.
John’s test is Christological. What does this person say about Jesus Christ? The particular heresy John was facing, perhaps at Ephesus, was probably some kind of -ism that denied the reality of Christ’s incarnation. That is why John says the truth is that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh. But don’t take this as an absolute and all-inclusive test. The principle here is that whatever someone is teaching must square with the truth that Christ taught Himself and through His Apostles The whole Word of God in other words. Every false teaching that is a false Gospel will inevitably deny Christ in some way.
Laziness and naivete on the part of God’s people will result in disaster in the body of Christ. The false-spirited people are always looking for a new place to land. Oh, how willing they are to serve! Your church is the best church and your pastor’s sermons are the best that they have ever seen or heard. Flattery, unfortunately, will get you a long ways in most churches. False prophets, false teachers are inevitably abusive. That is what they are — abusers. They all want power and control and their message is designed to enslave us, not to set us free as the Gospel of Christ does.
These spirits come in attractive wrappers. “What a guy!” “What a powerful, spirit-filled preacher!” Yes, but John is telling us that we had better good and well determine just what spirit the guy is filled with! Increasingly, the things that we are seeing happening in local churches leave us shaking our heads and asking ourselves….”how is it possible for a Christian to do such a thing?” The answer so often that eludes us is, “it isn’t.”
Going to your church on Sunday morning half asleep, not having read your Bible all week long, lazily soaking in what is being taught like a baby opening its mouth so mommy can spoon feed it, is just plain dangerous. Spiritual sluggards are easily enslaved. If you are a Christian, then the Spirit of Christ is in you and you can, with your Bible, test the spirits. John says so —
(1 John 4:5-6 ESV) (5) They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. (6) We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
The world listens to antichrist. But those people who truly know Christ hear His voice. They hear Christ’s inspired Word. Look around you. What kind of people are listening to and believing a particular message? Christ’s people? Or people whose lives are conformed to the world? You will have your answer as to whether you are hearing a spirit, or the Spirit.
[April 20, 2023: Editors’ notes:
—For some comments made prior to April 20, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to April 20, 2023 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to April 20, 2023 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (April 20, 2023), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]
UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.