1 John 4:1-6 | Test the Spirits
1Dear 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.
- False prophets are driven by false spirits, just as the true prophets of God were filled with the true Spirit of God. We are all influenced by a spirit of a kind, whether good or bad.
- In the Old Testament we see different individuals being driven and influenced by other spirits working in the background (e.g. Ezekiel 28 with the King of Tyre and Satan)
- The way to test the spirit then is to test to prophet, for the ‘prophet/teacher’ reveals the kind of spirit influencing them
- We are not to simply accept and embrace all that is taught, but to examine and test all because we know that many false prophets/teachers have gone out into the world.
2This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3but 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.
- Why the emphasis on a spirit acknowledging Christ?
- The test of whether a spirit acknowledges Jesus as coming in the flesh further shows that the spirits are at work and are known through prophets/teachers. The demons in Jesus’ day fully knew who Jesus was, to the point that Jesus would silence them to not fully reveal himself, but these demon spirits could not be said to be from God.
- But evil spirits, even though knowing who Jesus is would not influence their subjects (people) to reveal and believe this, for that would lead to their salvation. The word ‘acknowledge’ could also mean confess, or to publicly declare. Evil spirits will not confess or publicly declare through their subjects who Jesus is.
- Therefore, whether a spirit reveals that Christ came in the flesh, through the person they influence, shows whether it is the Spirit of God or not, and whether the person is born again, or not.
- Why the emphasis on Jesus Christ coming in the flesh?
- I think this is whether you connect two truths together or not. Firstly, that there is a Messiah (Christ) who is our saviour, and secondly, he came in the flesh through Jesus of Nazareth who died on a cross. Jews believe in the ‘Christ’ (and he could even be called Jesus for many others are called by that name), but that he has not come in the flesh yet.
- John now refers to the antichrist as the ‘spirit of the antichrist’, in that it is not a singular person to come in the future but a spirit which influences many.
- heard is coming – this is the second time that John has used this phrase regarding the antichrist. It could be that John’s recipients had just ‘heard’ that the antichrist was coming, but the reality was that the spirit of the antichrist was already present through many false prophets.
- This spirit was already in the world, as seen through the work of the devil and his demons, who continually seek to work against and anti to the person and people of Jesus Christ.
4You, 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.
- We have overcome the spirit and message of the antichrist through our faith in Christ, yet it is not of our own doing or ability to believe but because ‘the one in us is greater than the one in the world’.
- The only reason why we have overcome is because a greater spirit, Christ himself, is at work within us.
5They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. 6We 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.
- The spirits (whether good or bad) are like a language to us and enable us to listen to who they come from.
- The Holy Spirit comes from God and speaks/reveals the message of God, and upon receiving the Spirit we are able to hear God and listen to him.
- Evil spirits come from the world and speak of the world, and the world listens to them.
- So we discern and recognise the spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood by determining whether the message of Christ is transferable. Can you speak with another in an agreeable manner about the nature and person of Christ and his gospel? Does it arouse joy and affirmation in the other person or do they seem hard hearted or dis-interested towards this message?