1 John 4: 1 – 6 (NLT)
“Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world. 2 This is how we know if they have the Spirit of God: If a person claiming to be a prophet acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in a real body, that person has the Spirit of God. 3 But if someone claims to be a prophet and does not acknowledge the truth about Jesus, that person is not from God. Such a person has the spirit of the Antichrist, which you heard is coming into the world and indeed is already here.
4 But you belong to God, my dear children. You have already won a victory over those people, because the Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world. 5 Those people belong to this world, so they speak from the world’s viewpoint, and the world listens to them. 6 But we belong to God, and those who know God listen to us. If they do not belong to God, they do not listen to us. That is how we know if someone has the Spirit of truth or the spirit of deception.”
Once again, John talks about the false prophets, or in some translations they are called antichrists. The Bible is consistent in saying that there will be many people who claim they know about all things spiritual and have some special tie to God, but who not acknowledge Jesus is God in human form. Just before Christ’s second coming, there will be someone called the Antichrist, a specific one person who will have world-wide influence and be against the Christian faith.
John is writing these letters (epistles) to small churches that meet in homes all around the mid-east. It is very early in church history, and although those early believers agreed that Jesus was God’s son, there were teachers who were travelling around to the various churches with incorrect teaching. They didn’t have the Bible as we know it today, so it was likely more possible for them to be influenced by false teaching. This is why John continues to stress that they must be able to figure out what is true and what is not.
The key basic truth that they must look for when listening to these various teachers is what is said about Jesus. Charles Swindoll gives a good statement of what we must believe about Jesus in his commentary, Living Insights: 1 John: “Genuine teachers must hold to the right Jesus, not a different Jesus. They must accept Him as the incarnate God-man, sent by God the Father in the power of God the Holy Spirit. They must believe in His virgin birth, His sinless life, His atoning death, and His glorious resurrection from the dead. This means accepting Him as the only Savior and Lord, and it means hoping for His future coming as King.” (page 103)
There are religions today that agree the Bible is good, but see Jesus as an important prophet or moral person, not as God in human form. New Age thinking agrees there is a spirit world, but doesn’t acknowledge God as supreme or Jesus as God in the flesh. We also need to be careful about groups that operate under the Christian banner, but actually stress the spirit world. They have combined New Age with Christianity. John also stresses that behaviour is linked to belief. If a “church leader” claims to be a Christian but their lifestyle isn’t following Jesus’ example, then we should be careful. We’ve seen church leaders who have lived very lavish lifestyles and promoted a prosperity gospel. As we see popular church movements rise, we need to check to see if Jesus’ death for our sin and his resurrection are pivotal to their message. Is accepting Jesus, God incarnate, as my personal Saviour the most important part of their teaching?
John goes on to say that we have an amazing support as we check out these attractive movements in our world. “The Spirit who lives in you is greater than the spirit who lives in the world.” (v. 4) We have the Holy Spirit to guide us in our thoughts. Jesus, himself, told us this as well:
“And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. 17 He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth. The world cannot receive him, because it isn’t looking for him and doesn’t recognize him. But you know him, because he lives with you now and later will be in you. 18 No, I will not abandon you as orphans—I will come to you. …
26 But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.
27 “I am leaving you with a gift—peace of mind and heart.” (John 14: 16 – 18; 26 – 27)
When you see a new popular movement begin that claims to be Christian, check it out before you get involved. Know what the Bible says about following Jesus, and listen to the Holy Spirit’s promptings. “And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another Advocate, who will never leave you. He is the Holy Spirit, who leads into all truth.” (v. 16 – 17) “But when the Father sends the Advocate as my representative—that is, the Holy Spirit—he will teach you everything and will remind you of everything I have told you.” (v. 26)
Our song for today is In Christ Alone from #strongtower27