IDENTIFYING THE SPIRIT OF TRUTH AND THE SPIRIT OF ERROR
1 John 4:1-6
The identification God requires is amazingly simple. “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God.”
People enjoy taking about spirituality. True believers must stop talking about spiritual things and starting identifying biblical and Christian things. There are spiritual things that are not Christian. God says that we must put everything to the test. 1 John 4:2 says, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” Just how many false prophets there are we do not know; but we know that we seem to be overrun with them. Many of them have been trained in what would be identified as legitimate schools and seminaries, but have gone out false prophets, teaching something other than God’s Word.
1 John 4:2 says, “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” The writer declares that if they confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh, then they are of God. This is referring to the incarnation of Christ, His virgin birth.
Notice the word “come” in this verse. The Lord Jesus Christ did not begin in Bethlehem. He had no beginning, and He has no ending. He came to this earth and became a man without ceasing to be God. He was robed in flesh; He had a real body in which to go to the cross to bleed and die for our sins.
John was dealing the the Gnostics in his day, those who believed in a philosophy that Christ only seemed to be a man. The Lord Jesus was just as much man as if He had never been God and just as much God as if He had never been man. He was the God-man who became a man without ceasing to be God.
As we try the spirits, we must listen for an open confession of Jesus Christ. There were many named “Jesus” in the day in which our Lord lived, but He is the only Jesus Christ. “Every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God.” If there is unwillingness to make an open confession of Jesus Christ come in the flesh, then that proves that one is antichrist.
Remember, the most dangerous error to deal with is error that is nearest the truth. It looks and sounds like truth, but it is not. This is why mixing truth with error becomes so dangerous.
If you try to bring a Muslim to Christ, he may tell you, “Oh, I believe in Jesus! Jesus is a prophet!” He will continue to tell you some miraculous things about Jesus, but he does not believe the Jesus Christ came in the flesh and is God. When you deal with the cults, every attack is on the deity of Christ. May God help us to be discerning people.
Take this caution: when you take the stand you ought to take, you need to do so with love and compassion. The true follower of Jesus Christ will judge himself first and foremost. We are given specific principles in God’s Word by which to discern whether a person is truly a believer and a follower of the Lord Jesus.
2 Corinthians 11:1-4 says, “Would to God ye could bear with me a little in my folly: and indeed bear with me... For I am jealous over you with godly jealousy: for I have espoused you to one husband, that I may present you as a chaste virgin to Christ...But I fear, lest by any means, as the serpent beguiled Eve through his subtilty, so your minds should be corrupted from the simplicity that is in Christ...For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.”
Paul said, “I have a fear that someone is going to speak to you about another Jesus. Because they talk about this ‘Jesus,’ you are going to bear with them. They are going to speak of another spirit; they are going to teach another gospel. I fear that you are going to be patient with those people, and you are going to bear with them.”
The test is whether we are going to be true followers of the Lord Jesus and love the Lord Jesus more than the approval of this world. We must with holy boldness declare the true message of Jesus Christ, God’s Son. John has made very clear to us that the important thing is that Jesus Christ is who He claimed to be, and that is the thing that we need to be very clear on in order to determine whether a particular teaching is true or not.
A navigator depends on a compass to help him determine his course. But why a compass? Because it shows him his directions. And why does the compass point north? Because it is so constituted that it responds to the magnetic field that is part of the earth’s makeup. The compass is responsive to the nature of the earth. And a person who knows God and has been born of God will respond to God’s Word and God’s Spirit.
As we declare this message, we must be aware that we live in a world that is absolutely saturated with the “spirit of error.” So much of what we hear sounds spiritual and good, but we must stay with the truth of God’s Word, be guided by the “Spirit of truth,” and put everything to the test. Jesus Christ is the test! If what one says does not line up with the Scripture concerning the Saviour, the Christ of the Bible, then we must stand strong and firm on what God says concerning His only begotten Son.
“Even the Spirit of truth; whom the world cannot receive, because it seeth him not, neither knoweth him: but ye know him; for he dwelleth with you, and shall be in you.”