“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” (I John 4:1)
Identifying false teachings and teachers is neither fun nor popular. However, identifying false teachings and teachers is biblical and necessary. It is also important for every generation within the church to undertake.
In I John 4:1, the Apostle John begins with his familiar address to his readers: “Beloved.” It is a term of deep affection and endearment by a pastor for his parishioners. John is reminding his readers that he has their best interests in mind.
The apostle balances this term of endearment with a command for obedience: “Do not believe every spirit.” True love is not shy from warning the beloved of the dangers in life and the responsibilities in living for Christ. John warns his readers to not trust in, commit to, depend upon and honor and worship any and every spirit they encounter. In other words, believers are to be discerning when they encounter teachers and philosophies which are clearly unbiblical.
Not only are believers in Christ to stop believing every spirit but also we are to “test the spirits.” This too is a present active command. To test means to thoroughly examine and to evaluate the genuineness of something.
Why does John issue these two commands? The purpose of not believing every spirit but rather to test the spirits is “to see if they are from God.” One of the tasks of the church, and individual believers, is to evaluate whether teachings are from God and are biblical or are they from another source, spirit or worldview.
Remember the basic two worldviews? First, there is Biblical Theism which teaches that God Exists, that He has determined what is right or wrong, and has also indicated what man’s purpose is which is to honor and glorify the One, True God. The alternative worldview is Atheistic Humanism which teaches the exact opposite of Biblical Theism.
Therefore, the child of God is to be constantly examining what people are communicating to them and to the church in order to evaluate whether they, and what they teach, is truly biblical and from the Lord.
John then gives a decisive reasoning for these two commands: “For many false prophets have gone out into the world.” Jesus had warned people against false prophets (Matt. 7:15; 24:11, 24; Mark 13:22; Luke 6:26). The
Apostle Paul warned us (Acts 20:28-30; I Thessalonians 5:20-21). The Apostle Peter warned us 2 Peter 2:1-22). Jude warned us (Jude 4-19).
In the current culture in which tolerance for everything is applauded, the one thing false teachers cannot tolerate is truth and the one thing the church must not tolerate is false teaching and false teachers.
We are commanded to evaluate the message and the messenger by the Word of God.
May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.
Soli deo Gloria!