“Dear 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.” – 1 John 4:1
Many of us have relatives who aren’t saved or who are in cults. For those who are in cults, this and other scriptures are a problem to their belief system. Especially 1 John 4:2 where scripture goes on to explain how to recognize a “false prophet.” In John’s time, there were a group of people who believed that Jesus came down in the spirit to take over the Jesus-man on earth, and when Jesus died, the spirit ascended and the man died in the flesh. God also did not have intimate relations with Mary. Mary was a virgin.
We know that Jesus is God in the flesh. “…Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come In the flesh is from God, but 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… (2b).” In this world, we have many little anti-Christ’s—those that John describes as not believing Christ came—but we know the big anti-Christ is on the horizon. Because the world wants to wrestle more of God’s beloved away from Salvation, we must strengthen our minds with truth.
Things like political correctness, enabling, and relativism are all things that can make us waver in our walk as believers and make non-believers think we’re harsh for holding fast to the truth. The point of this passage is to encourage us to fight gnosticism also known as “false prophets” or belief systems that contradict God. That’s not so easy when even Christian churches are embracing belief systems that are contradictory like the prosperity theology, those who are soft on sinful behavior, those who are soft on theology telling people what they want to hear, and any belief system that dims God’s holiness. We’re all about “understanding” rather than in being obedient to God.
If someone tries to tell you something is the truth or attempts to make a way of living right when it’s wrong, “test the spirits” by going to the Bible. Take the Bible in context. It’s not a book of beautiful quotes for us to pick and choose what to believe—it’s God’s Word unchanged. Let me quote you something from the late Dr. Ron Carlson:
“After I had shared the above facts with this student, I offered him the following challenge: I said to him, “If you do not believe that the Bible is the inspired word of God, if you do not believe that the Bible is of a supernatural origin, than I challenge you to a test.” I said to the student, “I challenge you to go to any library in the world, you can choose any library you like, and find 66 books which match the characteristics of the 66 books in the Bible. You must choose 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, written on 3 different continents. However, they must share a common storyline, a common theme, and a common message, with no historical errors or contradictions.” I went on to say, “If you can produce such a collection of books, I will admit that the Bible is not the inspired word of God.” The student’s reply was almost instantaneous, he emphatically stated, “But that’s impossible!”
“But that’s impossible!” It truly is impossible, for any collection of human writings. However, the Bible passes this test. The Bible contains 66 books, written by 40 different authors, over 1500 years, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents, with no historical errors or contradictions. The entire Bible, from Genesis to Revelation, bears the mark of Divine inspiration.” –
Do you have relatives or friends in cults? Were you tempted to believe doctrine not in the Bible? Why? Do you still?