Reading the Word
1 John 4:1–6 (ESV)
1 Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
Understanding the Word
John tells his readers that there will be false teachers who will come. Believers need to know how to test the teachings of these teachers so they can avoid them.
How does a person identify a false teacher? Do they affirm or deny the truth regarding Jesus Christ? Specifically, do they hold to the truth that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into the world as a man? If not, they are false teachers and should not be listened to.
Applying the Word
Every generation of Christians faces false teaching that claims to be Christian, but is not. For John, Gnosticism and the belief that matter was by nature evil caused many to deny that the Son of God could become a man. How could sinless perfection take on a physical body if the physical world is evil? Of course, the Bible teaches that the physical world is God’s creation. Evil springs from our sinful hearts, not the world outside of us.
Many false teachings that distort the gospel are present today. Many are willing to admit that Jesus was a man, but they deny he was divine. Others teach that everyone will be saved because a loving God would never send anyone to hell, even though Scripture plainly says otherwise. And still others teach that if you just have enough faith nothing bad will ever happen to you. You will have great wealth, and good health, and God will give you your heart’s desires. Again, contrary to what Scripture says about taking up your cross and following Jesus.
We have God’s word as recorded in Scripture so that we may know the truth. May we test the spirits behind every teaching we hear by that word and may we never be deceived by those who would lead us astray.
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