Today’s passage: 1 John 4:1–3
Focus verse: This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God. (1 John 4:2)
The third chapter of 1 John wraps up with a reference to the Holy Spirit, whom God sent to us. John now contrasts the Holy Spirit to other spirits.
These manifest in the form of false prophets—that is, purveyors of wayward doctrine. These false messages come from demons in the spiritual realm.
The Holy Spirit speaks truth to us. These contrary spirits fill us with lies. They distort who God is and what the Bible says. Many unsuspecting believers fall victim to their twisting of the truth.
This first happened back in Genesis when the serpent (the devil) lies to Eve and misrepresents what God said to her. She foolishly believes him, and Adam passively follows her (Genesis 3:1–7).
Because of Adam and Eve’s failings, resulting from the serpent’s mischaracterization of God’s truth, sin enters our world and God expels Adam and Eve from their idyllic paradise.
John recommends that we test every spirit, that is, to test every prophet and their message. This is because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This implies that they started as part of Jesus’s church.
John gives us a simple test. He says that every spirit—that is, every teacher—who acknowledges Jesus as the Messiah who physically came to earth in human form is from God.
If someone does not recognize this truth, they are not from God. In fact, they are the antichrist—that is, anti-Christ, which is to say they are against Jesus the Messiah.
These false prophets were in the world two thousand years ago, and they’re still with us today. We must be equally discerning of their error.
In addition to John’s basic test to identify these false prophets, we can also consult the Bible. In the book of Acts, Luke applauds the cautious approach of the believers in Berea in discerning between truth and error.
They eagerly received Paul’s message about the good news of Jesus. But because of their noble character, they examined the Scriptures (the Old Testament) to verify that what Paul claimed was correct (Acts 17:10–15).
We should follow their example to avoid the teachings of any false prophets who threaten to lead us astray.
- How does The Holy Spirit speak truth to us?
- In what ways must we be more discerning about who we listen to?
- What doctrines have we accepted that we might want to test against what the Bible says?
- What are some practical ways to test them?
- How can we discern between truth and error?
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Discover practical, insightful, and encouraging truths in Love One Another, a devotional Bible study to foster a deeper appreciation for the two greatest commandments: To love God and to love others.
Peter DeHaan writes about biblical Christianity to confront status quo religion and live a life that matters. He seeks a fresh approach to following Jesus through the lens of Scripture, without the baggage of made-up traditions and meaningless practices.