As we begin the fourth chapter in John’s first letter to believers, we continue to see the tension between living in obedience to Christ and remaining in the world. Just like life in an academic setting, exams are to be a part of our life on this earth. Listen to what John says:
Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming; even now it is already in the world.1 John 4:1-3 CSB
He’s been telling us that the Spirit of Christ in us gives us the assurance that he’s with us. When we love each other and do what pleases God, we have rest. The problem is, it’s not only God’s Spirit that is speaking to us—there are other spirits that work through people, even within the church, to bring confusion and division. How do we discern the difference? There are two steps to the process:
- Do not believe every spirit. Just because you hear something that sounds good, it doesn’t mean it’s from God. As Christ-followers, we should not be naïve and instantly believe what’s being taught or preached or written in a book. This means I ponder first.
- Test the spirits. John has already been warning us about antichrists, and he continues in this passage to say there are a lot of false prophets out there. As long as we’re on this side of eternity, we’re still working in enemy territory and must test what we hear to see if it’s really from God.
What’s the bottom line for any spirit being from God?
It’s a clear confession that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh—a recognition of the incarnated Christ. Why does that matter? Because without the acknowledgement that Jesus is more than just a man, a moral figure, a prophet, then there is no acknowledgement that he has the power to save and rule. Only God in the flesh, perfect and without defect, could serve as ransom for the sins of the world.
When the work of Christ on the cross, in the resurrection, and in the ascension is ignored, then the work of man is elevated, which is antithetical to grace.
The spirit of the antichrist knows no grace.
If you don’t see him at work in our world today, then you need to wake up! Only in Christ Jesus do we have the perfect reality of God’s grace poured out on mankind because of his love for us. Anything else is every man for himself, create your own reality, you can earn your way to heaven, you are your own god.
John tells us nothing new. You’ve heard, he says, that the antichrist is coming and is even now already in the world, working from inside and outside the church to confuse, divide, and destroy.
Test, test, test—everything you hear, see, read. Don’t blindly believe at first glance. Pick up God’s Word and see if what you’re hearing matches with what he’s already given us. And, above all, confirm that there is a clear acknowledgement of the Incarnated Christ as the only source of salvation.
May we all be strict in our examinations and stand firm.
Grace and Peace