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Testing, Testing

By David Sheldon

Everyone has something to say. Whether it is about something they adore, something they believe, or something they have great knowledge of, everyone has something they like to express and share with others. Often, we read something or listen to someone and do not think twice about what they are saying. But, should we?

As Christians, we are to think twice about everything we hear. In fact, we are to be test givers. Why? Because the Apostle John commands us to:

"Beloved, 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. By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God; and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world. You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world. They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error." 1 John 4:1-6 NASB

We are to test spirits. Not intent or character, but spirits. Indeed, there are spirits which are not from God, and so we must discern which those are, and then not believe them. Of course we are not to rely on our own internal mechanism of judgment. Left to our own doings we come up with all kinds of fallen and fleshly and inaccurate thoughts about how we are to look at anything and sometimes anyone. But we are to judge according to the Word of God. At the same time John says we are to do something, he also says we are not to do something. We are not to automatically believe. Simply put, we should not be gullible. We are to filter everything we hear.

By "spirit" the Apostle John is referring to the person that is bringing the teaching. It is the idea of their personhood, their character and actions. Ultimately, John will tell us that their actual teaching is what will confirm them to us or expose them for what they really are. We know from 1 Timothy 4:1 there are seducing spirits: "But the Spirit explicitly says that in later times some will fall away from the faith, paying attention to deceitful spirits and doctrines of demons." In this context the seducing spirit is not that of a person but that of demons. Seducing spirits can be behind false teachers or false teachings. The false prophets of 1 John 4 may very well be under the direct influence of these demons. In the very next chapter, 1 John 5:19 states: "We know that we are of God, and that the whole world lies in the power of the evil one" 1 John 5:19. Even Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and so we should not be surprised that false prophets would do the same (2 Corinthians 11:13-15). This is why they are to be tested.

It would seem the Apostle John is quite concerned about two things in giving this command: the scheming nature of false prophets and the potential gullibility of true saints of Jesus Christ. False prophets may say that they are prophets of God, but they can be proven false when the conditions of truth are not met and the conditions of error are met. There are true indications that a person is from God based upon a true confession of Jesus Christ. Again, we are not to judge intent or character. But he is clearly stating that we need to be aware, to be careful, so that we are not gullible. There are those out there, their teachings, that we should test. John bases his commands in this text clearly upon the authoritative nature of the teachings of God's apostles. John is "from God" as one of Jesus chosen apostles. Jesus made it very clear that He was referring to those who actually loved him.

Jesus answered and said to him, "If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.  He who does not love Me does not keep My words; and the word which you hear is not Mine, but the Father's who sent Me. John 14:23-24 NASB

Jesus then tells the apostles in John 14:25-26 that the Holy Spirit would teach them and bring to their minds all the things that He had taught them. In John 15:18-27 Jesus further explains that the apostles' hatred by the world would be because of their fidelity to Him and His gospel. Those who hate God won't receive the apostolic witness. Those who are called of God will receive the apostolic truth and witness concerning Jesus Christ. This is the true Spirit of God. And he makes clear there is a differentiation, a spirit of truth and a spirit of error, which is based in response to that truth and witness!

There are many false prophets who have gone into the world, not just a few here and there. They teach false doctrine, preach as if they are from God and mishandle the truth of the apostolic witness to the ruin of those who listen to them. And why not – they are actually from the world. But where are they located?

"Children, it is the last hour; and just as you heard that antichrist is coming, even now many antichrists have appeared; from this we know that it is the last hour. They went out from us, but they were not really of us; for if they had been of us, they would have remained with us; but they went out, so that it would be shown that they all are not of us. But you have an anointing from the Holy One, and you all know. I have not written to you because you do not know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie is of the truth. Who is the liar but the one who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, the one who denies the Father and the Son." 1 John 2:18-22 NASB

These antichrists are of the world having first made their presence known in the visible church. They reject apostolic witness and bring contrary teaching into the midst of the church. They are called "antichrists" because they have a replacement "Jesus Christ" that they preach and teach. The word "anti" in Greek can mean both against or in the place of, in the stead of. They are against Jesus Christ even though some of their teaching may seem sound. One might at this point ask a very pertinent question: How can they preach "Christ" and still be rejecting Jesus Christ? The apostle gives the answer.

True saints give actual confession that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. What does that mean - Jesus Christ has come in the flesh? Does it mean Jesus was simply a real person like you and I? A human being you could both see and touch? Even many in the world believe that! "Jesus Christ coming in the flesh" is true confession and agreement concerning who He is and what He has done. What is at stake is the person and work of the God-man Jesus Christ.

A look at some of the confessions within historic orthodox Christianity will maybe help us get a better handle on this:
Nicene Creed
Council of Chalcedon
Athanasian Creed

To look at statements on the nature of the gospel, here are some links:
Ligonier Ministries
9Marks
HeartCry Missionary Society

Further, the apostle gives clear warning in his second epistle about those who don't actually confess Jesus Christ in this manner.

"For many deceivers have gone out into the world, those who do not acknowledge Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh. This is the deceiver and the antichrist. Watch yourselves, that you do not lose what we have accomplished, but that you may receive a full reward. Anyone who goes too far and does not abide in the teaching of Christ, does not have God; the one who abides in the teaching, he has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house, and do not give him a greeting; for the one who gives him a greeting participates in his evil deeds." 2 John 7-11

True saints abide in the teaching regarding Jesus Christ. They eat, live, breath and sleep – Jesus Christ as revealed in the Scriptures! They do not go "beyond" or out of bounds in regard to the teaching. They stick with the truth of the Scripture and do not take away or add anything. But deceivers do not. And since they are deceivers they may even give "lip service" to some supposed fidelity. But they are to be utterly avoided. They have been proven false by the results of the test. To rub elbows with them is to participate in their wickedness.

The growing willingness of many in the church to associate with men and women who can be categorized as "antichrists" is staggering. There may be some true things in what they say but do they really pass the test? Among those who have serious doctrinal flaws concerning the person of Christ, the nature of the Godhead or the gospel are Bill Johnson of Bethel Church ("When Heaven Invades Earth"), Kenneth Copeland of the Word-Faith movement (whenever he teaches on "the born-again Jesus"), T.D. Jakes of the Potter's House (see the first statement on their websites beliefs), Brian Houston of Hillsong (youtube video shows him saying the God of Islam and the God of Christianity are the same) and there are a host of others. A quick search on the internet will help you find the specific heresies they hold to.

Copyright © 4 Truth Ministry 2017, all rights reserved.
By David Sheldon. Edited by Kerri Sheldon
Can be copied in its entirety for personal use or to be distributed, but not for profit.

Theological Studies
Contemporary Concerns
Deception in the Visible Church