In 1 John 4:1-6, the Apostle John says this:
“Beloved, believe not every spirit, but prove the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: and every spirit that confesseth not Jesus is not of God: and this is the spirit of the antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it cometh; and now it is in the world already. Ye are of God, my little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you than he that is in the world. They are of the world: therefore speak they as of the world, and the world heareth them. We are of God: he that knoweth God heareth us; he who is not of God heareth us not. By this we know the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.”
In this passage, John commands his audience to not believe every spirit, but to test every spirit to see whether they are from God. He then gives the reason for these commands, tells them how to obey them, and tells them why they are able to obey them.
In verse 1, he gives the commands, and the reason for them, to his beloved audience. The first command is to refrain from believing every spirit. When he says “spirit,” what, or who, is he referring to? Well, in the preceding verse, he spoke of the Spirit of God, so he is here putting the human spirit on the spiritual level, calling people “spirits.” Why do I believe that these spirits are people? In this verse, he refers to the spirits as false prophets, in verse 2 he refers to the confessor of Jesus Christ as a spirit, in verse 3, he refers to him who doesn’t confess Jesus as a spirit, in verse 5, he refers to those spirits as those from the world, with the world listening to them, and in verse 6, he refers to those spirits as those who do not listen to John, or the Apostles. All of these things point to humanness. Yet, at the same time, John is putting these people on a spiritual level, and speaks of he who is in the world, the devil, so he also is implying that some of these people are influenced by the devil and/or his demons, and that some of them are influenced by the Spirit of God because they are from God.
The second command that John gives his audience is to test, or to prove, those spirits about whom he has just told them not to believe. Therefore, he is telling them to test every spirit. He adds that the goal of this testing is to see whether these spirits are from God. Why? Because many false, or fake, prophets — not just foretellers, but forthtellers, those who proclaim a message, as the Old Testament and early church prophets did — have gone out into the world. In other words, they attempt to make people believe that they are messengers from God, when in reality, they are messengers that belong to the devil.
In verses 2-3, John explains to his audience how they are to test the spirits to see whether they are from God. The first way is to recognize the Spirit of God, who is the Spirit from God. How are they to do this? John gives them one way; by this they know the Spirit of God: every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus the Anointed One — the Supreme Prophet, Priest, and King — has come in the flesh is from God. The second way to test the spirits is to recognize the spirit that is not from God. He gives them four qualities that characterize this spirit:
- he does not acknowledge who Jesus truly is — the Supreme Prophet, Priest, and King, and God the Son who became flesh
- he is the spirit who belongs to the antichrist, or opposition to Christ
- he was heard of as belonging to something that was to come: opposition to Christ
- his opposition to Christ is in the world
In verses 4-6, John ends this passage by telling his audience why they are able to not believe the false prophets, and to test them to see that they are not from God. The first reason is that his audience is from God, as they are his sheep-like spiritual children, who have been born from God. The second reason is that they have overcome the false prophets, the spirits of the antichrist. How? Because the Spirit who is in them is more powerful than any spirit who is in the world of the devil. Third, those spirits in the world are from the world, so they speak as if from the world, appealing to the world’s lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, and the world listens to them. Fourth, John, and, by extension, the rest of the Apostles, are from God, those who know God listens to them, but those who are not from God do not listen to them. Finally, by those facts, John concludes, he and his audience know the spirit who proclaims truth, and the spirit who proclaims error.
So, do you refrain from believing every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God?
Do you know the Spirit of God when you hear or see someone acknowledging that Jesus the Supreme Prophet, Priest, and King has come in the flesh?
Do you acknowledge that Jesus the Supreme Prophet, Priest, and King has come in the flesh, or do you not acknowledge this Jesus?
Do you speak as from the world, and does the world listen to you, or do you speak as from God, and do those who know God listen to you?
Do you listen to the Apostles of the Bible — John, Paul, Matthew, etc. — or do you not listen to them?
Do you know the spirit that proclaims truth and the spirit that proclaims error?
Do you understand why Jesus Christ came in the flesh? The Apostle Paul wrote about it this way:
“. . . I make known unto you brethren, the gospel which I preached unto you, which also ye received, wherein also ye stand, by which also ye are saved, if ye hold fast the word which I preached unto you, except ye believed in vain. For I delivered unto you first of all that which also I received: that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that he was buried; and that he hath been raised on the third day according to the scriptures; and that he appeared to Cephas; then to the twelve; then he appeared to above five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain until now, but some are fallen asleep; then he appeared to James; then to all the apostles; and last of all, as to the child untimely born, he appeared to me also. For I am the least of the apostles, that am not meet to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.” 1 Corinthians 15:1-9
This is what the Apostle John said about the gospel in John 1:1-18:
“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him; and without him was not anything made that hath been made. In him was life; and the life was the light of men. And the light shineth in the darkness; and the darkness apprehended it not. There came a man, sent from God, whose name was John. The same came for witness, that he might bear witness of the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came that he might bear witness of the light. There was the true light, even the light which lighteth every man, coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, and the world knew him not. He came unto his own, and they that were his own received him not. But as many as received him, to them gave he the right to become children of God, even to them that believe on his name: who were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God. And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us (and we beheld his glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father), full of grace and truth. John beareth witness of him, and crieth, saying, This was he of whom I said, He that cometh after me is become before me: for he was before me. For of his fulness we all received, and grace for grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No man hath seen God at any time; the only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.”
This is what Christ Himself said about the gospel:
“. . . God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life. For God sent not his Son into the world to condemn the world; but that the world through him might be saved. He that believeth on him is not condemned: but he that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God. And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.” John 3:16-20
John the Baptist said this: “. . . he that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on [stays directed toward] him.” – John 3:36
The Apostle Paul said this in Romans 2:4-16 and 1:18-32:
“. . . despisest thou the riches of his goodness and forbearance and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leadeth thee to repentance? but after thy hardness and impenitent heart treasurest up for thyself wrath in the day of wrath and revelation of the righteous judgment of God; who will render to every man according to his works: to them that by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and incorruption, eternal life: but unto them that are factious, and obey not the truth, but obey unrighteousness, shall be wrath and indignation, tribulation and anguish, upon every soul of man that worketh evil, of the Jew first, and also of the Greek; but glory and honor and peace to every man that worketh good, to the Jew first, and also to the Greek: for there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without the law shall also perish without the law: and as many as have sinned under the law shall be judged by the law; for not the hearers of the law are just before God, but the doers of the law shall be justified; (for when Gentiles that have not the law do by nature the things of the law, these, not having the law, are the law unto themselves; in that they show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness therewith, and their thoughts one with another accusing or else excusing them); in the day when God shall judge the secrets of men, according to my gospel, by Jesus Christ.”
“. . . the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who hinder the truth in unrighteousness; because that which is known of God is manifest in them; for God manifested it unto them. For the invisible things of him since the creation of the world are clearly seen, being perceived through the things that are made, even his everlasting power and divinity; that they may be without excuse: because that, knowing God, they glorified him not as God, neither gave thanks; but became vain in their reasonings, and their senseless heart was darkened. Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools, and changed the glory of the incorruptible God for the likeness of an image of corruptible man, and of birds, and four-footed beasts, and creeping things. Wherefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts unto uncleanness, that their bodies should be dishonored among themselves: for that they exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshipped and served the creature rather than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen. For this cause God gave them up unto vile passions: for their women changed the natural use into that which is against nature: and likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another, men with men working unseemliness, and receiving in themselves that recompense of their error which was due. And even as they refused to have God in their knowledge, God gave them up unto a reprobate mind, to do those things which are not fitting; being filled with all unrighteousness, wickedness, covetousness, maliciousness; full of envy, murder, strife, deceit, malignity; whisperers, backbiters, hateful to God, insolent, haughty, boastful, inventors of evil things, disobedient to parents, without understanding, covenant-breakers, without natural affection, unmerciful: who, knowing the ordinance of God, that they that practise such things are worthy of death, not only do the same, but also consent with them that practise them.”
Speaking of those that practice sin, the Apostle Paul uses this quote:
“. . . There is none righteous, no, not one; There is none that understandeth, There is none that seeketh after God; They have all turned aside, they are together become unprofitable; There is none that doeth good, no, not so much as one: Their throat is an open sepulchre; With their tongues they have used deceit: The poison of asps is under their lips: Whose mouth is full of cursing and bitterness . . .” – Romans 3:10-14
This is my appeal to you, as written by the Apostle Paul:
“. . . we beseech you on behalf of Christ, be ye reconciled to God. Him who knew no sin he made to be sin on our behalf; that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” – 2 Corinthians 5:20b-21
This is how you become reconciled to God:
“. . . if thou shalt confess [acknowledge] with thy mouth Jesus as Lord [Greek: kurios, or Supreme in Authority], and shalt believe in thy heart that God raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved: for with the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on him shall not be put to shame. For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek: for the same Lord is Lord of all, and is rich unto all that call upon him [depend upon Him]: for, Whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord [who He is, what He has done, and what He can do] shall be saved.” Romans 10:9-13