Happy Independence Day and welcome to week 12 of our online study of 1st John. This week we are studying the difference between the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of error and how we can spot them. Let’s get started.
The Spirit of Truth and the Spirit of Error
Now he who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And by this we know that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.
Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of 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 of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
You are of God, little children, and have overcome them, because He who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. They are of the world. Therefore they speak as of the world, and the world hears them. We are of God. He who knows God hears us; he who is not of God does not hear us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error. (1 John 3:24 – 1 John 4:1-6)
Ideas to Consider
- How do we know God abides in us (v 24, also see Ephesians 1:13)?
- Why should we test the spirits (v 1)?
- How do we identify false prophets and spirits of error (vv 2-3)?
- Are we capable of testing and discerning the spirits (v 4)?
(Remember, I’m human and severely flawed. Don’t just take my words as God’s truth. Be sure to be led by the Spirit and the Word of God, not me.)
The Spirit of God abides in His children. The Spirit does not depart Believers. Ever. John points this out to his audience (and to us) because he was about to instruct them to do something that may have seemed difficult or overwhelming. That diffucult or overwhelimg task? Test the spirits.
One of the reasons John was writing was because of the false teaching being spread concerning Jesus. At that time many “christians” were saying that Jesus was a spiritual being, but not human being. Which is why in verse 2 John writes, “By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in flesh is of God.” In other words, not only is Jesus fully God, He is also fully human. This is an essential, core belief to Christianity.
John says there are two spirits: the Spirit of God and the spirit of the Antichrist. Behind every teaching, idea, doctrine, religion, etc. there is a spirit. The spirit is of God or it isn’t. If it isn’t, it is the spirit of the Antichirst.
The gospel says that Christ resurrected and has victory over the grave (1 Corinthians 15:54-55).
The gospel says salvation from sins cannot be earned, instead it is graciously offered by Christ to anyone who simply believes — simply has faith — in what He accomplished on their behalf (Romans 5:15; Romans 6:23; Ephesians 2:8-9).
Those who oppose Jesus and the gospel say: 1) Jesus is not the son of God and he did not die for our sins; 2) He did not live a sinless life and is not able to redeem a sinner; 3) He did not raise from the grave; and/or 4) salvation can be earned.
Here in this passage of the epistle, John is warning again of false teachers and instructing the Church to discern between what is of the Lord and what isn’t. “You are of God, little children, and you have overcome them…” You, have the Spirit of God abiding in you. You have everything you need to prevent them from deceiving you and leading you away from the truth. They will not overcome you. You have already — by the power of the Holy Spirit — overcome them.
Not only do we have the Spirit dwelling in us, leading and guiding us, but we also have His very thoughts printed on the pages of the Bible.
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful to teach us what is true and to make us realize what is wrong in our lives. It corrects us when we are wrong and teaches us to do what is right. God uses it to prepare and equip his people to do every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 NLT, emphasis added)
God’s word is given to His people. Did you catch that? His people. All of His people. Not just a few, not just the really special ones or the over zealous Christians. God gave His word to all His people to teach them the difference between right and wrong — to the difference between the Spirit of Truth and the spirit of error.
So… when you hear a Bible teaching, read a faith-based book or blog post, or chat with a Christian friend and something is said that makes you go, “wait a minute, I’m not sure about that”… then wait. a. minute!!! Pray about what you’ve been told. Compare it to the Word of God. Test the spirit behind the message before you accept it as truth.
Let’s spend time in prayer, learning to hear and recognize the voice of God’s Spirit. Let’s spend time in our Bibles, becoming familiar with what God says is truth. Let’s stop being “tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine” (Ephesians 1:13). Let’s stop relying on everyone else to tell us what God is like and take the time to meet with Him ourselves.
Lord in heaven, I know that I am guilty of believing more than I should, not holding everything that I hear and read up against your Word. I have failed to test the spirits and have been gullible more than I would like to admit. I am thankful for your abiding Spirit and your Holy Scriptures. Please remind me to turn to you and your Word whenever I read or hear something that is claiming to be Christ-centered or Gospel-driven. In the name of your Son I pray. Amen.
Take some time to think about these questions. I’m not asking you to call anyone out online, but I do you want you to consider who is feeding you and what you are being fed. What we believe effects how we live for Christ and how we disciple others. Once you’ve spent sometime with these questions, please come back and share a thought or two in the comments below.
- Is everyone claiming to be a Christian really a follower of Christ? How can you tell? Why is important to be able to identify true followers of Christ?
- List 3-5 people (pastors, teachers, podcasters, authors, bloggers, friends, etc.) you consider to be trust-worthy Christians. How do you know they are trust-worthy? Have you tested the spirit behind their messages? Or have you simply believe what they have said/written?
- How familiar are you with your Bible? Do you know it well enough to be able to test the spirits? If not, how could you change that?
FURTHER STUDY IDEAS
Here are a few study ideas to do between now and next Tuesday. I suggest doing one or two a day in order to keep you thinking about the passage all week long.
- Start or continue a double entry journal.
- Hand write the passage.
- Did this passage make you think of other passages in the Bible? Share those passages with the rest of us in the comments.
- Read 1 John 2:18-21 again. How does this passage help you understand today’s passage, especially verse four?
- Do an original language word study for believe and test in verse one. How do this help you understand the passage?
- Listen to this podcast covering 1 John 4:1-6.
- Write a summary of what you’ve learned from this passage. If you are a blogger, write a post and share it in the next #QuietlyThroughThursday LINK UP.
- Read all five chapter of 1 John straight through.
Did you miss any of the previous post in the Quietly Through 1st John online study? Click the image below to see a working list of the material.