When studying the Scriptures, it is critical that we read them in context. For example, the letters (epistles) in the New Testament were originally not written in chapter and verses. Romans, for example, is all one letter. So, we can’t pull some verses out of Romans and build our doctrine around them without comparing them to everything else written in the book of Romans.
I say this because this first section of Scripture here in 1 John 4 can be easily misinterpreted if not compared to the whole of 1 John and to other New Testament Scriptures.
1 John 4:1-3 NIV
“Dear friends, 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. 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, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.”
So, this is why I am stressing the need to study the Scriptures in context. Taken at face value here, one could read this to say that if anyone publicly or privately verbally acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, that person is from God. Is that true? No, it isn’t!
I am not saying the Scriptures are not true or that they are lying to us, but that there is more to be learned here. This is only part of the story, and there is a reason it is worded this way, but it can easily be misunderstood.
In 1 John 1 we learn that if we claim to have fellowship with God yet we walk (in conduct, in practice) in the darkness (sin, wickedness), we lie and we do not live by the truth. So, obviously a mere confession or profession of something does not mean we mean what we say.
In 1 John 2 we read that we know that we have come to know Christ if we keep (are obeying) his commands. Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not do (is not keeping) what he commands is a liar, and the truth is not in that person. So, again, our actions must support our words.
In 1 John 2 it also says that if anyone claims to be in the light (in Christ, in truth, in righteousness), but then hates (practices hate toward) a brother or sister in Christ, that person is still in the darkness. Again, words are cheap. We must back up our professions of faith with our actions.
And then in 1 John 3 we read that anyone abiding (living, remaining) in Christ does not make a practice of sin. He does not keep on sinning as a matter of habit. For no one who continues living in sin has either seen Christ or known him (See: Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Heb 10:26-27; Gal 5:16-21).
Again, our conduct must match our words. The way we live needs to match what we profess with our lips or we are not of God. This is not saying we have to be perfect, but that sin should no longer be our master. We should no longer be living under the control of Satan, sin, and the flesh.
So, if we want to test the spirits to see if they are of God or not, this is the test. By their fruit we will be able to recognize them, but not by our own human standards, and not by standards set by our culture or our religious rules, many of which are of man. We test them by the word of God.
For, please know this about false teachers: Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and his servants masquerade themselves as servants of righteousness. This is how they are able to deceive many people to believe their lies and to follow them (2 Co 11:14-15).
Also know that a person’s spirit is their heart, their inner being, their character, so if we are testing the spirits, we are testing the character and the deeds of these teachers to make certain their deeds match their words, but also we need to make certain what they are teaching is the truth.
We also read this in 1 John 2:22-23 NIV:
“Who is the liar? It is whoever denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a person is the antichrist—denying the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.”
But based on the above passages of Scripture, and others like them, we learn that this denial of Christ is not just verbal only. There are many false teachers who are claiming to believe in Jesus Christ and who will confess with their mouths that Jesus is Lord and that they believe God raised him from the dead, but by their actions (their deeds) they deny him.
1 John 4:4-6 NIV
“You, dear children, are from God and have overcome them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world. They are from the world and therefore speak from the viewpoint of the world, and the world listens to them. We are from God, and whoever knows God listens to us; but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood.”
So, there are false teachers who masquerade themselves as servants of righteousness. Some of them profess faith in Jesus Christ, and they may teach Christ crucified for our sins, buried, raised from the dead, appearing to many, ascending back to heaven, and coming again one day.
But if they don’t teach the necessity of us being crucified with Christ in death to sin, being raised with Christ to newness of life in him, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness, then they are not being sent by God. They are of the world, and they speak as the world speaks (Rom 6:1-23).
For they teach a willful half-truth gospel which is a lie, which is intended to deceive the masses. For they willfully leave out the fact that Jesus died on that cross to free us from our slavery to sin so that we would now become slaves of his righteousness (Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; Eph 4:17-24).
They willfully leave out that Jesus died that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness; that he died that we might no longer live for ourselves but for him who gave his life up for us; and that Jesus’ blood was shed to buy us back for God so we would honor God with our lives (1 Pet 2:24; 2 Co 5:15, 21; 1 Co 6:19-20).
The reason the world listens to them is because they teach a half-truth diluted gospel which requires no change in lifestyle, no repentance, no obedience to the Lord, and no surrender of one’s life to Christ as Lord (owner-master). Instead, they give free license to continue living in sin without guilt while falsely guaranteeing the “believer” heaven as home.
So, they don’t listen to us who are teaching what Jesus taught and what Paul taught, for they are not of God. But Jesus didn’t die just to forgive our sins and to promise us heaven. He died to deliver us from our captivity to sin and to free us to live in his righteousness for his glory and praise (Rom 6:1-23).
The Lord’s Anointed
An Original Work / December 16, 2011
Based off Isaiah 61
The Spirit of the Sov’reign Lord on me;
Anointed to preach the Good News;
Sent me to bind up the brokenhearted;
Proclaim freedom for the captives.
He sent me to preach release for pris’ners
Who are walking in sin’s darkness;
Proclaim God’s grace to all men who’ll listen;
And tell them about God’s judgments;
Comfort all who mourn;
Give crowns of beauty;
Oil of gladness and thanksgiving.
They will be called oaks of God’s righteousness,
A planting of our Savior, God,
For the display of our Lord’s splendor, and
They will rebuild God’s holy church.
God will renew them, and will restore them,
And you’ll be called priests of the Lord.
You will be ministers of our God, and
You will rejoice in salvation.
The Lord loves justice;
He is faithful to
Reward those who are seeking Him.
I delight greatly in the Lord;
My soul rejoices in my Savior, God.
He has clothed me with His salvation,
And in a robe of His righteousness.
He has given me priestly garments to wear,
As the bride of Jesus Christ.
As the garden of our Lord and Savior,
He causes us to grow in Him.
He makes righteousness,
Praise, and thanksgiving
Spring up before all the nations.