1 John 4:1 ESV
“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
What is a spirit?
What is a spirit? It is wind or breath. It can be a revelation, a teaching and/or a teacher, preacher, or prophet, and/or a spiritual influence. It can also be the heart, soul and lifeforce of a person and/or of his/her words.
Basically, we are not to believe everything we hear people speak, no matter who they are. It doesn’t matter if the person is dead or alive, or if he is Billy Graham or Max Lucado or the Pope or Barack Obama or Donald Trump or CNN or Fox News or your preacher or whoever.
Why? Because not everyone tells the truth, not even the people we may think always do (or did) tell the truth. Even those we might think are the most reputable and honored might lie to us. They might even be living in sin while they are putting on an image of piety and purity.
We also need to be on the lookout for Scriptures taken out of context. Not every verse stands alone on itself. If taken out of context, Bible verses can be used to teach something that the Scriptures do not teach. So, even though it comes from the Bible, we need to read verses in their context.
Testing the Spirits
How do we test the spirits? What are we looking for exactly? We are looking to see if what they are telling us is the truth or not. And our measure is the word of God (studied in context). So many false teachings come from Scriptures taught out of context and twisted to say something false.
It isn’t that the Scripture is false, but when it is pulled out of context, and taught as doctrine by itself without the context, what is being taught is often false, and much of this is intentional. For, Satan disguises himself as an angel of light and his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness.
We also need to test what we hear against the divine nature of God. Since he is a God of purity, truth, righteousness, holiness, and justice, we need to ask ourselves if what we are hearing is pure, truthful, righteous, holy, and just. Are we being encouraged toward holy living or toward sinful living?
Lies often are made to sound like truth. They sound good, and they can be very comforting. Often they are a clever blend of truth and lies so that it appears as truth when it is not. So, those who are spreading the lies will use Scripture (out of context) to support their lies.
There are many false teachers today who are teaching a false gospel which is an intentional half-truth gospel, so it is a lie. They cherry pick the Scriptures which support the message they want to give out, while they ignore the Scriptures which are contrary to their false message.
The message they are giving is that we can be saved from our sins and have heaven guaranteed us as our eternal destiny based on a one-time profession of faith in Jesus Christ or based on words we repeated after someone else in a prayer or based on a verbal confession of Christ as Lord.
There is no requirement, though, in this teaching, that we change how we live. Some may say that if we never change that we weren’t really saved to begin with, while others make no requirement for repentance, while others are teaching against repentance, obedience, and submission to Christ.
The gospel they are teaching is what I call a “Do Nothing” gospel, for it teaches that God does it all and we do nothing.
Yes, we can’t earn our own salvation via our own good works. Yes, we are saved only by God’s grace, through faith, and this not of ourselves, but it is the gift of God, not of works lest any of us should boast that we somehow earned or deserved our own salvation (Eph 2:8-9).
But our salvation is not absent of works, and we will be judged by our works, for we are now God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works which God prepared in advance that we should walk in them. And if we don’t walk in them, we aren’t saved, and we don’t have eternal life.
[Rom 2:6-8; 1 Co 15:58; 2 Co 9:8; Eph 2:10; Phil 2:12-13; Gal 6:7-8]
Jesus said that if we would come after him we must deny self, take up our cross daily (die daily to sin) and follow (obey) him. For, if we hold on to our old lives (of living in sin and for self), we will lose them for eternity. But if we lose our lives (die daily with Christ to sin) for Jesus’ sake, we will live (Lu 9:23-26).
Paul taught the same. He taught that faith in Jesus Christ means dying with Christ to sin and living to Christ and to his righteousness, and that if we live in sin and we don’t walk according to the Spirit, that we will die in our sins. We will not inherit eternal life with God.
[Rom 1:18-32; Rom 2:6-8; Rom 6:1-23; Rom 8:1-17; 1 Co 6:9-10; 2 Co 5:10; Gal 5:16-24; Gal 6:7-8; Eph 4:17-32; Eph 5:3-6; Col 3:5-11]
So, the Scriptures do not teach “once saved always saved.” They do not teach that our actions do not matter or that God does it all and we do nothing. They teach that Jesus died that we might die with him to sin and live to him and to his righteousness (1 Pet 2:24; 2 Co 5:15).
And they also teach that we must continue in Christ and in his word, in action and in truth, until the end of our lives if we want to be saved from our sins and have eternal life with God. And we must be those who are bearing fruit for God’s eternal kingdom, too.
[Jn 8:31-32; Jn 15:1-12; Rom 11:17-24; 1 Co 15:2; Col 1:21-23; 2 Tim 2:10-13; Heb 3:6, 14-15; 2 Pet 1:5-11; 1 Jn 2:24-25]
So, test every spirit against the word of God (in context). Study the Scriptures for yourself. Don’t believe everyone you hear, and watch out for Scriptures taught out of context. Know the context and you will know the truth, and it is the truth that sets people free from bondage to sin.
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.