Whenever we have been taught to believe an idea or concept that most people accept as truth, but without testing it, without looking at that concept on its merits, then we are not doing what God told us to do.
“1Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.” (1 John 4:1-3, KJV)
The YLT says “prove the spirits.” The Greek word for test, or prove is Strong’s Gr. “dokimazo“, and it means to put to the test, to prove or to examine; by implication to approve; I put to the test, I distinguish by testing, approve after testing; I am fit. (Source: https://biblehub.com/greek/1381.htm)
What spirits are we to test?
John was fighting against those false teachers of the 1st century AD who were teaching that Jesus was only a man, or only had the appearance of a man, and was not actually from God. So John was speaking of men who taught error, the spirits and minds of men.
The word “spirit” is the Strong’s Gr. 4151, “pneuma” and means wind, or breath. Thayer’s Greek Lexicon has the meaning at 1b as the breath of the nostrils, or mouth, poetically the breath of life; and at 2, the vital principal by which the body is animated, the rational spirit, the power by which a human being feels, thinks, wills, decides; the soul. (Source: https://biblehub.com/greek/4151.htm)
The souls of men, the breath and word of men, the mind of men as opposed to the breath and word of God. The context of the 1 John 4 contrasts the spirits of false prophets with the Spirit of God, or the Holy Spirit. False prophets are people who speak falsely, spreading untruths.
John goes on in vs. 3 to describe those people who do not confess that Jesus has come in the flesh as having the spirit (breath, or wind) of “antichrist”. This is an adjective applied to those who deny Christ. In 1 John 4:1-3 there are the spirits of false prophets, or men who were denying Christ, and the Holy Spirit of God.
In other words, people and their words are the spirits we are to test.
We are to test, prove and examine the words (the breath) of people against the words (breath) of God’s Spirit, the Holy Spirit. Whenever people speak differently from the Holy Spirit, then they are false prophets, and false teachers of which there have been many throughout all time.
God scorned and condemned those false teachers and shepherds of the Israelite who led His people astray, prophesying lies in His name (Jer. 14:14).
“ Thus said Jehovah of Hosts: Ye do not hearken unto the words Of the prophets who are prophesying to you, They are making you vain things, A vision of their own heart they speak, Not from the mouth of Jehovah.” (Jer. 23:16, YLT)
The words of men vs the words of God. The spirits of men vs. the Spirit of God.
Jesus said they come in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves (Matt. 7:15). Peter said they were already among them in the 1st century AD (2 Pet. 2:1). Paul called Elymas the sorcerer a child of the devil, full of deceit and trickery, perverting the right ways of the Lord (Acts 13:6-10).
We cannot rely only upon what men say. Especially as the false teachers and prophets will use God’s name to lend an air of truth to their words, stealing God’s words (Jer. 23:30). And, that is what John was telling them almost 2,000 years ago, that there were men who were not speaking the same words, the same mind, the same truth as the Holy Spirit.
So we have to test and prove what men say against what God says. There is only one way to do that, which is exactly what the Bereans were doing when they heard Paul speak to them, “every day examining the Writings whether those things were so;” (Acts. 17:11).
The Bereans were testing and examining and proving Paul’s spirit, Paul’s words against the “Writings” of the Old Testament books, the word of God. That is how we test the “spirits.”
And, as so many institutional churches today are teaching so many different doctrines, and different creeds, and different beliefs then how are we to test them? Our only method is to go to God’s word; to test them against God’s word, which takes time and effort to study God’s word.
There are too many people who are content to let other “spirits” tell them what to believe, and what to think. They are not showing themselves to be approved of God (2 Tim. 2:15). They are lazy and unprofitable servants (Matt. 25:26-30). They are following the broad way leading to destruction (Matt. 7:13-14). They are so married to their belief systems, so indoctrinated in their own creeds that when shown what the word of God actually says they will deny it – deny Christ – antichrist.
We are to speak as the Oracles of God, the words and utterances of God (1 Pet. 4:11). We can only do that by learning the word of God, by going directly to the source to see what God’s word says. And, that means that we have to be willing to clear our minds of every other thought we might have or we might believe and focus solely upon what God’s word says.
We have to be willing to rely only upon God’s word, only upon what the scriptures, the Writings say. We have to be willing to let go, and to trust God completely.
When His scriptures say one thing, and they contradict what we think or what we believe, then we have to stop and mentally wipe clean the false beliefs we have entertained for so long. Stop, Look, and Listen to Him, to His word, to the Holy Spirit. We are to put our full, complete faith and dependence upon Him, to submit to Him (Isa. 66:2; John 15:5; Deu. 8:3; Matt. 6:30-34; James 4:6-8).
“… that in us ye may learn not to think above that which hath been written…” (1 Cor. 4:6, YLT)
Paul was addressing the issue of the exaltation of different factions, different teachers – those of Apollos, or those of Paul, or those of Peter – above the word of God. They were not to be puffed up one against another, but to rely upon the foundation of the word which the apostles were teaching… the word of God.
In light of this complete dependence that we are to have upon God’s word, we will test some common beliefs that people have embraced about God’s prophesies in the next few posts.