You must test the spirits!

 

 

[1 John 4:1-6]

 

 

What does the Bible mean when it says to be “wise as serpents”?  Jesus said in Matthew 10:16 – “"Behold, I send you out as sheep in the midst of wolves; so be shrewd as serpents and innocent as doves.”  Here, the serpent is a symbol of wisdom.  The Lord speaks of the wisdom of the serpent, above all else, that the serpent avoids the difficulties by carefully coping with various difficulties that come to him.  And that the serpent is wise means careful discernment.  The serpent's wisdom is the ability to discern and judge all things.  We must be as wise as serpents because the Lord has sent us into this world, and there are many false prophets, outwardly clothed in sheep's clothing, but inwardly ravenous wolves (Mt. 7:15; 10:16).  When Jesus told His disciples to beware of the false prophets, and He also spoke of “sheep” and “wolves” (7:15).  The Bible says that the false prophets come to us in sheep's clothing.  What it means is that the false prophets act like sheep in the sheep's clothing.  So, on the surface, the false prophets appear like sheep and do no harm to us.  But we need to be on the lookout for the false prophets because they come to us in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravenous wolves.  The Greek word for “ravenous” here has the connotation of extremely greedy, like a robber or a deceiver.  Therefore, we must be wise as serpents and innocent as doves (10:16).

 

In 1 John 4:1, the Bible says this: “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.”  As I meditate 1 John 4:1-6 based on this verse 1, I would like to receive 4 lessons:

 

First, the Bible tells us to test the spirits.

 

Look at 1 John 4:1 again: “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.”  Here, the word ‘test’ is said to be a metallurgical term used to analyze metals to determine their purity and value (MacArthur).  So I searched the internet for a method of dividing metals to determine the purity and quality of metals.  Although there are many articles, I couldn’t understand them because there are a lot of technical terms.  However, there was an article written by Pastor Ki-Jong Park of the Eastern Pohang Church under the title ‘The difference between solid gold and pure gold,’ so I read it.  There was this writing: ‘Pure gold (24K) also contains impurities.  The highest value of the purity label is 100% minus 0.1% and is expressed as 99.9%.  Once the ore comes in, it is melted in a furnace.  Go through 3 furnaces until you get gold.  You have to overcome hardships of 3000 degrees or more by 1,000 degrees or more to become pure gold.  The company that produces the best gold in Korea is LS-NIKKO Copper Smelting, located in Ulju-gun, Ulsan-si.  Yong-sil Choi (34), who is making gold in the company's precious metals team, said: ‘In the smelting process, even if impurities as small as dust enter, it is impossible to make pure gold.  …  There is a lesson in making pure gold that you must not stop the refinement until your face looks like a mirror.  …  In particular, those who make gold should value faith, trust, and love that cannot be shaken by the temptations of the world more than life.’  Then, Pastor Ki-Jong Park said, ‘Just as wastes are removed from the furnace to become pure gold, so suffering removes the remnants of sin that remain within us and makes us holy.  Jesus' furnace makes pure gold.  The furnace of the smelter makes pure gold, but the furnace of Jesus makes “pure gold.”  Job's confession of faith, who did not lose his faith in the face of many difficulties, is the highlight of my heart's emotion’ (Internet).  Look at Job 23:10 – “But He knows the way I take; When He has tried me, I shall come forth as gold.”  Also, look at Proverbs 17:3 – “The refining pot is for silver and the furnace for gold, But the LORD tests hearts.”

 

God looks at our hearts (1 Sam. 16:7).  And God desires truth in our hearts (Ps. 51:6).  Therefore, God refines our hearts (Prov. 17:3).  God wants to purify our hearts by refining our hearts (Mal. 3:3).  Then how does God refine our hearts?  In Isaiah 48:10, the Bible says that God tests us in the furnace of affliction.  So the Apostle Peter said in 1 Peter 4:12-13: “Dear friends, do not be surprised at the painful trial you are suffering, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice that you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed when his glory is revealed.”

 

In 1 John 4:1, the Apostle John says, “test” which also means “examine”.  Here I would like to take four lessons:

 

(1)     We must examine what God’s will is.

 

Look at Romans 12:2 – “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is--his good, pleasing and perfect will.”  The reason we fail to examine the good, pleasing, and perfect will of God is because we cannot renew our minds and be transformed by conforming to the pattern of this world.  So, how can we know the will of God?  First, when we diligently read and ponder the word of God, the Bible, we compare it with the principles, doctrines, promises, and precepts of the Bible that govern our lives, and examine whether this decision is against God's will before making our own decisions.  And those who constantly read and ponder the Bible will have relatively little difficulty in discovering the will of God compared to those who do not.  It will help us to discover the will of God in the following ways:

 

(a) Focus on God.

 

As we ask ourselves questions about the purpose of doing this, ask ourselves whether this work is suitable for God's work.

 

(b) Obey what God has already commanded us to do.

 

Before doing anything new, we obey the command we have already been given.  In fact, many of God's will are already known to us.  But there are many cases in which we don’t voluntarily obey and seek other ways.

 

(c) Pray.

 

We should definitely pray to God.  We must pray for God to work through His word, through others, and through our own hearts.

 

(d) Study the Bible.

 

God speaks to us through the Bible.  In order to know God's will, we must read the Bible steadily.  In reading the Bible, we should look for principles.  It isn’t the right attitude to look for specific words or proof sentences to justify ourselves.

 

(e) Take the advice.

 

We should accept the advice of those who have mature faith and who know the Bible well and know themselves well.

 

(f) Set priorities.

 

We should consider prioritizing everything.  Past experience can also help in this case.  Of course, this standard should be the Bible.

 

In 1 John 4:1, when the Apostle John said, “test,” it means not to believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God.  However, in connection with the Apostle Paul's word in Romans 12:2, I tried to apply this by thinking about the four will of God that the Apostle John is saying in 1 John chapters 1 through 3 that we should test:

 

(a)     The will of God is ‘Shine the Light!’

 

Look at 1 John 1:5 – “This is the message we have heard from Him and announce to you, that God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all.”  The Apostle John says, “God is Light” (v. 5).  In the Gospel of John he wrote, Jesus refers to himself as “the light of the world” (Jn. 8:12).  And in John 12:36, the word of Jesus recorded by the Apostle John is, “Put your trust in the light while you have it, so that you may become sons of light.”  The word similar to this word of Jesus written by the Apostle John is written in Ephesians 5:8, written by the Apostle Paul: “for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light.”  Our God is Light.  And we who believe in God are the children of light.  The will of the Lord to the children of light is to walk as children of Light.  We must shine the Light according to the will of the Lord.

(b)     The will of God is ‘Practice the truth!’

 

Look at 1 John 1:6 – “If we say that we have fellowship with Him and yet walk in the darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth.”  The Apostle John says that we have fellowship with God, and that if we walk in the darkness, we lie and don’t practice the truth.  In other words, it is a lesson that we, as those who have fellowship with God, should not walk in the darkness but practice the truth.  When we think of the word “the truth” here, we can think of the word of Jesus written by the Apostle John in the Gospel of John: “…  I am the way and the truth and the life. …” (Jn. 14:6).  Our Lord is the truth.  Therefore, if we have fellowship with the Lord, we must be doers of the truth.  Our Lord is the truth.  There is no lie in our Lord. Therefore, we too must imitate the Lord and become those who practice the truth without lies.  This is the Lord's will for us.

 

(c)     The will of God is ‘Love!’

 

Look at 1 John 3:11, 23: “For this is the message which you have heard from the beginning, that we should love one another;  …  This is His commandment, that we believe in the name of His Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, just as He commanded us.”  The Apostle John says that the command of the Lord is to believe in Jesus and to love one another.  Therefore, he also tells us who believe in Jesus to love one another.  Interestingly, the Apostle John not only teaches us God's will to shine the Light by telling us that God is Light (1:5) and Jesus is the Light of the world (Jn. 8:12), but he also teaches us God’s will to practice the truth by telling us that Jesus is the truth (Jn. 14:6).  And in 1 John 3:11, 23, he teaches us God’s command (will) is to love one another by telling us that God is love (4:8, 16).  Our God is love.  A loving God commands us to love one another.  Therefore, we must love one another according to the will of God.

 

(d)     The will of God is ‘Do righteousness!’

 

Look at 1 John 2:1, 6: “…  Jesus Christ, the Righteous One.  …  Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.”  The Apostle John says that Jesus Christ is “the Righteous One.”  And if we say that we live in the Righteous Jesus Christ, we are to do us as Jesus Christ did.  That means we must also do righteousness as the Righteous Jesus Christ did.  So what does it mean to do righteousness here?  In my opinion, doing righteousness means doing the will of the Holy Triune God.  In other words, to do righteousness means to shine the Light according to the will of the Father God, to practice the truth according to the will of Jesus the Son, and to love according to the will of the Holy Spirit.  Jesus Christ is the Righteous One.  Just as the Righteous Jesus Christ did righteousness, so we must do the righteousness as well.  Just as the Righteous Jesus Christ came to shine in this dark world, to practice the truth in a world full of lies, and to show love to us who are full of hate, so we must shine His light in this dark world, practice the truth, and do the righteousness by loving each other.  This is the will of God.

 

(2)      We must examine ourselves.


Look at 2 Corinthians 13:5 – “Examine yourselves to see whether you are in the faith; test yourselves. Do you not realize that Christ Jesus is in you--unless, of course, you fail the test?”  We must diligently reflect ourselves in the word of God and examine and test ourselves to see if we are truly living by faith now.  For example, we can examine ourselves in the word of God James 1:6-8: “But he must ask in faith without any doubting, for the one who doubts is like the surf of the sea, driven and tossed by the wind.  For that man ought not to expect that he will receive anything from the Lord,  being a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.”  As we examine ourselves in these words, we may ask ourselves: ‘Maybe I am praying with doubts rather than asking God in faith right now?’, ‘If I am praying while doubting, I am now a double-minded person who is undecided in everything. Therefore, I should not expect that I will receive anything from the Lord.’

 

I applied the Paul's word of 2 Corinthians 13:5 to us in four ways from the perspective of the Apostle John.  In other words, as we examine and test ourselves, I think we should each apply to ourselves the four wills of God taught by the Apostle John in 1 John:

 

(a)     We should examine ourselves to see if we are really shining according to the will of the Father God.

 

Are we really living as children of the Light, shining the Light in this dark world?  Is our life itself a life of the Light, without the darkness, but rather exposing the deeds of the darkness?

 

(b)     We should examine ourselves to see if we are actually practicing the truth according to the will of the Son Jesus Christ.

 

Are we really living the truth in this world of lies like Jesus, who is the Truth?  Do we hate lies and obey the command of the Lord as our life itself is a life of of the truth?

 

(c)     We should examine ourselves to see if we are truly loving according to the will of the Holy Spirit.

 

Do we really love our neighbor as God, who is love, loved us so much even when He gave up His only begotten Son Jesus on the cross?  Are we loving each other by making our life itself become a life of love and bearing the fruit of the Holy Spirit, love?

 

(d)     Indeed, we should examine ourselves to see if we are shining the Light, practicing righteousness and love like Jesus Christ did according to the will of God the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.

 

Are we really practicing righteousness like the Righteous Jesus Christ?  Are we living a life that reveals the righteousness of Jesus by making our life itself a righteous life?

 

(3)     We must examine whether the love of the other member is sincere.

 

Look at 2 Corinthians 8:8 – “I am not speaking this as a command, but as proving through the earnestness of others the sincerity of your love also.”  One of the best ways to examine ourselves whether our love for other brothers and sisters in Christ is sincere or not is the love chapter of 1 Corinthians 13:4-5, “Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered.”  Also, based on the Bible Proverbs 17:9 says, “He who conceals a transgression seeks love …,” it is possible to examine whether our love for others is sincere or not.

 

I thought of this 2 Corinthians 8:8 from the Apostle John's point of view in four ways: How we can test the sincerity of the love for other member:

 

(a)      It is whether the love of the other member is humble like the love of Jesus Christ.

 

I think of Jesus' love as 'incarnate love'.  Jesus Christ, the Son of God, came into this world in the flesh (2 Jn. 1:7).  Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men.  Jesus humbled Himself and served us (Phil. 2:6-8).  In other words, the incarnated love of Jesus is a humble love that humbles oneself and serves others.  We must test whether the other member really loves us this way.

 

(b)      It is whether the love of other member is reconciling love like the love of Jesus Christ.

 

In 1 John 2:2, the Righteous Jesus Christ is said to be “the propitiation for our sins.”  Jesus Christ, who is actually Righteous One, died on the cross as the propitiation to reconcile us, who was God’s enemies, to God.  As a result, we are reconciled to God.  The Apostle Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:18, “Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation.”  Therefore, our love for our neighbor should be a love that reconciles each other.

 

(c)      It is whether the love of other member is sacrificial love, giving even our lives, like the love of Jesus Christ.

 

Look at 1 John 3:16 – “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers.”  The third criterion that can test whether the other member’s love toward us is sincere or not is whether that member loves us sacrificially, even to the point of giving up his life or not.

 

(d)      It is whether the love of the other member is loving with actions and in truth like the love of Jesus Christ.

 

Look at 1 John 3:18 – “Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”  The fourth criterion to test whether the other member’s love for us is sincere or not is whether that member loves us only in words or with actions and in truth.  If we want to test whether his love for us is sincere or not, we can tell by looking at whether he loves us in truth and with actions or only in words.

 

(4)     We must examine everything carefully.

 

Look at 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22: “But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good; abstain from every form of evil.”  According to the counsel of the Apostle Paul, the Thessalonian church members lived a life of holing fast to that which is good and abstaining from every form of evil in the midst of tribulation.  In the midst of tribulation, they held fast to the good things God gave them and resisted the temptations of tempters.  They held fast to faith and abstained unbelief.  They held fast to love and abstained hate.  They held fast to hope and abstained despair.  We must also hold fast to faith and abstain unbelief, hold fast to love and abstain hate, and hold fast to hope and abstain despair.

 

I thought of these words of 1 Thessalonians 5:21-22 from the Apostle John's point of view in four ways: We must take the light and put away the darkness, take the truth and put away the lies, take the love and put away the hate, and take the righteousness and forsake the unrighteousness/evil.

 

Second, the Bible tells us not to believe every spirit, but to test the spirits to see whether they are from God.

 

Look at 1 John 4:1 – “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.”  Should we blindly believe the pastors’ sermons?  Or should we even examine whether the pastors' sermons are true or not based on the Bible?  In Acts 17:11, the Bible says, “Now these were more noble-minded than those in Thessalonica, for they received the word with great eagerness, examining the Scriptures daily to see whether these things were so.”  That is, the people in Berea studied the Bible daily to see if the words of God that they had heard through the Apostle Paul were true.  If this verse is applied in modern times, it means that we should study the Bible daily to see if the sermons we hear through pastors are really the word of God.  Now, as some pastors said in sermons in the old days, we shouldn’t cover the Bible and believe unconditionally.  We need to confirm.  The reason is because there are too many false gospels and false sermons are spreading through the false pastors’ mouths.

 

Who are the false pastors?  The false pastors don’t preach the word from God's mouth, but rather the deceit of their own hearts (Jere. 23:26).  They spit lies out of their false hearts.  They preach vain consolation to God's sinful people, saying, "You will have peace," and "Calamity will not come upon you" (v. 17).  The false pastors say what the listeners’ itching ears want to hear rather than preach the sound doctrine (2 Tim. 4:3).  There is no correction, no rebuke and no encouragement (v. 2).  They preach the false gospels.  Rather than turning the sinning people to turn back from their wickedness, they strengthen the hands of evildoers (Jere. 23:14).  The false pastors are misleading the church members (v. 13).  This is inevitable because the false pastors themselves are running the wrong way (v. 21).  They defile themselves by doing evil.  By committing evil deeds even in the house of God, they eventually pollute the whole church because defilement comes out of them.

 

In 1 John 4:1, the Apostle John says: “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.”  When the Apostle John was writing this letter of 1 John to the recipients, he had already said in 1 John 2:18, “this is the last hour.”  And he said that many antichrists have already appeared in this last hour (v. 18).  These antichrists are liars (v. 22) and deceivers (v. 26).  They not only deny that Jesus is the Christ, but they also deny the Father God and the Son Jesus (v.  22).   Since many false prophets have appeared in the last hour, the Apostle John is exhorting, ‘Do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God’ (4:1).  In other words, the Apostle John said, ‘Do not blindly believe those who claim to have received the Spirit, but test whether the spirit they claim is from God.’  Here we have to consider two things:

 

(1)     We must not blindly believe in those who say they have received the spirit (1 Jn. 4:1).

 

The Apostle John exhorted the recipients of his 1 John letter not to believe in every spirit in 1 John 4:1.  To put it back in the Korean modern Bible, it is said, ‘Do not blindly believe those who say they have received the spirit.” What is the reason?  The reason is because not all of his recipients believed in Jesus and received the Holy Spirit, but some of them believed in another spirit.  We can know this when we look at 1 John 3:24, “…  We know it by the Spirit he gave us,” but in 1 John 4:1, the Apostle John said, “do not believe every spirits.”  Here, the word ‘do not believe all spirits,’ in the original Greek, means “Stop believing every spirit” which means to stop continuing to believe in other spirits at the moment when they were receiving the Apostle John’s letter of 1 John [“'Believe not' is in a construction in the Greek text which forbids the continuation of an action already going on” (Wuest's Word Studies in the Greek NT Comments)].  That is, some Christians who received the Apostle John's letter of 1 John believed in other spirits than the Holy Spirit, whom they received from God.  Then, what other spirits were among the first-century Christians who received the Apostle John's letter of 1 John besides the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, whom they received from God?  Look at 1 Timothy 4:1 – “The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.”  This word of the Apostle Paul says that there were "deceiving spirits" and “doctrines of demons” at that time.  That is why Pastor John MacArthur refers to the Apostle John as “demonic spirits” other than the Holy Spirit (MacArthur).  In 1 John 4:3, we can find some answers to that question: “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.”  The Apostle John said not to believe, that is stop believing every spirits because among the recipients of his letters, there were some who believed in “the spirit of the antichrist” besides the Spirit of God.  d

 

(2)     We must test whether the spirit that those who claim to have received is the spirit from God (1 Jn. 4:1).

 

The Apostle John said in 1 John 4:1, "…  but test the spirits to see whether they are from God."  That is, he said to test whether the spirit that those who claim to have received other than the Holy Spirit, who is the Spirit of God, come from God.  How can they test it?  How can those who claim to have received the Spirit test and know whether the spirit they claim is from God or not?  Look at 1 John 4:2-3: “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.”  In this verse, the Apostle John is telling us the standard by which we can discern how the Spirit came from God.  The standard is that the Spirit of God is the spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh, and the spirit of antichrist is a spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus.

 

When considering this standard, we need to think more specifically about “the spirit of the antichrist”.  It can be summarized in four ways through the letter of the Apostle John.

 

The spirit of antichrist …

(1)     Doesn’t acknowledge Jesus (v. 3).

(2)     Denies that Jesus is Christ (2:22).

(3)     Denies the Father and the Son (v. 22).  Doesn’t have the Father (v. 23).

(4)     Doesn’t acknowledge that Jesus Christ as coming in the flesh (2 Jn. 1:7).

 

We can discern other spirits other than the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, based on these four criteria.

 

How, then, can “the Spirit of God” be discerned?  The Spirit of God acknowledges that Jesus Christ came in the flesh (1 Jn. 1:2).  That is, the Spirit of God acknowledges the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  In other words, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, makes us to acknowledge and confess that Jesus Christ came into this world as the man in the perfect and sinless body (MacArthur).  More theologically speaking, the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God, acknowledges the humanity and the divinity of Jesus Christ.

 

Third, the Bible says we belong to God and have overcome the false prophets.

 

Look at 1 John 4:4 – “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.”  If we truly believe in Jesus, we must live a holy life.  The holy life is the life of a “saint”.  We are now those who are called to belong to Jesus (Rom. 1:6) and those who are called to be “saints” (v. 7).  We no longer belong to this world and are living a life separate from the world with a clear sense of belonging to Jesus.  Furthermore, we are those who pursue the holiness of Jesus.  Our responsibility as believers must be cut off from the sinful world.  In other words, we must live a life separate from sin.  Just as water and oil cannot mix, the saints who are children of light must not live in harmony with the dark world.  To do this, we must have the clear sense of belonging as the saints.  We must remember that we are not of this world (Jn. 17:16).  We must not forget that we belong to the Lord who is the Light.

 

In 1 John 4:4, the Apostle John said: “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.”  Here the Apostle John tells the Christians to whom he receives his letter, 'You belong to God', and that those who belong to God have overcome the false prophets.  And he said that the secret that Christians who believe and confess Jesus Christ and who belong to God overcome the false prophets is that the Holy Spirit in the Christians is greater than the devil who is the world and in the false prophets.  The Holy Spirit is greater than the devil.  So the Christians who belong to God and in whom the Holy Spirit dwells have overcome the false prophets.  This is what the Bible says about the false prophets and the devil”:

 

(1)     The false prophets:

 

(2 Pet. 2:1) “But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them--bringing swift destruction on themselves.”

 

(Mt. 7:15) “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves.”

 

(Mt. 24:11, 24) “and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.  …  For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect--if that were possible.”

 

(2)     The devil:

 

(Jn. 8:44) “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father's desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.”

 

(1 Pet. 5:8) “Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour.”

 

(1 Jn. 3:8) “He who does what is sinful is of the devil, because the devil has been sinning from the beginning. The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil's work.”

 

(Rev. 12:9) “The great dragon was hurled down--that ancient serpent called the devil, or Satan, who leads the whole world astray. He was hurled to the earth, and his angels with him.”

 

(Rev. 20:2, 10) “He seized the dragon, that ancient serpent, who is the devil, or Satan, and bound him for a thousand years.  …  And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever.”

 

If we consider these words in connection with 1 John 4:4, the devil and the false prophets are deceivers (Mt. 24:11; Rev. 20:10), and they try to deceive the Christians who are chosen by God (Mt. 24:11, 24).

 

Then, what does the Bible say about the Holy Spirit, the Spirit of God who dwells in us Christians who believe in Jesus?  Look at what the Apostle John said about the Holy Spirit:

 

(1 Jn. 5:6) “…the Spirit is the truth.”

 

(1 Jn. 3:24; 4:13) “Those who obey his commands live in him, and he in them. And this is how we know that he lives in us: We know it by the Spirit he gave us.  …  We know that we live in him and he in us, because he has given us of his Spirit.”

 

(Jn. 14:26) “But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.”

 

(Jn. 15:26) “When the Counselor comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth who goes out from the Father, he will testify about me.”

 

(Jn. 16:13) “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come.”

 

If we consider these words in connection with 1 John 4:4, the Holy Spirit in us, who belong to God, is the Spirit of truth (Jn. 16:13; 1 Jn. 5:6), testifying Jesus Christ (Jn. 15:26), reminding us of all that Jesus Christ said, teaching us (Jn. 14:26), and leading us into all truth (Jn. 16:13) so that we know that Jesus Christ dwells in us and we abide in Him (1 Jn. 3:24; 4:13).

 

As a result, we Christians who believe and confess Jesus Christ and who belong to God overcome the false prophets.  And the secret of victory is because the Holy Spirit in us reminds us that Jesus Christ overcame the devil on the cross.  Not only that, but also the Holy Spirit teaches us with the word of the Lord and guides us into all truth, so that we can overcome the false prophets/the false teachers/the false pastors.

 

The Apostle John already spoke about this fact in 1 John 2:14 – “…  I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God lives in you, and you have overcome the evil one.”  According to this word, the secret that we, the children of God, can fight and overcome the devil's temptation to hate our brothers is because we are strong and the word of God dwells in us.  The word 'we are strong' here means that we are strong because the powerful word of God abides in us.  And the fact that the word of God dwells in us is proof that our faith in Him is strong and firm.  So the Apostle John said in 1 John 5:4 – “for everyone born of God overcomes the world. This is the victory that has overcome the world, even our faith.”

 

Fourth and last, the Bible says that we can discern the Spirit of truth from the spirit of falsehood.

 

Look at 1 John 4:6 – “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.”  Unless we sharpen a blunt knife, it will inevitably require more strength (Eccle. 10:10).  As such, the Christians who are dull in the word of God, the sword of the Holy Spirit (Eph. 6:17), have no choice but to use more strength in their spiritual life.  In other words, the Christians who don’t have sharp mind that is sharpen with the word of God have no choice but to live with their own strength, not the power of God given by the Holy Spirit.  As a result, they live in confusion because they are lack of spiritual discerenmnt due to their spiritual insensitivity.  And they wander and run about in confusion, not knowing where they are going.  However, the Christians who are sharpened with the word of God have spiritual sensitivity and spiritual discernment.  They are not only sensitive to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, but also discern whether the Holy Spirit closes some door and opens another door.  Therefore, they boldly proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ in obedience to the guidance of the Spirit of Jesus.

 

We should be spiritual Christians rather than carnal Christians.  We must no longer live the foolish Christian life, bearing the sinful fruits of envy and strife, pursuing the works of the flesh, no different from those of unbelievers.  Rather, we should forsake the childish work of being a beginner in the word of God and become mature Christians who have reached the maturity level of faith.  Therefore, we must eat solid food, have spiritual discernment, discern good from evil, choose good, and live a life of throwing away all forms of evil.  In the midst of this, we must strive to keep the unity of the church while living a life that bears the fruit of the Holy Spirit, especially under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

 

In 1 John 4:5-6, the Apostle John said this: “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.”  Here, the Apostle John speaks of those who are from God (those who have the Spirit of God in them, the children of God, saints, Christians) who confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh (v. 2) and those who are from the world (those who have the spirit of antichrist, the children of the devil, the false prophets) distinctively

 

First the Apostle John said two things about those who are from the world in verse 5:

 

(1)   Those who are from the world speak from the viewpoint of the world (v. 5).

 

Here, those who are from the world are the false prophets (v. 1), through whom the false spirit of the antichrist is working (WBC).  They speak from the viewpoint of the world.  Here, the "world" the Apostle John is talking about is said in 1 John 2:16 – “For everything in the world--the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does--comes not from the Father but from the world.”  Therefore, the worldly words spoken by the false prophets are of the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life, all of which don’t come from the Father God, but from the world (v. 16).  These carnal, lustful, and boastful words from the world are worldly words and don’t speak according to “the will of God” (v. 17), but as the antichrist wants (v. 18).  In other words, the worldly words spoken by the false prophets who are from the world are words that deny that Jesus is the Christ, and deny the Father God and the Son Jesus (vv. 22-23).  In short, the worldly words spoken by the worldly false prophets (false pastors/false teachers) are never truth, but lies (v. 22).

 

(2)   When those from the world speak from the viewpoint of the world, “the world listen to them” (4:5).

 

It's natural.  When the worldly false prophets (false pastors/false teachers) tell worldly lies, the people of this world belonging to the devil pay attention to their lies and never listen to the true word of God, proclaimed by the Lord’s servants (true pastors/true teachers) like the Apostle John.  For example, people in this world hear false doctrines from false pastors/false teachers that deny that Jesus is the Christ, deny the Father God and His Son Jesus, and deny that Jesus came in the flesh.  

 

Then, what does the Apostle John say in 1 John 4:6 about us who are from God?  He says two things:

 

(1)   We who are from God know God (v. 6).

 

We who are from God are the children of God (3:2) and know God (4:6) because we have constant fellowship with the Father God and His Son, Jesus Christ (1:3).  In other words, we whose received the forgiveness of sins and salvation and became God’s children (3:2) through Jesus Christ, who came in the flesh (4:2) and died on the cross as the propitiation for our sins (2:2), know God (4:6).  Not only do we know God, but moreover, we are known by God (Gal. 4:9).

 

(2)   We who are from God listen to the servants of God (1 Jn. 4:6).

 

The Apostle John also said in John 8:47, “He who belongs to God hears what God says.” In particular, the Apostle John speaks of the good shepherd in John 10, saying that the sheep hear the good shepherd's voice and follow him because they know him (10:4).  And the sheep never follow a stranger, but run away from him because they don’t know the stranger’s voices (v. 5).  The children of God hear God's voice.  They only hear the truth (no lies) through God's true servants (pastors/teachers).  The children of God hear the true gospel of Jesus Christ through the true servants of the Lord, not other gospels, not false gospels.  But those who don’t belong to God and are of the world don’t hear the gospel of Jesus Christ through the true servants of the Lord.  They don’t listen to the truth, but to lies (1 Jn. 4:6).  “This is how we recognize the Spirit of truth and the spirit of falsehood” (v. 6).

 

Jesus tells us in Matthew 10:16a – “I am sending you out like sheep among wolves. ….”  Like those who were sent out among the wolves, we are living a spiritual life in this world where there are many false pastors like predatory wolves who are outwardly clothed in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are full of greed and ravenous wolves (7:15).  How should we beware, wary, and careful of the false pastors?  I found the answer in the second half of Matthew 10:16, the words of Jesus: “…  Therefore be as shrewd as snakes and as innocent as doves.”  First, we must be wise as snakes.  As we are wise as serpents, we must be wary, be on guard and beware of people (v. 17).  Why should we be wary, be on guard, and beware of people?  This is because, as Jesus prophesied, many false prophets have arisen now and are deceiving many (24:11).  Since now the false christs and the false prophets have arisen and are working signs and wonders to deceive, if possible, the elect (13:22), we must be careful, beware, and be on guard against the false christs, the false prophets, the false pastors and the false teachers.  And we must be as innocent as doves.  The Greek literal meaning of the word “pure” here is “unmixed, pure” (Walvoord).  In other words, we must be as innocent as doves toward God (Park).  To do this, we must purify our souls by obeying the pure word of God (Ps. 12:6; 1 Pet. 1:22).

 

The Bible 1 John 4:1-6 tells us four things: (1) The Bible tells us to test the spirits, (2) The Bible tells us not to believe every spirit, but to test the spirits to see whether they are from God, (3) The Bible says we belong to God and have overcome the false prophets, and (4) The Bible says that we can discern the Spirit of truth from the spirit of falsehood.  I hope and pray that all of us don’t believe in all spirits, but test whether the spirits belong to God, whether it is the Spirit of truth or the spirit of falsehood.  Also, since we, who are from God, have the assurance of victory that the Lord has overcome the devil and the false prophets, I hope and pray that we live a victorious life of overcoming against the false pastors, the false teachers, and the false gospel by knowing God and listening to His word.

 

 

 

 

Wanting to be filled with the Holy Spirit, have spiritual discernment, and to live like the one who belong to God,

 

 

 

James Kim

(September 27, 2020, While pursuing a life of militant Christian life with the assurance of victory through faith in Jesus Christ)