Test the Spirits (Part 6)

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We have learned much from the aged apostle. Our world is fraught with false prophets, seeking to undermine the Word of God and His Messiah.

Our last post provided the how of testing. In that post we learned that, for at least one type of test, the views of the prophet/teacher must align with the biblical truths concerning Jesus Christ. If they do not, then, as John tells us, they are “not from God” (1 John 4:3, ESV).

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Now we come to a shift, or at least an adjusted focus. Cameras are incredible machines. They can focus on one blade of grass amidst an entire field. John has been focusing on one single blade: testing the spirits. Now he shifts his focus from the individual blade of grass to the field.

He writes, “and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard was coming and now is in the world already” (4:3). The origin of the false teach (i.e., spirit) is the antichrist. We learn two things about the antichrist from this one verse.

First, we learn that the spirit of the antichrist was coming. We read about this in 2:22 where John writes, “Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son.” The antichrist, then, is against the Triune God. And who has been against God since the beginning? The devil himself.

We will focus on this first point of the antichrist for this point, and pick up the second aspect in the following post. However, we learn about Satan and his opposition to God all the way back in the Garden of Eden. He is referred to as “the serpent” in Genesis 3:1.
In this account, the serpent enters the Garden and begins a discussion with Eve. He asks, “Did God actually say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree in the garden?’” (3:1) His very first statement to a human being is a question of God’s Word. And the serpent has been questioning God’s Word ever since. He denies the Father, to borrow John’s terminology.

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As the account progresses, the serpent plainly denies God’s Word. He tells Eve, “You will not surely die.” In other words, “God has lied to you, Eve. You will not die.” The Scriptures record the remainder of his speech, “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Gen. 3:4-5, ESV). “Eve, God has ripped you off! He has kept back the fruit because He doesn’t want you to be like Him. How ridiculous could He be?” Once again, the antichrist is denying the Father.

Though tempted by the serpent, Eve could have resisted. Adam, as the guardian of the Garden, should have stepped in, but he failed at protecting his wife and the Word and glory of God. We test the spirits, John tells us, because antichrist is coming. He will remark about his presence already, but this antichrist is the embodiment of full opposition to God. Paul speaks more about him in 2 Thessalonians 2:3-12. He is coming, both Paul and John tell us. But we see that his origins date back to the beginning and have manifested itself throughout human history. That will be the focus of our next post. For now,  when you do not feel like testing the spirits, when you read that blog, or notice that post on Facebook but aren’t sure whether it is biblical or not, remember that the antichrist is coming. That spirit (i.e., teacher) is not from God, but is from the antichrist.

Test the spirits.

FULL PARDON, WONDERFUL GRACE

Have you ever sinned against God, had your conscience rear up and bite you, and then confess your sins (1 John 1:9)? What is the next thing that happens?

I have often found myself beset by guilt. Guilt is an odd concept, and an even odder feeling. The Cambridge Dictionary defines guilt as “feeling of worry or unhappiness that you have because you have done something wrong, such as causing harm to another person.” (https://dictionary.cambridge.org/us/dictionary/english/guilt, accessed 27 August 2020).

It is this feeling of worry or unhappiness that often accompanies our confession. True, we have communicated to God what we have done. And true, we believe the Scriptures when they say “he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9, ESV) But there seems to be a disconnect between the facts of forgiveness and the feelings of guilt. What is the Christian to do?

Thomas Manton, in his masterful exposition of the Lord’s Prayer printed by the Banner of Truth Trust, discusses this. He writes, “It is full pardon.” (Manton, 196)

It is true, for a while after they may trouble the conscience, as when the storm ceaseth, the waves roll for a while afterwards; so may sin in the consciences of God’s children work trouble, after the fiducial application of the blood of Christ. But the storm ceaseth by degrees; and it is possible that the commitment of new sins may revive old guilt, as a new strain may make us sensible of an old bruise.”

Thomas Manton, The Works of Thomas Manton Volume I (Carlisle, PA: Banner of Truth Trust, 1993), 196.

What Manton does is calm the guilt, like the storm-tossed sea, it takes time. While God fully and unequivocally forgives, the conscience rages from the left over storms of sin. It takes time, in other words, for our feelings to catch up with the biblical fact of forgiveness.

The implications, then, should be evident. When you sin, you must confess that sin. When you confess that sin, God forgives that sin. When God forgives that sin, regardless of how you feel, you are forgiven. There is nothing more to confess. Therefore, we must let unbiblical guilt to rule our lives. We must move forward, to pick up again the armor of the Lord (Eph. 6:10-20), we must reignite the light that must be displayed to the world for the glory of God (Matt. 5:14).

When God, through the Lord Jesus Christ, saves you, you experience full pardon. Is this not wonderful grace? Why? Because, “Justice hath no more to seek of Christ.” (Manton, 197)

Test the Spirits (Part 5)

Last time we were together we discussed the why of John’s command to test the spirits. Believers are commanded to test the spirits, to use discernment. It is not optional. But we turn our attention now to the how of testing.

In 1 John 4:1, John offers the command to test, provides the basis for the test, and the reason for the test. In verses 2-3 John provides the how of testing. Knowing the how is important for anything we do. Knowing how to change the oil in your vehicle prior to changing the oil in your vehicle is vital. You can do tremendous damage to your vehicle if you make mistakes during this process. The same could be said of making a cake. If one does not know how to make the cake, the order in which to mix the ingredients, the measurements, and even the time and temperature in the oven, then one cannot enjoy the warm, fluffy delight of a cake (strawberry is the best, by the way!).

Likewise, knowing the how of testing is vital. If God provides us a command, it is consistent with His just and righteous character to provide the how, and He does so through the aged apostle John. John write,

“By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God.” (ESV)

John tells us that we will not the veracity of the spirit based upon their confession of Christ, specifically His humanity. We have mentioned different heresies that have plagued the church throughout her existence, so we will not recount that again. It is important to remember that the church has been, is, and will be beset by false doctrine until the Lord returns. It is a good reminder, then, that we must test the spirits.

While this test is not exhaustive, it is an excellent test. How do teachers, preachers, and philosophers relate to Jesus Christ? Do they proclaim Him to be the Son of God, fully God and fully man, without sin? The Second London Baptist Confession of Faith provides an excellent summary of what we must believe about Jesus Christ,

The Son of God, the second person in the Holy Trinity, being very and eternal God, the brightness of the Father’s glory, of one substance and equal with him who made the world, who upholdeth and governeth all things he hath made, did, when the fullness of time was come, take upon him man’s nature, with all the essential properties and common infirmities thereof, yet without sin; being conceived by the Holy Spirit in the womb of the Virgin Mary, the Holy Spirit coming down upon her: and the power of the Most High overshadowing her; and so was made of a woman of the tribe of Judah, of the seed of Abraham and David according to the Scriptures; so that two whole, perfect, and distinct natures were inseparably joined together in one person, without conversion, composition, or confusion; which person is very God and very man, yet one Christ, the only mediator between God and man. ( John 1:14; Galatians 4;4; Romans 8:3; Hebrews 2:14, 16, 17; Hebrews 4:15; Matthew 1:22, 23; Luke 1:27, 31, 35; Romans 9:5; 1 Timothy 2:5 )

How do you know if a spirit is from God? How do you know if someone is a believer? You know this by their relationship to Jesus Christ. Now, it is important to remember this is not an exhaustive test. This test is not like a battery test at the local automobile supply store. This is like a pass-fail test for the veracity of the individual. But perhaps it would help to provide an example.

The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (also known as the Mormon Church), holds a certain belief about Jesus. Now, this group of people claims to be Christian. While there is much that could be written here, I want to offer one quote from The Book of Moses (referred to as The Pearl of Great Price), 6:9,

“In the image of his own body, male and female, created he them…”

This passage refers to God’s Creation of human beings. But notice the language, “in the image of his own body…” That is, God has a physical body at one point. Now, what does this have to do with Christ? Well, it negatively impacts the doctrine of the Trinity (a point that LDS already have an issue with), particularly the spiritual composition of God the Father (see John 4:24). This, in turn, affects one’s views of Christ. In addition to the nature and origin of Christ, the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints also adds to the work of Christ (you can see an example in 2 Nephi 25:23).

While this post is not about the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, it does help to have an example of how to test the validity of what individuals are saying. Jehovah’s Witnesses provide another example. Jehovah’s Witnesses also deny the deity of Christ, His co-creative power, and the biblical fact that Jesus is Jehovah.[1] It is important to test the veracity of the teachings of Jehovah’s Witnesses in accordance with their views of Jesus. This is one way that we can test the spirits.

Brothers and sisters, we must test the spirits in accordance with “sound doctrine.”[2]


[1] https://wol.jw.org/en/wol/d/r1/lp-e/1200002451#h=1:0

[2] See: Titus 1:9; 2:1; 2 Timothy 4:2-4; and 6:3.

You can read the other posts below:

Part 1

Part 2

Part 3

Part 4