1 John 4:1-6 Part Two: John's Two Tests

Let’s read 1 John 4:1-6,

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. 2 By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, 3 and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already. 4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. 5 They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world, and the world listens to them. 6 We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

This is the second of two sermons on this text. Last week we addressed the problem that we see in this text. John says, “Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God…”. John also says, “...for many false prophets have gone out into the world.” He also warns these believers by saying, “This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you heard was coming and now is in the world already.

John had traveled to many places and everywhere he went he encountered false prophets, false teachers, deceivers and enemies of the gospel. He knew that there was no town or village, no community, no providence, no nation or continent on which you would not find these false prophets.

We live in a world that is full of lying and deceitful spirits. Because of this, Christians need to test the things that they hear by the Word of God. John noticed that the believers he was writing were prone to believe these antichrists. Therefore, he commands them not to believe everything they hear but they are to test these spirits to see if they were from God.

What does John mean by saying that we need to test the spirits to see if they are from God?

Unregenerate men speak with the tongue of their father Satan. Jesus speaks of this in John 8:44, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. 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.”

Christians, however, confess that Jesus is LORD because of the Spirit of God. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 12:2-3 Paul says, “You know that when you were pagans, you were pagans you were led astray to mute idols, however you are led. Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says, ’Jesus is accursed!’ and no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except in the Holy Spirit."

Paul says in 1 Corinthians 2:13-14, “And we impart this in words not taught by human wisdom but taught by the Spirit, interpreting spiritual truths to those who are spiritual. The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.

Behind every word spoken there are spiritual things that are at work. Paul says in Ephesians 6:12, “For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against every spiritual wickedness in high places.

If a person comes to realize the danger that is lurking all around them they may be terribly frightened and wonder how they are to respond. They may shrink back and ignore the danger. Or having seen the danger they may become paralyzed out of fear.

Having come to see this danger they would be like Elijah’s servant who rose early in the morning to discover that the entire city had been surrounded by a great army. In that moment the servant said to Elijah, “Alas, my master! What shall we do?” Elijah said to him, “Do not be afraid, for those who are with us are more than those who are with them.

In this text John has made us aware of the danger and we too may cry out, “What shall we do? How should we respond to this situation?” The apostle encourages us by saying, “Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

In our text ,John gives two practical things that we can do to guard themselves from these antichrist’s.

  • First, they are to determine who the deceivers are by what they confess about Christ.

  • Secondly, we can observe to see if they listen to the apostolic teaching or if they listen to the world.

Many years ago I had an encounter with a man who took John’s words in this text seriously. As we talked it became very evident that he seemed to apply this instruction in our conversation.

I will often listen to sermons as I am getting ready for bed. I pick these sermons randomly and I have made it my habit to listen to them unless I think that they are not treating the text appropriately. They may have a voice or a presentation style that I do not like but I will never turn it off because of that.

Sometimes I will listen to a sermon and really like it. When this happens it is not uncommon for me to listen to it several times and then I will call that church and ask to talk to that pastor so that I can tell them how much I appreciated how he handled that text and to thank them for their faithful ministry.

About five years ago I called an older pastor and told him how much I appreciated his sermon. As we talked, what stood out to me was that throughout our conversation he seemed to be testing me. He asked me many questions and they seemed to focus upon the tests that the apostle John puts before us today. While we were on the phone he would gently probe me about how I viewed Jesus Christ and he sought to determine how I viewed the Word of God. He wanted to know if I had a proper view of Christ and a high view of the Scriptures.