I was listening to my local pastor preach through 1 John 4, and he made a subtle statement that jumped out at me concerning verse 1, Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits. The statement is a command.
It was at this point that the command really jumped out at me. As believers, we have been given the responsibility to “test the spirits.” In other words, we have to be on our guard against false prophets, false claims, and false religions.
Far too many in the church want to go along to get along to their own peril. Instead of weighing what a pastor, evangelists, pope or Dali Lama says against scripture, they would rather feel that they are being generous and kind.
Yet, according to John, it is our responsibility to test every spirit that presents itself just as the Bereans did when Paul preached to them. John gives us the test he wants us to start with because many false prophets have gone out into the world. John was able to take a quick assessment of the baggage of Christianity in his day, it was producing many false prophets just as our LORD warned us it would do. So John gives us a test to begin with to see if someone is a false prophet or not. He writes: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God, and every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God.
Notice that John is pointing to the incarnation. He is stating the Jesus Christ came in the flesh with the understanding that Jesus Christ existed before the foundations of the world (see John 8). He expects his readers to understand that Jesus was both fully God and fully man (see John 1:1-14).
The test is still quite effective today. Just look at the hodgepodge of religions and you can see that it is quite reliable. Mormons deny Jesus is God. Islam denies that Jesus was God in the flesh. Christian Scientist deny that Jesus was the God-man. Buddhist deny Jesus came in the flesh. It goes on and on.
The result is that we can see all these other religions as antichrists. This is not my standard, but John’s (and therefore Christ’s standard). And every spirit that does not confess that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is not of God. And this is the spirit of the Antichrist, which you have heard was coming, and is now already in the world.
I love the writers of the New Testament. They are so very black and white when it comes to belief. Here was have John’s clear announcement that if someone professes to be a prophet, proclaiming the truth of God, yet denies that Jesus Christ came in the flesh, they are of the spirit of the Antichrist. You cannot get much clearer than that.
As believers, it is our responsibility to test the spirits, even and especially in the church. We are to be Bereans knowing our Bibles, listening at what people are saying and seeing if it measure up to Scripture. If it does not, then we cast it aside. We must do so for our spiritual well-being.