7505 - Test the Spirits

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Audio transcript

In our study of the first epistle of the Apostle John we have now completed the first three chapters. It is impressive to me that God waited until John was likely near 90 years old before the Holy Spirit inspired him to write his three epistles, the gospel of John and Revelation. Many people believe that all five books were written in the decade of the 90’s.

John’s concern was for the spiritual health and vitality of the Church. He was deeply concerned about false doctrines and beliefs which were luring many away from the sound foundation taught by Christ and then by those who knew Him.

Today let’s focus on 1 John 4, verse 1. It says:

“Dear friend, 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.”

To understand what this passage is talking about, one needs to understand there are spiritual beings, which have no body. But they have power, and they may influence people.

The Bible extensively records of evil spirits and demon forces which may inhabit or influence people. Ephesians 6 (v.12RSV) speaks of the Christian’s struggle against principalities, against powers, against the world rulers of this present darkness and against the spiritual host of wickedness in heavenly places. Some draw from this description that there is a hierarchy of evil beings of which we know so little. There is no assured origin of these beings even though their existence and active operation is well established.

The spiritual forces called evil spirits and demons are always found to be in opposition to God and His personal host of angelic beings.

How do these truths relate to the passage for today? Well, John says that Christians are to be able to discern or test the spirit forces to see whether they are from God or from the evil domain.
John does not envision that Christians are to walk about in their daily duties and be confronted by spirits, which have no form. That’s not the issue. John goes on to refer to false prophets. Now false prophets have bodies. They are people who are influenced or governed by one or more of these evil spirits.

The phenomenon implied here is the life of a living human being, which has been indwelt or influenced by one or more of the host of Satan’s henchmen.

We recognize that Satan’s kingdom of evil – the World System – is in direct conflict with the Kingdom of God. Satan’s desire is to have His kingdom overthrow that of God (Is 14:13-14); but, be assured that will never happen. Satan is a defeated enemy. The war was won by Jesus Christ when He died on the cross to destroy the works of Satan (1 John 3:8).

However, the devil continues to resist God until his ultimate demise given in Revelation 20:10, which says: “The devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur... [to] be tormented day and night for ever and ever.

In the Bible and in the World, the practice of idolatry, magic and witchcraft are related to demonic forces. Scripture warns that this will also relate to false teachers (1 Tim. 4:1-2), and false prophets as time goes on.

So the issue relates particularly to the last six centuries when many liberal scholars have been led astray by evil forces to write such absurd statements as “God is dead.”
It also relates to liberal people who teach and preach naturalism and humanism and other erroneous ideas from podiums and pulpits around the world.

So in 1 John 4: verse1, John is commanding Christians to be prepared to recognize false spirits which speak through some people, giving false doctrine to lead people astray.
In the next verses John lays out how to test these spirits and to be certain of their source.