Reality Check: Standard-Lies Testing
Any test in which the same test is given in the same manner to all test takers is a standardized test. The opposite of a standardized test is a non-standardized test. Non-standardized testing gives different tests to different test takers, or gives the same test under significantly different conditions. For example, one group is permitted far less time to complete the test than the next group, or one group is evaluated differently than the others. I want to show you how to apply 2 tests to determine if someone is a phony or a follower of Christ.
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 andthe spirit of error.
Test all teaching
Every truth in this text hinges on 2 imperatives. One is negative and one is positive: do not believe and test or examine. John just finished talking how we can have assurance of salvation: we are of the truth, and God abides in us. John then moves into a section on testing truth and heresy. The Greco-Roman world that John was writing to was riddled with a “proliferation of personal dream revelations, oracles, interpretation, magic, and astrology.” The Oracle of Delphi in Greece would get high before making predictions about the future. Historians believe that a cocktail of carbon dioxide mixed with methane could have induced the psychic trances used to channel the gods in order to serve up a psychedelic prophecies. We called that woodstock in the 60’s. A Roman commander kept a Syrian prophetess named Martha with his army to give advice on important decisions. So how are we able to test the spirits of the world? How can we test spirits if we can’t see them? With our eyes or intellect? With your ears. By John’s giving us this command, he expects us to test what people are teaching. We live in a society of toleration. Everyone wants to get along, but Biblically we are unable to.
John gives us 2 ways to test the teaching of individuals
1. Christological test
Verse 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.
True believers accept
Every spirit manifests in the truth that is taught. A true disciple believes that Jesus Christ is both human and divine as the son of God. The verb “confesses” indicates an unwavering belief in something.
Jesus was fully man.
He worshipped the father in John 17, he prayed to the father in Mark 1, he was tempted in matt 4:1, he grew in wisdom in Luke 2:52, he ate in John 21, he wept in John 11, he died on the cross in John 19, and his body was of flesh in bones in Luke 24:39.
Jesus was fully God.
He was worshipped in matt.14:33, he was prayed to in Acts 7:59, he was sinless in 1 peter 2:22, he knows all things in John 21:17, he gives eternal life in John 10:28, he forgives sins in Mark 2.
True believers accept the fact that Jesus was fully God and fully man.
False teachers reject
John is battling those who deny the incarnation of Christ. Christ became a man. When Jesus came in the form of a man, he never laid his humanity aside. He is still in his resurrected body. Failing to confess Jesus as both God and man reveals the spirit of anti-Christ. Many people can have the teaching of antiChrist. These are men and women who are against the messiah. What you believe about Jesus is essential for salvation. Every world religion and cult without exception denies that Jesus is the son of God who has come in the flesh.
There are certain truths we have to agree on: the sinfulness of man, the person and work of Christ, and the nature of salvation.
Some things we can differ on and still worship together: speaking in tongues, losing salvation, the work of the holy spirit, arminianism, calvinism, replacement theology, views on the tribulation or the millennium. Although these are important issues, they are not issues about salvation.
Counterfeit Christians will come in the form of preachers. Their churches will be busting at the seams. Book sales will be through the roof. They will have worldwide television programs. They will smile as they preach, or whatever you call what they do, motivate people to feel good about themselves. Paul warned Timothy: “these men will preacher sermons that tickle itching ears and gather a large number to follow them. ” By the worlds standards they will look admirable. By God’s standards they are an abomination.
Sadly, many of their followers will know just enough of the Bible to get them into hell. Don’t stake your life on what you heard from someone else even though they wear a suit, carry a Bible, have a degree on the wall, or claim to be reverend, priest, pastor, bishop, or apostle. Study for yourself.
I’ve found that many people who have strong opinions about a particular subject have never personally studied the doctrine for themselves.
Why do you think Paul tells Timothy, “study to show yourself approved. A worker who does not need to be ashamed. Rightly dividing the word of truth.”
2. Causal test
Verse 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.
Unbelievers are from the world
Let’s start with the negative first. John uses the word world 3 times in 6 verses. In this context the world describes both satan himself and the system in which he presides. “they” refers to false teachers of the world who disguise their dialogue with Christian language. “speak” is a present tense verb explaining that they continually speak like the world and are influenced by the prince of this world satan. Further, their message is attractive to others in the world. someone once said, “the world listens to those who speak its own language.”
Speaking of false teachers and unbelievers, Jesus said in Luke 6:43, “for no good tree bears bad fruit, nor again does a bad tree bear good fruit, for each tree is known by its own fruit. For figs are not gathered from thornbushes, nor are grapes picked from a bramble bush. The good person out of the good treasure of his heart produces good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure produces evil, for out of the abundance of the heart his mouth speaks.”
Believers are from God
Verse 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.”
This is a great example of a text that is used by many as a pretext for a prooftext. How many times have you heard, “don’t fret over your trials, greater is he that is in you than he who is in the world.” contextually, John is talking about combatting false teachers with discernment from God. When John says, “you are from God, little children,” He is bringing to mind our new birth in Christ.
This is so important that John repeats the phrase “from God” in verses: 4:1, 2, 3, 4, & twice in 6 (twice).
Overcome is the word conquer. The logo for Nike is where the greek word meaning victory comes from.
How have we overcome the evil one?
Because the holy spirit in us is greater and stronger than the one in the world. Our victory over the false teachers is not because of intellect or skill, its because of the indwelling power of Christ within us.
1 John 4:6, “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.
Here is the test: is what this person or entity teaching line up with the teaching of the apostles or is it a man-made doctrine that was concocted later? The difference between a person in a cult who is going to hell and a true believer in Jesus Christ, who is going to Heaven, is largely one of theology. This is why I encourage you to study sound doctrine, especially with regard to the person and work of Jesus Christ. You should study theology books: wayne grudem, millard erickson, John frame, william lane craig, and michael horton.
Here is why it’s imperative you do
A few years ago, the liberal media brought to light the gnostic book the gospel of Thomas. Let’s suppose your antagonistic, unbelieving family member calls you up and says, “you see, the Bible you own doesn’t even contain all the books. Your Bible is missing the gospel of Thomas. He was a follower of Jesus.” How are you going to respond? If you understood theology, you would understand that there are certain criteria for determining whether a book is canonical (accepted) or not.
- Authoritative–come from God
- Apostolic- authorship
- Consistency–whole counsel of God
The gospel of Thomas meets the first 2 but fails the third. It’s pretty insightful until the end. Notice the bizarre final statement in the the gospel of Thomas: “Simon Peter said to them: “let Mary go away from us, for women are not worthy of life.” Jesus said: “lo, I shall lead her, so that I may make her a male, that she too may become a living spirit, resembling you males. For every woman who makes herself a male will enter the kingdom of Heaven.”
Let me give you another example. The teaching in the gnostic book the apocryphon of John teaches that the humans are not affected by the sin of one man but are contaminated by the world. Woman is not created by God but by the figure Jaldabaoth, which has the appearance of a serpent and a lion and who creates without God’s approval. It’s not just the perversion on doctrine. It’s the adding to doctrine that disrorts it.
Anything that hijacks our minds attention and our hearts affection from Jesus is wrong. What’s at stake here is the glory of Christ. I am willing to be chastised by my own family over the issue of worshipping Mary. Why? Because Jesus alone is worthy to be worshipped.
Don’t take my word for it. Don’t take a priests word for it. Don’t take a pastors word for it. Don’t take a doctors word for it. Don’t take the church’s word for it. Don’t even take traditions word for it. Takes God’s word for it. Read what the Bible says.
You may say: I don’t believe God is sovereign in salvation?
I don’t believe in election?
I don’t believe in predestination?
I don’t believe Jesus is the only way?
I think we should pray to mary?
Jesus is in the wafers and wine during the eucharist ceremony?
Is Jesus is the half brother of satan?
The church has replaced Israel?
Jesus is only a good prophet?
I don’t believe in once saved always saved?
I don’t believe that God chose me unconditionally before the foundation of the world.
Well, have you studied it? No. I just don’t understand how God would do that.
When I was flying back and forth to New Orleans finishing up my PhD a few years ago, I was sharing about Jesus being the only way with a woman sitting next to me on the plane. She said, “I don’t believe that. There are many ways to Heaven.”
Here is a great way to respond to someone who makes a statement that is off the wall. I said, “really, where did you learn that from?” she confidently responded, “I just can’t believe that God would only make 1 way to Heaven.”
What I can’t believe is that God would save any one of us from the pit of Hell and secure a place in Heaven after years and years and years of rebellion and sin. The fact that God saves 1 is grace. He doesn’t have to save anyone and he would still be just, loving, and fair.
This woman, a “self proclaimed believer,” was getting worked up on the plane. It was good and bad. This was not a good thing because I hit a nerve. It was bad because she was causing a scene. She responded, “you are deceived if you think that Jesus is the only way to Heaven. How could you be so narrow minded to think that Jesus is the only way.”
With humility, I responded, “you don’t have to get upset with me. Take it up with Jesus. He said, ‘wide is the road that leads to destruction and many find it. But narrow is the road that leads to life and few find it.” He also said, “I am the way the truth and the life.”
I finished by saying, “I would rather believe a collection of 66 books written by about 40 authors, in 3 different languages, on 3 different continents, over approximately 1600 years. The Bible is inerrant, infallible, authoritative, and sufficient for salvation. It does not just contain the words of God, it is the the word of God. The 39 Old Testament books foretell the coming of Jesus who will redeem the world from its sin, and the 26 New Testament books affirm his arrival.
I thought the book of 1 John was about love. Why are you talking about separation and exclusivism?
How much do you have to hate someone to not tell them the truth?
The Bible clearly says in Acts 4:12, “there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under Heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved: the name of Jesus.”
As Christians, we should be a people of the book. The only way you will ever be able to discern the difference between truth and error is by knowing and understanding the word.
How do you spot a phony? Get into the Word until the word gets into you.