1 John 4:1 says, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.” 

What a grave warning to us that we are not to believe all teachers who claim to being led by the Spirit.  John had mentioned the faith, love, and obedience that characterizes every believer and the indwelling Spirit in every believer in 1 John 3:23-24, “And this is his commandment, That we should believe on the name of his Son Jesus Christ, and love one another, as he gave us commandment. And he that keepeth his commandments dwelleth in him, and he in him. And hereby we know that he abideth in us, by the Spirit which he hath given us.”  Having mentioned the true Spirit here, he goes on to warn of false spirits that produce false prophets. 

We are given the responsibility to try, or test, the spirits that claim to be ‘of God.’  Even the believers in the Old Testament were instructed how to discern if the teachers they heard were truly of the Lord or were false teachers.  We read in Isaiah 8:19-20, “And when they shall say unto you, Seek unto them that have familiar spirits, and unto wizards that peep, and that mutter: should not a people seek unto their God? for the living to the dead? To the law and to the testimony: IF THEY SPEAK NOT ACCORDING TO THIS WORD, IT IS BECAUSE THERE IS NO LIGHT IN THEM.” 

1 John 4:2-3 goes on to tell us HOW to test the spirits.  That says, “Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come; and even now already is it in the world.”

Here, John gives a standard to ascertain whether the speaker of the message is of a demon spirit or of the Holy Spirit.  It is by their confession and proclamation of the fact that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh.  This is not just a historical acknowledgment that Jesus was born into the world, but that He is God come in the flesh.  Let us consider just a few verses that verify that truth.

  • Matthew 1:23, “Behold, a virgin shall be with child, and shall bring forth a son, and they shall call his name Emmanuel, which being interpreted is, GOD WITH US.”
  • 1 Timothy 3:16, “And without controversy great is the mystery of godliness: GOD WAS MANIFEST IN THE FLESH, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” 
  • Philippians 2:5-7, “Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men.”

If anyone refuses to acknowledge this, then he has the spirit of antichrist…that which is against Christ.  Some so-called ministers today can be so eloquent and charismatic, but if they refuse to gladly and boldly confess that Jesus Christ is the Son of God…God manifest in the flesh, then turn away immediately from them.  They are false prophets.

If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus Christ, you have the Holy Spirit dwelling in you (Romans 8:9; Ephesians 1:13, 4:30).  You have the ability to try the spirits.  You have the ability to discern if the foundation of one’s words comes from the Lord or from the devil.  May we all be cautioned by the words of Jude 4, “For there are certain men crept in unawares, who were before of old ordained to this condemnation, ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness, and denying the only Lord God, and our Lord Jesus Christ.”  May we use this strict standard to discern if one is from the Lord or from the devil.  If there is one in question, you may want to ask him/her, “What think ye of Christ? whose son is he?…” (Matthew 22:42).  (CC)  (518.6)