The portion I believe you are referring to is found in 1 John 4:1-3, “Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 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.”  How thankful we are that the Holy Spirit is in the world.  However, there are other spirits in the world, too, and we must have discernment so we can ‘try the spirits.’  This portion is so crucial for us to know and practice.  Even in the Apostles’ day, there were ‘many false prophets.’  Are there any less today?  No, I would say there are many more today.  There are those who are false and not teaching the truth; they are using God’s Word and His people for their own advantage or profit.  We are solemnly warned here to not believe everyone who says they speak for the Lord.

We’re now given three tests by which we can we can determine the spirit of a teacher.

  1. As we read in verse 2, “Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God.” This is a two-fold confession that Jesus is the Christ and that He is come in the flesh. This goes far beyond acknowledging the fact that a man named Jesus was born into the world. It is the declaration of faith in the truth that Jesus is that promised Messiah and that He was born into the world. Anyone who would refuse to acknowledge this truth is an antichrist. To confess the fact that Jesus Christ “is come in the flesh” is to acknowledge the need for Christ to die for sinful man. Hebrews 2:14 tells us, “Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, he also himself likewise took part of the same; that through death he might destroy him that had the power of death, that is, the devil.” So, we do well to ask, “What think ye of Christ?” as we read in Matthew 22:42.
  2. False prophets, or teachers, are not heavenly people, they are of the world as we see in verse 5, “They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.” People love to hear what they want to hear and these false prophets will tickle their ears with nice flowing words that do not come from the Lord. In His prayer to His Father, the Lord Jesus said in John 17:14, “I have given them thy word; and the world hath hated them, because they are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.” The world hates the truth and those who tell the truth, but the false prophets are loved by the world because they tell them what they want to hear. Even when we hear something that sounds appealing, we must ask, “What saith the scripture?” as we see in Romans 4:3.
  3. Verse 6 shows us that, “…he that knoweth God heareth us; he that is not of God heareth not us. Hereby know we the spirit of truth, and the spirit of error.” One who is of God will hear and obey the Word of God. The false spirit will not ‘hear’ the words of the Apostles, which are as much a part of the scriptures as the Old Testament prophets. To those people, we would say, “He that is of God heareth God’s words” as we read in John 8:47.

So, we see here three distinct tests to be used to identify a false prophet: What do they think of Christ? Is their message of the world? Do they listen to and obey God’s Word? These false prophets are not saved people and we have the responsibility to discern them by these traits. May we all take serious our responsibility to discern false prophets and “try the spirits whether they are of God.” (177.1)