Today’s Reading: 1 John 4-5
Today’s Reflection: 1 John 4:1-3
1) 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.
Here the apostle John cautions us not to believe every spirit, or spiritual sounding word given to us, but to test them and see if they are of God or not. This is one of the most important spiritual disciplines that most Christians tend to misuse or to ignore completely. Typically most Christians automatically question or outright dismiss every spirit that comes from outside of our denomination or congregation, and automatically accept every spirit that comes from inside our denomination or congregation.
Yet God has an astonishing habit of speaking His truths through messengers we would never expect. In the Old Testament God used idol worshiping kings (Genesis 41), pagan priests (Exodus 18), and even prostitutes (Joshua 2:1-11). Just the kind of people we might automatically dismiss. And at the same time error can creep into any church. And if spoken by a trusted pastor, elder or deacon, that error can quickly insinuate itself into the theological fabric of a congregation.
We must be knowledgeable about God’s word in order to follow this instruction, for it is the Word of God that we must test these spirits against.
Isaiah 8:20 (KJV) – To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.
John also tells us the most important criteria for determining if a spirit is of God: if it confesses that Jesus is the Messiah (or Christ) and has come in the flesh. There are many theories about the nature of the incarnation, ranging from Jesus being a confused human being, to being a completely spiritual being incapable of being harmed by a crucifixion. There are also dire warnings about believing a different Gospel than that which was proclaimed by the apostles (Galatians 1:8-9). The truth of the Messiah is what is in the Gospel accounts: Jesus was the product of a faithful and virtuous but common human woman, a virgin impregnated by the Holy Spirit (Luke 1:26-35). Jesus was wholly God and wholly man at the same time, a mystery we cannot fully comprehend.
Lastly the spirits that claim that Jesus was not the Christ, or claim His origins are different than those described in the Gospel, are the spirits of antichrist. We often have this view that the antichrist is this demonic, evil, destructive creature that will usher in a world devastating crisis—the apocalypse. The truth is much more subtle, but to me much more terrifying. Anything that opposes Christ is essentially antichristian, whether it be a religion, a political power, a person, a book, movie or song.
2 Corinthians 10:5 – Casting down imaginations, and every high thing that exalteth itself against the knowledge of God, and bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ;
Every spirit that refuses to confess Jesus as the Christ come in the flesh is antichrist, meaning we must be on constant guard over the influences we allow into our minds and those we keep out.