Try The Spirits
Pastor David L. Brown, Ph.D.
Sermon Delivered 8/29/04
1 John 4:1-3
Text: "Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world. 2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 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." 1 John 4:1-3
Back in the early 70’s my wife, Steve, Karla and I lived in a country that was steeped in Anamism and Spiritism. Anamism is the belief that everything, even inanimate objects such as rocks, trees, plants, etc. are alive and have a soul or spirit. Spiritism is the name given to the belief that the living can and do communicate with the spirits of the dead or others spirits in the spirit realm. People would spend a year’s wages to buy a fetish to bury in their gardens to keep the evil spirits away. The word fetish refers to idols and amulets made by hand that are supposed to possess magic power. My point is simply this. There was in that culture a belief in spirits and fear of spirits! I will never forget traveling across this country and seeing the spiritual oppression. At night I would hear the Voodoo drums pounding out their rhythmus calling the spirits and hearing the shrieks of those who became possessed by these demonic spirits.
Most Americans and many Christians are ambivalent about such things. They wonder are they real or just show? After all, we live in America, a country that by and large was founded upon Christian principles and the Christian religion. Surely we do not have to worry about such demoniacal thing in America? My Christian friends, our Nation is under attack by the same dark spiritual forces that hold Haiti hostage and they are gaining ground! We are in a spiritual battle in America - Ephesians 6:12 reminds us "For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places." Because many Christian parents do not take this spiritual battle seriously, or do not even realize that it exists, they do not recognize that their children are being indoctrinated with demonic doctrines. So what can we do? That’s where the Apostle John gives us direction.
Don’t Be Gullible – 1a
The construction of the phrase "believe not" is emphatic. John is saying stop believing every spirit! Obviously, the believers John was writing to were naïve. They were being deceived. The phrase "every spirit" refers to the doctrines and philosophies that phony Christian preachers and teachers were promoting.
It is amazing how gullible many Christian are. John warns them not to be so trusting! Just because someone claims that they are a believer and that their message is from God does not make it so! I remind you of Matthew 7:21-23 "Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works? 23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity." I can tell you, counterfeit Christians are not going to tell you that they are fakes and that their teachings are untruth! They don’t wear signs that say "I am a false prophet!"
There is another thing to consider. We have been warned that as this present Age of Grace advances, demonic teachers and their teachings will increase. Turn to 1 Timothy 4:1-2 "Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; 2 Speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron;" Therefore, beware. Not everyone who claims spiritual insight from the Holy Spirit of God really has it. There are many who get their insight from the unholy spirits of the Devil. Do not be gullible!
There is a second thing you can do according to John…
The word "try" is a translation of the Greek word dokimazete dokimazete (do-im-adz-eta) which means to test, examine, prove, and scrutinise to see whether a thing is genuine or not. It is the same word that we find in 1 Thessalonians 5:21 "Prove all things; hold fast that which is good."
What John is talking about when he says "try the spirits" is not some mystical séance with the Holy Spirit but rather a comparison of the doctrines which they professed to hold with what was revealed in the Word of God. If the teacher teaches what is taught in God’s word, and if their lives corresponded with His requirements, and if their doctrines agreed with what had been instilled by those who were known to be true apostles, they were to receive them as what they professed to be. If not, they were to reject them, and hold them to be impostors. This is what John says in 1 John 4:6 "We are of God: 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."
Friends, the radio, television and bookstores are packed with religious teachers. It is just as important now to examine the claims of all who profess to be teachers of religion, as it was then. In a matter so crucial as religion, and where there is so much at stake, it is important that all pretensions of this kind should be subjected to a rigid examination. No one should be received as a religious teacher without the clearest evidence that his teaching, preaching and writing is in accordance with the will and Word of God. Turn with me toIsaiah 8:20 "To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them." And do not forget Acts 17:11 "These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the scriptures daily, whether those things were so."
The Apostle John is saying the same thing that Isaiah said – "if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them."
"Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God: 3 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."
There are two specific tests that help us to discern which spirit is behind a teacher. The first one, while a bit obscure is alluded to in verse 2.
John put it this way in his Gospel – "But when the Comforter is come, whom I will send unto you from the Father, even the Spirit of truth, which proceedeth from the Father, he shall testify of me:" John 15:26
If a person claims to be led by the Spirit of God but focuses and speaks more of himself, his gifts and his personal experiences than he does of Jesus Christ, the spirit empowering that person is NOT the Holy Spirit. Again, if a person claims to be led by the Spirit of God but focuses and speaks more of the Holy Spirit than he does of the Lord Jesus Christ, the spirit empowering that person is NOT the Holy Spirit.
The second way you can tell whether it is the Spirit of God (the Holy Spirit) or false spirits empowering a person is by what they believe about Jesus Christ. Put this two-fold question to them: Do you actually believe that Jesus Christ came in the flesh? Do you believe that God actually became incarnate (took on a human body and the nature of man) in the person of Jesus of Nazareth? If they answer in the affirmative, it is the Holy Spirit. No lying spirit will confess that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh. The doctrine of the incarnation is the doctrine above all others that Satan and his demonic hordes hate.
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."
1 John 4:3 makes it clear – "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." Any spirit and any teacher that does not confess Jesus of Nazareth as the actual incarnation of God is not of God, and is "the spirit of Antichrist."
It is clear, any spirit and any teacher that does not confess Jesus of Nazareth as the actual incarnation of God is not of God, it is "the spirit of Antichrist."
As believers we need to be on our toes! There are many
false prophets who are gone out into the world. To protect ourselves we –
1) Must not be gullible. 2) We must put their teachings to the test. 3) We
must examine what they teach about Jesus Christ.