1 John 4:1-3

Wednesday Evening Bible Study

March 18, 1998

Introduction

I think that sometimes the world is right when it accuses Christians of "believing just about anything".

A couple in our church had to go to the police and file a report for a situation where they had trusted someone who turned around and hurt them. The police said it happens to people in churches all the time.

It seems to me that Christians on the Internet are especially vulnerable. One of the things that I find amazing is how we take everything to be true. Whenever some new hoax about a virus that you can get through your e-mail comes by, itís the Christians that take the message and send it to twenty of their friends. And nobody bothers to check it out. A few months ago I got an e-mail from a friend of mine telling me about the "AOL 4.0 hoax". There was an elaborately constructed letter where a guy claiming to be an ex-AOL programmer warned that the new coming version of AOL was going to be able to read your hard-drive and tell AOL how much money you had, and all your deepest, darkest secrets. I was paranoid about it for weeks, until I finally decided to check it out on my own, and found out that it was just the latest hoax.

It bothers me that Christians tend to get caught up in all the "conspiracy theories". Some of the most radical, ungodly, conspiracy-theory-oriented groups, like these private militias and white-Aryan groups, claim to be Christian groups.

Now Paul the apostle says that love "believes all things" (1Cor.13:7). And I think that we need to be careful that we donít swing so far that we become total skeptics and never believe anything that anybody says.

But tonightís study is going to be a bit about getting us to learn to be a little more careful about just who and what we trust.

Warren Wiersbe: "George Whitefield, the great British evangelist, was speaking to a man about his soul. He asked the man, "Sir, what do you believe?""I believe what my church believes," the man replied respectfully. "And what does your church believe?" "The same thing I believe." "And what do both of you believe?" the preacher inquired again. "We both believe the same thing!" was the only reply he could get. A man is not saved by assenting to a church creed. He is saved by trusting Jesus Christ and bearing witness to his faith (Rom. 10:9-10)."

:1 Beloved, believe not

Every single New Testament writer warns against false teachers and false prophets.

:1 every spirit

"every spirit" Ė notice John doesnít say "every man".

Sometimes weíre kind of "wowed" by spiritual kinds of things.

Just because something has a supernatural feel to it doesnít mean that itís from God.

There are other spirits than just Godís Spirit at work. Demonic spirits. Human spirits.

Paul seems to allude to this when he says,

(1 Cor 12:3 KJV) Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and that no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

I believe Paul is referring to a person claiming to have a message from God, and if the message claims that Jesus is cursed, then itís not the Spirit of God speaking. And nobody claiming to be speaking under the power of a spirit can have a message saying that Jesus is Lord unless itís the Holy Spirit.

Jesus said,

(Mat 7:22-23 KJV) 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.

Jesus said that there would be people standing before the Lord who had claimed to prophesy, to have cast out demons, and to have done miracles, all whom He did not know.

:1 but try the spirits whether they are of God

try Ė dokimazo Ė to test, examine, prove, scrutinize (to see whether a thing is genuine or not), as metals; to recognize as genuine after examination, to approve, deem worthy

The word is used to describe what a metallurgist does in testing to see if a piece of metal is genuine or not. Is it gold, or just foolsí gold?

We get into the mode where we start to trust certain people, and then we simply believe everything they say. Yet Iím not so sure we are to ever get past the point where we are evaluating what we hear against the Word of God.

Luke tells us that the Bereans were "more noble" because they searched the Scriptures daily to see if Paul was telling them the truth Ė

(Acts 17:11 KJV) 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.

Paul gives a rule in the church regarding the giving of prophecies Ė

(1 Cor 14:29 KJV) Let the prophets speak two or three, and let the other judge.

Lesson:

Use the tests.

1) Theology.

Who does this person think God is?

(Deu 13:1-5 KJV) If there arise among you a prophet, or a dreamer of dreams, and giveth thee a sign or a wonder, {2} And the sign or the wonder come to pass, whereof he spake unto thee, saying, Let us go after other gods, which thou hast not known, and let us serve them; {3} Thou shalt not hearken unto the words of that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams: for the LORD your God proveth you, to know whether ye love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul. {4} Ye shall walk after the LORD your God, and fear him, and keep his commandments, and obey his voice, and ye shall serve him, and cleave unto him. {5} And that prophet, or that dreamer of dreams, shall be put to death; because he hath spoken to turn you away from the LORD your God, which brought you out of the land of Egypt, and redeemed you out of the house of bondage, to thrust thee out of the way which the LORD thy God commanded thee to walk in. So shalt thou put the evil away from the midst of thee.

Itís important to understand what a person believes about God.

Even though a person may use the name of "Jesus", it may be a "different Jesus".

(2 Cor 11:4 KJV) For if he that cometh preacheth another Jesus, whom we have not preached, or if ye receive another spirit, which ye have not received, or another gospel, which ye have not accepted, ye might well bear with him.

(Gal 1:8 KJV) But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed.

For example, the Mormons will tell you about Jesus, but the Jesus they talk about is the half-brother of Lucifer, a created being. The salvation they talk about is different than the Biblesí, not based on Godís payment for your sins, but on your good works.

2) Fulfillment of predictions.

Has this person predicted something that hasnít happened?

(Deu 18:20-22 KJV) But the prophet, which shall presume to speak a word in my name, which I have not commanded him to speak, or that shall speak in the name of other gods, even that prophet shall die. {21} And if thou say in thine heart, How shall we know the word which the LORD hath not spoken? {22} When a prophet speaketh in the name of the LORD, if the thing follow not, nor come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD hath not spoken, but the prophet hath spoken it presumptuously: thou shalt not be afraid of him.

If it doesnít come to pass as they predicted, then God didnít speak.

3) Fruit Inspection.

People like to hide behind the "donít judge me" thing (Mat. 7:1). But when Jesus spoke of judging, the word He used carried the idea of condemning to hell. Jesus Himself, in the very same chapter that He says not to judge, says,

(Mat 7:15-20 KJV) Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves. {16} Ye shall know them by their fruits. Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles? {17} Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. {18} A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. {19} Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. {20} Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.

What are the characteristics of this personís life? What kind of fruit comes from their life?

Keep in mind when you look at fruit to think of what the fruit of the Spirit is:

(Gal 5:22-23 NASB) But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, {23} gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

If a personís life is characterized by anger, hostility, impatience, and lack of self-control, then it doesnít sound as if the Spirit of God is working too strongly in their life.

:1 because many false prophets are gone out into the world

Not just a few, many.

Itís also a sign of the times Ė

Mt 24:11 And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.

Mt 24:24 For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if [it were] possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

:2 Hereby know ye the Spirit of God

John is now going to give a test of his own, one that applies to the situation of the people he is writing to.

:2 Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ

confesseth Ė homologeo Ė to say the same thing as another, i.e. to agree with, assent; to concede; to confess; to profess

This is the word used in 1John 1:9, "if we confess our sins Ö"

:2 is come in the flesh

This test is because of the "Docetic Gnostics", a group that believed that since everything fleshly is evil, that Jesus must not have been a real, flesh and blood person, but just a phantom, a ghost.

Itís interesting that even today, the Jehovah witnesses believe that after the resurrection, Jesus was just a spirit, not a real, physical person.

Yet the truth is, Jesus took on human flesh.

(Phil 2:5-11 KJV) Let this mind be in you, which was also in Christ Jesus: {6} Who, being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: {7} But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: {8} And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. {9} Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: {10} That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; {11} And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

(John 1:14 KJV) And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

(Heb 2:16-18 KJV) For verily he took not on him the nature of angels; but he took on him the seed of Abraham. {17} Wherefore in all things it behoved him to be made like unto his brethren, that he might be a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. {18} For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succour them that are tempted.

:2 is of God

Paul adds two more tests to what a person says about Jesus:

1) That He rose from the dead

Ro 10:9 That if thou shalt confess with thy mouth the Lord Jesus, and shalt believe in thine heart that God hath raised him from the dead, thou shalt be saved.

2) That He is Lord and God

1Co 12:3 Wherefore I give you to understand, that no man speaking by the Spirit of God calleth Jesus accursed: and [that] no man can say that Jesus is the Lord, but by the Holy Ghost.

:3 this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come

The term "antichrist" doesnít just mean the "opposite" of Christ, but it is probably better understood "in place of Christ". Heís going to come to take the place of Jesus.

Part of the antichristís message is that Jesus wasnít the Christ, but that he is. Jesus didnít come to fulfill the role of Messiah, to "flesh it out", he is going to do that.

(2 Th 2:3-10 KJV) Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; {4} Who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God. {5} Remember ye not, that, when I was yet with you, I told you these things? {6} And now ye know what withholdeth that he might be revealed in his time. {7} For the mystery of iniquity doth already work: only he who now letteth will let, until he be taken out of the way. {8} And then shall that Wicked be revealed, whom the Lord shall consume with the spirit of his mouth, and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming: {9} Even him, whose coming is after the working of Satan with all power and signs and lying wonders, {10} And with all deceivableness of unrighteousness in them that perish; because they received not the love of the truth, that they might be saved.

:3 and even now already is it in the world.

The antichrist is not just a single person who is yet to be revealed, but thereís a "spirit" of antichrist that has been around since the beginning.

Itís interesting that people want to believe anything but the truth.

Illustration

Has the late king of rock 'n' roll become a god? Not yet, but "what is now the Elvis cult could be nothing less than a religion in embryo," says Ted Harrison, former religion correspondent for the British Broadcasting Corp. In Elvis People: The Cult of the King, published by Harper Collins, Harrison documents the spiritual elements said to surround Presley's birth, life, death, and afterlife. Die-hard followers compare Presley to Christ, and some cite proofs of his divinity. Others who recognize his personal faith in Christ say he was a messenger from God. Thousands claim to have seen Elvis alive, or resurrected, since his 1977 death. Elvis impersonators are said to consider themselves part of a priesthood with a divine calling. Their costumes are vestments, and their actions part of a rite. Anything the entertainer touched, wore, or threw into a crowd serves as a relic, and Graceland is a shrine. On Aug. 16, the 16th anniversary of Presley's death, about 14,000 pilgrims trekked to the Memphis mansion to honor Elvis.

-- National & International Religion Report, Vol. 7, No. 18, 1993, p. 3.

Lesson:

Know the real thing.

As we have seen, the best way to tell a truth from a lie is to know the truth.

Thatís Godís Word.

Illustration

When I was a teller, we had a course in counterfeits. The teacher brought in samples of counterfeits, but rather than study the counterfeits, the focus was on knowing what a real bill looked like.

When I was a "merchant teller", I had to handle great quantities of cash. There gets to be a certain "feel" about real money. And a good merchant teller can tell a counterfeit just by the feel of it on the fingers.

Stay in Godís Word. Get to know the feel of the truth. You wonít have problems with the lies.