1 John 4:1-5
1 John 4:1 (KJB)
Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of God: because many false prophets are gone out into the world.
Try - Scrutinize, test, or prove
The Christians to whom John were writing to must have had a hard time with discernment since he was admonishing them to not believe every spirit. The early church was plagued with false teachers as it has been down through the ages up to today. Just because a person mentions the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and even proclaims Him as Savior does not necessarily mean they are bringing the whole truth. The Lord warned us about this previously. (Mat 24:5 KJV) For many shall come in my name, saying, I am Christ; and shall deceive many. One of the tactics of the enemies of Christ in the last days (the last days are from the cross to the last day - Hebrews 1:2) is that they will come as ones who pretend to bring truth but are false teachers. (2 Cor 11:13 KJV) For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into the apostles of Christ. The word “transforming” in the Greek carries with it the meaning of “changing the outward fashion while the inner remains the same,” that is, their outward look is religious and Christian but they are still unsaved within.
As Christians today, we are not to believe everything we hear. Just because someone is on the radio or on TV, or on the internet, we must discern their teachings by means of comparing their teachings to Scripture. Today the airwaves are replete with false teachers and most are just in it for the money, they care nothing for the souls of their hearers. It is incumbent upon the Christian to test everything they hear according to the Scriptures and we cannot be concerned if someone gets angry with us for doing that. There are many today who claim to be a prophet and they are wrong because there are no more prophets in the first century term. The word “prophet” means “to declare God’s word.” Every true believer is to declare God’s word. The false prophets can be discovered by such phrases as, “the Lord told me,” or “I heard the Lord say to me,” or “I had an angel visitation,” or “the Lord came to me” or other phrases like that. God speaks to us through His word and no other way. The day of signs and wonders are over.
1 John 4:2 (KJB)
Hereby know ye the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesseth that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is of God:
One of the major tests that we can use to see if we are dealing with a false teacher or not is to see what their views are on Jesus coming in the flesh. Many have denied or decried the virgin birth of Christ. The Gnostics were known for denying this because their belief was that sinless deity could not dwell in sinful flesh. They espoused this belief simply because they did not understand that Christ did not receive the sinful nature upon birth because Joseph was not His birth father. If they would have understood this reality, they would have realized that Christ was born and remained sinless His entire earthly life. Many today under the guise of New Age teaching claim Christ was not God but an ascended master equal to that of Buddha or Confucius. It is another way of denying that Christ came in the flesh from God. They may claim He was here on earth but He was not deity. Those who are convinced that Christ came in the flesh are definitely those who have become saved.
1 John 4:3 (KJB)
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.
Those who deny that Christ came in the flesh are definitely not of God because false does not come from a source of truth. John further explains that those who do not believe that Christ has come in the flesh have the spirit of Antichrist in them. This Antichrist spirit was prophesied to come but as John states was already in the world. It was not something which was going to come at a future date but has been here since the beginning of time. All unbelievers are, in reality, Antichrists. (Mat 12:30 KJV) He that is not with me is against me; and he that gathereth not with me scattereth abroad. The Lord Himself stated that if you are not with Him, then you are against Him. The word “Antichrist” in the Greek may be understood as “against Christ.” All unbelievers are against Christ. We don’t need to look any further into the future than the present to see how Antichrists are attacking the Lord Jesus Christ and the true Gospel. In fact, this spirit of Antichrist was from the beginning of time. Look how Cain slew Abel because Abel was righteous. Those of Christ versus those of Antichrist will continue to war until the last day.
1 John 4:4 (KJB)
Ye are of God, little children, and have overcome them: because greater is he that is in you, than he that is in the world.
Overcome - Prevail, be victorious, or prevail
There were many whom John wrote to that were very strong in the Lord and did not fall prey to the false teachers. The word “overcome” is in the perfect tense which means these believers had faced false teachers before and withstood their false teachings and were still standing strong in the present. The key to understanding how these believers were able to prevail is in the second part of this verse. Greater is He that is in us than he that is in the world. The Holy Spirit indwells the true believer and since He is the third person of the Triune God, it is God Himself which dwells in us. The unbelievers are deluded and blinded by Satan and he is no match for the great power of God. The Holy Spirit will guide us into all truth as stated in John 16:13 and when we are sensitive to the Spirit’s leading along with a good understanding of Scripture, the false teachers will be rejected every time. There will be a consistency in the believer to have the ability to spot a false teacher and teaching every time. True Christians will always prevail over the false teachers but sometimes it does cost the Christian and history has proven this with all the pogroms against Christians such as the ten major Roman persecutions and with the Roman Catholic inquisition which was nothing more than the attempt to eradicate true Christianity through organized murder.
1 John 4:5 (KJB)
They are of the world: therefore speak they of the world, and the world heareth them.
Those who fostered false teachings are of the world, that is, they are unsaved and therefore when they speak of their own beliefs, they will find people of the world who will follow them. For example, we can see this today when unsaved clergy speak about saving the environment or social justice, they will garner many into their teachings and gain a following. This is because they are of the world and their hearers are also of the world so there is great understanding between them. When a saved person preaches the Gospel to this same group, they are incensed because they are spiritually dead and can only see things pertaining to this world and not the next. Wherever there is no interest in spiritual things, you will find the gospel of this world.