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4-22-18 Unbelievable Spirits 1 John 4:1-6

1 John Series  •  Sermon  •  Submitted   •  Presented   •  40:18
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Introduction:
Let me tell you about a “Christian” lady that met Christ in Heaven and wrote a book about it in 1994: Her Name, Betty Eadie. Her bestseller, Embraced By The Light:The Most Profound and Complete Near-Death Experience
Her website: https://embracedbythelight.com
This book was on the N.Y. Times bestseller list for more than 40 weeks, including 5 weeks as the #1 seller.
In November 1973, Eadie alleges that she died after undergoing a hysterectomy, and returned five hours later with the secrets of heaven revealed by Jesus. Eadie says that Jesus "never wanted to do or say anything that would offend me" while she visited heaven. Indeed, Jesus seems to be relegated to the role of a happy tour guide in heaven, not the Savior of the world who died on the cross. She revised this book several times after the first publishing. The idea of hell and judgment are nowhere to be found in this book.
Eadie says that Jesus "never wanted to do or say anything that would offend me" while she visited heaven. Indeed, Jesus seems to be relegated to the role of a happy tour guide in heaven, not the Savior of the world who died on the cross. She revised this book several times after the first publishing. The idea of hell and judgment are nowhere to be found in this book.
The Apologetics Index (apologeticsindex.org) family of web sites provides 40,870+ pages of research resources on alternative religions, religious cults, the sects, and movements that are deceptive and unbiblical. Wrote this about her book:
It has been well-documented that Betty Eadie’s story is full of contradictions. (Her gynecologist denied that she died.) Furthermore, Eadie has changed her story a number of times depending on the audience to which she is speaking.
Her book Embraced by the Light was originally published as a MORMON book by Mormon publishers in Utah. (Eadie has been a Mormon since BEFORE her experience and reflects classic Mormon doctrine.) It quickly became the #1-selling book among Mormons.
The general public then picked up on her story, which was quickly changed to be more palatable to the general audience. She quickly became a "Christian" and her books sold in Evangelical stores.
Her book Embraced by the Light was originally published as a MORMON book by Mormon publishers in Utah. (Eadie has been a Mormon since BEFORE her experience and reflects classic Mormon doctrine.) It quickly became the #1-selling book among Mormons.
Then, suddenly, Jesus as the Light became just a light that could be Buddha or some other religious figure to someone else. Her original MORMON volume recounts how Jesus told Eadie abortion was wrong; it is a crime against the child.
The general public then picked up on her story, which was quickly changed to be more palatable to the general audience. She quickly became a "Christian" and her books sold in Evangelical stores.
Then, in her second book, Jesus is suddenly very pro-choice and is saying something completely different. Also, distinctively Mormon phrases are removed.
Then, suddenly, Jesus as the Light became just a light that could be Buddha or some other religious figure to someone else. Her original MORMON volume recounts how Jesus told Eadie abortion was wrong; it is a crime against the child.
Then, in her second book, Jesus is suddenly very pro-choice and is saying something completely different. Also, distinctively Mormon phrases are removed.
From the Leadership U apologetic website (http://www.leaderu.com/)
Ms. Eadie says that she was shown in the spirit world that we were with God in the beginning and that we helped him to create the earth.
She tells us that Eve’s "initiative" made it possible for mankind to have children, that sin is not our true nature, and that we are inherently divine.
She continues by saying that we are all God’s children and that we are here on earth to learn the lessons we need for our own spiritual evolution. Our key lesson is to remember our divinity and return to heaven.
Eadie embraces the idea that all religions and faiths are equal in God’s sight and that they are essential in our development. Likewise, spirits from the other side will also help us learn the lessons of life and aid in our progress.
Ms. Eadie says that death is a spiritual "rebirth" as we simply make a "transition" to another state of being. There will be no judgment day and we will judge ourselves regarding our spiritual evolution.
Transition:
Words from a supposed Christian, who is teaching our modern American culture a thing or two about God. If the Apostle John were here in the flesh today, I think he would have a thing or two to teach about people like this lady and he did so about 2,000 years ago in his first letter to some churches:
Scripture Reading:
1 John 4:1–3 ESV
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.
Having just commanded his readers to “believe” in the name of Jesus as we saw last week in verse 23 of chapter 3 (3:23), John now tells them whom not to believe, and no surprise that it is the false prophets/teachers. It serves as a warning of the danger faced by the church then and in any age since.
Transition:
So verse 1 gives reason why we need to test people. Verses 2 & 3 give the test to be applied to those who claim to be God’s spokesmen. And John does this by looking at spirits, so the outline this morning is going to be on what he has to say about these spirits.

I. Don’t believe the spirits (v.1)

With these verses being pretty familiar to us, I thought I might share with you the Greek because there are several interesting words being played in the original language-- and some of these words, you are already familiar with:
1 John 4:1 NA27
Ἀγαπητοί, μὴ παντὶ πνεύματι πιστεύετε ἀλλὰ δοκιμάζετε τὰ πνεύματα εἰ ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν, ὅτι πολλοὶ ψευδοπροφῆται ἐξεληλύθασιν εἰς τὸν κόσμον.
1
(literal translation:) Beloved, not every spirit you should believe, but you should test the spirits if out of the God is, because many pseudo-prophets have gone out into the world.
Using ἀγαπητοί as his address to his audience once again, John encourages his readers more as a friend to a friend rather than as parent to child as he did in the previous chapters. This agape term is a reminder both of his deep love and concern for his readers. What can be inferred by this is a reminder that they are also loved by their heavenly Father as well.
Using ἀγαπητοί as his term of affection once again, John admonishes his readers as friend to friend more than as parent to child. It is a reminder of both his deep affection and concern for his readers. Included in this is a reminder that they are loved by their heavenly Father as well
So What is he meaning by spirits? or of what spirits is he referring to here?
(1) Some see this referring to demonic and angelic spirits. John’s choice of the plural πνεύματα to indicate that just as the Holy Spirit can work through many people, so, too, the “spirit” of the antichrist, which he sees as an actual spirit. Some use Paul’s writings to strengthen support that demonic spirits are in mind like in
1 Timothy 4:1 ESV
Now the Spirit expressly says that in later times some will depart from the faith by devoting themselves to deceitful spirits and teachings of demons,
but identifies these spirit demons in our passage as human spirits.
(2) Others see the spirits in our passage referring to the Holy Spirit as opposed to Satan as the source of the prophets’ teachings. In this interpretation, the “spirit of truth” and “spirit of error” coming in verse 6:
1 John 4:6 ESV
We are from God. Whoever knows God listens to us; whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of error.
the spirits would then refer to the Holy Spirit and Satan. You could then say: “The Holy Spirit influences and motivates the human spirits of the believers in the community to which the author is writing, while the evil spirit of deceit influences and motivates the human spirits of the opponents with their false teaching.”
(3) Or our passage in verse 1 could refer to human spirits, those of teachers of truth and conversely, false teachers. This sees these spirits as a synecdoche for “both the prophet and the spirit who inspired him”. While this interpretation is, I think closer to what John meant
(4) It is more accurate to see this as a metonymy for the teaching or teacher with “spirit” indicating the source behind the teacher or teaching. This is likely the right view based on John’s grammar choices. In other words, it is the false teacher and his teaching that is being evaluated, not necessarily the spirits themselves influencing him. You can still easily recognize the source, but the actual testing is of the person and his or her teachings, not a witch-hunt for demons or angels within the congregation. Also, John is not quite saying that these false teachers are demonically possessed. They are as likely to be influenced by the “spirit” of this age (the world’s values, their culture) as they are by satan’s spirits.
So what is the test?
Is John saying that there is a physical test and a physical way we can reveal the source of the teachings?
Just as Jesus said: their fruits. These “fruits” may be visible conduct, but may also include their teachings.1144 The woman Jezebel of the church in Thyatira () was identified as a false prophetess because her teachings led men astray into idolatry and sexual immorality. The church was condemned by Jesus for “allowing” her to teach those things. In this epistle (2:22; 4:2, 15; 5:1) and the next (), it is their christological confession that reveals the teachers’ genuineness or falseness.
Well, yes! Just as we’ve seen in previous weeks, Jesus taught us it is their “fruits”. These “fruits” may be the way they behave, but it also includes their teachings. The woman Jezebel of the church in Thyatira ()
Revelation 2:20–22 ESV
But I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess and is teaching and seducing my servants to practice sexual immorality and to eat food sacrificed to idols. I gave her time to repent, but she refuses to repent of her sexual immorality. Behold, I will throw her onto a sickbed, and those who commit adultery with her I will throw into great tribulation, unless they repent of her works,
Jezebel is revealed as a false prophetess from the fruit of her teachings! Her teachings led men astray into idolatry and sexual immorality. The church was condemned by Jesus for “allowing” her to teach those things.
In this epistle (1jn 2:22; 4:2, 15; 5:1) and the next (), the test is their confession of Christ that reveals the prophets’ genuineness or lies.
Okay, who is supposed to do the testing? Anybody in the church!
The responsibility for testing the spirits is not merely on church leaders alone but on every believer. Believers should not trust everything they hear just because someone says it is a message from God.
1 John 4:2 ESV
By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,
the prophets’ commitment to the body of believers (2:19),
their lifestyles (3:23–24),
and now the fruit of their ministries (4:6).
But it seems John is emphasizing that the most important test is what they believe about Christ (4:2). Do they teach the two natures of Christ? that Jesus is fully God and fully man? The first-century world was filled with many false prophets traveling about who were claiming to speak for God. The believers needed to apply these tests in order to discern truth from error.
because many pseudo-prophets have gone out into the world.” John now gives the reason to test the teachings of men to discern their veracity
The term “false prophets” is another name he gives for the many antichrists (as mentioned in 2:18–19). Whereas a true prophet is one who receives direct revelation from YHWH, a false prophet only claims to have received direct revelation from God, but in reality has not.
John Stott summarizes this verse well.
“So behind every prophet is a spirit and behind each spirit either God or the devil. Before we can trust any spirits, we must test them. It is their origin that matters.”
“So behind every prophet is a spirit and behind each spirit either God or the devil. Before we can trust any spirits, we must test them. It is their origin that matters.”
Transition:
Now that we know why we are to be testing the spirits, we need to know the how and that is what John addresses next. SO How should we test the message to see if it is truly from the Lord?

II. Do believe The Spirit (v.2)

The test of prophets and their teachings is now given. One way to test is to check to see if it matches God’s word, the Bible. Other tests mentioned before by John include:
the prophets’ commitment to the body of believers (2:19),
the prophets’ commitment to the body of believers (2:19),
their lifestyles (3:23–24),
their lifestyles (3:23–24),
and now the fruit of their ministries (4:6).
and even the fruit of their ministries (4:6).
But it seems John is emphasizing that the most important test is what they believe about Christ (4:2). Do they teach the two natures of Christ? that Jesus is fully God and fully man? The first-century world was filled with many false prophets traveling about who were claiming to speak for God. The believers needed to apply these tests in order to discern truth from error.
The first-century world was filled with many false prophets traveling about who were claiming to speak for YHWH. The believers needed to apply these tests in order to discern truth from error. But now John gives us a unique test:
1 John 4:2 NA27
ἐν τούτῳ γινώσκετε τὸ πνεῦμα τοῦ θεοῦ· πᾶν πνεῦμα ὃ ὁμολογεῖ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν ἐν σαρκὶ ἐληλυθότα ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν,
(literal translation:) in this you are knowing the Spirit of the God: every spirit which is confessing Jesus Christ in flesh has come, out of the God-- is!
So John is emphasizing that the most important test is what they believe about Christ (4:2). Do they teach the two natures of Christ? that Jesus is fully God and fully man? This is the essential doctrinal test for the false teachers whom John was combating in this book. The PERFECT TENSE “has come” affirms that Jesus’ humanity was not temporary, but permanent. This was not a minor issue. Jesus is truly one with humanity and one with God.
the prophets’ commitment to the body of believers (2:19),
their lifestyles (3:23–24),
and now the fruit of their ministries (4:6).
So John is emphasizing that the most important test is what they believe about Christ (4:2). Do they teach the two natures of Christ? that Jesus is fully God and fully man? The first-century world was filled with many false prophets traveling about who were claiming to speak for God. The believers needed to apply these tests in order to discern truth from error.
This verse contains the main subject of the section and certainly it is the main theological point. To confess the Incarnation is to prove that the teacher/prophet draws his inspiration from God through his Spirit. This is one of the primary roles of The Holy Spirit — The Holy Spirit always magnifies Jesus (cf. ; ; ). This same test can be seen in Paul’s writings in :
1 Corinthians 12:3 ESV
Therefore I want you to understand that no one speaking in the Spirit of God ever says “Jesus is accursed!” and no one can say “Jesus is Lord” except in the Holy Spirit.
every spirit which is confessing” This is a continuing action grammatically, not a “once” professed faith. The Greek term “confess” (ὁμολογεῖ) is a compound word from “the same” (homo) and “to speak,” (loge-o) meaning “to say the same thing.” This isn’t the first time that John says this, nor the last time (cf. ; ; ; ; ). This confessing word here means a specific, public, vocal acknowledgment of one’s acceptance of the Christ and one’s commitment to the true Gospel. John is saying that the teachers’/prophets’ mere profession is not enough, but ought to include a conviction to its truthfulness. It also involves an acknowledging of the incarnation of the Christ as a historical reality that convinces others it’s true.
By “confess” John means the teachers’ public acknowledgment of something or someone. This involves more than mere profession but includes conviction of its truthfulness. It also involves a corpus of facts being acknowledged. That which is openly affirmed as true by those influenced by God’s Spirit includes acknowledging the incarnation of Jesus Christ as a historical reality that they are convinced is true.
By “confess” John means the teachers’ public acknowledgment of something or someone. This involves more than mere profession but includes conviction of its truthfulness. It also involves a corpus of facts being acknowledged. That which is openly affirmed as true by those influenced by God’s Spirit includes acknowledging the incarnation of Jesus Christ as a historical reality that they are convinced is true.
To know that a prophet has the Spirit of God, that is, if his message is truly from YHWH, we must hear him say that the Messiah became a human being. A true teacher from YHWH believes that Jesus of Nazareth as revealed in the Gospels is the promised Messiah of God, YHWH’s one and only unique incarnation of Himself. A true teacher must also teach that Jesus became a man with a human body and remained fully God. God, the Son, is forever fully God and fully man, though an immortal, incorruptible flesh.
Transition:
A teacher who denies Jesus’ full and true humanity proves that he is not from God.

III. And especially don’t believe denying spirits (v.3)

1 John 4:3 NA27
καὶ πᾶν πνεῦμα ὃ μὴ ὁμολογεῖ τὸν Ἰησοῦν ἐκ τοῦ θεοῦ οὐκ ἔστιν· καὶ τοῦτό ἐστιν τὸ τοῦ ἀντιχρίστου, ὃ ἀκηκόατε ὅτι ἔρχεται, καὶ νῦν ἐν τῷ κόσμῳ ἐστὶν ἤδη.
(literal translation:) and every spirit which isn’t confessing the Jesus, out of the God not is: and this is it, of the anti-christ which you have heard was coming in the world is now
The contrast between right teachings and heresy that John uses is what people are saying about Jesus’ incarnation. This combatted a specific heresy that denied the fleshly/physical incarnation while still attempting to affirm the deity of “the Christ spirit” apart from the human Jesus. The focus again is in the source of the teaching, whether it is from God.
The contrast between right teachings and heresy that John uses is what people are saying about Jesus’ incarnation. This combatted a specific heresy that denied the fleshly/physical incarnation while still attempting to affirm the deity of “the Christ spirit” apart from the human Jesus. The focus again is in the source of the teaching, whether it is from God.
Irenaeus in the 2nd century recounts in one of his writings a story of a false teacher named Cerinthus who lived in Ephesus during John’s day and denied the incarnation. He was said to have taught that the divine Christ, an emanation of God, descended upon the human Jesus at His baptism. When Jesus was about to be crucified, the Christ spirit left him and only Jesus the man died on the cross.
If the story about Cerinthus is true, John could have had him in mind when he writes this passage. However, he is thinking also of false teachers in general who were appearing throughout the churches in the region at this time.
However, he is thinking also of false teachers in general who were appearing throughout the church at this time.
and this is it, of the anti-christ.” John turns to the issue of the antichrist and reminds his readers and us of the reality that he is indeed coming. He is not here yet, but his false teachings certainly are. John has already said all of this in chapter 2
1 John 2:18–23 ESV
18 Children, it is the last hour, and as you have heard that antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have come. Therefore we know that it is the last hour. 19 They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would have continued with us. But they went out, that it might become plain that they all are not of us. 20 But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge. 21 I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. 22 Who is the liar but he who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This is the antichrist, he who denies the Father and the Son. 23 No one who denies the Son has the Father. Whoever confesses the Son has the Father also.
1jn 2:18–23 that the presence of antichrists proves the coming of the Antichrist. Here he again alludes back to that previous warning.
the presence of antichrists proves the coming of the Antichrist. Here he again alludes back to that previous warning.
The false prophets claimed to speak by the Holy Spirit’s inspiration. In this context, refusing to acknowledge Jesus means they are not from God and consequently, there is only one other spirit: the spirit of the Antichrist. Warnings about false teachers, false messiahs, and the coming of the Antichrist should not have been surprising news to these Christians, they had heard that these people were coming. Jesus had warned the disciples (, ); the apostles, in turn, had warned the believers about false teaching (; ).
John was not saying that the final Antichrist had come: As Paul wrote in , the man of lawlessness has not yet been revealed, but his spirit is at work.
The predecessors and the precursors of the Antichrist are present already even though the last days have not officially begun. We are living in the “last hour” before the last days. John does not affirm that the end has arrived but that it, in fact, is only imminent.
This is the same future truth as was expressed in 1jn 2:18. The predecessors of Antichrist are present already even though the last days have not begun. We are living in the “last hour” before the last days. John does not affirm that the eschaton has arrived but that it, in fact, is only imminent.
Finally, when comparing our passage with 2:18–22 we can see that In the first section, having a right relation with the Father leads to a correct view of the Son. In the second, having a right relation with the Spirit leads to the same correct view of the Son. In each case the Son is central in all true contacts with YHWH.

So What?

Man is designed to be a spiritual being. He will worship something, even if it's a false god. There is an urgent need for spiritual discernment in our day.
to tie up any loose ends, we must ask now:

SHOULD CHRISTIANS JUDGE ONE ANOTHER?

This issue must be dealt with in two ways. First believers are admonished not to judge one another (cf. ; , ; ; ). However, believers are admonished to evaluate leaders (cf. , ; ; ; ; and ).
Dr. Bob Utley gives Some criteria for proper evaluation may be helpful
Evaluation should be for the purpose of affirmation (cf. - “test” with a view toward approval)
Evaluation should be done in humility and gentleness (cf. )
Evaluation must not focus on personal preference issues (cf. ; ; )
Evaluation should identify those leaders who have “no handle for criticism” from within the church or the community (cf. ).
This warning against false teachers gave John’s readers a method to determine if a traveling preacher was true to YHWH.
Christians aren't to accept everything they hear as truth, even if it's from a supposedly Christian source. This test involves discerning, not just what is said but what is not said. In these verses this morning, we saw John’s teaching that these false prophets and spirits simply “do not confess” Jesus as having come in the flesh. He does not explicitly say they outright deny it. This likely is for us to realize heretical teaching can mask the full extent of its deviation from the truth by simply failing to affirm some pivotal foundational doctrine.
As we saw moments ago, this is not the only test given in Scripture, just one of the tests. For example, Mormons can say that Jesus came in the flesh, as can Jehovah’s Witnesses. That does not make them true. They fail other tests, primarily those involving the question of Jesus’ deity and eternality. Here John is giving a sample test rather than limiting this to this single test, though this is an example of how to test the claims and denials of teachers.
These false teachers form a chain of false information, false lifestyles and false professions through the ages, from the evil one of to the manifestation of the incarnation of evil and the end-time Antichrist.
The term “false prophets” is another name for the many antichrists (see 2:18–19). Whereas a true prophet is one who receives direct revelation from God, a false prophet only claims to have received direct revelation from God, but has not. The test is similar to that administered to false prophets in Deuteronomy 13:1–5; 18:15–22.
Conclusion:
There are many religious people competing for our attention these days. Everyone believes something and many seek to influence us with their “modern” theology. More now than ever, we need spiritual discernment. We need to be settled in the truth of God’s Word. We must know what we believe and why. When we know truth we will not be lead astray with error.
Acts 11:3 ESV
3 “You went to uncircumcised men and ate with them.”
There are many voices vying for our attention these days. Everyone believes something and many seek to influence us with their modern theology. Likely more than ever, we need spiritual discernment. We need to be settled in the truth of God’s Word. We must know what we believe and why. When we know truth we will not be lead astray with error.
The Spirit's presence within us assures us that discernment will be true. Let's respond to His leading!
"When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all truth." -
John 16:13 ESV
When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come.
This is yet another example of the role of the Holy Spirit!
What do you confess? What don’t you confess?
The Holy Spirit is the source of truth. Jesus is the way of salvation and eternal life. If there are needs in your life, seek Him. He is able and willing to provide discernment in all things!
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