“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
John begins chapter four in the minor key and warns against false teachers.
God loves every believer with exactly the same amount of love. God loves that miserable believer just as much as he loves you.
Eph 1:6, “…accepted in the beloved one.”
do not believe every spirit,
John’s readers were susceptible to false teachers. The Greek says, “Stop believing every spirit.” They were already in the process of giving credence to false doctrine. John’s readers were so naive that they believed anything the false teacher Cerinthus had to say. He was very eloquent and personable. He was a marvelous salesman; he could sell anything to anyone, but his message was from the evil one. Many people flocked to hear him.
God calls on us to disbelieve as well as believe, to be critical of teaching, and to measure all teaching by the Word of God.
Many Christians are naïve and vulnerable to religious error. They are gullible simply because it is “religious.” They need to understand the importance of discernment and the ability to disbelieve certain people. It is impossible to believe in absolute truth without rejecting error. We cannot love God and the Devil simultaneously. We cannot hate sin and love sin at the same time.
Eph 4:14, “…that we should no longer be children, tossed to and fro and carried about with every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, in the cunning craftiness of deceitful plotting…”
God calls on the Christian to disbelieve as well as believe, to be critical of teaching, and to measure all teaching by the Word of God. Faith is one thing, but credulity is another. Genuine belief examines that to which it commits itself. It never accepts doctrine uncritically.
The Devil always comes in a disguise, usually in the form of religion. Religion is the Devil’s ace trump. The general populace generally trusts religion because it has a moral quality to it. The Devil appeared to Adam and Eve in a deceptive guise. He undermined the Word of God by saying, “Don’t you think that God is unreasonable in not letting you eat of that tree? It seems unreasonable and callous to me.”
The Word of God is the court beyond which there is no appeal. It is the Supreme Court in spiritual matters, an infallible Supreme Court. Each of its judgments is infallible. We should never accept what any religious leader has to say at face value because they are fallible. We always check them out with the Word. If the Bible says it, it is true. If the Bible does not say it, it is not true.
Is 8:20, “To the law and to the testimony! If they do not speak according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”
If we do not have the Word as the standard for measuring things, then we will fall for any false doctrine that comes down the pike. That is the only way we can stay true to God.
Ac 17:11, “These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so.”
Paul’s listeners checked out his teaching by searching the Word of God. They did not accept what they heard at face value simply because a noted preacher said it.