Summary: message 21 from 1 John continuing the discussion of discerning error from Message 20.

Discerning Truth & Error Pt 2

1John 4:1-6




The logic of John’s letter is really quite simple.

God is light (pure) and God is love (passionate).

Because of His great love, He invited us into His community or family.

Because of His purity He had to send Jesus to restore life and bear sin.

As children of the God of light and love we are encouraged and enabled to live purely and love passionately.


Last week we extracted some basic principles concerning false teachers and prophets from chapter 4 of John’s first letter.

1. Actively test the origin of every teaching

Beloved, stop believing every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. 1 John 4:1

John’s readers had been indiscriminately accepting everyone who claimed to speak for God. He reminded them to be careful because false prophets are already in the world. Peter reminded his readers that false prophets have been in the world since Old Testament times and would increase in the latter days. It is necessary to carefully evaluate teachers, their teaching and the spirit who motivates them.

2. The Holy Spirit always affirms the person and work of Christ. 4:2

By this you know the Spirit of God: every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God

The Scripture teaches that Jesus was, is and will forever maintain His full and complete humanity alongside His full and complete divinity. Anyone claiming to speak by the Holy Spirit will always affirm and embrace the truth of Christ’s incarnation (deity taking on humanity).

3. The unholy spirit (anti-Christ) resists the person and work of Christ 4:3

and every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God; this is the spirit of the antichrist, of which you have heard that it is coming, and now it is already in the world.

This is the flip side. Anyone claiming to speak by the Holy Spirit but denying the incarnate nature of Christ is not. Satan can intellectually acknowledge Jesus but will not embrace Him or affirm His person and work. He is anti-Christ, against Christ. He will let people talk about God but vehemently opposes any teaching concerning the true nature and work of Jesus Christ.

4. God’s children overcome false spirits and teachers by the presence and power of the indwelling Holy Spirit. 4:4

You are from God, little children, and have overcome them; because greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world.

How can I avoid deception? How can we ever hope to get victory? John quickly reassures them that they have no reason to fear. They can and already have overcome the attempts of the anti-Christ to disseminate their evil teaching through the overwhelming power of the Holy Spirit who indwells them.

5. The world listens to their own who speak from the world 4:5

They are from the world; therefore they speak as from the world, and the world listens to them.

The world listens to the teaching of false prophets because they speak their language. The world will be drawn to their teaching. It strikes a chord in their unregenerate mind. They tell them what they want to hear.

6. God’s children listen to God’s messengers who are from God. 4:6a

We are from God; he who knows God listens to us; he who is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

The use of “we” is most likely a primary reference to the authorized messengers of God; namely the inspired apostles. “he who knows God” most likely refers to the rest of God’s followers. God’s followers listen to the clear word of God spoken through the inspired writers of Scripture. Their heart resonates with the truth. True believers look for truth in the Word of God.

7. You can discern truth and error by paying attention to the Word. 4:6b

By this we know the spirit of truth and the spirit of error.

By what? By listening to the Word! The authoritative Word of God exposes the error of the anti-Christ. There can be false visions and dreams and messages. The Holy Spirit will NEVER contradict what He inspired in the first place in the written Word. John instructs his readers to be discerning. Don’t believe every teacher simply because they claim to speak from God. Test the teaching against foundational truth.

Note: Doctrine is not something to be shunned. Doctrine refers to teaching or clear statements of Biblical truth. We need to test teaching against foundational doctrine; namely, the person and work of Jesus and the Word of Jesus.

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