Summary: 13th in First John Series


1 John 4:1-6

INTRO: Here is a word of warning which the Lord God gives to us about the danger of false prophets. It is a warning from God that we are not to believe everything we hear even though it may come from supposedly Christian sources.

ILLUS: Teaching a little baby to eat on its own is a fascinating thing. But one of the things you have to teach a little one as they learn how to eat for themselves is to examine their food and to know what they’re putting in their mouth. If they don’t learn to examine what they’re eating then it would be possible for them to get something in their body that would be damaging and detrimental to them.

The same thing is true on the part of a young Christian. New Christians need to be very, very careful what they eat in terms of spiritual food. Do not be gullible, do not receive everything you hear just because the person who says it claims that he is of God.

Notice in vv. 4, 5, and 6 that each one of these verses begins in a very definite manner. V. 4 begins “you.” V. 5 says “they,” talking about another group. And then v. 6 says, “we.” Those three words summarize what we have in these verses.


The Bible teaches the existence of false prophets. There were false prophets in the days of John. In Jude v. 4 the Bible tells us how those false prophets try to operate. The Bible says that they creep in unawares, they sneak in, they come in the side door. They come in because their purpose is to undermine and to sow the spirit of error in the minds of people.

The word “try” (KJV) is a word that we use to describe the testing of metal to see if it is genuine. It means to put something to the test. The word here simply means that we have a responsibility to put to test the things that we hear, to determine if we’re listening to the spirit of error or to the spirit of truth.

I want to show you how to check out a false prophet and a faithful preacher.

1. The Content Test. Check out what they have to say, the content of their message. Look at vv. 2-3. Many times a false prophet will say a great deal of good things, a lot of things that are true. Don’t let that fool you. A broken watch is right two times every day. Because they may teach some things that are good does not necessarily mean that you buy everything they have to say.

The key is what their message says about the person and the work of the Lord Jesus Christ. What do they believe about the incarnation of the Lord Jesus? Inevitably a false prophet will be off base somewhere in relationship to the doctrine of Jesus Christ.

ILLUS: The Jesus Seminar is a group of so called scholars who meet every year to determine which of the words in the New Testament attributed to Jesus He actually spoke. They met in Atlanta a few years ago and determined that Jesus only said one word in the Model Prayer or what we call the Lord’s Prayer. The word “Father” is the only word He actually said according to them.

They have a rather unique way of determining what Jesus said. They vote by using little beads of different colors. If it’s a red bead, it means they believe the saying is what Jesus said. If it’s a pink bead they say, “Well, Jesus may have said something like this.” A gray bead means that it contains some ideas of Jesus. And a black bead meant Jesus never said this.

Now isn’t that nice of them to tell us they have appointed themselves the authorities, 2,000 years later, of what Jesus said and what Jesus didn’t say. So they said it was not likely that Jesus ever composed a prayer like this. In fact, one of the brilliant scholars says, “I think He prayed but I don’t think He made a big deal out of it.” They have reduced Jesus to a speechless Jesus and they have said to us we don’t really know what Jesus said if He ever said anything or not.

2. The Manner Test. In other words, how does he go about what he does? How does he appeal to this old world? Look at v. 5. The false prophet always has a hearing by the world. I’m not saying for a moment that popularity is a proof that you’re a false prophet.

There are many fine, godly, wonderful Bible preachers and teachers who have a marvelous following of people. But I am saying that mere popularity and crowd-drawing appeal is not any evidence that the individual is of God.

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