Summary: How to recognize and guard against false teachers
Shiloh Bible Church
How To Spot The Devil’s Kids
Robert Philip Hanssen. Perhaps you recall that name from a few years ago. It was national news. Robert Hanssen was a 57-year old FBI agent who was convicted of spying for the Soviet Union. He was arrested in February, 2001 at Foxstone Park near his home in Vienna, Virginia. He was charged with selling American secrets to Russia over a 15-year period for $1.4 million in cash and diamonds. His treason has been described as “possibly the worst intelligence disaster in US history.”
Robert Hanssen deceived his fellow FBI agents into believing he was on their side when in reality he was working for the enemy. The same thing can happen in the spiritual realm. False teachers seek to deceive us into believing they are on God’s side when in reality they are working for the devil. The Apostle John tells us about them in his first epistle. Please turn with me to 1 John chapter 4.
I remind you that the book of 1 John is a book about fellowship—not relationship. John is not writing to tell us how to get saved, but rather how to have ongoing fellowship with God after we get saved. And John warns us that we need to be on the lookout for false teachers who will throw us off track in our fellowship with God. Now, John has issued this warning twice already. In 2:26, John states: “I am writing these things to you about those who are trying to lead you astray.” And over in 3:7 John writes: “Dear children, do not let anyone lead you astray.”
But how do you know who is trying to lead you astray? How can you identify a false teacher? How can you spot the devil’s kids? John tells you in 1 John 4:1-6.
We begin in verse 1 where John warns: “Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.”
John tells us not to believe every spirit. Don’t believe everything you hear. Why? Because there are false teachers in the world. Not every Bible teacher is teaching the truth. Just because you see a man on TV dressed in a nice suit with a smile on his face, holding a Bible doesn’t mean he’s teaching the truth. Just because you hear a deep, soothing, authoritative voice on the radio, talking about spiritual things doesn’t mean that man is teaching the truth.
Now, we need to remember that a false teacher is not a Christian who simply disagrees with you on some minor point of doctrine. For example, last week we celebrated the Lord’s Table here at Shiloh. And it is our practice to take Communion once a month—on the first Sunday of the month. Now, some churches serve Communion every week, others on a quarterly basis, and still others on an annual basis. Just because a pastor serves Communion on a less frequent or more frequent basis than we do does not make him a false teacher.
The real core issue of Christianity is this: What does a person believe about Jesus Christ—His person and work? After all, Christianity is centered in Christ.
And we see this in verse 2: “This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God.”
Notice what John says about Jesus—He is the Christ—Jesus Christ. The word “Christ” is the Greek form of the Hebrew word “Messiah.” And the Old Testament predicted the person and work of the Messiah. As to His person, the prophet Isaiah taught that the Messiah would be both God and man. So, in Isaiah 9:6 we read: “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given …”—Messiah would be a man. Isaiah continues: “… and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.” Not only would Messiah be a man, but He would also be God Himself. Isaiah also goes on to tell us about the work of the Messiah—that He would die for the sins of man. In chapter 53:6, Isaiah prophesied: “We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed and afflicted, yet he did not open his mouth; he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away. And who can speak of his descendants? For he was cut off from the land of the living; for the transgression of my people he was stricken.”