Summary: How can I discern whether a preacher isa false prophet or not?
Christians aren't to accept everything they hear as truth, even if it's from a supposedly Christian source. He draws a contrast by saying that the Spirit of truth is of God; and the spirit of error is of the devil. God's chief desire is to confront mankind with truth in order to set us free.
"You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." - John 8:32 (HCSB)
Satan's chief desire is to confuse people with error and keep them in bondage. Because of this, John says we aren't to believe every spirit, but "test the spirits to see whether they are from God."
1. Let's Recognize False Prophets - vs. 1-3; 5
John says many false prophets have gone into the world. How much more is this true today? How do we recognize a false prophet?
A. By what they deny - verses 2-3
When John wrote this letter, there was a popular heresy known as the Cerinthian heresy, which denied the deity of Christ. It taught that Jesus was the physical son of Joseph, and at his baptism, he was overtaken by an aeonian, or divine being, whose name was Christ. Christ abode in the human Jesus until his death on the cross, at which time Christ forsook Jesus, and he became merely human, once again. Some today have resurrected this old heresy.
There is a universal principle here, however, that applies to testing the spirits. Any message that denies the uniqueness of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ; any message that denies He was God in the flesh, through out His earthly life and on into eternity, is false teaching!
What do they say about Jesus? False teachers deny His eternal deity, His unique birth, His perfect life, His infallible teaching, His necessary sacrifice, His glorious resurrection, and His certain return!
B. By what they declare - v. 5
Is what they declare consistent with the viewpoint of the world? What are the characteristics of a preacher who has a worldly viewpoint?
1) They manipulate rather than motivate.
A false teacher focuses on manipulating hearers.
A good example of this relates to how they speak about money. A false teacher will focus on how he can manipulate people to enrich himself.
"In their greed they will make up clever lies to get hold of your money." - 2 Peter 2:3a (NLT)
I want to point out this doesn't mean a preacher shouldn't teach money or giving. In the sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, 6 & 7, Jesus
referred to stewardship of possessions 27 different times. Just because a preacher mentions money, doesn't make him a false prophet. The difference is in why and how he deals with these subjects.
A true prophet is a motivator, who leads others to do things that will benefit them or others. A false prophet is a manipulator, who leads others to do things that will benefit him.
2) They are a closed cover rather than an open book.
"For some men . . . are ungodly, turning the grace of our God into promiscuity and denying Jesus Christ, our only Master and Lord."
- Jude 4 (HCSB)
The word "test" was used in ancient times with reference to testing metals to see if they were genuine. It's from this idea we get the saying, "Test his metal," meaning to test someone's character.