Lesson Scriptures: 1 John 3:19–4:4
Key Lesson Theme: “Sure of Victory”
Today's Lesson: Thursday, September 23
1 John 4:1-4
1 Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see if they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world.
2 This is how you know the Spirit of God: Every spirit that confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God,
3 but every spirit that does not confess Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming; even now it is already in the world.
4 You are from God, little children, and you have conquered them, because the one who is in you is greater than the one who is in the world.
How are we to interpret the words spirit and spirits in these verses?
1. Spirit and spirits are to be understood literally as the cosmic beings that possess an individual to influence what he says and does. Perhaps more so in the first century than in our day with our emphasis on scientific structure and our desire to have a reasoned-out answer to everything that happens, people were aware of the existence of a spiritual realm. They accepted the reality of cosmic spirits; some good, some bad.
2. Spirit and spirits may be figures of speech, a metaphorical way of referring to the individual who spoke or acted under the influence of some invisible spirit being. Thus, in verse 1, spirits and false prophets would be a different way of speaking of the same persons.
3. A third option, another metaphorical view, is that spirit refers to the message being delivered by such an individual.
In any case, John’s caution would apply: believe not every spirit. To believe is “to think something to be true to the point of being willing to place full confidence in it.” However, John knew that not every spirit could be trusted; not every messenger could be believed; not every message was true. Thus, he wanted his dear friends to exercise caution by engaging in careful evaluation of the spirits, the messengers, and their messages.
This caution and exhortation were necessary because many false prophets are gone out into the world. Prophets in general may be “fore-tellers”—predicting the future—or “forth-tellers”—declaring a message. John seemed to have the latter in mind. Actually, false prophets is a compound word in Greek—pseudoprophetes. Pseudo would denote “lying,” “deceitfulness,” or as we might expect, “something false.” Prophetes refers to “an inspired speaker.” Hence, false prophets act the part of being divinely inspired speakers but they utter falsehoods. We still have religious imposters today whose messages, though smooth and convincing, are deceptive and dangerous.
What are some lasting truths from 1 John 4:1-4?
Believers are to evaluate the spirits, their messengers, and what they teach to determine if they are from God.
The test of authenticity of a spirit or its messenger is whether they confess that Jesus Christ is God incarnate.
The spirit of antichrist is already pervasive in our world; thus, we are to be on guard against it.
Until tomorrow Saints...
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